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The Forest

The elders used to tell stories of a demon that lived in the forest at the edge of town. It would lure its victims into the forest and put them under its spell. They would return unharmed and seem normal except they would have actually become servants of the demon, forced to do its bidding. In the day they would appear normal but in the night they would do strange things, things they would have never done before.

The story would always scare my friend, Kiera. She was always so afraid to go near the forest. I honestly thought the whole tale was simply a story to scare kids into not straying away from the village. I never gave much thought to it. My friend Keira and I were 16 and we lived in a small town called Sol. It wasn't very big but it had an abundance of gemstones that other larger cities would love to get their hands on. I worked in a small clothing store with my mom and dad, I had no siblings but Keira was like a sister, she and her parents owned a small but successful bakery. In the morning we went to school, while our parents weren’t incredibly rich they weren’t incredibly poor either and were able to send us to school. The school was on the edge of town which meant we had to walk by the forest. I stopped by Kiera’s house in the morning so we could walk together to school. Her house was small and made of red brick like mine we were both didn’t have any siblings so we were able to receive fairly nice clothing and school supplies. I knocked on her pale wooden door. It opened immediately to reveal Kiera standing at the doorway. She looked ready for the day. Her wavy brown was tied at the nape of her neck and her almond shaped, hazel eyes were shone with energy. She had a friendly smile on her heart shaped face.
“Ready?” I asked. She nodded her head in response. She yelled that she was leaving to her mom and dad and stepped out. “Let's go.”
We began to walk to school and I zoned out as Kiera started one of her infamous rants. Her creamy colored skin begin the get flushed as it usually did when she started to vent. She always had something to vent about weather it was her parents or the customers at the bakery.  
“Riza!”
“Wha-.”
“Are you listening to me?”
“Of course,” I murmured.
She raised her elegantly arched eyebrows in disbelief, “liar.” Kiera stopped walking abruptly.
“Why did you-” I then realized we had come to the forest. “Come on, Kiera. Those stories are told just to scare you.”
“Well it's working.” I rolled my eyes. She suddenly grabbed my arm and squeezed. Hard
“Ow! Let go.” I always wondered how someone like Kiera who was petite and willowy could be so strong.
“I think I heard something,” she whispered. I rolled my eyes.
“We have to pass by the forest every day so I suggest you suck it up.” She glared at me. “Only being honest.”
“Fine, ok I can do this,” she said to herself.
“Can we go now,” I groaned. She nodded. Suddenly her face turned into a scowl.
“Uh oh, I think I forgot something back home.”
“Well go back and get it, but I’m not waiting.”
“But then I have walk past the forest by myself.”
“You’ll be fine. I’ll see you at school.” She opened her mouth as if to argue but closed it.
“Fine.” We then parted.

I entered the school building after some walking and started the day along with my classmates. We had different teachers for math, english, science, and history. In the beginning of the day students would ask me where Kiera was, I would tell them that she would be a bit late. Kiera was quite popular with everyone, it wasn’t just because she was pretty it was more than her winning smile and bright eyes, she radiated an energy, an enthusiasm that made you want to be wherever she was. I was her polar opposite, I had straight, shoulder length silver hair and a pale angular face with high cheekbones and piercing blue, gray eyes. I had an athletic build and was slightly taller than Kiera. I was was more of a loner and really only talked to Keira and according to her, I rarely smiled and if my stare could kill, it would succeed. By the time half the day had finished I had begun to get worried, Kiera hadn’t come to school yet, it wouldn’t have taken her this long. Pretty soon the school day was over and kiera wasn't to be seen. I rushed home and immediately went to her house and knocked on her door. Her mom opened. “Riza, don’t worry she’s here, she’s resting.”
“Resting?”
“She must’ve tripped somewhere, she came back home with a bump on her head, so I made her stay home.”
“Oh, can I see her?”
“Sure, come in.” I walked into their house it was cozy, and warm on the inside. I found Kiera sitting at the dinner table. She smiled and waved when she saw me.
I shook my head and smiled “I leave you alone for one minute.“How do you feel?”
“Head hurts a little but it’s slowly going away. I think I’ll be ok by tomorrow.”
“Good to hear, I’ll let you rest.” I then left.

The next morning, I woke up and heard my parents talking in the kitchen. “No one is sending their kids out today.” I heard my mom say. “Not after what happened last night.” I came down.
“What’s going on?” I asked. My parents explained that the mines were broken into last night and some of the workers were killed. I was shocked, our town was always so safe we had never had something like this happen before. Ever. So I guess I was staying home today. “Can I at least go to Kiera’s house. She lives right next door.”
After a long pause my mom answered “fine, but not for too long.” I knocked on her door and Kiera opened “hey, I assume you heard about what happened.”
“Yeah.” I entered and we sat in her family room, her parents were still asleep.
“I can’t believe it, it’s so unexpected.”
“Yeah I-” that’s when I noticed there was something in her hair. “Your hair.”
“Wha- oh she brushed something out. Huh it’s dirt, wonder how that happened. Probably when I fell the other day.
“Did you sleep last night?”
“Yeah, why?”
“You have dark circles under your eyes.” She shrugged.
“Anyway, I wonder how that could’ve happened?”
“Yeah.. how?” We talked for a while before I finally left. I wonder if whoever killed those men were looking and if they were. What? I kept thinking about it all night, staring at the ceiling wide awake. I heard footsteps outside and bolted upright. "What the heck?!” I tiptoed to our front door and opened it carefully. I squinted in the darkness and was able to see who was making the noise, "Kiera!" It made absolutely no sense, but there she was, there was no mistaking it. So this is why there were dark circles under her eyes. Why would she lie to me? I followed her and she led me to the forest, and to my surprise, she walked in without hesitation. I was dumbfounded, not too long ago to couldn’t even walk past here without getting scared out of her skin, now she just walked inside without even thinking twice. We were soon deep in the forest, I had no idea what she was doing in here.
“You did well by bringing her here, Kiera,” said a deep, husky voice. I froze behind the where I was hiding. My first thought was Run! I took off, running blindly back where I came from. Suddenly my path was blocked and I stared at Kiera in disbelief.
“Kiera” I snarled. “What are you doing!?” She came at me with astonishing speed and I barely had anytime to block her punch. Since when can she move like this? I was so focused on her fist that I failed to pay attention to her foot which came up and struck me in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I staggered and she took that as an opportunity to strike a blow to my face. Blood dripped from my nose and I fell to my knees, the rest of my surroundings slowly fading into black. 
I woke up on cold ground, as my surroundings came into focus I could see trees around me, so I assumed I was still in the forest. I sat up and move my arms but my arms wouldn't budge, that’s when I realized that my hands were tied behind my back with rope then tied to a large rock. I looked around wildly, unsure of what to do.
“Oh, finally. I was worried that you died.” I looked up to see a tall man, who was wearing a plain cotton shirt over his lean body and I could see there were strange black markings all over his arms. He had sun-kissed skin and a wicked-looking marking etched down the left side of his harsh face that started at the temple flowed over his jaw and down his throat where it disappeared beneath his clothes. He had short cropped silver hair and his eyes were golden; they sparkled with a dangerous amusement.
“Who are you?! Tell me now!”
“You’re in a hurry, aren't you?” he said smiling cruelly. I glared at him. “Fine, fine I’ll tell you just sit tight.” I rolled my eyes.
I gasped as the realization hit me, “but you’re- you’re a legend, you’re not real.”
This time he rolled his eyes “obviously not. Anyway, a very long time ago, I ruled these lands until a group of very powerful sorcerers confined me into this forest and stripped me of my powers. I cannot leave until the curse they placed upon me is broken. To break it I require: the spellbook they used and a descendant of one of the sorcerers. I can only compel people using this relic.” He held up a small red stone.
“Me!? But I’ve never practiced magic, I didn't even believe you existed until now!” I screeched. Why didn’t you just compel me Instead of Kiera, why couldn’t you have left her out of this?”
“I needed someone naive, easy to trick. I knew you would follow her if she snuck out He cut me loose. You have 24 hours. Watch her.” Kiera took a knife a stood in front of me. He handed me a small book that he took out of the silver box. “This is the spell book they used, this spell with break the curse.” He pointed to a page. “Learn it.” He then walked away. Kiera stared at me, her eyes were no longer friendly and vibrant. They were cold and lifeless. The language in which the spell was written was nothing I had ever seen.
Hours passed and still I had not been able to produce a single drop of magic. In those hours, Kiera never took her eyes off of me. My hours were almost up; I was beginning to get frantic. The demon suddenly stood over me, “figure it out yet?”
“I need more time,” I said my voice panicky. “Please!”
“Well, I hate to resort to this, but if things need to get ugly then so be it. Kiera, be a good girl a come here.”
“What are you doing,” I demanded.
“Think of it as motivation.” I watched in horror as Keira began to bring the knife down to her stomach.
No! An inch away from her stomach, the knife stopped much to my surprise.
“Not. Your. Puppet.” Kiera’s words came out in short breaths. She was really trying hard to fight his control. In a flash she brought the knife down to her thigh and hissed in pain when it made contact. She yanked it out and turned toward him and quickly slapped the stone out of his hand, it shattered as it flew and hit a rock. He snarled angrily. He raised his hand which I realized had long dagger - like fingernails.
“No!” I yelled my hand outstretched. Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew through and sent the demon flying and hitting against a tree trunk. He fell to the ground unconscious. I stared at my hand in disbelief. Kiera stared at me he mouth gaping. Recovering from my shock, I grabbed Kiera’s wrist and we ran. We soon came to the end of the forest and were about to leave, but Kiera wouldn’t budge she looked back into the forest.
“There are lanterns back there, I can start a fire and kill him for good.”
“No way, you wouldn’t make it out in time.”
“I know.”
“Why?”
“When I broke his control, everything I did while under his influence came back to me. I killed people, Riza, and I- I.” He voice broke. “I killed my parents.” I was shocked about that new piece of information. “If I can get rid of him permanently, then we can avoid any of this happening again. I can maybe find peace with what I’ve done.”
“You were under his control, It wasn’t your fault.”
“But I did it, all the same. Riza, thank you for being there for me, even if I turned against you.”
“I won’t let you do this.”
She looked at me sadly “I thought you might say that.” Very quickly she picked up a stick and smacked it against my head. My surroundings slowly faded away, the last thing I saw was Kiera’s hazel eyes. When I woke up, everything was warm, I looked up and saw with a shock the forest was burning. I touched my face, it was wet, not with sweat, but with tears. "Kiera, you stupid, brave girl. Thank you".




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