The store was quiet below her, but Tiga was wide awake. After seeing the wall of smoke approaching, it was surprising that anyone was sleeping. Tiga was unnerved and her neck was stiff from the stress. She rolled over for what seemed the seventh time in a minute and reached up to rub her neck.
A task force had been voted for and would set out into the smoke wall in the morning. With the body of Bodach being found, many of the villagers were reluctant to volunteer for the job. Jay, Cagar and Ethan had once again offered to be the ones who investigated. Tiga had stepped forward, trying to say that though it was dangerous, she was willing to accompany them. Her offer had been shot down in a second, Cagar and Jay both firmly opposing the idea.
Tiga gave up on trying to sleep and sat up, the covers falling off her shoulders. The air was cool and Tiga welcomed the feeling on her exposed skin. Soft moonlight shone through the window and illuminated the room. Yuna had generously offered and prepared a bed in the attic for Tiga. The room was small and had a bed in one corner and several children’s toys dotted the room.
Yuna said that they had prepared it for when their child grows older, Tiga thought, with a smile. Jay wants a boy and she wants a girl, although she said that Jay would surely be happy no matter which gender their child ended up.
Tiga slid out from under the covers and moved one leg off the side of the bed. Her foot touched the cool wooden boards and the other leg followed. Tiga tip toed around the room, picking up several toys and turning them over. She had never had toys when she was younger and now that she was an older teen everyone assumed that she had grown out of them. How could one grow out of toys when they never received them? Tiga certainly didn’t know the answer. Tiga noticed an engraving in the corner of the room on the wall and approached curiously.
J.A ❤ Y.E
Tiga smiled and traced the carvings with her pointer finger. According to Yuna, Jay had lived in the store with his parents long before he had even met Yuna. This must have been something he carved into the wall when they had either met or were starting to see each other. It was kind of strange to think of quiet, solemn Jay, hiding in this room carving their initials secretly.
Tiga turned away and rolled her neck muscles slowly. She was currently wearing a white nightgown given to her by Yuna. The fabric was made out of light cotton and flowed freely around her body. The gown was quite large and reached all the way to her ankles. Tiga touched the lace trim on the left sleeve of the gown and sighed.
It would have been lovely if I had parents like Yuna and Jay, Tiga mused sadly. I don’t even remember anything about my parents and I have no other family.
Tiga walked back over to her bed and sat down, the bed’s boards creaking slightly. In all honesty, Tiga hadn’t ever lain in such a comfortable bed before. Although she couldn’t sleep, she was grateful for the kind offer of the room.
An owl hooted nearby, making Tiga jump slightly at the sudden sound. She chuckled quietly at her own pointless fright and flopped backwards. The bed creaked once more and Tiga winced, hoping she hadn’t woken anyone up with all her moving around. The store was still however, except for her own quiet breathing, as Tiga listened intently. The owl hooted again and Tiga’s eyes switched to look out the window. The moon was like an orb floating across the sky and from her lowered position everything looked fine outside.
Once again Tiga sat up, this time going to the window and peering out. Sure enough the wall of smoke hadn’t disappeared but thankfully it hadn’t crept forward much more. The wall of smoke reached up to the sky, making a circle of night sky above the village.
This is ridiculous, Tiga though suddenly.
Tiga turned back to the end of the bed where her clothes lay on a large wooden chest. She stepped into the pants and lifted the hem of the gown up and over her head. Tiga shivered as her skin became sensitive and goose-bumps covered her arms in seconds. She threw on her tunic and followed it with the thick woollen jacket. Tiga dropped onto her knees and reached underneath the bed. She removed the bow and quiver, which she had hidden there earlier. Tiga cinched the quiver into place and slung the bow over one shoulder. She picked up her boots and gave a last second sweep of the room.
Tiga opened the door of the room and closed it silently behind her. She paused to make sure no-one else was up at that moment, but all was quiet. Tiga carried her boots in her hands to reduce the chance of waking the others, and her feet barely made a sound on the wooden boards. She descended the stairs quickly and with ease.
A quiet snore alerted Tiga to someone sleeping on the bench that Tiga had received medical treatment on earlie. Cagar’s long legs fell over the end of the bench and a sword was placed on the floor next to him. He had one arm covering his eyes and the other rose and fell on his stomach as he breathed. Cagar was still wearing the clothes he had been wearing the whole day and the faint smell of smoke drifted to Tiga.
“Have a good rest, I’ll go investigate myself,” Tiga spoke in a barely audible whisper.
Tiga tiptoed past him as Cagar snored, once again. She opened the front door, which thankfully was kept well-oiled and maintained so that it didn’t creak. Tiga slid through and stepped onto the deck, bending to slip on her boots. She stepped off the veranda and glanced up and down the street. As expected no-one was out at this time of night and Tiga made her way across the street unseen.
Tiga had decided the best route would be just to go in the direction Bodach’s hut had once been. At least then she’d have a rough estimation of where she was going and the landmarks could be recognised. Tiga had grown up in the forest and thus could find her way places quite easily, even without being able to see, like at night. Luckily, as Tiga had noticed already, the moon was quite full tonight and illuminated the area.
Tiga began walking hastily towards the smoke wall, the air still and cool around her. It took her a mere ten minutes to reach the blackened earth in front of the wall and her muscles began to tense. The wall was still daunting and the smoke was a strong, stifling smell. Tiga pulled the bow off her shoulder and chose one arrow from the quiver. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Which did little to calm her nerves, but it was worth a moment’s time.
Well, no use putting this off any longer, Tiga thought. We have too little time as is.
Tiga lifted her chin, notched the arrow onto the sting but kept the bow lowered. She took several steps forward and took another breath before stepping into the wall. For some reason the air seemed to sigh in satisfaction as she stepped into the area. The sound sent a shiver down her spine and she spun to look in several directions. Nothing but smoke was able to been seen and Tiga felt a niggling feeling that she shouldn’t have entered alone.
It’s far too late to be thinking like that, Tiga mused. Pull yourself together!
Tiga took another couple of cautious steps forward and found the ground to be steady underneath her feet. She waved her left hand through the air and the smoke swirled around her arm, otherwise it just hung in the air.
For some reason, as she moved forward further, the smoke cleared slightly and she could see further. Tiga coughed and felt her lungs were heavy from all the smoke inhalation. She mentally cursed her own foolishness and pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket, tying it firmly over her mouth and nose. Tiga moved further forward, hoping to find the source of the smoke. She was yet to see any fire and magic seemed the only other option. If sorcery was behind it, there was probably a tangible reason behind it, most likely a sorcerer or sorceress.
The air sighed once more, Tiga’s hairs standing on end at the very sound. She pushed forward, by this point dedicated to the mission despite her own fear.
If I can’t help Cagar, Jay, Yuna and the village this way, I doubt I’ll be able to do much else.
Tiga squinted through the smoke and paused cautiously, tightening her grip on the bow. Her heart beat quickly in her chest and she hoped that it wouldn’t make a sound. Tiga had spotted a dark outline in the smoke ahead of her and it moved slightly as she stayed still. Tiga crouched closer to the ground and moved forward, moving one leg at a time. The figure paused, as if sensing her presence and Tiga took a second to look them over more closely. The figure was roughly Tiga’s height, as far as Tiga could tell, and was slim, like that of a female. There was still too much smoke to discern any further details, but Tiga rose up from her crouch and drew her bow.
“Excuse me, are you okay?” Tiga called out cautiously.
The smoke blew suddenly and Tiga closed her eyes, as they watered. As her eyes continued to sting, she lifted her arm up to protect them. A smoky breeze rushed over her small frame and her hair was tussled roughly. Tiga choked as the smoke seeped through the handkerchief and she doubled over as the wind continued to blow. The air seemed to whisper, but not in audible words, like her nightmare had been. However the air slowly quietened, reducing velocity and returning to a mere breeze. Tiga remained still for a moment, waiting to see if it would pick up again. It didn’t, however, and Tiga opened her eyes slowly.
Tiga was looking to her left, as she peeked under her right arm. The area seemed to have cleared so that only a slight haze of smoke remained. Tiga could almost see a full six metres quite clearly, before the smoke thickened again. She sighed in relief, but then remembered the figure in the smoke and straightened swiftly. The sight that was revealed to her on glancing back towards where the figure had once been, left her blood cold.
Tiga’s first evaluation had been correct. The figure was the exact same height as Tiga and was most definitely female. However the woman was not a humanoid, it was not made of flesh. Instead the figure was made completely out of thick, pitch black smoke. Short hair moved softly as the figure moved its head slightly to the left, as if she was listening for something.
Tiga drew her arrow and fired towards the figure. Unfortunately her aim wasn’t very good, due to her stiff, frightened movements. The arrow was about to fly freely past the figure, when she reached out and grabbed it. The arrow disintegrated into ash in the figures fingers and fell scattered to the ground.
“What a way to say hello, and I had hoped we’d get along well,” the figure spoke softly.
Tiga took a jolted step back and her eyes widened at the sound of the figure’s voice. The figure sounded exactly like Tiga and had spoken as if the voice was its own.
The figure began to turn, letting the outstretched hand fall back by its side. The face and stance that was revealed was like a mirrored version of Tiga herself. From the shortened hair to elven ears, the figure even wore a smoky version of her clothes.
As Tiga stood in stunned silence, the figure’s smoky lips curled into a smile. Tiga shivered.