Something sinister was going on in my park, and I was going to hunt it down even if it was the last thing I did. I chided myself for dismissing all the inquiries and not giving a moment’s thought to the rumors about the dark shadow in the woods. And now, Kara was paying for my negligence. I could not let her bear the brunt of my mistake. I decided to close the park to the public until this was fixed; there was no way I could allow that thing to capture more innocent souls.
Back at my residence in the OA, I changed into my hunting gear, but this time instead of my beloved bow and arrow, I took my hunting sword and silver blade, which Hephaestus had forged for me as a gift from Dad. No one except Dad knew that my silver blade was magically enhanced to fatally wound any living creature.
Orion waited for me at the reception; he insisted on joining me in this hunt. I did not resist; I could always use a trained hunter like him. Just as we were getting ready to teleport out of OA into the woods, Phi came looking for me.
“My Lady, I just found out that your nephew, Lord Eros, will be hosting a rave at the woods in the next few days.”
I heard from my brother that Eros had returned. “A rave in the woods? During this time? Yeah, that sounds like my nephew!” I sighed.
“Would you like me to inform his assistant of the park being shut down to visitors?” she asked.
I contemplated her question. It would be dangerous to have mortals loitering about the woods, particularly high from whatever it is they do at the rave. But, explaining this to my nephew and having him call off the rave would not be an easy feat, either. The lightbulb in my mind dinged as an idea happened upon me.
“No, that won’t be necessary. Let my nephew proceed with the rave. It’ll serve as a good bait to attract the creature out of its cave,” I said with a smirk.
“Arty, are you saying you are willing to sacrifice the hundreds of mortals that arrive at your nephew’s party? And what about the immortals, they’ll be in danger as well!” Orion asked with disbelief written large on his face.
“Nobody’s going to be sacrificed. I will cast a spell around the area; that will provide a protective shield to every mortal and immortal that attends the party. The creature, whatever it is, will not be able to break my spell.”
“Not that I doubt your magical skills, but wouldn’t it be easier to simply explain the problem to Eros?” Orion persisted.
“Explain to Eros why he should NOT have a party?” I laughed. “Yeah, why don’t you try telling him that? In any case, I doubt if he’ll be too pleased to see me, especially after he finds out what I did to his brother!”
“His brother? Which one? And what did you do?” he asked with a raised brow.
‘Dinlas! And it’s a long story. I will explain some other time, not now,” I sighed. That was going to be an entertaining conversation. “We do not have the time to explain everything to Eros right now, so this is our best shot. The rave will attract the creature, and it will come out to grab more souls. We should be able to seize it then.”
“Fair enough,” he said.
“Phi, make sure the news of the real reason for the park shut down is not revealed to anyone, especially the press. Use the usual excuse of maintenance work or something of the sort,” I said.
Phi nodded in agreement. “You need not worry about that, My Lady!”
Orion and I teleported out of the OA into the woods. I left Sayeh to guard Kara, Hyale, and Jamie at the temple. We landed at a spot close to the waterfall from where the creature had last disappeared. I was not sure how to summon it.
The damp floor of the woods was covered by a fresh batch of leaves that had fallen the night before. Like a whispering audience, the leaves rustled under my feet, as though warning me of impending peril. The strong cold breeze pierced into my skin, making the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I knew it was no mere wild animal that I was hunting. If it were, then Kara wouldn’t be an undead body waiting in my temple for her soul. All the nerve endings in my body transmitted a warning signal to my brain of the dangers of following this creature, but my mind shut off the signs. This was not the mood I needed right now.
We walked deeper and deeper into the woods in search of the darkness, this dark shadow. The majesty of the large trees blocked the entry of sunlight this deep in the woods, and it cast an eerie glow that was accentuated by the illuminating mildewed floor.
A whiff of earthy woody incense wafted into my nostrils, and hanging branches from giant oak trees creaked as the winds continued to assault my body. I held the sword in my right hand and the silver blade in my left. Taking small strides, I combed the woods looking for the creature. I thought I heard the cracking of twigs to my right and turned to see. I could not believe my eyes, there it was, again the coruscating aureate glow of its eyes. This was unbelievable, a fog that was not there until now descended upon us, veiling our vision. The only thing visible to me was its bright red eyes and dark flaky wings. Yet, the shadow had an enchanting presence; it beckoned us into its pulsing heart.
The further we went, the more mystical and spellbinding the magnetism was becoming. There was no way any mortal could withstand this extent of influence. I started to quietly follow the shadow with Orion in tow. As though compelled by an external force, we continued to walk deeper and deeper into the woods. A burning sensation overcame me as we drew closer to the darkness, the heat and the painful sensation was a reaction of my immortal body. Orion walked ahead of me, in a trance; he marched on towards the shadow.
A cold spray of water droplets grazed my face, I thought I heard the sound of water pounding onto rocks as it tumbled and plummeted into the whooshing vortex at the bottom of the waterfall. I opened my eyes just in time to stop Orion from following the shadow and jumping into the vortex. I only needed to see the creature once under the moonlight that shone through the clearing of the woods near the waterfall to realize this was no ordinary creature, this was a nightgoyle. One that most likely one had escaped from the underworld.