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The Dark One
Abby, Age 12, Poynette, WI

“Please, master. I shall not fail you this time, I am certain of it.”
            
A soft breeze whistled through the obsidian-dipped forest, causing the dense undergrowth to rustle in objection to the small gust of wind. The immense trunks of the numerous oaks stretched high above the leaf-littered earth, their summits and hopelessly tangled branches somewhat invisible in the steadily thickening fog. The tips of the tall grasses swayed in the ghostly breeze, their leafy tendrils reaching hungrily toward the damp atmosphere.
            
Hued in utter despair, a tall and thin figure stalked silently amongst the abundant brush, its true identity hidden beneath an ebony cloak. Porcelain white hands clutched a twisted staff in their icy grasp, long fingers caressing the finely carved wood. The hem of the dark figure’s cloak hung just above the trodden soil, and what looked like a lupine creature trotted carefully at its heels.

Pointed ears pinned to his skull in respect, the wolfish beast held his head low to the ground, scarred muzzle almost scraping across the dead leaves. Dagger-like talons protruded from each of the canine’s toes, leaving slight crevasses in the soft soil where they had been each time he lifted a paw. Multi-colored eyes stared transfixed at its master’s tall frame, for short intervals covered by slowly blinking eyelids. A flea-bitten pelt of gray clung to the animal’s skeletal build, ribs poking out from beneath the thin layer of hair. He obviously hadn’t eaten in a while, for there was an air of hunger and restlessness that hung in the breeze around his slim form.

“You said you were certain many times before, my pet, so what makes you think that this time will be no different?”

This voice, unlike the wolven creature’s, held an exceedingly menacing tone. It snaked through the damp silence and pierced the heart of the lupine beast, for he cringed in palpable mortification and fear.

“M-Master,” he pleaded, “I have never meant to disappoint you-”

“Then why is she still alive? You cannot possibly think that that doesn’t greatly disappoint me, Illusimer!”

The once hiss-like drawl that had escaped the hooded figure’s vocals now turned to boiling anger as he raged at the wolfish animal called Illusimer, coming to an abrupt halt and swinging around to face his follower.

Illusimer, however, flinched and emitted a vociferous yelp, shuffling his large paws as he staggered sideways. Bracing himself for a particularly painful blow to the head, the canine was thoroughly surprised when he didn’t feel the clunk of hard wood against his skull. Opening one eye vigilantly, he gave yet another boisterous howl of foreboding and leapt to the side, staring transfixed at the now scorched and smoking earth where he had stood just moments before.

Glancing up at his master with plainly seen fear and respect, he flattened his ears yet again.

“M-Master, please,” he whimpered, lowering his all too thin bodice downward until his mud-flecked belly caressed the rich soil. Slowly and cautiously did he begin to edge toward the hem of his master’s midnight-black cloak, oddly twisted tail pinned between his gangly hind legs.

“Go,” the hidden figure hissed, his voice glazed with cold hatred. “Go now before I change my mind.”

Illusimer’s multi-hued eyes widened in disbelief, and his breathing began to quicken.

“Master, are you certain? You are giving me another-”

“I said go, you filthy, flea-bitten beast!”
            
At his master’s forceful words, the wolven creature turned on his heel with a shudder of alarm and dashed off into the distance, the soft sound of his paws against the trodden ground fading almost instantly.

Illusimer being gone for the moment, the eerie glade fell silent as dawn approached.

The cloaked figure that had been called “master” stood alone in the sheltered thicket, a bone-chilling chuckle suddenly emitting from beneath the hanging hood.
            
                                     ‘As dawn approaches, hope shall soar,
                                     But when darkness falls,
                                      You shall be here no more..’

As the chant began to fade into the slowly growing light, a slight gust of wind drifted over the thicket, carrying the hooded being along with it.

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