Rise, Rise – Chapter Seven

“I had a feeling this assignment was to get rid of me.  What the demon said…”

“Listening to demons now?”

Xan unconsciously shrunk back as Saleena’s eyes filled with anger, and the leaves in the forest started to shake.  It was unnerving seeing such a beautiful creature so angry.

Xan sighed.  “It only affirms something I had been thinking about for awhile.  I may have killed a vampire, and I can hold my own against most everything, but I’ve always felt like I’ve been unfocused.  Like they sent me out here knowing I wasn’t prepared.”

“What?  You mean you think they’re still mad about Greyloh?”

“I’m not sure.  I don’t know.  Nothing seems to be making much sense anymore.  Why would a demon locked away know so much about the bond between dryads and the sealed trees?”

“Well, it’s not like it’s a secret that when a dryad’s tree dies, she dies.”

“Why else would the council stop talking to me?”  Xan was on his feet, and the force of his voice carried through the warehouse.  He was trembling and his hands were clenched into fists.  His eyes were glowing a faint silver.  Saleena stared at him, her shock apparent on her face.  He felt a slight twinge of regret when he noticed the rustling of leaves as the trees seemed to pull away from him.

“Perhaps it’s because of your power.  You destroyed an Elder vampire with your hands.  No one else has ever done that.”

Xan stared at the ground, unsure of what to say.

Saleena’s eyes blazed with light and she bared her teeth in a feral growl.  “You were able to kill a demon with almost no help from me.  I stopped him from killing you, but you drew that power, and you thrust that power into the demon’s heart.  Dryads were chosen to help guard the seal as well as guard the guardian!”

“What are you saying?”  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He looked to the skylight, and saw the stars had started to come out.

“I was forced to take the assignment.  They wanted someone…gifted to watch over you.  They thought I’d be able to help guide you, and that I could handle the Lord of Fire.”

Xan stood in shocked silence.  Her words echoed through him, from all sides of the forest.  And suddenly, his anger overtook him.  His eyes blazed silver and he screamed, “Forced?  So we’re living a lie?  All these centuries we’ve shared?  You were…forced?”

The ferocity in her eyes melted as tears slowly replaced the previous fire.  She reached for him, but he stepped sharply away, his cloak swaying.  “Xan…”

“I need to be alone,” he said tonelessly.  He turned and walked out of her forest, his cloak trailing like a limp flower.

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