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Chapter Twelve

Hello Reader, please visit my home page for chapters 1 – 11. Chapter Thirteen will be posted tomorrow and a heads-up for those of you who like to save a few chapters to read with a cup of tea, we are getting close to the end. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Twelve:

The good news is that Mrs. Miller will be okay, antibiotics for the infection, rehydration and rest. They are concerned about her mental state, she’s been talking about shadows and demons cutting off her hand. And I can’t tell them she’s probably right. We can talk to her later, find out exactly what happened and when.” Glancing in the rear-view mirror to see Rose wipe her eyes and smile with relief.

The sun finished rising as they arrived at the pond. The area was bathed in weak sunlight, frost lined the edge of the water and the air was cold. The smell of ammonia was faint but recognizable.

Why this place? What’s special about it?” glancing around and seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

Imps have a taste for snails but I don’t think it’s just that. I can feel a vibration, or energy, it might be drawing them here,” Rose knelt, pushing her fingers below the shallow dusting of snow to lightly touch the ground. “We need to spread out, if the pond is the centre then the other shrines will spiral from here, like the markings on a shell.”

Okay, I’ll go clockwise, you two go counter clockwise, that way we should overlap and hopefully not miss anything.”

Moving away from the pond, each of them focused on looking down, missing the shadowy movements in the surrounding trees.

Over here,” taking a photograph of a twig structure about 8 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Gently brushing the snow from around the base of the shrine, pausing as the dirt and grass came visible, “I think I found one.”

The ground around the shrine was discoloured, darkened. Only forensic testing would prove the presence of blood but based on the severed hand now partially visible inside, it was a good assumption that this was one of the shrines.

We’ve got something over here!” the voice came from the opposite side of the pond, “oh man, definitely a shrine, there’s a hand inside.”

I’m calling forensics, don’t touch anything but keep looking.”

The search continued, the sun grew brighter and burned through the chill, the light breeze diminished the smell of ammonia and birds fluttered through the woods and over the pond.

By the time the forensics team arrived and took control of the scene four shrines had been discovered, three of them containing dismembered hands.

Rose wandered away from the action, walking along the edge of the woods. There was something about this place, the air vibrated with energy. Rose felt different, stronger, as if a light had been turned on in a dark room she could see herself more clearly. She was Heritage, with generations of knowledge and power within her, all she had to do was reach for it.

Absorbed by her own thoughts and feelings Rose meandered into the woods, it was peaceful and still. She looked around and breathed deeply, the air was cold and pure, no scent of ammonia here. Continuing to walk, she took another deep breath and gagged – vomit surging into her throat  she retched, leaning against a tree for support, head down, something caught her eye. A skull, hidden inside a hollow tree trunk laying on the ground at her feet, flesh hanging in ribbons, the eye sockets empty, strands of pale blond hair barely visible.

Rose held her breath and looked closer, there was another skull, deeper inside the carcass of the tree. Stepping away and reorienting herself to the faint sounds of the forensic team, she quickly headed back to the pond.

Rose, where were you? We can head back to town now, I vote for hot chocolate, with Baileys, we deserve it. Rose?” frowning slightly, “what’s happened?”

I think we found the two missing Heritage members, there are skulls in a tree trunk over there, and I assume more body parts based on the smell.” Rose pointed to the woods, grimacing as she mentioned the smell.

Damn it! There goes my hot chocolate.” Striding quickly over to the forensics team leader, “Houston, we have a problem, there are two skulls in the trees and possibly some other bits and pieces that are still ripe. Rose can you show the team where you were?”

Trudging through the snow towards the fallen tree, Rose shivered, the sun was starting to drop, it would be dark soon and who knows what else might be lingering in the woods.

Stop! wait” the shout was panicked, “I need help!

As each of the group looked back in confusion, Rose ran towards the two figures, one of them laying on the snow twitching and murmuring then shouting.

I can see you, I’m not scared, we wont let you win!” panting, hands pushing at the air, waving as if holding something aloft, “I’m not afraid, get back, demons, I see you…I see you…” Waving a fiery log pulled from the fire-pit, breathing heavy with the exertion of fighting the invisible energy pulling at arms, then legs. Shadows springing forward then shying back from the flame, hissing and grabbing with pointy fingers. Screaming as something sharp suddenly dug into the tender flesh at the back of the neck, head being pulled backwards as fingers grabbed from behind, the flame slowly dying as the burning log dropped to the ground. A sharp burning sensation along the neck and then warmth, liquid warmth cooling in the night air, hands growing still as the energy faded, breathing slowing, slowing. Stopped.

A sharp pain, then another “What? what the hell, get off me!” pushing at the concerned face peering down, “why are you hitting me?”

You fainted I think then you were shouting it was like at the house all fighting and shouting but this time you stopped and I don’t think you were breathing that’s why I slapped you,” said without taking a breath, “to snap you out of it.”

Rose stepped towards the concerned forensic team, “its okay, just a little lightheaded, she’ll be fine. You go on, get started setting up while we still have some light.”

Struggling to sit up, then to stand, “I’m fine, a bit queasy but it’ll go away. I think I saw what happened here, some of it,” taking a breath and describing the vision.

Let’s leave forensics to it and go back to town, and forget the hot chocolate, I need something stronger, and Rose, we need to know what you know, these visions aren’t right, we need to know why they’re happening, what’s the connection.

No one noticed the small shadows in the trees that were tracking and monitoring, sending silent communications back and forth, wondering if they should act to protect the shrines while there was a distraction.

Do nothing,” was the instruction, “let them have the shrines, the rings are long gone and Heritage is now left in the hands of a weak and frightened girl, Heritage is powerless.” Lucinda picked up the sterling silver knife from the stone pulpit, running her thumb along the blade until a faint line of blood appeared, she smiled and licked at the wound – Heritage is powerless and at the next full moon she would prove it.

To be continued.

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