Chapter 10

Written by: Suraya Dewing

As we returned to the wraith, the hawk calmly circled. Every so often it swooped down low and tugged a tuft of Brian's hair. But he seemed unperturbed as the hawk flew above Rose and me. The mist hung damply and swirled around us like the smoke billowing from the cottage fire. The air smelt faintly of smoke.

We drew closer and it became stronger. I put my hand over my mouth to stifle the choking cough. As if the odour also choked her, Rose began wheezing. Oddly Brian seemed completely unaffected. He stood absolutely still. The hawk swooped down once again and gripped Brian's shoulder with its vicious talons, wings frantically flapping to keep balance.

I wondered why Brian did nothing to shift it. But he neither tried to shoo him away nor did he grip those vicious claws in his skeletal hands to prise them away. Instead, he continued to stand so still he looked like the mist had made him from clay which had hardened into marble.

We hesitated, unsure about continuing. Brian beckoned. I tugged Rose’s icy cold hand. ‘Come,’ I murmured.

Her face fearfully twisted as she pointed through the curling fog. ‘See?’

I peered but saw nothing. I was just about to tell her she was being silly when there was a roar like the thunderous boom of a river breaking its banks. My heart thudded. Gasping, I leaned against a tree, hugging Rose to me. She tried to break away but as she pulled I was shoved from behind. Issuing a ragged grunt we landed on the inscribed stone. Shaphina’s eerily shrouded figure hovered mysteriously over us. Then she glided away.

Caught in her slip stream we followed, across the wraith, through a narrow gap in a rock face and into a cavernous space where candles spluttered. People sat in a half circle murmuring an unfamiliar incantation.

‘So you’ve come at last.’  Brian faced us with the hawk balancing on his shoulder. He beckoned to us.

Trembling, Rose pressed into me.

Brian led us to the middle of the circle where the statuette stood on a plinth. Rose’s teeth noisily chattered as if she was cold. My knees felt as though they were going to give way.

‘No need to be afraid,’ Brian intoned.

A loud cackle leaped from one person to the next like wild flames.

‘You hold the key.’ Brian pointed at me.

Shuddering, I leaned away.

Through my pocket I felt my grandmother's rune searing my skin and instinctively pulled it out. It flew from my hand and spun in the air. As it steadily passed each figure there was a puff as the person disintegrated. The hawk frantically pursued the rune trying to catch it with its beak. As the last figure disappeared the hawk raised its weakening wings, issued a broken squawk and flew into the black cavernous interior.  A silent void remained.

A frightful crack startled us both. The statuette was crumbling to dust.