Chapter 8: What is Real Might Not be...Real

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 25

William's soft muzzle nudged against her shoulder.  Awakening, Fortisa giggled, pushing him away.  Michail’s eyes opened.

“Sleep well, Fortisa?”  He yawned.

“When you didn’t snore!  You made so much noise the evening fowls refused to sing!  Not to mention letting anything living in the area know our location!”

Michail chuckled.  "I trust your sword!"

They sat up and stretched.

“My headache finally vanished!  I carried some grain with me when I fled the cottage.  Hungry?”

“Not yet.”

Michail stood up brushing off the twigs and dead leaves clinging to his leggings. 

“You saw bodies, yesterday?”

“Yes, just ahead.”

“Boils?”

“Yes, do you want to see them...bodies and boils?”

“I probably should.  Anything different from what we already know?  I should start recording all of this.  Your plans?”

“My friend.  Visit my friend, and no, nothing different that I could see.”

“Here’s an idea, after you lead me to these new bodies, you can visit your friend, and I will search for your Frior Andrew, too.  How does that sound?  We’ll meet back at the Inn and catch up.  Maybe your frior has insights.”

Fortisa gazed up at the treetops.  The leaves fluttered in the fragrant breeze.

“Michail, I like that...your plan!  Oranges.  Oranges and cranberries, breathe in!  I love the aromas in this forest!”

Michail closed his eyes and inhaled, “Nope, basil and oregano.”

“You’re crazy!”

Michail chuckled.  “Shall we go, Fortisa? Lead on!”

Sunlight and warmth increased as they rode out from the thicket they sheltered in during the night.  The forest eventually opened to the glade Fortisa discovered.

She pointed. “There’s the lean-to.  The bodies…in there.” 

They dismounted. 

“Michail, I think I will stay here.  I’ve had enough of that stink!  I don't want my headache to come pounding back again!”

Fortisa stood with the horses.  Michail entered the structure. 

“You did say you saw bodies?”

“Of course.  Two of them.”

“No bodies here!”

Fortisa held her nose and breathing through her mouth marched to Michail's side. She shrugged her shoulders at the sight of the emptiness.

“They were dead, Michail.  Dead people don’t get up and walk away.  Of course I know you know that!  I don’t know where they vanished to!”

Michail tip-toed as he searched the ground.  Fortisa did the same in the opposite direction.

“Seems they disappeared, somehow, Fortisa. No signs of anything unusual that I can find.”

“Nothing over here, either!"

“You’re sure they were dead?  Did they have horses?  Though I don’t see any hoofprints anywhere.”

“Yes, dead and stinkkng!  Maybe someone else found them and took them?  I don’t know, yet, if so…we would see footprints, hoofprints, or something.”

They combed the area, finding nothing to explain the disappearances.

“I kicked out the fire.”  Fortisa pointed to the cold pit of half-burned sticks and logs.

“A puzzlement,” Michail murmured.

Should I tell him?  About the cloud I saw over the pyre? 

“You have an odd look about you, Fortisa.  Something on your mind?”

Fortisa stared at William then at her feet.  The she raked her hair through her fingers and sighed.

“At the pyre yesterday.  I didn’t know what it was.”

“Go on.”

“Above the burning, above the smoke, another cloud, dark, not the smoke…appeared.  It had a life of its own.  I can’t really explain it.  I’ve been so stressed, maybe I just imagined it.”

“What did you see, Fortisa?”

“This...mass...circled the smoke from the fire and seemed to roll over itself, or parts of it rolled over itself, like liquid boiling in a pot.  I didn't invite it for gruel, Michail.  William and I fled the sight!”

Michail faced Fortisa and studied her with the lift of his head a tad higher than usual.  “You’re sure this is what you saw?”

“Yes, Michail!  Do you know something?”

“No, Fortisa, just taking it in.  That’s all.  Let’s go.”

They walked past the glade, each looking back, each wondering if they overlooked some hidden evidence. Each trying to make sense of the disappearances.

Michail took Dolce’s reins and mounted.

“See you at the Inn.  Be careful.  Please, no more investigating, ok?”

“Can’t promise, investigating is my nature.”


Submitted: May 08, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Elise Pannon. All rights reserved.

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