Adhahra: A Novelette
Mystari child come away
Little Dreamer of the day
Listen close to what I say—
Discard heart’s dormant anger
Lest you lure the Dream Eater
Do not Dream without great care
Or you’ll draw its starry stare
Do not heed its drumming call
And most important of all
Remember the vital law:
Do not fear the Adhahra
-From Praezra’s Adhahra: The Dream Eater
Caden absently repeated the poem from memory as he whittled away with his knife. It came easily to the 14 year old boy, a product of many private lessons from his grandmother. She had taught him almost everything he knew, but her focus inevitably shifted back to the subject of the poem. It was no less than a matter of survival.
“And what again is the vital law?” she would quiz him at the end of every lesson.
“Do not fear the Adhahra.”
Caden shivered from the cool autumn breeze. It was growing dark in the forest and he was finding it difficult to work on his project, a wooden statuette of what may have been a wolf or a fox. The boy sighed and stood up, pocketing the statuette and sheathing the small knife.
The breeze suddenly stopped. Caden perked up his head from adjusting his belt. He scanned the dappled twilight, hoping to see nothing but the natural wood around him. The air remained still, preparing for the fall of darkness. Then Caden saw it. A blur of shadow that sped through his field of vision not twenty feet in front of him and disappeared just as suddenly behind thick foliage. And did he see a flash of twinkling red atop the shadow?
Caden's knife was in his hand again. It would be a meager weapon against whatever was out there and an utterly useless one if it was what Caden prayed with all his might it wasn't. The boy shook his head and ran his left hand through his black curls. He had just imagined it. Right? As he tried to convince himself, he found his tongue moving with the words of the vital law all the same.
“Do not fear the Adhahra. Do not fear the Adhahra.” He stumbled over the familiar axiom, his mouth gone bone dry in an impossibly short span. He was afraid.
A sapling to the right of him bent slightly. Bushes contacting the sapling shook with movement. Caden's palms were slick with sweat. He backed away steadily, shaking with the effort of not sprinting away in the opposite direction. His heel caught on a root and he fell backwards. Dropping the knife, Caden managed to catch himself with youthful reflexes, rolling and scrambling back to his feet. He barely had time to see the creature fly at him.
The streak of blue and silver struck Caden square in the chest. Caden's breath was knocked out of him as he found himself falling backwards again, the creature's weight fully implanted into his center. His back hit the ground hard. He winced and braced himself for the inevitable assault.
Caden's pet proceeded to lick his face with furious abandon, trying desperately to make up for the previous two hours of not bathing his owner's face in saliva.
“Blue!” Caden couldn't help but laugh as he struggled to shove the heavy creature off of him. “I'm clean already. Get off of me!” Blue reluctantly obeyed, leisurely removing himself from the boy's chest one paw at a time.
Heart still beating wildly, Caden snatched his knife off of the ground and sheathed it. “I could have killed you with this. Bastard of a vulpauri, what were you thinking? I thought you were an Adhahra!”
The vulpauri dropped to his haunches and sagged his shoulders. His orange canine eyes stared at Caden pleadingly.
“Don't look at me like that, Blue. It's not going to work.”
Blue shuffled forward slightly and nudged his nose against the boy's trousers. His eyes were deep pools that told Caden the thousand tragic sorrows of the life of a family-raised pet. How could Caden, a mere boy, withstand such ferocious love?
“Damn it. You win again.” Caden reached down and petted the fox-like creature. “You're getting to be too sly for your own good. Or perhaps mine.”
He had received the vulpauri as a pup a few years ago, a joint birthday present from his father and grandmother. Upon opening the crate that they had hidden him in, Caden immediately exclaimed “Blue!”. His grandmother tried to explain to him that the brilliant azure of his fur would fade into silver as the animal matured into an adult. But the young Caden would have none of that. The name stuck. As Blue aged with Caden into a young adult, his vibrant azure color faded steadily into a blue-gray hue streaked by silver glimpses of his true color.
Caden scratched Blue on one of his elongated ears as he pulled out the figurine he had been working on. “Do you like it? It's supposed to be you.”
Blue licked his wooden visage in approval.
“It's not that good,” Caden laughed. “But I value your opinion. Let's get out of here and see if we can ambush Gran-ma.”
They trotted towards the edge of the woods side-by-side, their hearts full. The sun disappeared behind the western mountains, but they were happily unaware of the approaching darkness.
Not twenty feet from where Blue had ambushed Caden, a cluster of twinkling red eyes watched them leave.
Thanks for reading! This is the first scene of the first draft of a novelette I'm working on. It's the first time in a while that I've taken writing seriously so I'd like to do well on this story. I would appreciate any critiques or feedback of any kind and would be happy to return the favor if you do reply. I'll also be more inclined to post more scenes as I write them if I get some good comments.