Cries echoed strangely in the wood, which seemed much darker to Arvesse now. She watched silently as the elves began a deadly hunt. The sword that she wore only to stir Irsha, slipped quietly from its sheath. The cold steel felt strange to hands unaccustomed to its purpose. The day had begun as a merry lark to her, but she wasn’t laughing now.
An old elf stood off by himself, mumbling away. Arvesse hadn’t noticed him before, wondered how he had managed to keep up with the group. With a great exclamation, he threw his hands up in the air. Ending his theatrics, he began searching expectantly. Arvesse felt the hair begin to rise on the back of her neck and looked back in alarm to see her fur begin to glow faintly luminous. As quickly and quietly as possible, she began sliding back through the brush.
“There it is!” She heard the old man’s cry, and saw him pointing directly at her. No time to lose, she sprang to her feet and ran — smack — right into one of the circling elven hunters. She watched in astonishment as he opened his mouth to scream, but sank to the ground without a sound escaping his lips. It was only then she realised she had plunged her sword through his heart.
The shock of her first kill hit her like a tidal wave, and she sprang sideways in shock. It was a lucky move, as an arrow aimed at her heart grazed her forearm. Pain sobered her immediately, and she shot off into deeper thickets.
Running wildly, blinded by her tears of shock and pain, she stumbled recklessly into a sheltered glade to find her mad dash halted by strong arms. She struggled wildly, until she realised the arms offered her safety and not harm. The arms encircled her, offering reassurance as Arvesse collapsed in exhaustion. Sobbing against her comforter’s chest, she didn’t hear the elves crash into the glade.
“Arvesse! Arvesse! Drat it, where is that girl?”
Overhead, concealed within the branches of a bushy tree, Arvesse giggled. The young hybrid demon could reach places her Ussaan governess could not. She twisted around a thin branch and dropped quietly to the ground. Not quietly enough though. Catching the sound, the governess turned.
“Arvesse!” she snapped. “Where have you been?! Just look at you!
I suppose you’ve been climbing trees again, haven’t you?
And what do you think you’re wearing?
Go home and get decent at once!”
“Oh, don’t be such a bore, Irsha. I really can’t get about in those stuffy frocks you make me wear. This tunic’s fine, it allows great freedom of movement.”
“Freedom of movement indeed!” Irsha snorted. “You shouldn’t be climbing trees in the first place. It’s your father’s fault, that worthless squirrel, with his “Don’t stifle the girl!” Really, it’s enough to drive one quite mad!”
“I wish,” Arvesse said to herself. Putting on her most charming smile, she began to back slowly away. “You worry far too much, really you do! You don’t need to follow me everywhere, I’ll be alright, you know that. Besides, I have my trusted friend to help.” She turned sideways, allowing Irsha to see the sheath hanging loosely on her hip. The governess visibly paled.
“Arvesse! I’m shocked!! A sword!? That is most improper and unladylike! Arvesse?” she said again, noticing her charge edging away. Arvesse broke into a run. “Arvesse, get back here, now!” Irsha chased after her charge, shouting all the while.
What a pain, Arvesse thought. Seeing her governess closing, Arvesse leapt upward. Flipping easily over a low branch, she continued her escape at a more leisurely pace, knowing Irsha could not hope to follow her through the trees.
Irsha stopped, but Arvesse could hear her voice long after. “Arvesse, you hear me? Your poor mother will be beside herself! There’ll be no supper for you tonight!”
Arvesse laughed. She knew how to survive in the forest.