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Cascade Hills 16: Now now, let’s not get cold feet, shall we?


Cascade Hills

-Cascade Hills Forest-


The sounds of the forest were muted around a lone figure. The sound of their footsteps was loud and crunchy against the almost silent surroundings. The figure was shadowed in the darkness of the night. They venture through the forest seemly searching for something but are not afraid of the ominous presence that the forest holds. After walking for about 5 minutes the figure stops, the white glow of the moon cracks through the canvas of the tree top to reveal them.


“…Can I ask you something..?”


Silence was all that answered him for a second moment before a low rumbling sigh echoed in the back of his mind.


What?” The voice of the creature called out much like an annoyed parent.


Kyle frowns at the attitude but chooses to ignore it as he has a more pressing question.


“What happened back there? With Katherine I mean?” He asks curiously.


The creature seemed to pause as if to take in his question before answering.


She’s a werewolf.”


Kyle almost face-planted at the rather casual admission.


Excuse me?!


Yes, mortal she is a werewolf. Now keep moving.”


Kyle fully stops there as he looks back at his shadow like he was just told that the moon was made of cheese.


“I’m sorry, what do you mean ‘keep moving’?! Were you going to tell me that werewolves were a fucking thing?”


There is a long sigh followed by a pause.


No.”


Kyle throws his arms up in frustration.


“Is there anything else you are keeping from me?!”


Do you want an honest answer or..?


Kyle glares at his shadow.


“In case you forgot, you need me. So being a little forthcoming with information is to keep to a healthy partnership!”


There is no response to his statement. Kyle then lets out a huff of breath as he looks around himself.


“Like for instance, are you going to tell me what I should be looking for or am I just going to keep wandering around like an idiot?” He asks.


A chuckle does sound in response to his question this time. The voice sounds both present and also disconnected from reality. From the light of the moon, Kyle’s shadow shifts and changes. While it may come from Kyle, the shape is twisted and reshaped in a form not at all in his likeness.


“..I already explained what you were looking for mortal. Stop complaining.” The voice doesn’t appear to come from anything, it wavers around and echos in the air.


“Ah, yes. A ‘conduit of magic’ really narrows down what I’m looking for.” Kyle replies sarcastically.


The shadow twitches before seemingly standing up straight. The form is long, larger than a human, and seems to wispy at the very edges like a ghost. It tilts its head, however, the turn itself is noticeably unnatural as it turns well beyond normal and happens in a jerk of a second.


..It seems that you have a … misconception of our relationship mortal..


Kyle feels a chill run down his spine right before his body freezes. He cannot move, or blink as it feels like he is being crushed between two walls. He is even lifted clearly off the ground, his feet kicking desperately in the air as he struggles to breathe. The shadowy being suddenly rises up, like a 2D image pulling itself into reality. A large clawed hand wraps around Kyle and squashes tightly. All Kyle can see is a soulless void, and he feels a gaze in that void. He may not see eyes but he could feel them. Piecing and cold, hungry and vicious, like a monster from a horror film. A fear so bone-deep sunk into his body that it brought full-body shivers.


…This isn’t a partnership, this isn’t even so much of an agreement. I supply you with power, power fuels your otherwise mediocre magical capabilities. You then complete the task I assigned you. If anything you are more like a parasite feeding off me and just getting the benefit of power due to the nature of my request. Do you understand now mortal?” The voice grumbles in a low tone.


If Kyle was being honest, he understood his “misconception’ at least halfway through this monologue but considering he was currently being crushed he knew better than to even try to interrupt. He did his best to show how very clearly he understood by shaking his head violently yes. In a blink, he was suddenly released and plummeted to the ground. The shadow creature melts back into the ground and slowly becomes his shadow once again. Kyle is coughing and wheezing to get back his normal breathing and also calm his jackrabbit heartbeat. It takes some time but he does get back to normal even though his body is sore. But he sucks in any kind of complaint and continues his search. In a lot of ways, he is fortunate that his … benefactor is still something he can rely on simply due to how utterly creepy the forest is.


No one from town or otherwise comes this deep into the forest for several reasons. The first is the obvious danger of getting lost. It’s been a running tale for years that the forest around Cascade Hills is cursed and that those who try to venture through are lost forever. Kyle always thought it was just a tourist marketing thing growing up but never really doubted the scale of the forest. Then there were the obvious animal threats that came with such a place. More sightings of wolves, bears, and other animals to count.


Being in the forest, however, just felt different together..


Things were watching him. He couldn’t tell from where or what they were but he could feel eyes on him. Nothing like the creature that hides in his shadow but they didn’t feel normal. And the was the odd feeling that was welding up as he walked deeper and deeper into the woods.


It was an odd feeling to describe, it felt like a tug, before becoming almost like something solid pulling him in a direction. Kyle wanted desperately to ask what exactly it was but was too scared to question the creature that followed him.


So he just walked, seemingly aimlessly to anyone who was watching.


And as he seemed to near whatever he was being pulled to the forest seemed to change around him. The tree seems to grow larger, the shadow seems to move and shift even though the light of the moon stays the same. There were small creatures that always darted out of vision just as Kyle turned his head. And come before him was one large tree.


The tree didn’t look like anything Kyle had ever seen before. It was thick, thicker than any other and the bark was an ash white. The tree towered over every other one but Kyle was certain he’d never seen it from outside which would have been impossible given its scale. At the base of the tree was a lake with water so clear that you could see to the bottom. However, the bottom was clouded in darkness making it impossible to gather how deep the water goes.


“..What…what the fuck…?” Kyle says in a breathless tone as he just marvels at the sight before him.


..Like I said you will know when you see it.


Kyle couldn’t help but agree with that notion. It wasn’t just the sight of the tree alone that gave him this feeling. The tree seemed to give off a hum of power, it tingled in the air, electrifying it so much that Kyle shivered from the very pulse of it. It felt both like an old friend but something alien and new all at once.


It was an indescribable sensation…


“W-well we are here. Now what do we do?” Kyle masked still very much overwhelmed.


Now we are going to poison it.


The sudden lash of emotions completely caught Kyle off guard as he whips his head around to look down at his own shadow. The emotions that came to him felt like they were both from him but also somewhere else. A rage and deep fear mixed into one.


“W-what?! Why would you want that?!”


The creature doesn’t respond at first but does let out a guttural chuckle. Kyle seems to catch himself as he blinks in confusion at that sudden protective rush of emotions he is getting.


How funny. You have been in the presence of the world tree for only 2 minutes and you are already ready to defy me? Mother Nature made a lot of security measures to make sure you lot don’t disrupt the balance..


“W-what’s happening to me…” Kyle says as he could feel his body seeming to work against him.


His shadow twitches and suddenly the rush of emotions ceases leaving Kyle a bit off. He takes a breath to realign himself before finally getting back under control. He looked back towards the tree as his eyes widened in shock.


“What the fuck…?”


Hm, yes a fun little trick that wrench installs in witches and warlocks. Now back to the task at hand.


Kyle looks back at his shadow with wide eyes, it would be comical if it wasn’t absolutely sending him into a panic.


“..W-were you going to even tell me what was going to happen? Would I have like killed myself or something?!”


“No and more than likely if I didn’t intervene. Now stop talking.”


Kyle wanted desperately to say the venomous words stuck in his throat but swallowed his anger. It would do him no good anyway.


“Raise out your hand.”


Kyle pulls out his right hand obediently and is shocked and stiff at feeling something crawling up his arm. He watches as inky black crawls up his arm and forms another hand over his own. The feeling is cold as ice and has an almost scaled reptile-like texture.


Now go to the lake and put your hand in.


Kyle could hear his heart pumping in his ears as he slowly stepped closer to the lake. His senses were screaming at him to leave, turn around, and never come back. He assumed it was that weird mind thing that the tree was influencing on him so he did his best to ignore it.


A few steps closer to the edge of the lake. The feeling wasn’t diminishing but it wasn’t all encompassing as it was beforehand. It just felt like he was doing something wrong. Like a child lying to it parents is kind of wrong.


He was now at the edge of the lake, he would have to be down in order to put his hand in as the water was a bit below. However, as soon as he bent down and actually looked at the water, his heart dropped into his stomach.


There is the reflection of the water he saw himself. However, he wasn’t alone, from their hand up and looming over him was a being so monstrous that he nearly passed out from even viewing it. The hand that was over his own didn’t look like a shadowy blob, instead, it was a veiny and fleshy clawed hand. The creature that it was attracted to dwarfed Kyle from a small baby to a fully grown adult. It could easily cast a shadow over him if it was a physical form. The eyes on the creature were a pure red, and clocked on him almost immediately as if it knew he saw it. The maw of the monster grinned wide amused by his fear. He knew at that moment he had made a terrible mistake.


Now now, let not get cold feet shall we?


Kyle no longer had control over his own body as something forced him to continue to lower his hand. His mind was racing, his heart was pounding in his chest so hard that he was certain he would have a heart attack at the ripe age of 16. His hand dipped into the water, the cold almost was able to shock him out of his fear-induced stupor. From then that inky black died into the water, changing its clear view to black. It lasted only about 1 minute but felt like hours for Kyle. Suddenly he had control once again and he rips his hand out and turns around. There was nothing, the shadow behind him was normal and that monster was nowhere to be seen. He looks back at the lake to try and see the creature again but to no avail as the water is now completely black.


..Good job mortal. You’ve proven yourself useful..” The voice purred in a rumbling voice.


The sound of wood creaking made his head shoot back around. The great tree before him was shuddering. The beautiful white wood was slowly turning a charcoal black come from the base. The sound around him suddenly multiplied, the creatures that were once watching passively sounded enraged.


I would leave if I were you…” The voice once again chimes in almost gleefully.


Kyle doesn’t waste even a second as he scrambles to his feet. He running before he can even know it. The sound around him was more than enough to strike fear into anyone. If he wasn’t sure something had been watching him before he now didn’t doubt in his mind of it. He raced through the forest with the nightmarish cries of the creatures around him and the low mocking laugh of the monster that he had sold his soul to.


-


“Kris, I’m really not in the mood to have this discussion with you again.”


“Great, neither am I. So let’s skip that part and just do what I said then?” Kristen says with a wave of her hands.


The glare her father sent her would have made an average person cower but Kristen has been on the receiving end of his glares for all too long. The effect therefore had been lesson greatly. And besides, if he was really upset at her, she would know, that look could and would put the fear of god into anything, supernatural or not.


“I’m not going to be calling the council until I’m sure of what we are dealing with. You know this.”


“I do which is why I think given the fact it is been already a week and we are no closer to finding out what happened with Quinn. I think we should at least make sure the townspeople are a bit more .. secure.”


Her father looks back at her with not a trace of emotions, a calculating look on his face before he opens his mouth.


“…Right of course, and this has nothing to do with your friend being a werewolf and now in very real danger?”


Kristen’s face twitches as she bites back scathing words that she wanted to say to that. Her father has always been this way since her mother’s death. In a lot of ways, her mother was the pillar of not only the hunters here but also her family. Without her, they were broken in ways Kristen never really realized until now.


“Her name is Katherine. She used to come over a lot maybe you’ve just forgotten in your old age.” Kristen sneers.


Her father’s turned colder and she now could say he was truly upset. Kristen wasn’t sure what kept her speaking, it was like a damn had broken in her and every frustration just leaked out.


“You know I had to lie to her… a little while ago.”


Her father sits back now giving her his full attention but the expression on his face is stony.


“Lie to her about what exactly.” He asks.


“I had to give her some sense of comfort that we wouldn’t just readily kill her if this didn’t go over well.” Kristen said, her voice cracking with emotion.


Her father doesn’t respond but she could tell he could understand where she was going with her statement.


“The reason for that is I honestly don’t know if you were going to kill her or not. But my gut was leaning towards you would. And then you would go to her mother and tell her that there was a terrible accident. And you wouldn’t feel a bit of regret!!?”


Her father just sat there watching her and listening but Kristen couldn’t help but her words were just falling on deaf ears.


“Well, say something!”


“…You know you remind me of your mother in a lot of ways.”


That wasn’t what she was expecting to hear by a mile. It caught her enough off guard that she was too stunned to speak. Her father took that time to continue, his eyes never leaving her for a second.


“But then I also see that you are still just a child.”


Kristen wanted too badly to speak out but knew better at seeing the very pointed look on her father’s face. He wasn’t done making his point.


“…I know you consider me and your brother and the rest of the hunters something close to just killers. Looking for any reason to hunt any supernatural that we come across, a threat or not.”


Kristen’s face tightens as those words filtered into the air. It didn’t take a genius to see how different Kristen was from her family and fellow hunters. Her father also said it was due to her being raised with so many supernatural beings. What she heard however was his underlying criticism.


“Your mother understood that hesitation in this line of work tended to be the one thing that separate you from death.”


The silence outside of her father’s words was stifling in a way that she couldn’t look anywhere except back at him.


“Your mother never hesitated…but I did…”


His admission blindsided her in a way that left her off balance. She then saw him, the man below the stern mask of indifference. She never had gotten the full tale about what happened to her mother. Only that she was killed by a witch that had come into town many years back. She was at school and came back to have her whole world come crashing down.


“I hesitated and your mother paid the price… I will never hesitate again.”


Kristen wanted to speak but her words kept dying in her throat.


“So if the choice came down to you or Katherine, yes I would kill her. I would tell her mother whatever needed to be told. And I would live with that knowing you and everyone else in the town were still alive for it. I don’t hate them, werewolves, vampires, the supernatural. But at the end of the day, we are human, made of flesh and bone. And we break remarkably easily compared to those creatures.”


Her father then stood and walked up to her staring her down. Kristen couldn’t hold the gaze as he grew closer so her eyes fell to the floor. He raised her head up though gently so that she would look at him.


“Call me a villain if you must. I would much rather be a villain and have you be alive to hate me than lose you.” He finished softly, softer than she had ever heard him being in a long time.


Kristen nods as he pulls her into a hug, the first in what feels like ages. For all her frustration and anger, it all melted away to ash while in the arms of her father. It was like coming back to a warm bed after a cold walk in the snow. Comforting and reassuring in a way she hadn’t felt about her father in a while. Since her mother’s death, he and her brother have changed a lot. Her brother was already a bit off since the death of their older brother, so losing their mother was a sort of nail in the coffin. Her father grew more distant and stern. But this felt like a new beginning in a sense. She may not see eye to eye with him on every decision but she does understand why he makes them.


Even if it hurt her very soul.


“Now will you please go to bed?” He said after drawing back a bit, a small smile on his face.


She gives a small laugh but gives him a nod in response. She got to step away and leave the office however just as her foot was about to reach the door the sound of something rattling echoed in the room. Both Kristen and her father turn to where the noise was coming from. Her face the picture of confusion but his quickly went from confusion to cold realization.


“Dad?” She asks seeing the haunted look on his face.


He doesn’t respond to her and walks over to his desk and pulls open a drawer. Inside is a palm-sized orb. It was shaking light back and forth in the drawer and a dark purple mist was filtering around inside of it.


“Dad, what’s going on?!” Kristen asks now with a hint of panic.


“…It looks like you will get your wish after all.” He said a deep frown on his face.


She didn’t have to think too much on what he was talking about as a sinking feeling came over her. This could only mean trouble and if it had her father looking like that, this trouble was bad.


Like really really bad.


“Something bad is coming isn’t it?” She ask just barely above a whisper.


He let out a sigh as he placed the orb on the desk.


“Not just bad, something much much worse.”

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