Chapter 12: The Forest of Indarr

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The Forest of Indarr was completely silent. Apart from the horses' heavy breathing and their hooves scraping restlessly across the ground, there was nothing. Not animals moving in the bushes, not the wind rustling through the trees, not even the distant sound of travelers riding on the road just a few hundred yards away.

It made my skin itch and my breaths come faster. Something was really wrong with this place.

"Am I the only one who feels as if we're being watched?" Ellie blurted out. She looked as uncomfortable as I felt.

"We shouldn't linger in this place." Rowan's eyes darted around the area as he took in the mysterious, gas-like shadows swirling endlessly around the horses' legs, even though there was no breeze to propel their life. The vague, sickening stench of death and decay rose from the earth, making us scrunch up our noses in disgust.

So much Darkness.

I shivered. Indeed, the entire forest was embedded in Dark magic, more prominent than I had ever sensed before and so solid it almost seemed tangible. My own Dark magic drifted to the surface of my conscience in an attempt to reach out to it. Whispers of power and blood echoed inside my head, and some long-dormant part of me awoke, wanting to give in to it. The Light magic that had grown to be a natural part of my being over the years was now pushed toward the back of my mind, its voice silenced.

A hand on my elbow startled me from my conflicting thoughts and emotions. Ellie's brown eyes inspected my face, her eyebrows raised so high that they almost touched her hairline. "Are you okay?"

By the Light, she looked at me as if I was about to explode any second. "Chill out, woman. I'm fine," I snapped. Irritation gave my voice a sharp edge. My eyes flicked to Rowan and Larry, who were watching me with an equally worried expression. Their concern only added to the smoldering anger that had already started to consume me from within. A distant part of my mind wondered where that sudden rage came from, but the thought faded as soon as it had been finished.

"The forest is already feeding on your Light," Rowan said, frowning. "We have to keep moving."

Feeding on my Light ... So that was why my brain felt like it was being torn in two. Darkness clouded my mind and filled my heart with poison. Yet, at the same time, I felt as if I was a wild animal that had been locked up in a cage for too long. Oh, how I longed to free that animal ...

I shook my head. No, no, I shouldn't be having these thoughts. For the Light's sake, Kenna, get yourself together.

"Do you know where to go, lad?" Ellie asked Rowan. "I have a feeling that it wouldn't be difficult for us to get lost."

"If we stay on the path, we should be able to find our way out." His tone was doubtful, though.

"Stay on the path," I mumbled. "I wonder how many travelers before us spoke those same famous last words."

"You're not exactly helping, Kenna."

I shrugged, but refrained from further commenting. Rowan gestured for Ellie and Larry to take the lead with Rynn and slowed down to ride in the back himself, leaving me in the middle. I guessed that he wanted to keep an eye on me as long as we were in the enchanted forest. Although his paranoia bothered me, I did my best to conceal my annoyance from him. I knew that he meant well and only wanted to protect me. Even if that meant protecting me from myself.

We followed the path deeper into the woods. The strange sensation that we were not alone in this place kept gnawing at me despite the fact that there was no sign of life at all in our immediate surroundings. And if that wasn't enough already, I was busy fighting for control within the boundaries of my own mind. I repeatedly tried to push the Darkness back into a well-buried part of my brain, but the effort sapped my energy and made my Light magic even weaker than it already was.

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