That was when Cerys realized that it was Himeko and peter who had taken her wrists and pulled her back. Now they were guiding her around the black masses that marred the ground like sludge from an oil spill, keeping her a safe distance away. Once they had inched past them, they let go of her wrists and sped down the road.
Cerys was not sure which was racing faster: her heart or her feet. There were hissing sounds coming from the darker patches just beyond the path, and rustling in the tall grass, but the worst part of it was the sense of darkness that seemed to be reaching our for her, threatening to take her into its fold. The only reassurance she had was that James was right behind them, his sword ready.
Once the gates protecting the manor house were in sight, only a few hundred feet away. James pulled something from his pouch and threw it into the air. It gave a rising whistle, and then exploded. It was like a firework, but smaller, more glittering. The guards in the gate towers went into a clamor when they saw it; Cerys could hear them shouting to another as they ran back and forth across the ramparts. It did not take long for the doors to creak open.
“Welcome home, young lord!” one of the guards called out.
“Come inside, quickly!” another shouted.
James gestured for them to pass through. Bayani and Peter were the first inside, followed by Himeko. James had to grab Cerys’s wrist to get her through the gates, so busy was she staring at the path behind her. He pushed her towards one of the guards and then rushed to help get the doors shut once again. They lowered down a think plank of wood, reinforced with iron bars, to keep the doors barred, and locked it into place. From the way it sounded, this was the same system that was being used in the village.
As James stood their panting, the guards up above had brought in several archers, who were now firing down at the vile creatures that had follow the party up the path. For several minutes, they hissed and screeched, the noise grating on their ears.
“What are those things?” Cerys finally ventured to ask. Her voice was trembling far more than she had expected that it would, and she started to realize just how terrified she had been.
James gave her a serious look, but said nothing. He turned and handed his sword to one of the guards, then unlatched the belt that held his sheath and gave it to him as well. “See that this is thoroughly cleaned,” he ordered the man. “And get this goblin to the bailiff; I will give the details about it later on.
The guards nodded and the one with his sword hurried away. Another one grabbed the rope that held the goblin’s wrists and escorted it in a different direction. Then James looked up to see a cloaked man walking out of the manor towards him.
“So you finally made it home,” the older man said. “What happened to you getting here before dark?”
James did not look happy about being questioned like that. He glanced up at the ramparts, where things were starting to quiet down again. “Any news about the kingdom?”