Actual Stranger Danger (Dread pt.6)

The elven woman was starring icy daggers into the yurt while blowing black smoke rings into the fire. The trio was still huddled at the back of the yurt, contemplating what could be their final moments.

“What if this the the person Nox was talking about,” Marine whispered to the boys, “she said earlier someone else would be here.”

“We almost died once today,” Arlo replied, “I don't feel comfortable taking another chance. Plus she sneezed out fire, who's to say she can't do it again and this time get us caught up in it.”

Xander was mouthing something only he could hear in his head.

Why is it all the women we have met today are scary. Why couldn't we have run into more normal ladies like the Honey Pot innkeeper?

A howl somewhere in the forest came drifting through the trees startling the trio. Xander scooted closer to Arlo and Marine. They began trembling against the back of the yurt. The elven woman outside looked in the direction the howl came from and blew a long cloud of black smoke from her nose that enveloped the area around the fire. Once the smoke dissipated, she was nowhere to be seen. The druid staff laid close to the entrance and Marine thought about going to grab it, but Arlo wrapped an unsteady arm around her before she could move.

Marine looked up at Arlo. She could see tears beginning to form in his eyes and she slowly turned her head to check Xander's condition. He was no better off.

The smell of forest rot began to creep through the canvas of the yurt. The air was dank with the stench of rotting wood and mold; like after a thunderstorm. It brought back vague memories of autumn when the leaves would change colors and fall, but there was something heavier in the mix of smells. It was ominous and foul. A stench that the trio had yet to truly experience. Animal corpses had a distinct sour smell to them that permeated in small areas, but this was not the scent of animal decay.

Marine slowly pulled her shirt up over her nose to try and block the putrid smell from burning her lungs and tried to crawl to the entrance of the yurt to grab the druid staff that she had left outside. The boys were too afraid to stop her.

A cold wind suddenly whipped through the camp, extinguishing the fire outside and a great flutter of wings echoed somewhere in the distance. Marine froze on all fours just as she reached the entrance. A deafening silence overtook the campsite and the trio could hear their hearts pounding in their ears. Marine's weak darkvison strained to make out the shapes of the trees and that of the wolf that was still hanging from the tree, slowly dripping blood onto the ground. Each drop hit the ground with the force of a hammer on hot iron. The fire inside was too small to make much of a difference in her sight and only cast weak shadows against the tree opposite of her.

There was no sign of the elven woman or Nox. Marine thought about calling out to her, but reason told her otherwise. The smoldering remains of the campfire in front of her gave off little light for her eyes to work with. Vague grey tree shapes were all she was able to make out. No humanoids in sight.

The stench was worse outside and made Marine gag. She quickly reached for the staff to pull it back inside, but the second her hand wrapped around it, something else pulled from the other side and ripped her from the safety of the yurt. She didn't even have time to scream.

The boys looked at each other with their mouths hanging wide open, tears and snot streaming down their pale faces. Terror immobilized the pair and they could only sit holding one another counting the seconds till it was their turn to be dragged away. Xander's mind immediately blamed the elf for dragging Marine away. He knew she had no intention on waiting for Nox to return. What was taking Nox so long anyway? Had she too also fallen victim to this rouge elf? What about the person she had mentioned eariler? Did this fate also befall them?

Arlo's eyes grew empty and cold. Too much was happening too quickly for him to be able to process what he should do rationally.

“Marine?,” Arlo called out hoarsely. More of the putrid air flooded his lungs making him cough. He tried to crawl to the entrance despite his fear and Xander grabbed on to him and slowly shook his head. “I go find her, Xander.”

“You can't leave me here,” Xander whispered while choking back the terror in his voice.

A deep growl rumbled through stillness and heavy footfalls shook the ground outside behind where the boys were huddled. Xander no longer believed it was the elf tormenting them. The pair slowly turned their heads in vain to try and see any sign of what was stalking them in the night, but the small fire only cast shadows of objects inside the yurt against the canvas. With each massive thud, the boys twitched and held on tighter to one another.

Suddenly, the boys could hear lighter footfalls coming from outside.

“Iliana now!,” Nox's voice roared and a great blue flame erupted around the yurt.

A feral scream pierced the night air as who the boys assumed was Iliana slid into the yurt. She was the elf from earlier with the glowing blue eyes. Nox quickly followed inside with her bow drawn and pointed out the entrance. Nox's nose and mouth were covered with a black cloth, presumably to keep the smell out of her system. Iliana turned her gaze to the opening in the top of the yurt and started to take in a deep breath. The boys looked up in horror to see a pair of large, glowing yellow eyes staring down at them.

Xander and Arlo screamed at the top of their lungs as Iliana let loose a burst of blue flames from her mouth directed through the top of the yurt and into the monster's face that was looming over them. The creature let out a terrible yelp and fled. Nox was ready to chase it down and finish it, but Iliana grabbed onto her cape to hold her back.

“We aren't prepared for this,” Iliana said desperately while black smoke streamed out of her mouth. “Wait for day break, then we can move. If I keep the perimeter burning then we will be okay.”

Iliana slipped back outside and Nox unnotched her arrow. She pulled her face covering down and sniffed the air. The stench had subsided. Nox looked at the boys and then around the rest of the yurt.

“Where's Marine?” she asked with a noticeable amount of worry in her voice.