Danielle is safe.
Well, not really safe, because I’m alive.
Why am I alive? The mound of earth was charging for me, enveloping me. It was more than enough to kill me. But instead of dying, I yielded to the force, letting it wash over me and carry me away. But why? If I had let Shar kill me, she would be free from him. At least until we both came back tomorrow. But I’ve left her in harm’s way by saving my own life because now Shar is still alive as well. Why did I do that?
All I know is that Danielle is not safe.
But what is safe, anyway? Her life is always in danger from Shar. I can never really save her, just stave him off for a few more hours. Even now, he’ll know I’m not dead and continue looking for her. At least before, she never knew about it. She could live her life in peace, happily oblivious to Shar’s attacks. Now, she’s consumed by the chaos, running for her life.
Why did Shar escalate his attack like this? For three years, he’s struck from the shadows with subtle traps and manipulations of nature. And for centuries before, he worked in secret, hiding himself so that no one saw him or suspected his power. This open assault made no sense. What did he gain from it?
No time for this now. I need to find her. Where would she go? Where would she feel safe?
It’s the worst place for her to go, of course, because it’s utterly predictable. But it’s the only safe place she knows. I have to get there. Now.
Traveling quickly is never a problem for me. Shar may have strength and supernatural power on his side, but I have speed on mine. I can get there first.
I’m here. I’ve reached the village. The clouds are back in full force, blocking out the sun with a thick curtain of grey. There’s no activity in the square. The table, food, and decorations all lay scattered where they fell. The windows are closed.
I still have to find Danielle. If she’s really even here.
Panic tries to crowd into my mind at the thought. She could still be in the woods. Shar may have already…
Shut it out, shut it out.
She’s here. She has to be.
I hurry through the streets, desperate to find her.
“You!” The raw anger in that shout kept me from recognizing it as Danielle’s voice for a moment. “Why did you come here?”
“I came to—”
“Protect me? That’s going really well. I don’t believe him, I don’t think you’re trying to kill me. But you’re not keeping me safe, either.”
The words stung. A sting magnified by the potent mix of truth and lie they contained.
“Danielle, if you only knew how much I—”
“How much you what? Want to protect me? You’re doing a pretty lousy job at that. He’s probably following you right now. You’re leading him right to me. Again.”
I blink. Could that be true? Shar has never attacked Danielle unless I was near. Was that how he found us in the forest so quickly?
She’s walking away. I got lost in my thoughts, and she just walked away. I can’t let her go. I have to keep her—
The wind roars with unnatural ferocity and the clouds darken from grey to black, ushering in an premature dusk. Thunder rolls in the distance.
I see the cloud of black robes descending, swooping towards Danielle but she’s too far away. I can’t get to her in time.
But I have to try. I surge forward, arms outstretched.
Her scream is cut short while I’m still running as the dark form collides with her and she’s carried away.
Out of my reach.
Out of my sight.
Danielle is not safe.