the air in silver wisps, barely perceptible through the thick cover of trees.
But enough shone through to cast a shadow upon the secluded cottage, that of a
wolf coated in mud and grime.
Flowridia ripped the door open. “Aura!” she cried, weeping as her arms tangled
in the damp fur of her beloved companion – Aura the wolf, her lost friend and
familiar, had come for her at last.
from the swamp mixed with the earthy, rotting scent of mushrooms and the
horrors that fed them. Aura’s golden eyes shone bright, reflecting the filtered
celestial light and the phosphorescent glow of fungi dotting the walls and
moist garden plots. More garden than room, the fungal forest grew in patches,
some of the mushrooms taller than Flowridia herself.
during their three years apart, standing nearly at Flowridia’s shoulder in
height. Even matted in swamp filth, her silver fur matched the dim moonlight.
at their reunion, urgency tugged at Flowridia’s panicked heart. “Aura, we have
to leave. If she hears us-”
broke the fragile peace. Flowridia, her arms tight around Aura’s neck, saw a
dark silhouette in the doorframe of the bedroom and the remains of a ruined
potion on the floor. “Flower Child, what is this?” The woman spoke gently, the
eye of a storm Flowridia knew capable of tearing them both to oblivion. Odessa
the Swamp Witch stepped into view, beautiful despite her sneer, a distorted,
matured mirror of her cowering daughter. Eerie green shone from within her
eyes, her mouth, even the pores of her skin. “All of my love, and this is how
it’s returned? Slinking off in the middle of the night?”
Aura’s throat vibrated against Flowridia’s arms. Mother merely chuckled. “Your
familiar is every bit the hero that you are the coward.” She turned her gaze
onto Aura directly, stepping forward as that same green began to swirl at her
feet, smoke before a raging fire. “Stay with us. She’ll be better with you and
I both to guide her.”
from Aura’s throat. Flowridia’s grip on her neck tightened.
Mother said, and as she stepped, Flowridia watched her form shift and elongate.
“So much wasted potential.”
seen hints of Mother’s shadow, one that never quite matched her sultry figure.
Now the woman twisted and grew, her hands gnarling into vicious claws, her skin
shriveling and turning grey. Those eyes, still illuminated by sickly green,
grew large, bird-like. The woman, once beautiful, became hunched.
on Aura’s neck, pulling her to the door, but green fire – the same shade as the
smoke swirling around Mother’s grotesque form – blocked their exit.
herself from Flowridia’s grip, a beastly roar at her throat as she bolted
forward. Leaping, the wolf tackled the monster and ripped at the woman’s face
with her teeth. A swipe of Mother’s mutated hand threw Aura aside. Bleeding,
cackling, Mother pulled herself to her feet in time for Aura to pounce.
Mother braced herself. Her hands dug into the wolf’s fur and skin, blood
seeping from her nails as Aura struggled in her grasp.
shining from Mother’s eyes changed from green to deep purple, and the smoke
swirled to match. Aura released a pained howl, and Flowridia screamed as the
wolf’s body began to shrivel, withering away as though starved.
knife – encrusted with dried blood – caught her eye. Heart pounding, Flowridia
didn’t think; she grabbed the knife and threw.
The knife embedded into Mother’s throat, soaking Flowridia and the limp wolf in
the monster’s vital fluids.
that same purple glow bursting from the wound, the hilt protruding from beneath
her chin. The smoke, once peaceful, spun into a violent torrent. Aura fell
motionless to the ground as Mother’s cry grew higher, louder. Her clawed hands
shook as she reached toward the knife.
light ceased. Smoke dissipated. Mother fell to the ground, her monstrous form
dissolving into the air. A woman’s corpse, a knife jutting from her throat, lay
in a pool of her own seeping blood.
cut the taut string of peace. She fell to her knees, giving no mind to how her
skirts absorbed Mother’s blood. Silver fur, stained red, met Flowridia’s
fingers as she desperately pulled Aura’s emaciated form to her lap. The wolf’s
coat, once soft, had become coarse, aged by Mother’s dark magic.
those golden, clouded eyes. Already, Aura had gone cold. With that came an
awareness of the hollow in Flowridia’s soul. Her familiar, the animal companion
granting her mysterious power, lay dead, and with it her connection to the
world of magic. Muted, all she had worked for; the power she had gained gone
trapped in hell, but never had she felt so lost. She held Aura’s body to her
chest and wept.
– a friend.”
pristine, carved in stone, the last gift she could give her dearest companion.
Content to lie down and starve to death, Flowridia might have lain on the grave
forever had red eyes not shone from the woods.
to hunt her then.