Chapter Eight
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Light filtered down through the canopy, spreading the last warmth Eldergrove would ever receive. A wind rustled the trees and the bushes, the sound of water trickling downstream. Running foot falls, caws and chirps, frantic voices. The sound of a forest in peril. Myst tried to shut them all out, ignore them, but found it to be impossible. Soon, that would be her own family, running far away, trying to escape what would be a terrible fate.

Footfalls caused her to glance over her shoulder. Her eyes met Silva's and in his jaws, he held a glowing, green orb. Green like the color of a forest. He lowered his head and placed it on the ground in front of her.

“We found it,” he said. “Thank you.”

She looked from the seed to him. “The cubs... can I return to them?” she asked.

“I want you to,” Silva replied. “Go take them and run.”

If that was what Silva wanted then that meant that it was already too late to save their beloved home. “What about you?” she asked.

Silva opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated. “I'll... be right behind you. After I deal with this,” he said.

There is a feeling which rises up within a person, like a fluttering in the stomach, a weariness, a sense of foreboding. Myst had it now and somehow she knew, this could be the last time they'd ever get to see each other. She looked at him, not wanting to leave his side. She also knew however, she had no other choice.

“A-alright,” she said. “Be safe.”

He nodded to her and then took the seed back up in his jaws.

Myst turned around and ran. She arrived at the cave when Eldergrove's sun was at its zenith and stopped when she noticed how quiet everything was. Proceeding with caution, the Ilmari mother entered into its black interior. There were shapes, silhouette of other Ilmari still deep inside. Some were staring at her, others lie now, motionless on the stone floor and there was a disturbing scent in the air. Putrid, decay.

“Aura,” she whispered. “Kuma, Ikhani?”

No one answered.

Setting caution aside, she ran to the back. Sniffing around, trying to figure out where they could have gone.

“We're here mother,” came Ikhani's voice.

Myst looked in her direction and breathed out a sigh of relief. All of them were there, every single one of them. Including Aura and her own daughter. Ikhani and Kuma were looking back at her, but the others were curled up, asleep on the floor. “Hurry, wake them up,” she said. “We have to go.”

They both obeyed and began to nudge the others gently. Jura woke up a little confused, Kumo stretched and yawned. Ciro and Raiko both woke up with plenty of energy and seemed ready to take on the world. Aura picked her daughter up by the scruff and stepped up beside Myst. Understandable, an adult wolf would have a hard enough time keeping up with an Ilmari, let alone a child.

“Are we ready?” she asked.

They all nodded their heads.

Myst led them toward the exist, but stopped when a couple of Ilmari blocked her path. “Stand aside, we need to go,” she said.

“And abandon our forest?” one of them asked and hunched over, ears back. “We cannot let you do that.”

Some Ilmari it seemed, were loyal to the task given to them even up till this point. She could see it in their eyes that they wouldn't leave, even if that meant their own lives would end. Myst glanced over her shoulder. So many were still here, waiting to be rescued. They lie in their places or sat, staring toward the exit.

“Silva told us to run,” she said again. “All of us.”

They said nothing and refused to move.

Myst lowered her head to her cubs and spoke in a steady voice. “I want you all to run, given the chance. Don't worry about me, don't wait and stay together, stay with Aura.”

“D-don't w-worry,” Ikhani said. Her body was shivering. “I-I'll help protect them.”

“There are roots from the Elder Tree which are old and dying, hollowed out. Find one and it will lead you into another world.” Myst turned back to the two, blocking their entrance. She hunched over, bared her fangs and lept. Her body came into contact with the one who had spoken, slamming her into a cave wall. The entrance was clear. “Go... go!”

Aura and the rest of the cubs slipped by as Myst whirled around on the other who was trying to block their path. She tried to headbutt the Ilmari, but received a pair of fangs on the back of her neck instead. Myst whimpered. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kumo stop for a brief moment, before being encouraged by his siblings to keep going. They had to keep going no matter what, even if she did not survive this battle.

Myst struggled under the weight of the male Ilmari, trying to get free. Finally, her jaws closed around one of his legs and now he whimpered as she bit down hard. His grip loosened on her neck and she broke free. “Run!” she shouted to the others, before slamming her body into his.

Those in the den who still had the strength to move, stood up and snuck passed her as Myst provided them a way to escape. To get far away from here, enter a new world and find a new home... or claim one. She snarled as the female tried to close in on her leg. When they didn't back away, Myst nipped the air in warning. She didn't want to hurt them, but if they tried to keep her here and away from her children, then she would have no choice.

They both backed away again, but prepared to lunge forward at her. Myst dodged and rolled out of the den. Climbing to her feet, she ran down the slope and into the trees. From the scent in the air, she could tell her cubs had traveled a fair distance from here, which was good. Now all Myst needed to do, was to find them.

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