1 Elise is Sick In Bed

Elise lay in her bed. Life was moving too damn fast for her liking. All she wanted was to enjoy her slow, peaceful life. How did it get to this? She rolled over on her side and thought about her pathetic life so far. She was mediocre at best. Nothing she did compared to her loving and fierce Grandmother. Her life had been deteriorating fast. And now this! Her sick?? Her stomach was churning, aching ominously. Her body was covered all over in sweat and she started to heave deep breaths. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't catch her breath. She just needed a nap. Yes, a nap would stop this dizziness…

Nol hesitated outside of her house. He stood awkwardly in her small garden filled with herbs, vegetables and grapevines draping casually over a fence like an overbearing aunt. The summer sun was mild and the afternoon breeze felt refreshing. He could smell a mix of freshly dug earth, sweet jasmine and the island's constant salty air. He wished he could stand outside here forever. It was so quiet compared to his noisy home filled with his complaining brothers. He stood outside trying to calm his breath, contemplating the covered dish he held: a simple vegetable soup, smoked ham, and cheese. He dreaded seeing the small, wild girl. She was definitely crazy. Why did he have to deliver this food to her?

The first time Nol had met Elise was when they were 8 years old. Nol was playing with his friend Jak when a strange girl with light grey eyes walked up to them.

"What are you doing?" she quietly demanded.

Nol was taken aback, this girl was so small and yet she had such a demanding, authoritative presence.

"We are playing Pirates." Jak answered.

"Lets go to the woods and play Demon Hunting."

"What's that?"

"A game. The demon chases you and infects you with a disease if you get caught." she said with a smirk.

"We aren't allowed to play in the forest." Nol said suspiciously.

"Don't worry, the woods are safe. The adults don't want you to go in because they think that you will become too strong once you drink from the enchanted spring. Adults are actually afraid of you becoming bigger and stronger so they always keep you away from all the good things in the world. They set rules like 'Don't eat sweets before bed, don't run around in your nice clothes, don't play in the rain.' They want to stop you from getting stronger because they are afraid of your power."

"That's not true!" Jak's lips trembled. "My Mum is very good. She only wants me to behave my best so I don' gi'e her trouble and she can raise sis 'n a nice home."

Nol knew that this was a sensitive topic because Jak's mother was unable to take care of him all the time. She had two kids to raise and only a meager salary from her job at the general store in town. His own Mum did what she could to help out but she had four boys of her own at home and another on the way.

"Well it doesn't matter. Very few adults are trustworthy. We should flip a coin to see if we can go into the forest."

She smiled menacingly. Like she knew she was doing a dirty trick to a bunch of babies. Nol was not sure about this but Jak brightened up instantly. Although he was scared to go against his mother's wishes, there was something very enticing about letting fate decide. He had always wanted to see the woods anyways.

After a few rounds of flipping the coin, it was decided they should go into the forest. Nol felt like they had been coerced into this, like she had a simple trick that had allowed the coin to be in her favor in almost every flip. But he couldn't prove it.

They were going deep into the woods.

"We need to go on this path in order to find the enchanted spring."

"We are almost there! Just a bit longer!" Elise kept insisting, dragging them deeper and deeper into the woods. They were not following the main path anymore. They hadn't for a long time. Now they were following faint animal trails, there were even scratch marks on some of the trees they passed. Elise never wavered for a second. She seemed really familiar with the woods. She did however have a habit of suddenly stopping, throwing out her hand, and placing her finger over her mouth to shush them. They would stop and look and listen. Nol couldn't sense anything. Now that he looks back on it, she probably had done this to further add to her game. She seemed to be reveling in the uncertain and panicked expressions that were slowly taking control of Jak and Nol. They had no choice but to continue following Elise deeper and deeper in the woods, getting more and more loss.

Finally they came to a small bubbling spring that was clean and refreshing. After drinking their fill, Elise decided to start their game. She stood up from the spring, her back facing them. She turned around with an odd, scheming smile on her face. She reached down to her boot and slowly pulled out a hunting knife. The blade sparkled as if it was thirsting for fresh, warm blood. She expertly twirled the knife a few times. It looked like the knife was created just for her. Just for this moment. Jak's faced was almost comical with his horrified face. Nol felt his own jaw drop in amazement. He could see her grey eyes glisten with murderous pleasure. Her voice was cocky and exhilarated.

"Hahaha, you have come to my enchanted spring sweet satyrs! Escape if you can and live a blissful life. Or die at the hands of this demon! Let the Demon Hunt begin!"

She calmly stepped forward. Jak immediately ran away screeching. Nol was frozen.

"Oh, what's this? Do you not believe me? I guess I am going to have to teach you to fear Demons!" She stepped forward and kneed him in the stomach. He doubled over out of breath.

Nol was definitely afraid of her. And at that moment he believed she truly was a legendary demon. Her eyes were too cold and penetrating not to be. The stories his Mum had told him for years were about the demons who were said to live among humans from the very beginning. These mythical demons were the origin of all disease and pain in this world. Humans fought against the demons in a great war. After hundreds of years of fighting, humans were able to defeat the demons and expelled them to the deepest caves in all of Akata. Here was a girl standing before him that was a legendary demon.

Jak ran blindly through the trees, he ran until his heart felt like it was going to explode. Finally he sat down, his heart was pumping and sweat was stinging his eyes. He was completely lost in the woods. Oglea was a small island but an inexperienced and unlucky person could still spend days wandering aimlessly through the woods. He tried not to panic. His legs were heavy but he instinctively knew to stand up. He needed to keep moving, if he rested now, he would lose precious daylight. It was already pretty late in the afternoon.

Nol lay crouched on the ground holding his stomach gasping for breath like a fish. Elise kicked him a few more times before she stopped. He wasn't reacting. This was not what she was expecting. She grabbed Nol's hair and leaned in close to him.

"You know that you are supposed to run away. It's no fun if a demon doesn't have a real hunt."

Nol spat in her face.

"Aaaaagh!" She let go of Nol and clutched at her face. This was his chance to escape! He tried to stand up but couldn't. His legs were shaking too much, they were so weak that he couldn't even support himself. Elise was quickly recovering from the spit that was in her eyes. There was only one thing he could do. With everything he had, Nol leaped at her. He tumbled forward on top of her and clutched at her right wrist which held the knife. This quick tackle had caught Elise off guard but she still managed to knee him a few times and even elbowed him in the head. It didn't matter. Nol already had a death hold on her wrist. With his other hand he slowly wrenched the knife free from her hand. She was pinned under him but was bigger and stronger. With some struggle she managed to roll out from under him and stand up. They both looked at each other. Her standing there with a sort of haughty yet strangely pleased look. Him, crouched on the ground tightly holding onto the knife like his life depended on it.

"Well I'll let you live. May we play again some day!" She flippantly remarked and walked away swiftly and silently.

Nol watched her walk away. He was terrified beyond belief, the fact that he had faced a demon and survived was a miracle. He dropped the knife onto the grass and layed down tired.

A few hours later he woke up in the cool night. He was still tired but he didn't feel like sleeping anymore. The woods were scary at night. He heard too many strange noises, the bushes were swaying in the wind making odd rustling sounds and he heard an owl hoot nearby.

Jak made it to the edge of the forest a couple hours after the sun had set. Luckily he had followed a small stream that winded its way to the edge of the forest. There was a dirt path that he recognized as the main road in Oglea. From here he could easily make it to his house. He walked four miles until he reached his house. The lights were on and he knew he was in trouble but he didn't care. Nol was in bigger trouble. There was a good chance that Nol wasn't as lucky as him and was still in the woods or worse…

Two days later Nol was found in the woods near a small stream that he had been lying by. The adults didn't believe Jak and Nol when they said that Elise lured them into the forest and hunted them. She was home before nightfall and was seen in town earlier that day. From that moment on Jak and Nol avoided Elise. They were too afraid of her to ever touch her but Nol promised himself that one day he would repay her for that excursion into the woods. Yes, he learned his lesson from her. He wouldn't let her trick him again, he would be the stronger one next time!

That was ten years ago. He was still extremely afraid of this unpredictable girl but he no longer believed she was a demon. She was just a psychotic loner in a small cottage. Still, Nol stood outside her house. There was only an hour until dusk, he had to deliver this food to her otherwise his Mum would kick him out again. He gently rapped on her door and waited expectantly. There was no answer. He waited a few minutes before knocking again, this time louder. He did this several times like some kind of weird ritual before he finally started banging on her door.

"Hey is anyone home? I brought some food!" Still no answer.

Was she not home? Was something wrong? Both of these possibilities seemed unlikely. Since her Grandmother's death 3 months ago, Elise had not left her home. He was tempted to leave the food outside since she was so bent on ignoring him. Then a thought came to him. Was this not the opportunity he was looking for? What if she was inside asleep, completely unguarded? He certainly wouldn't kill her, but it would be worthwhile to finally take some revenge.

As was the custom in Oglea Island, the door was unlocked and he easily slipped inside. He was right; she was probably asleep. The cottage was a one-room home that was very sparsely decorated with a wood burning stove, a small table with two stools, and a large bookshelf in the back of the room full of books, silverware, and strange nicnacs that he hadn't seen before. The room was completely dark, there was only a small sliver of the dying light that escaped from between two heavy curtains. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed a ball of blankets in the corner of the room and a loud, uneven panting. He slowly set the food on the table and walked over to that ball of blankets. Peeking from underneath was a small pale face that was obviously contorted in pain. Nol was surprised. Was it possible? Was she sick? Elise rolled to her side, her sleep was restless and her breathing was becoming even more laborious. Nol couldn't help himself, he had never seen a sick person in his life. This was a power that only a demon could force upon a human- to make a human fall sick, wither under disease, and die. He reached out his hand to shake her awake when he suddenly saw a creature with two large eyes staring at him.

Without a sound, and quicker than he could think, this creature flew at him with deadly accuracy. It scratched at his eyes trying to pierce them. He yelled and stumbled backwards landing on his butt as he tried to protect his face and force the bird back.

Elise was in a troubled sleep. She dreamed of weird women cackling maniacally and dark whisperings of some unknown language. This wasn't the first time this had happened. It was not, however, helping her current condition. In fact, it was probably worsening it. She felt Noni, her familiar, tense up beside her. It seemed like there was an intruder in her house. Too bad she was too weak to do anything about it, her weird dreams had her transfixed in a stupor. She couldn't rouse herself. Any one could kill her right now, the only one who was protecting her was Noni.

"I will leave this to you, my beloved." She thought to Noni.

"Of course Leelee, I will protect you no matter what"

Someone screamed and heavily hit the floor.

"Hehehe, Noni can hold her own after all." She thought before she felt herself fall deeper in the dream. Into an unknown realm of unconsciousness.

It felt like she was falling from the sky and like she was floating in water at the same time. The only thing she could describe it as was weightlessness. This feeling felt familiar.

"Hello, I have been waiting for you for a long time." A dark, insidious voice confidently filled her mind. It sounded exactly like the voice that had been whispering that unknown language before…

Nol had grabbed the owl by the neck and was able to finally pin its squirming body.

A deep voice rang clearly in the room.

"Fall, ad genua procumbis iniqui regnum. Ante arcum Summus imperator."

Nol looked up and almost fainted. Elise's body was limply floating a foot in the air. Her head was upturned to the sky and her mouth moved in a strange and contorted way. These words echoed throughout the room. They rushed up into his heart and he felt like she was possessed with immeasurable power. Then her head snapped down and she crumpled to the ground. He rushed over to her and saw that she was now resting peacefully. It looked like she would be able to recover from her sickness now. The owl made weird crooning noises as it fluttered over to her and nested in the blankets right next to her head snuggling close to her body warmth. The owl glared at him and looked like it was trying to dismiss him.

Nol sighed, what could he do now? This owl was staring at him and he felt like revenge was useless now. She was obviously different from him, she could probably kill him in her sleep.

"I am not running away, I am simply doing what I came here to do. I will surely have another chance to take revenge!" He thought as he walked outside and looked back at that cottage. "Oh, how deceitful that beautiful cottage is. The master of that home does not reflect its beauty!"

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