Rachel kept pacing the room; it was pitch black outside, but her best friend was nowhere to be found. Her heart was heavy with remorse. She had no intention of falling in love with King Jerald or having an affair with him, but she couldn't stop herself from falling for him, and one night with him turned into years of sneaking around behind her best friend's back.
When King Jerald entered, she dashed into his arms, asking, "Did they find her?" She inquired, her eyes welling up with tears.
"No, they searched the whole forest and came up empty-handed. But don't worry, I've sent them back," he said.
Rachel exclaimed, "Oooh my God, we killed her."
"No, sweetheart, we did not push her into the forest; it was her decision," Jerald said, holding her face in his big hands.
"Our actions forced her to flee into the Deadman's forest; our actions!" Rachel pushed him away.
"Why didn't she just insult us, scratch you, or start a catfight like other women do? Instead, she gave us a friendly smile, which I can still see." Rachel was overcome with emotion.
"This is Clariss; she's always been different," Jerald answered.
"What if she gets hurt?" Rachel cried out.
"Nothing is going to happen to her; she may have flown past the trees, or she might be in Arthora, or even better, she might be hiding in this very castle," Jerald replied.
Rachel sat on her bed and cried. She remembered how Clarris was all excited in the morning about the wedding. Instead of helping her with the final touches, Rachel excused herself and pretended like she was going to get extra beads for the dress, but instead made a u-turn into King Jerald's Chambers, where the two sneaked off for one last romantic encounter.
That selfish taste of rust was going to lead to the death of not just a friend but the princess of an entire kingdom.
They heard a knock at the door, and a servant entered, bearing a letter from King Charles, who requested his presence. At the mention of that, King Jerald sighed. He had spent the entire day avoiding Clarris's father. He had run out of lies and was too embarrassed to look him in the eyes.
In Deadman's Forest, Clarris was exhausted from all the weeping that had saturated the ground she was lying on. When she tried to get up, she felt movement beneath her. The ground started rocking suddenly, collapsing under her and causing her to fall in. She yelled, but no one could hear her.
She continued to plummet into what seemed to be an infinite cave. She attempted to fly up, but something dragged her down. She attempted again, but she was too weak. She couldn't fight the powerful force dragging her down. She felt as if she was falling for an eternity and was falling to her death. She closed her eyes and braced herself for the impact, but she landed on the ground like a leaf on water.
She nearly burst out laughing when she opened her eyes. She looked around and then felt something under her dress, which she picked up and examined it, her stomach turning when she saw what looked like a human toe. She tossed it and got to her feet.
She took another look around and realized she was surrounded by human skeletons. She was terrified and attempted to flee, but she was unable to do so. She tried again but was unable to fly. She began to panic. It was like her ability to fly had vanished. She dashed to the cave's edges and attempted to climb, but she came to a halt when she heard her name,
She closed her eyes and began counting backwards from ten. It was something she learned as a child: whenever she was afraid, she would close her eyes and count backwards from one to ten. Her day was rapidly turning into a nightmare.
"Claarrrrrrrrrris," The hissing voice called out again, "Clarrrisss."
She started counting louder now.
Above the cave, Darrell and his knights were fleeing from the darkness that kept chasing them. It was so quick and dark, they couldn't see what it was; all they could hear were the screams of their fellow knights being picked off one by one. "Let's retreat, let's go back!" Darrell exclaimed. Even though he could shapeshift into anything, he couldn't abandon his men.
He looked around, and everything seemed the same to him; he was exhausted and out of breath. He'd gone into the woods with a group of nine knights, but now there were just the two of them left.
Whatever was picking them off one by one, was leading them deep into the forest, and they couldn't tell which direction they came from. It seemed that everything was identical. "Let's just keep going in the path's direction," the other knight said, his voice frightened.
"That's exactly what it wants, to lead us to our deaths; why do you think the other routes are closed?" yelled Darrell.
He could smell blood and asked his other knight if he could smell it as well. "I can smell death," his counterpart replied, but before Darrell could respond, a cold breeze blew through and his counterpart vanished as well.
He glanced behind him and saw fog, but before it could fully engulf him, Darrell shifted into a tiny mouse and was quickly covered in blood. Earlier, he had no idea he was walking through a pool of blood in his human form, but in his tiny mouse form, he got the answer to where the smell of blood was coming from.
Suddenly, the stream of blood started to carry his tiny mouse body. He attempted to shapeshift back into human form, but, like Clarris, he was unsuccessful.
The river of blood swept him into the dark cave. The cave was filled with so much blood that he nearly drowned. He tried swimming but got knocked on a human bone and lost consciousness. On each corner of the cave were nine wooden pikes, each with the beheaded skeleton heads of the nine knights he entered the forest with. The cave smelt of death, and it looked like someone had prepared it for a grand sacrifice.
Clarris had her back turned, her hands covering her ears, and she was counting out loud, completely unaware of the transformation taking place behind her.
The hissing voice said out loud, "Why do you cover your face from the one you summoned? Look at me, my child," the voice said.
Clarissa finally decided to turn around, but there was no one, except for the cave's appearance, which had changed: it was now overflowing with blood and beheaded skeleton heads. Her spine shivered at the thought.
She dashed over to the poles and nearly puked at the sight. When she looked down, she found that the blood didn't stick to her gown and that she could literally walk through it.
"Clarrisss," the voice called out again.
She turned to face the voice. In front of her stood a tiny, wrinkled, hideous woman in rags. Her skin looked decayed, and there was pus and maggots everywhere. Her eyes were as glittery as a snake's, and they complemented her hissing voice. "You stare, you look, but you do not ask," the witch hissed. Clarris stood still, staring at the witch.