I’ve scrapped my first attempt, cuz after reading it a few times, I realized that it was going to be quite difficult for me to write in first person. Hopefully this version is at least somewhat better.
Life is more complicated than it seems sometimes. Most of the time.
Ariella licked her lips and tucked a strand of her long, strawberry blonde hair behind her ear before she glanced around nervously and darted down another dark, empty alley way.
A quiet explicitive slipped through her lips as she realized it was another dead end, just like the last three had been. She sent up a silent prayer to any gods that might be listening, cursing once more when the sound of thunder shook the ground and a flash of lightning lit the otherwise dark sky.
She shivered as the first few drops of water hit her head, then looked down into a pocket on her waist, making sure the package was still secure.
Even over the thunder she could hear the sound of the dogs coming closer, howling and snarling, as she frantically searched for another way out of the alley, wishing, not for the first time, that she knew what city she’d been taken to, or at least had some idea of where she was going. For now, her only thought was to escape the dogs (and their masters).
On the left was a building that looked like either a decent sized house or maybe even a small inn. There was a tall fence going across the back of the alley and another tall building to her right. There were no windows or doors facing the alleyway in either building and the top of the fence was well out of her reach.
She looked back at the entrance of the alley, knowing that the dogs were nearly upon her, scared that if they found her, she’d have to go back. She rubbed a grimy hand across her eyes, wiping away the tears of desperation that had mingled with the rain, now falling heavily from the dark clouds above.
It was then that she heard a scraping noise somewhere to her right and drew in a shuddering breath. A few seconds ticked by and she heard the sound again, this time closer. She tried to wrap herself in a shroud of fog, fumbling for the words to the incantation. She felt a little more secure in her self-imposed fog until she felt something brush against her ankle. She jumped and barely managed to hold back a scream, then she blinked a few times, only to realize that a pair of glowing, yellow eyes stared back at her.
She bit my lip hard to, once again, keep from screaming, knowing that this was not one of the red-eyed dogs she still heard in the distance. The glowing-eyed creature took a few cautious steps closer and she was able to tell that its body seemed to be made up of fog or smoke, knowing that this wasn’t part of her spell.
She stepped back, feeling the rough surface of the fence through her torn and tattered robe. Knowing that she had no where left to go, she looked into the creatures eyes and recognized intelligence and understanding.
She heard a soft purr rumble through its chest. It was then that she realized what this beast was and knew it could be trusted. She held her hand out to the creature, watching it take shape as it stepped closer. It finally materialized into a cat-shaped mist that she’d only heard about in legends.
The cat watched her carefully before she heard its soft, feminine voice in her head. “Come. We must leave now.” The cat-like creature turned and lead her towards the building on the right, taking her deeper into the shadows until she stopped in the deepest part.
She nearly ran into the cat and half a breath later, she felt the world drop from under her feet and almost stopped breathing when her stomach stayed with the rest of the world.
Almost thirty seconds later, she stumbled as she felt the ground solidify beneath her feet. She took a moment to look around, feeling somewhat disoriented and realizing that she was no longer standing in the alley, surrounded by fog and being pelted with heavy raindrops.
She took a deep breath and tried to think. She knew that since she was no longer in the alley, it would take a while for the blood hounds to pick up her scent again.
She looked in her pocket, making sure that the package was still there. Satisfied that it was, she began to look around for the cat.
She seemed to be standing in a field of dirt and mud, with sparse patches of dried grass scattered about. She shivered as the wind picked up speed, and turned in the direction the wind was coming from. It was then that she realized she stood on a cliff not too far away from the town she’d been standing in moments ago.
She heard a sound behind her and whirled around, startled. She watched the cat materialize once again, walking towards her out of the shadows as the cat spoke again, “Come, I will lead you to shelter and stay with you through the night. You have a long and dangerous journey ahead of you and Phintia needs me back by her side tomorrow.”
The cat moved like mist through the shadows, making it difficult to follow her. “The cave isn’t far. We’ll be there soon.” She lead Ariella towards a small opening in the wall of rock towering over them. The cat stopped, waiting for her to go inside, then followed her in.
Ariella found a small cave that was mostly empty except for a small fire pit scattered with ash and a small stack of twigs and sticks, showing signs that someone had been there before her.
She sat on the ground, feeling a chill sweep through her body as she felt the cold of the ground through her robe. The cat sat next to her, like a shadow, in the darkened cave.
She put some of the smaller sticks in the fire pit, then sat completely still with one hand stretched out, palm facing down, hovering above the sticks, and closed her eyes, feeling as warmth filled her hand.
She opened her eyes then, watching as a small ball of fire took shape above the sticks, then sighed with relief when she was able to drop it and release her magical hold on it.
After nearly three minutes of staring at the dancing flames, she turned when the cat said, “you may ask your questions now.”
Ariella nodded, then asked the first thing that came to mind, “Are you really a shadow cat?”
“Yes, I am. As you’ve been told, I’m not of this realm, for I walk with the goddess.”
“Yes. Phintia, goddess of mystery and darkness.”
Ariella nodded, trying to understand everything she was being told.
The cat spoke again, “The goddess heard your cry for help and took interest in your plight. Normally she does not interfere with the lives of mortals, but this time is different. Now, you must sleep. In the morning, I shall give you your gifts, and then I’ll depart.”
Ariella realized the wisdom in the cat’s suggestion for sleep and curled up by the fire.
She sat at the long table, waiting as the family cooks brought the food out. She smiled happily as she conversed with her mother about her trip home and how excited she was to be back, even if she could only stay for a week. She'd be needed by Master Shane by then. She stopped chatting and listened intently to the shouting coming from out front, then noticed her father and sister do the same, though her mother kept talking as if nothing were amiss. A young boy came running into the room, stopping to bow deeply before her father before announcing, "My Lord, we're under attack!" Her father got up and immediately jumped into action. He pushed the boy toward the kitchen and said, "Boy, find the head cook. She has the key to the pantry. It'll provide adequate hiding." "Semara, Kailyn, go with the boy." He motioned for Ariella to follow him, then led the way towards the shouting and clanking of metal.
Ariella jolted upright, breathing heavily and trembling. She looked around, afraid she’d been captured again.
“Relax, young one. You’re safe here.” The now familiar voice sounded in her head, reassuring her.
It was then that she realized that it was just a dream, although it was only a small portion of the ones she’d had since she’d been captured.
The cat nudged Ariella with her nose, then said, “It’s time. You must get up now. Phintia will call me to her side soon.”
Ariella sat up, startled. “But you can’t leave me! I don’t think I can take this journey on my own!”
The voice in her head came again, “hush, child. I have faith in you, as does my goddess. I have gifts from Phintia and myself. They will help you.”
Ariella looked down when she felt something touch her bare foot. There was a basket wrapped in cloth and a plain looking, green knapsack. She picked up the knapsack first and opened it. It was filled with food, a canteen of water, a new robe and a pair of sandals. She dug deeper and found a small dagger along with a few other essentials. She set it down as the cat explained, “These gifts are from Phintia. The will make your journey a little easier.” The cat used her large paw to push a small pouch towards Ariella. “These will also help.”
Ariella picked up the pouch, opening it. There were many coins, some silver, some gold and some copper. She set the small pouch on top of the knapsack, then untied the ribbon that was keeping the cloth on the basket, then gave a startled gasp as she noticed a pair of smoky eyes peering up at her. She took the cloth off the basket, revealing a small shadow kitten.
She heard the cat speak one last time as it started to shimmer and fade away. “The canteen and dagger have magical properties, use them wisely. This last gift is from me. Treat her well and she will help you overcome any obstacle. Her name is Spectra. Take care Ariella.”
Ariella whispered a quiet, “thank you” and then the cat was gone.