Drace sniffed in exasperation, which he instantly regretted. He gingerly cupped his nose and fought back tears of pain. “Great! he exclaimed. Now I’ve got to watch out for the Ku Klux Klan and Bambi! It gets better and better. I’ll be glad when I wake up from this crazy dream.”
Vashti gave him a slightly amused look before commenting on his outburst. “I do not know of that clan,” she said, “Clan Lionblade holds these lands. They are fierce protectors, and probably already know we are here.”
Drace felt the night chill through the single layer of his shirt and breeches . “Hey, I hope you have a match in that bag of yours.” He tugged at his black breeches and with a grin said, “No pockets.”
Vashti looked at him for a second, gave him the blankets to hold, and said, “Please step back, my Lord.” She turned her attention to the wood, muttered something unintelligible, and proceeded to scare the hell out of Drace. Blue flame seemed to crawl over the fingertips of her left hand. She gave a flick of her wrist, and flung the flames onto the wood. With a hiss and crackle, the dry wood ignited.
“Holy Shit!” Drace mumbled. The air around him seemed to pulse with something he couldn’t identify. I’m losing my marbles for sure. That hit I took is worse than I thought if I’m having hallucinations…and that was a hell of a hallucination.
Vashti and Drace ate a quiet meal of cheese and flat oat bread. She then showed Drace a pool of water that she claimed was a fairy pool. They led the horses to it and let them drink, then returned them to the camp and retied them to graze. Drace added a couple pieces of wood to the fire then he and Vashti settled down in their blankets.
Drace had just tucked his hand under his head when Vashti touched his arm and put a finger to his lips. He eased up on an elbow. She pulled a small stone on a leather throng from her shirt and pulled his hand to it. It was warm, warmer than from just her body heat. Vashti twisted slightly and whispered softly, “To my left; do not speak.”
Drace moved a fraction and saw the glow of some animals’ eyes reflected
from the firelight. They blinked then disappeared. He caught a glimpse of a large black feline body that was gone so fast he thought he might have
imagined it. Goose bumps pebbled his skin as a cold chill shot down his spine.
Vashti continued in a whisper, “From the Clan. My Lady will know by morning I am here, and will be expecting us tomorrow.”
“You mean to tell me that,” he paused, “I think it was a panther, will tell someone we are coming?” he whispered back.
“Yes.” She looked him straight in the eye. “The stone on my necklace grows warm when something passes within the perimeter of the crystals. They have been watching for some time. The horses did not even seem to notice.”
“There was more than one of those?” Drace asked in disbelief. The hairs on his arms and the back of his neck prickled.
“Yes, there was one other. If we do not arrive tomorrow, they will come looking for us. Go to sleep, my Lord. We are now perfectly safe.”
Drace lay back as she bade him, but lay awake for a long time, feeling
nervous at the thought of large felines, possible man-eating for all he knew, wandering around in the dark close to him. Visions of being pounced on popped into his mind. Some time later he muttered grumpily under his breath where she couldn’t hear him, swearing and fuming, and then clearly he grumbled. “Quit calling me my Lord.”