The Path Ahead

Hello everyone. Another installment of my Oracle story for today’s Story Monday! Also, you might notice, if you look around my site, that I did some minor construction. What I did is put up a static front page with links to various parts of my site – including to my blog. I would love to hear your thoughts on the changes.

Now, for the story:

Aimee stood in front of the hotel, eyes closed and hands folded. Junction Pass was quiet. Too quiet for a small village in the morning. Someone had taken Donovan away last night, and now fear kept them all away. Interesting. No riots. No violent threats. Thoughts swam in her mind from the village and she could see the sheriff quelled many outraged men and women earlier.

A breeze blew through the pass from the south and brushed across Aimee’s cheek. Her eyes flashed open. There was a stench on the breeze. Death and decay.

It was coming. Too soon. Aimee scanned the sky. Light, powdery blue. Wisps of clouds here and there. Not a bird in sight.

Where were the birds?

“Oracle?” someone close to her asked. Aimee looked and saw Lauren just feet in front of her. How did she not hear her approach?

“Stay close to me.” Aimee said. She closed her eyes and reached out as far as she could. Something was muffling her natural senses, but the gift of the Eye of the One should be able to help her see the truth.

Wind whipped trails of black smoke. Distant. Still near Donolan, Aimee thought. But, something wasn’t right. How could she smell its putrid stench if it was still so far away? She searched. More tendrils of smoke. Closer. Much closer.

“Sheiff,” Aimee spoke directly to his mind.

He jumped from a chair in the little office he held near the entrance of the town. She could see him look around with frantic eyes and try to find who spoke to him.

“I am the Oracle. Listen to me now,” in her mind she could see him become still. “Get your people to safety. Anywhere inside, deep inside. Do you have shelters in the mountains to protect against the wind storms?”

“Yes?” he said to the air around him.

“Get your people there, now. We have only minutes.”

“Lauren?”

“She is with me. I will protect her. Now, go!”

Aimee broke away from the sheriff and tried to tap into the minds of all the people in the village. She had to gain better control of her emotions. Her frantic reaches were weak and tattered connections. But, they would have to do for now.

“People of Junction Pass. Go to your sheriff. Seek the wind shelters. You have minutes. Please, do not ask why. Just go.”

The breeze she felt earlier was now steady and constant. Its strength increased with every passing moment. Her long, raven colored hair waved behind her, but her cloak remained still and wrapped around her. Lauren’s tanned hand gripped her own olive colored left hand and held tightly.

“Do not let go, Lauren. You must not break from me, no matter what.” Lauren nodded, but Aimee kept her eyes on the distant sky.

Her eyes glazed with an impenetrable white. The Eye of the One was now her only vision.

And they came.

Great torrents of black smoke rushed into the valley. Lauren screamed as her feet slid back on the ground from the force of the wind, but she and Aimee held to each other. The howl of the wind was deafening and Aimee only knew of the young girl’s cries through the Eye. All other senses were dead.

It was a risk to turn her attention for even a breath, but Aimee reached out to make sure the sheriff had secured everyone in the shelters. Good. They listened.

And the screams began.

Pain and torment assailed Aimee’s ears. Made so much more violent and terrible through the Eye of the One. She had heard the screams once with her own ears. Blood curdling and bone chilling. That was nothing to what she heard now. Now, she felt every pain, every agony that caused the screams. This is what the One felt and heard. Every time someone suffered.

“Give me strength.” Aimee whispered.

“There are none here for you to devour, Enemy! They are under my protection!” she screamed into the wind. With her right hand, Aimee flicked her cloak to let it catch the breeze.

A bright, blinding white light erupted all around Aimee and Lauren. It enveloped them in a pure circle and the wind could not touch them. Stillness and silence filled the circle, and Aimee felt Lauren drop to her knees.

“The screams…the screams,” Lauren cried.

“Yes,” Aimee squeezed the hand still held in hers.

“Who? Who was screaming? I heard…I heard my father.”

“You heard what the darkness wanted you to hear.”

“How can you be sure? My father, he’s dying. I need to go to him.”

Lauren tried to loosen her grip, but Aimee held tighter.

“No, Lauren. You must not let go of me. Under no circumstances. Do you understand?”

Lauren didn’t answer, but continued to try and break free.

“Lauren, please. Don’t fight me. If you let go, you will be taken. Do you not see? You will be taken. It is not your father’s screams. You have to trust me.”

“No! My father. You didn’t hear him. You didn’t hear him,” Lauren sobbed.

And she broke her hand free from Aimee.

Before Aimee could exhale, black smoke rushed Lauren. She let out a small, stifled scream, and was gone.

The darkness laughed in Aimee’s ears, and was gone.

Junction Pass was quiet and still. Nothing moved. Aimee stood motionless. Breathing felt difficult. Useless. Her first charge was gone. Her first mission as the sole Oracle, failed.

Aimee didn’t know how long she stood there. She didn’t hear the approach of many people.

“Thank you, Oracle,” many voices said to her. Distant voices. Insect voices it seemed.

“Where’s Lauren?” A voice all too close. Too loud. Too full of accusations.

Aimee turned and looked into the eyes of Sheriff Connor. Kind eyes. Scared eyes.

“She let go.”

His eyes understood. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes understood. And they were filled with pain and screams and anguish and blame and rage.

“I will find her,” Aimee said.

No words, just a look. How? How would she find Lauren? Would she even know where to begin?

“The One has shown me the path ahead. She is my charge and I will find her.”

Aimee turned and faced Tocatta. A hand gripped her shoulder.

“I’m coming.”

“You can’t, sheriff. You have a village to watch.”

“I have a daughter to save. Your path is my path. I’m not asking.”

Aimee sighed. She could see without the help of the Eye of the One that it was impossible to dissuade the sheriff. “Come, then.”

For the first time, she was unsure about the path she traveled. She saw it after Lauren was taken, but many doubts filled her mind. Still, it was all she had.

~Remember, this is a copyrighted creation. See my notice in the sidebar. I would love to hear your thoughts on this story in the comments below and on Facebook. ~

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