The Huntress—Continued
By: Stephanie Bardy

She could smell the acrid smoke even before she saw it. Below her lay a mangled mass of metal, rubber and flesh. She could feel the fear, the pain, and the release of those who had already gone.

She felt the child, terrified, clinging to life and to her mother. Instinct told her to go. Save the child. Save the mother, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"Not yet." he said. "Not now."

Rage swelled in her breast and she shook the hand from her shoulder. Stepping forward she closed her eyes and opened herself to the scene below. Scattered emotions ran through her, fear, pain, resolution, and finally inebriated confusion.

She had found him. He was alive, and slightly bruised. She pushed into him, into his very core, and found what lay there. This man was without conscious, without remorse. He had been here before, many times, and not once did he shed a tear for the lives he took.

Pulling back, she opened her eyes and glared at the man beside her.

"Why!? Why not now? I can save them, I know I can! Tell me why?" one tear streaked down her cheek.

He placed his hand upon her shoulder once more. "You are not ready. You still feel to much. Emotion still reigns over your power."

"Come." he said and turned to leave.

She was furious. Why show her this if she was of no use? She tried to step towards the accident again, but found that her body would not follow. She threw her head back and screamed. All the pain, all the rage, all the anger, poured out of her mouth in one long screech.

"I said come, we must go before we are seen." She turned and stomped towards him. Wrapping her cloak about her she was gone in a flash.

Back in her cabin she paced. He sat at the wooden table by the fire, silent as he could, for he knew any small sound, any movement and that rage would be turned on him. He was still smarting from the last time, still had the bruise and the faint outline of a pig's tail on his backside. She could be quite creative when she was angry.

She paced, back and forth, back and forth, and her anger never receded. It boiled just below the surface. How dare he tell her when she was ready or not, and "come" what the hell was that? She was no dog, no slave, she was a free woman.

Stomping over to the window she rested her head against the cool glass. She could see her garden from here. Each herb planted perfectly, each row straight. It gave her comfort to gaze on it. She knew what was really planted there. Each soul safely wrapped, bound and tied, deep within the earth. Each one she had taken was vile to the core. There was no humanity in any of them.

She had felt that again at the crash, but he had stopped her. Many years had passed, many centuries, and yet he still held her back. Turning around she leaned against the window ledge and looked around her small cabin. From the road it was unseen, hidden by many spells, and protections. Inside it still looked like it did the day she built it. Cobblestone fireplace, oak floors worn smooth with years of pacing, her cot off to the side behind a curtain. Her pride and joy was her pantry. Here was where she made all her potions, poultices and tinctures. Each shelf held a wonder of herbs, crystals, and things that would make children fear the monster under the bed.

"When will I be ready. It has been long enough, and yet you still stop me. Why?"

Looking up from the fire he turned his gaze to her. His eyes, which were normally gray, had turned the color of a sunset, and they burned with the fire of the ages.

Standing he took her hand and lead her outside into her back yard. He kept walking, not saying a word until they reached the gazebo.

"Go, inside, they wait for you." he said. She searched his face, but it remained stoic. "You want to know why, then go, the Elders are the ones to answer that question."

She turned and placed her hand on the door, her heart beat so fast she was breathless. Taking one more look behind her she could see he was gone.

Stepping inside, she was engulfed in complete darkness. Blinking she tried to see around her but it was useless.

"I am here." She said.

A small white light started to swirl in front of her. As she watched, it grew and took the shape of the Elders. There were always three who came. Two men and a woman. The first man was tall and thin, his fingers almost like bones wrapped in skin. The second had long nimble fingers, and the woman's were soft. They all wore cloaks that hid their faces and other features. The first cloak was the color of the night sky, deep blues and purples. The second was the color of blood, dark and rich, and the woman's was the color of the forest after a good rain. All you could see were their hands, one claw like, one strong and one gentle.

"You question us." They said together.

"I do" she said in a small voice. "I want to help so many, and yet he holds me back. Today there was a child, and a woman I could have saved, but he stopped me, I want to know why? Did they survive?"

The woman stepped forward and placed her small hand on her arm. "You are not ready for what that scene will bring you. There is still much that you must learn, much that you must know."

She sighed in frustration, "But did they survive?"

The woman stepped back. "The child did not."

Tears began to gather in her eyes, "I could have saved her! She could still have lived!"

Together they spoke again, "It was not her fate to survive, and not for you to decide her fate. Go now and know that when you are ready you will know, beyond the fragile emotions that you feel now."

***

Celeste awoke with a start. Her heart was racing and she felt blindly around for the lamp on her bedside table. Clicking it on she sat up. Her dream raced through her head flashing images before her eyes at rapid speed.

She felt something wet on her cheeks and realized they were tears. Never had she dreamt about the crash like that. Never had she been an outsider. Her "save the world" dreams had never included the loss of her family.

And this was the first time Alex had been in one.

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