Eleana found that there was a strange and most unpleasant scent in the air. “Do you smell that?” she asked Finn.
The huntsmaster nodded. “Been following my nose since the forest stopped changing.”
“You said so, yes,” Eleana said coldly. She still couldn’t believe that this obviously experienced woodsman would rely purely on chance. Although she wondered whether that said more about the Witchwood than the man himself.
“Literally, girl. As well as the obvious, ogre-wide trail it left. You should look around more,” Finn chided her.
Now that he mentioned it, she noticed that it was indeed a fairly wide path they followed. Which, as far as she could tell, was unusual for this dense, dark forest. Then it suddenly hit her. “Are you saying that we’re actually following an ogre?”
“I’m not making any assumptions, but it sure looks like it,” Finn replied calmly, his eyes fixed ahead.
Following his gaze, Eleana noticed the large clearing, created by the violent ripping and and tearing down of the trees. All her other questions were suddenly overridden. “How big is an ogre, exactly?”
“This one? About three times as tall as you, I’d guess,” Finn replied as he entered the clearing.
“What exactly is that smell?” was next on her list. At this place, it was overpowering and utterly disgusting.
Finn finally turned to face her and said: “You don’t want to know. Now hold up your skirt, try to keep up and save your breath for more meaningful things than all these questions, lass.”
He ran into another path. It was completely different from the previous one, as this one was created by the destruction of all trees in the way by what could only be the ogre. She followed his chase after him as he nimbly leapt from trunk to trunk of the devastated trees. The questions immediately returned though. “Why is this one different? Why are we even chasing an ogre in the first place?”
“Because there’s only one person in this forest stupid enough to enrage an ogre,” Finn shouted back at her.
Instantly, Eleana realized the old man’s wisdom. As out of place as he could be, her knight was bound to get himself in trouble. Still, this type of trouble was slightly bigger than she would have imagined. She rushed in an effort to catch up with Finn, futile as it was. He was impossibly quick on the path of ravaged trees. But she was glad that he was so much faster. It was not like she had any idea on what to do once she’d be face to face with an ogre, while he surely did. The stench got progressively worse as she ran. She felt nauseous and about to throw up, but Avarron would certainly need her help, even though she had no idea what help she might give him.
A savage roar, followed by loud, crashing noises disrupted the silence of the forest. More noise was created by what she could only imagine to be the devastation of more trees as the ogre carved another path. Judging by the sound, it had made a turn to the left. Finn responded immediately by leaving the trail of devastation to the left, in an attempt to intercept the ogre. Eleana followed his example.
She quickly lost sight of Finn in the forest, but as long as the ogre would be as noisy as it was, she’d be able to find both soon enough. As well as Avarron. At that moment, there was one very loud crash and the forest went silent. Eleana just kept running in the direction of that last sound.
It didn’t take her very long to spy a massive, muscular figure through the trees. It could probably crush her with its fingers, but she had to help, somehow. She slowed down and approached carefully. There was a howl, but this time it seemed to be of pain, rather than rage. A moment later, something flew away from the ogre and vanished behind the trees.
She then spotted Finn again, bow in hand and string still humming. Several arrows marked the ogre’s back and neck. Why then, she wondered, had the ogre thrown that object in the other direction?
At that time, a figure flew straight at the ogre from the forest. If she didn’t know better, she’d say it was a human. The figure dodged under the flailing arms of the ogre and struck its face. Once it had passed the ogre, it slowed down for a turn, allowing Eleana a good look. It definitely looked like a human with black hair, clad in grey armour and a tattered green cloak and holding a sword in hand. She would’ve thought it was Avarron if the man didn’t soar on a pair of bat-like wings.
He darted around the ogre with incredible speed and agility, but the monster’s thick arms kept swatting him away. In the meantime, Finn circled around, but had stopped his volley of arrows. He shouted wand waved to get the flying man’s attention.
He flew down to the hunter and they quickly coordinated their attacks. The winged man took to the sky again and flew around to the ogre’s back while Finn released a few more arrows, which the ogre caught in his arms. Using the distraction, the winged man went for the ogre’s neck, but was quickly occupied evading the ogre’s massive, flailing arms again. An axe flew out from Finn, but missed the wildly thrashing ogre’s head. The winged man caught it from the air and threw it straight into the ogre’s face as he flew past. The beast dropped to one knee, but tried to get up again. It was quickly followed by a few of Finn’s arrows, that finally found their mark. And when the winged man drove his sword deep into the monster’s eye, it finally fell over, taking the man with him in his fall. He held on tightly to his sword as the ogre hit the ground with a final crash before the forest was silent again.
When he, somewhat unsteadily, got up and pulled the bloodied sword out, she couldn’t help nut recognise Avarron. Despite the recklessness, the flying and the green eyes blazing with a light of their own, it was unmistakably her knight. His armour had lost its polish, but he wore the black crest he had told her about. Disturbingly, the symbol was glowing with the same green as his eyes, and Eleana could feel the raw might it radiated. It was terrifyingly unlike anything she had felt before.
“Eleana?” he said surprised and quickly came over to her.
“I stand corrected,” Finn said impressed as he joined them. “There’s only one creature in this forest stupid enough to enrage a…”
Eleana didn’t let him finish his sentence. Right now, she couldn’t care less about his opinion. She walked over to her knight, ignoring whatever the huntsmaster was going to say.
As she approached the knight, he bowed his head. “Please forgive me for leaving your side, my lady.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck as a way of response. After a moment of confused hesitation, he embraced her. His eyes slowly returned to normal and as she slid her hands around to his back, she felt the wings still there.
Llaweyra came to sit on her shoulder and said, rather pleased with herself: “they’re impressive, aren’t they?”
Eleana wasn’t really sure what to think of them. “They’re… quite something,” she replied uneasily.
“What are?” Avarron asked puzzled.
She glanced at the fairy. She wouldn’t, would she? Not again. When the fairy burst into another giggle, she knew enough. “Avarron, do you know that you have wings?”