A Moment Between Worlds
By Violet Day
Date: January 5, 2018
Ch. 66

They walked for a while, maybe an hour.
Tessa soon found herself out of breath and Amien looked even more shaky after two hours of hiking over huge gnarled roots and scaling hills.
How the hell did all those fantasy novel characters walk like fifteen, twenty miles in a day? Walking was hard work, especially without a trail to follow.
“I need to rest,” Amien said. “I am weaker than I thought. I have no magic left, not even enough to light a flame. Bringing you here took power from my body.”
Though Tessa didn’t really know exactly how weak that meant, she could see how badly Amien needed a break in his flushed cheeks and ragged breath.
“I should have brought snacks,” Tessa said as they sat down on a protruding root under an ancient, spreading tree. The faced a little clearing filled with plush green grass and a few boulders speckled with blue and yellow moss. A low shallow spring ran through the clearing.
A tiny animal something like a squirrel but with webbed hands and red fur scurried by. “Aw, cute,” Tessa said.
Amien stayed quiet. It looked like it was hard for him to sit up straight. It was strange to see someone so beautiful and magical suffering so much. She wished she could do something.
“Hey, Amien, want me to get you some water?”
He looked up at her. Sweat glinted on the bridge of his straight sloping nose. “I would be ever so grateful,” he said softly. He had an intense look of need on his feed. It was incredibly attractive, even though it was an expression of suffering.
Tessa turned away, blushing. She searched through her backpack. “I think I had a thermos somewhere in her…” She dug it out from the bottom of the bag, under her clothes. “I should have put food in it. Alright,” she said, moving toward the spring. “I’ll be back in a minute. I’m going to see if the spring widens out nearby so your water isn’t full of mud.”
Amien smiled. “Thank you again, most sincerely.”
“Of course.”
She walked along the spring happily, following it into an open area a bit too big to be called a clearing and smaller than what she would consider a valley. Amien was just out of sight, past a line of trees with thick trunks.
The spring opened up into a little pond of clear, cool water. Tessa knelt down and filled her thermos with water. She took a deep drink. The water was sweet and pure, something she had never quite tasted too clearly in water of her world no matter how vehemently the advertiser insisted she should. She refilled the thermos for Amien.
The water was so clear she could see the pale mud of the bottom of the pond. A few fish that looked like bright jewel-colored miniature koi flitted along the sand under the water. The sun felt warm and pleasant against her bare neck, not foreign at all. She didn’t feel far from home.
She screwed the top of the thermos back on and stood, ready to bring it back to Amien.
A shadow rushed over the clear pond. In a split second Tessa saw the bright red and blue and green fish dark into some reeds before she felt huge claws dig into her shoulders and a powerful force lift her up.
She struggled but the claws just gripped into her tighter. She felt a sharp pain as one of them pierced her skin. Was it a dragon?
Gritting her teeth against the pain, she looked upwards. She was in the clutches of a huge bird. As it swung her roughly she caught a glimpse dark feathers, a vicious beak the size of a cat and shiny, beady eyes with a red tinge.
She was going to be eaten by a giant bird. She was about to have the adventure of a lifetime but she was going to be eaten by a giant bird. Regurgitated and fed to baby giant birds.
Something wet soaked her t-shirt. She looked down and saw that it was dark red. Oh. Blood.
Maybe she should do something.
“Amien!” she screamed, just because she really didn’t have anyone else to call for. “Help!”
The bird hadn’t flown too far. It seemed to find the weight of a human just a little limiting on its flying abilities. Maybe Amien could still hear her.
Tessa felt hot tears on her cheeks quickly turned cold by the air rushing by her as they flew. She was in immense pain, more so than she ever had been, but she could barely feel it. All she could think about was how far a fall it would be to the ground and if Amien could hear her.
Tessa felt a blast of intense heat. Something like a fireball flew by her, singing the huge bird’s feathers. It let out a cry and loosened its grip on her shoulders. The claws released one of her shoulders but the other stayed in its grasp. She hung from its claws by her shoulder, trying not to scream at the pain.
At this new angle she could see down. She saw the tops of those beautiful ancient trees beneath her, maybe ten or fifteen feet below. And there was a ball of vividly red fire bursting towards her. It hit the bird square in the face and it let Tessa go.
She fell through the air, having a split second to imagine herself impaled on a branch in one of the trees. However, she soon realized she was floating gently on an invisible cloud of air on her back. She shut her eyes for a moment, breathing slowly. She was safe.
The cloud brought her to earth without a single bump on a tree. She lay in a clearing –the one she had been in with Amien earlier, she realized –trying to make sense of what had just happened to her.
“Amien,” she said, realizing he must have saved her. She pushed herself up, wincing at the pain in her wounded shoulders, and looked around.
Amien was kneeling on the ground, his eyes shut.
“Amien, are you okay?” Tessa crawled over to him, forgetting her injuries. She remembered him saying how he was too weak to even create a flame earlier. Well, he had just saved her with two blasts of fire.
“No,” he said with difficulty. And then he collapsed into the grass beside her.
She ran back to the pond. The thermos of water was lying in the mud. She rinsed it off in the water and then came back to Amien’s side. “I have your water,” she said. “Drink.”
He didn’t move. “Amien,” she said louder. She poured a little of the water onto his face. He blinked but didn’t seem coherent. “This is just starting. I barely know you. You can’t die now. I don’t even know how to help you. You’re sick from using too much magic and it’s my fault. Jesus Christ. Shit.” She found herself rambling, simultaneously trying to get him to wake up and listen as well as venting.
She managed to get him to swallow a drink of water but soon he simply lay on the grass, unmoving, his face bloodless and skin clammy. It was getting dark. They were probably supposed to be near the castle already.

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