The red drops of blood on the white snow led Ryder further into the forest, he walked fast and brisk, without seeming to be cautious of his environment, he needed to find Lyra fast, and the witch goddess as well. The shadows he had sent out earlier gave him feedback telepathically, it was not much of an information because they could not seem to locate Lyra, it was like she had vanished completely but he could still feel her faintly.
He walked on, deeper into the forest where the snow could hardly reach because of the very dense treetops. It was even more chilly in here than out in the snow and a part of Ryder worried about Lyra, he had seen her cloak by the entrance of the forest, all messy and bloody. He knew what she had been wearing underneath could only do so much to keep her protected from the cold.
He really had to find her fast.
As he walked deeper into the forest, he called back the shadows he had sent out after Lyra earlier and from wherever they had gone, they were sucked back into his body, forming a smoky mist that burned around him like black fire. His eyes had darkened until it was just two burning black balls sitting in his eye sockets.
She was too far and too long gone for him to try catching a whiff of her scent, so he listened for her heartbeat instead. He stopped walking and stood still with his eyes closed, he took in deep silent breaths, shutting out the sounds of the forest and listening for a heartbeat he could recognize as hers. The sound came to him like distant calls of a war drum being played, accelerated and troubled. Scared. Fearful. And she called out to him.
His eyes shot open and a force of energy shot out of him, sending a low vibrating shock wave out of his body. He ran now, like he had a destination and a direction, around the choked up trees, over the protruding roots, and under the low branches, he breezed past as fast as a bullet, faster than a normal human, and with every distance he covered, the sound of her heartbeat increased.
It pumped in his ears until it ran in sync with his. She was terrified. He could feel the chills that crept around her skin and he knew that she was not in charge of her body. He growled and ran even faster, sending another shock wave out of his body, he expelled his shadows now, they knew where she was and where they should be heading. He felt her heartbeat slow down to a steady and he slowed down too. She was close now, he could not see her but he could sense her.
He could sense them both.
“Indie!” He called after coming to a stop at a small clearing in the heart of the forest.
“I knew you would come out here for her…” She chuckled as she stepped out from behind the trees. She smiled at him sinisterly and seductively.
He frowned. The woman in front of him was Indie herself and there was no sign of Lyra. “Where is she, you whore of a witch?”
“Such aggression, Ryder.” She faked a shocked expression, placing a hand on her chest and gasping. She strolled over to where he was, dancing in her steps as she got closer.
Ryder snapped and his hand shot forward, seizing the witch by her neck. He pulled her closer to himself and applied force on his grip. “Where the hell is she!?”
She chuckled and placed both her hands on his arm, wrapping her fingers around his wrist. “I would not do that if I were you.” She spoke calmly like his chokehold didn’t have any effect on her. “Remember what happened the last time you tried?”
Ryder narrowed his eyes at her and gave a low growl. Indie smiled.
“She might be somewhere choking and unable to breathe, the longer and tighter your hands wrap around my neck, the closer she gets to dying of suffocation.”
Ryder hissed and pushed her down to the ground. She went down and faded into a fine white smoke, swimming away from him and back towards the trees where she snaked around them, climbing up and around, all the while laughing sinisterly.
He tried to calm down so he could pick up the sound of Lyra’s beating heart but all he could hear was the beating heart of Indie who was frustrating him to the edge. The fact that she had tied herself to Lyra irked him, and the fact that he could not hurt her for fear of harming Lyra indirectly added to his frustration.
“What do you want? And why do you keep doing this?”
She circled around a tree in her smoke form and settled down to the ground, the white smoke swirled around in a spot, slowly rising and taking form until she stepped out from within it. This time she did not step out in her body, but in the body of Lyra. She had a huge gash on her upper arm, right on her shoulder that didn’t bleed but it was not healed either.
“What have you done to her?!” His voice thundered and his eyes darkened, they burned in anger and pure rage. More rage because he knew he could not attack the witch without the risk of harming Lyra, he needed to get this Osyron year over with quickly because it seemed that Lyra was fast becoming his weakness and that was only because of her importance. She was needed and she was necessary and right now, she was indispensable.
“This?” She asked, rubbing a finger over the huge gash on her shoulder. “Oh this was not my doing, this was the hand work of your pet. Iris.” She cat-walked closer to Ryder knowing that he could not try to harm her now. “She is a rather feisty one, that woman. What do you see in her?” She cuddled up to Ryder’s chest and took in a sniff of him. “What do you like about her? Because you know, and I know that you do not love her.” She paused and looked up at him, locking her eyes with his. “Have you ever felt love, Ryder of Astaroth?”
Ryder looked down at Lyra. Knowing that Indie was in her body and controlling her movements disgusted him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her away from his body.
She screamed in pain and threw her head back. Ryder frowned and narrowed his eyes at her, she winced in pain and he looked down at her shoulder where he had gripped, the blood flowed out of the wound now, in between his fingers and down her arm. She slumped forward and her head fell into his chest, her hands went forward and gripped his cloth on either side of his torso and she whimpered in pain.
“Lyra?” He called, looking down at her. She sniffed once and her body went limp, falling into his arms. He was quick to catch her, her body was icy cold, and he had to get her warm fast or she could be at risk of getting frostbite.
He set her on the ground and quickly took off the thick cloak he had on, he placed that over her body and turned her so that she was completely wrapped up in it, then he picked her up in his arms and turned to leave the forest but he paused. The trees started to move, they lifted off the ground, moving on their own accord as they ran on their roots, scattering around and about wildly and with such speed, until they slowly settled, each tree in a new position.
“Fuck!” He cursed under his breath.
“Leaving so soon?” Indie purred slowly, stepping out from behind a tree in front of him. The smile she had on her face infuriated him and he wanted nothing more right now than to shred her into tiny bits. He looked down at Lyra in his arms and she shivered, still unconscious. He wished that he had come with Xanth so he could stay with Lyra while he dealt with the witch.
“You know Ryder,” She continued as she walked closer to him. “We could be so many things together, you and I, all-powerful and all…” She rounded him, her back pressed into him as she continued around him. “…everything. We could have it all.”
“And why would I want to be with you?” He sneered, she stood a few feet before him now, the smile on her face still angered him. “Why would I want to be with an ancient witch?”
“The way you say that makes me seem old…”
“Because you are.” He interrupted her sharply. “And last time you mentioned that you still loved Osyron, the death god.”
She shrugged her shoulders and turned away from him. “So?”
“So all this is just a ploy. You are trying to stop me from completing this sacrifice because you want him free.”
“That might be,” She turned to him and came closer. “But I still want you, the last time we were together…”
“Enough!” He yelled at her, rendering her silent at once. He frowned and his eyes darkened. He took one step towards her. “Enough of your ploys and your nonsense! You will never have me and you will never stop this sacrifice!”
Her eyes narrowed down to him and she fumed, the forest darkened even more and the wind came in strong. “Then I would love to see how you plan on getting out of this forest!"
Encrypted from: Ryder, Lord of Astaroth. A book by me, Harriet Ifeanyi