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Veritas

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A dark, sinister atmosphere encased the lands like a thick cloak that evening, more so then usual. The autumn’s night’s chill hung in the air, perfuming the space of muggy moss and damp leaves. No sounds, no whispers could be heard. Glowing eyes of many forms compared not to the glow from the moon. The night’s clouds blocked the crescent moon that dwelled amongst the stars, creating a grey haze overcastting amongst the dark forest that lay beneath Broken Tooth Mountain. But when the moon’s glow casted down, an eerie miasma roofed the ground. A sinister presence clung to those woods like a sickness. Many never dared entered those woods, for fear of the creatures that reside and the monster from within. All… but including one.

Pitter-patter of feet scampered on the forest floor, leaves crunching and squishing into the moist earth with every step. Creatures of the forests averted from the sudden sound and hid behind nature’s blockades, watching as the figure ran by. The figure could barely be heard as they knew the forest well and what safe passages to travel to avoid danger. They reached a slit in the woods where a small river weaved through the rocks. The trees encased around the river, but led a visual to the ominous mountain that stood not too far away. Not even the chiming of bugs or crickets made a sound for being so close to the mountain. The figure hopped through wet stones in the river to cross, little flecks of water flying from their feet and into the air and falling softly down back into the water. They continued on the invisible path known only to them. It didn’t take long for the figure to make it to the base of the mountain. White puffs of breath exhaled, breath flowing from their lungs and out into the chilled air. As they looked up, streaks of the moon pierced through gaps in the clouds. Thin beams of silver light spotted the mountain. Ravens crowed and gawked around the mountain’s peak, looking like spiraling specks in the sky from those down below.

This figure knew of a safer trek up the mountain. There was only one other way up: to climb. But this person was small, able to maneuver, crawl and squeeze through any small hole or space. There was a secret passage, worn down long ago from years of weathering, but this person was able to find it. They climbed all the way up. Gripping the jagged rocks with their toes to better able them to hold on. What would look like rocks to others, an invisible staircase took this person to the destination they were going for. When they reached a flat platform, a dark entryway led into the inside of the mountain. The figure walked with hesitant steps until they stood before the doorway. A small whiff of wind blew from deep within the cave and onto the person’s face. Small strands of their hair puffed back, dancing in harmony with the breeze. Clouds slowly moved on their continuous track, exposing the moon from its casted cover. The silver light shone down on the person before the doorway. As they were illuminated, the cave grew ever darker, the smell of fatality radiating from inside. As they took the first step, their form disappeared into the cave, darkness submerging their form completely.

A tiny ray of moonlight shone into the cave, lighting the figure’s way. Avoiding every sharp rock and uneven step, they followed the path that led them deeper and deeper inside. Water dripped from the walls, a small echo of dropping water resonating in the air. On either side of them lay scattered bones. Not bones of beast, but of man. The bone’s rotted away as their color was now deep brown, dried blood splotched the solid frames.

Deep, red eyes tracked each and every movement of his new visitor. Their body appeared glowing through their eyes, being able to sense a living being’s body heat and pulsing heartbeat. He hid in the shadows as he observed the figure making it towards the open space deep in the cave. Once the figure was out of sight, he emerged from his hiding spot and with great speed and silence, followed to the same space with his intent directly on his new prey. In his case, this prey that walked so willingly into his cave. He stood by the entrance, curiosity filling his mind, as he wanted to see who this new intruder was. He slowly inched his head around to see the figure standing in the middle of the space. He pushed his head back in perplexity at what he was seeing. It was no man or beast, but a little girl.

She stood still with a satchel wrapped around her shoulders. Her dark hair reached past her shoulders as it contrasted her light colored clothing. Flyaway hairs were sticking out from various ends, a lack of being combed. He didn’t know what to think. Was this girl a fool? Did she not know what his place was? And at this hour of the night too? He didn’t ponder on it any longer as he stepped out of his sneaking spot and quietly walked towards the little girl. Her back was turned towards him, but upon hearing a scuffle from the ground, she slowly turned around and saw him. He was clad in black clothes. The hems were torn and ripped away from years eating away at the fine fabric. It swayed in the air in unison with his movements. She couldn’t see his features well, but a pair of blood red eyes stared directly at her. She didn’t move, not even flinch, as he approached her. He opened his mouth slowly, baring his teeth to her to see if it would scare her. She still remained motionless. He bent down to pick up a human skull that lay next to his feet where he stood. The skull sat in the palm of his hand peacefully. The skull’s eyeholes faced directly towards the little girl. He bent his fingers towards the skull, his fingernails piercing the bone structure with ease. Parts of the skull turned to dust as it slid from his fingers, the bone pieces falling with a soft thud to the sandy ground. He squinted his eyes in inquisitiveness. He decided to take a more drastic approach, seeing as she wasn’t fazed at all by either his presence of strength. He bared his teeth again, sharp fangs gleaming from the dark as he released an ungodly, loud roar. The sound echoed through the mountain, shaking the space they were standing in. All the little girl did was watch as a small speckle of dirt fell from the ceiling, her head following the movement as it returned to the ground.

He clenched his teeth, a growl vibrating from his lungs. With one swift motion, he lunged forward, grabbing the girl by the neck and pushing her body against the wall. He had her lifted so she was eye level to him. Her little legs dangled many feet from the ground. He moved his face closer to hers, his glowing eyes boring into hers, but her expression remained motionless. He tilted his head to the side and it surprised him she copied his movement, the best she could with his hand still wrapped around her neck. Her skin pulsed with every beat of her heart and to his utter bewilderment, the beats were calm. No quick, spurts of pulses or rapid beating, but it remained still. He growled again as he looked at her form closer. She wore a tattered grey, cloth shirt and pants. The edges were torn and speckles of dirt stained the sleeves. She had no shoes, her feet darkened from the dirt and mud. He inched his face closer to cover the remaining space between them, taking in her scent in a slow inhale of breath. Earth, water, blood, beasts were the things he smelled on her. Blood. Blood entered his senses instantly, the sweet taste watering his mouth. The smell came from the little girl’s satchel. He slowly slid her body down the wall then released her neck. She rubbed her neck with her tiny hand as she let out a few coughs, air trying to enter her lungs. He backed up a few steps, swaying his figure like a snake.

“Who are you?” he asked her, but she didn’t say anything.

“Why are you here? Do you know who I am?” She did nod at this question, gesturing to the bag around her tiny form. He watched her movements as she reached for her bag. Fro the inside she pulled out two jars full of a dark crimson liquid form, the source of the sweet aroma he just smelled prior. He tilted his head to the side in perplexity.

“Why does a little girl travel so far with those?” he asked her curiously. She held the jars in one hand as she pointed to the jars then to him, gesturing they were for him. He pointed to himself.

“You brought those jars… for me?” The girl nodded. She walked forward until she stood in front of him, holding the jars up to him, but he did nothing as he speculated the little girl’s intentions.

“Who brought you here? Are you a human sacrifice?” She shook her head, standing on her tippy toes to lift the jars a little higher for him, gesturing for him to take them. As confused as he was, he took the jars from the little girl’s hands. She turned around and scurried back to her bag, but instead of leaving, she took a seat beside her bag. He tried to not think more of it as he walked to his left to seat himself upon a huge rock. He set one jar down but opened up the other as he gulped down the contents. Blood, like water quenching a dry throat, sedated his lingering, torturous hunger. It was like the elixir of life, rejuvenating the soul… if he had one. A satisfied sigh blew past his lips as he finished the jar. He set it down and all the while, his gaze leering into the little form on the other side of the space. She had a piece of human bone in her hand as she traced random patterns in the dirt.

“You know that’s not a stick, right?” she nodded, pointing to her then the bone. She knew it was a human bone, but she didn’t mind. He watched her a while longer, mulling in his mind the reasons why she was here, but more importantly, why she wasn’t afraid of him. She expressed no fear when she first saw him. She knew what he was, the blood jars being evident in that fact… but who was she?

“What are you girl? You smell human, but no mortal dares enter this mountain knowing I dwell inside.” She turned her gaze up to him, but he noticed something different about her now. Deep, green emeralds gazed from the dark, her iris surrounding it by a ring of forest green. Blood red pooled underneath her pupil like spilled blood seeping down the lines in her eyes. His eyes widened a bit as her gaze bore into his, but in an unsettling way. Her eyes were doing something, something no mortal man can do. He raised his eyebrows at the color of her eyes, now realizing what was going on.

“That is quite a gift you got there, little one,” he stated. “You are an outcast, I can see,” he looked off to the side in thought.

“What do they call you?” she pulled her tiny knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs to enclose her body closer to herself. Her eyes drew down to the dirt before her, her toes twitching in the loose earth.

“Child, what do they call you?” he sternly asked again, irritated by her lack of answering his questions, let alone talking.

“I am ‘The Child of Misfortune,’” she replied quietly. He raised his chin a little, a curious smirk spreading upon his wrinkled features. His eyes glowed a bright red as he outstretched his hand to-

“Anna-Marie!” a voice rang in her ears, snapping Anna from her current daydreaming. Her body twitched like a clap of thunder just jolted through her body. The books she was cradling in her hands jumped up into the air when her voice was called. Gravity pulled the books to the ground. Loud, thuds vibrated the ground beneath her feet when the books came to contact with the ground. Her shoulders slumped forward as a sigh escaped past her lips. She was daydreaming again… or more, recalling memories from long ago. She kneeled down to regain the thrown books to stand and return them to their proper homes.

“Yes, Eva?” Anna-Marie called back, a silence lingering in the air a few moments more.

“If you’re not too busy daydreaming and dropping my books on the floor, I could use your help with these herbs I have here.” Anna-Marie smiled sheepishly as Eva was well aware she daydreamed… a lot, which often led to the tumbling adventures of her books.

“I’ll be right there, Eva.” As she slid the last book into place, her mouth quirked up with the recall of those memories. She was only a tiny girl when she first saw him. It had been some time since she last seen her ominous companion deep within the mountain… perhaps it was time for another visit.