A blood curdling scream echoed around the room, deep red seeped through the brown cloth. The blade of the dagger sunk into flesh to its full length and pain spread through the nerves like a wildfire. Strange shrieks of distress emanated from the cage, and Tiga turned her head towards it slowly. She gritted her teeth and winced as she withdrew the blade. The trancelike spell had slowly lifted from her body, leaving her feeling weak. Tiga gazed up to where Colvan still stood rigid and sighed quietly in relief. Weather it had been great will power or an accident, her blade had missed its point of attack. Instead blood now poured from her own leg and the pain was excruciating. However Tiga greeted the pain as an old friend, for anything was better than having a body that was being used as if it were a puppet on a string. Her teeth and jaw hurt from her clenched jaw and she tried to take deep breaths. Suddenly Tiga swung the dagger towards Colvan once more, aiming for his hand, which hung by his side. A small gash opened and blood trickled from the wound but Colvan reacted and quickly put pressure on the wound with his other hand. Colvan didn’t complain about the wound and instead nodded his thanks to Tiga. Tiga turned to the cage, as the shrieks had faded and approached, limping.
“What are you planning to do?” Colvan asked quietly.
“He’s wrong you know,” Tiga answered in a whisper.
“I know, so we must leave quickly, he’s able to possess others so easily the best thing to do is leave.”
“No…” Tiga disagreed. “He’s wrong… he’s not safe in there. Cause he just invited his own worst enemy into his ‘secret place’.”
Tiga unlatched the door and opened a way into the cage. She turned and grinned savagely.
“People have always said I’m a devil, now they’ll see how much of one I can be… or at least this psycho will,” Tiga said.
“Then I’ll come with you,” Colvan stated, pushing past her.
Colvan began to duck his head to enter the cage but a strong shock zapped through his body and he stumbled back. Tiga helped him steady himself and then shook her head.
“I doubt he’d allow anyone but him and his ‘chosen one’ in. He seems to be quite a strong sorcerer. However I’m just going inside this small cage, we probably wouldn’t all fit in here. Stay here and let me deal with it,” Tiga explained.
Colvan nodded his head reluctantly and Tiga gave him a pat on the shoulder. She then bent over and entered the pitch black cage. Colvan bowed his head and sat outside the cage. The wait wouldn’t be long…but then again they were dealing with a sorcerer of great power.
Tiga felt her way forward slowly, the pitch black so dense that she may as well have been blind. The floor was hard and cold and a moment later her head hit the roof. Tiga winced and felt the roof and was surprised to feel it crumble slightly under her touch. Tiga shuffled further forward as she could feel a tunnel in front on her and was soon doing an army crawl through a thin passage. Tiga felt a breeze long before she could see anything and it was warm and fresh. It took a minute longer before she’d managed to shuffle her way to an opening, from which a bright light shone. The brightness blinded Tiga and she squinted her eyes against the intense light.
Tiga stood slowly and brushed dark dirt from her pants. Beads of sweat tickled her forehead as they formed and trickled down her skin. A thick woolen jacket, which had previously been protecting her from the freezing weather elements, was now suffocating her. Stripping off the jacket and rolling up the sleeves of their tunic, Tiga began to feel comfortable. She tied the jacket around her waist and stepped into the strange land. Tiga’s eyes were used to the brightness brought by the sun’s rays and she paused to take in her surroundings. Tiga was elevated on a steep hillside which overlooked a huge lake which waters were a deep blue. Fresh grass ran up to the water’s edge and a large pier was built onto the lake. Several crisp white sails skimmed across the waves indicating the presence of sailboats. Rolling hillside led up to an opposing mountain range, its shadow leaving them looking dark and peaceful. Tiga couldn’t help feeling soothed as birds called to each other from sturdy branches and her hair fluttered around her face freely.
The crackling of underbrush distracted Tiga from what was in front of her and she turned to see a beautiful doe. Its short white tail swished at flies and its docile brown eyes watched Tiga underneath long lashes. It didn’t move but just stood watching, her ears swiveling to catch all the sounds around her. Tiga smiled and began to move away slowly.
“It would be best if I keep moving, like this deer, I need to stay alert,” Tiga thought.
Tiga expertly slid down the loose earth of the hillside, moving in sections at a time. Everything seemed so serene and peaceful that Tiga started to feel that something was off. But then, since entering the basement of the prison, nothing had been normal. There was no way that a simple tunnel ran from a cage in the middle of winter to this spring retreat.
A dark cloaked figure shuffled down unseen in front of Tiga until they reached the rolling plain. Tiga noticed the pale hand clasping the cloak tightly around them, despite the heat. Her suspicion once more piqued, Tiga began descending more urgently. A rabbit hole however, obviously had a quicker plan for her, as she was soon tumbling roughly downwards. Thudding into the soft earth and pointy branches, Tiga arrived at the bottom much less worse for wear. Grass and earth stained her clothing and rocks and debris was stuck to her skin and hair. Tiga lay face down and remained still, her body aching from the tumble. To prevent herself from breathing dirt, Tiga rolled over reluctantly and groaned. A large oak tree shaded her from the rising sun and several birds watched on curiously from its branches.
“Are you okay?” a mellow voice asked.
The frowning face of a young man entered Tiga’s range of view, but Tiga made no attempt to move.
“Absolutely fine, just wanted to have a rest. It’s been a long day,” Tiga answered, sighing aloud.
“At nine o’clock in the morning? You must lead a busy life,” the man stated, crouching down.
He offered a tanned, calloused hand to help her up and his blue eyes watched her earnestly. Tiga reached across and accepted his help in sitting up, but groaned as she did so.
“Are you absolutely certain that you are fine?” he asked once more.
“Just stiff,” Tiga replied shortly.
“I understand, my father was the same…” the man said slowly. “After he was trampled by his horse and wagon.”
“Puh-lease,” Tiga said rolling her eyes. “I can move all my limbs and there’s no blood so I’ll live.”
“At least come and get cleaned up at my hut, it’s a short way from here.”
“I’m not stupid enough to follow strangers home.”
“My name is Cagar, I’m perfectly harmless. Although my cooking is less so,” the man said shrugging.
Tiga smiled slightly at his self-depreciating remark and gritted her teeth to stand up. Cagar straightened as well and stood to almost a full head above her.
“I’d be willing to risk even your so called harmful cooking. It could be interesting,” Tiga countered jokingly. “However I’m currently following someone that is useful to me.”
“Huh, where you perhaps following Bodach, the sorcerer? We almost collided…well collide is kind of a strong word but he almost shuffled into me earlier,” Cagar explained. “He said he had to get home, for some reason. It’s a fair way but I could show you the way if you want.”
“Directions to his house is good enough. I’m sure you have plenty of other, better, things to do with your time,” Tiga responded, raising a hand.
“Nah, not really, I was just going to go fishing later on. I’ve already done my jobs for the day.”
“Then you’re an early riser and worker too then?”
Cagar just responded with a large grin and shrugged, picking up several packs from the ground. Tiga reached to pick up one more pack but Cagar quickly plucked it up. He threw it over his shoulder casually and began to stride away.
“So, what exactly were you doing up on the hillside?” Tiga asked, making small conversation.
“Picking some wild berries. The local grocer pays quite a nice amount for each pack I bring him,” Cagar answered. “What about you? Just following old sorcerers around on the hillside?”
“What can I say? I’m a little obsessed with the old sorcerer types,” Tiga said sarcastically.
“Then I wish you luck and happiness with your pursuit,” Cagar answered, equally cynical.
Tiga laughed with Cagar as they started their trek towards a small collection of houses near the lake. Behind them the hillside was darkened by the tall oak trees that clung to the steep earth. A pair of flowing amber eyes watched from the shadows and narrowed at the two jokesters. A black smoke formed a pair of rounded ears and a long sleek tail curved behind it. Wisps of cloud formed at its nose as it breathed and then the wisps dissipated. The smoke formed the rough shape of the face and body of a panther as it lay low to the ground. A minute or so later, with Tiga and Cagar moving into the distance, the creature slunk in a tight semi-circle and disappeared into the shadows.