Chapter 14: And To Dust You Shall Return

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I slowly got to my feet. The Creatures' hollow eyes followed my every movement, but at least they didn't attack straight away. They were just observing us, waiting for us to make the first move.

"What do we do?" I whispered to Rowan. I had to make an immense effort to keep the panic out of my voice.

He didn't answer, gripping his spear so firmly that his knuckles turned white. His eyes never left the Creatures, ready to strike should one of them decide to attack.

The Creature that had appeared first squealed softly, yet the sound still reverberated in my bones. The monster scraped across the ground with its thin fingers, the unusually long nails digging into the earth. Its gaunt body consisted of sharp angles and crooked limbs, and its pale flesh clung tightly onto its bones and muscles.

"Rowan ..." I pronounced his name almost like a plea.

"The fire, Kenna," he interrupted me. "You need to concentrate on the fire."

I shivered. I had already feared he would say that. "I can't. I'll have to use Dark magic again. I simply can't." I turned to look at him, my eyes begging him not to push me any further. The acrid smell of burned flesh overwhelmed my senses and the clammy sweat on the palms of my hands felt like thick, viscous blood dripping from my fingers. Every time the Darkness stirred inside me, I saw my shadows suck the life out of the robbers over and over again.

He sighed. "Can you at least make my spear Creature-proof?" He held out the weapon to me, and I uttered the spell to wrap it in magical flames. The first time I tried, a single blue flame sparked for hardly a second before it went out again. My second attempt was more successful; blue flames danced across the pole and the two heads of the spear.

Rowan admired his upgraded weapon, though not for long; the Dark Creatures chose that precise moment to advance on us. They crawled toward us, dragging their skeleton-like bodies forward, their teeth bared into something that was almost a grin.

One of them lashed out at us, its claws aiming for our throats, but Rowan's spear sliced through its chest like a knife through butter. The blue fire quickly spread across its body while black blood oozed out of the open wound, and with one last screech, the Creature collapsed in front of Rowan's feet. Two more had already taken its place, but Rowan struck them down as well.

He grabbed a dagger from his belt and tossed it to me. "Behind you!"

I turned around just in time to see one of the monsters jump at me. In a reflex, I held up the dagger and the monster landed on the sharp edge, the blade cutting through its heart. Yet, its claws kept reaching for me, trying to scratch my face. Panting, I whispered the words for the spell that I had used on Rowan's spear as well and relief flooded me when the blue flames appeared in an instant. Perhaps the spell had been easier to perform this time because the dagger was a smaller object.

I dismissed that thought when vertigo made my head spin and I wavered, pressing a hand against my forehead. It seemed that I had depleted my magic resources already—how was that even possible? Did my fear somehow restrain my magic? When I regained my vision a few seconds later, I watched as Ellie and Larry ran to a bunch of Creatures approaching our camp from the other side.

"Kenna!" The urgency in Rowan's voice alarmed me and my head whipped around. His back was pressed near the back of Ellie and Larry's tent and the Dark Creatures practically stood in line to attack him. His spear moved so fast that I could barely make out the shape of it, and one Creature after the other fell down on the ground. "Kenna, we need more fire! This isn't enough!" He was right. The flames covering his spear were already dying, and it wouldn't take long before they would be extinguished altogether.

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