The Labyrinth of the Witch
"Hey, guys, you know those bad luck wards we put on the cottage and the manor?" Kara called as she slid down the library ladder.
"You mean the ones we had to redo because you kept losing focus?" Adriane snickered.
"Yeah, those," Kara glared at Adriane.
"Yes, what about them?" Emily sighed as she booted up the computer.
"Well, it says here that unless you invite a dark creature in, it is barred from passing the wards."
"Cool. That will probably come in handy. Now if only we could find a way to put them on the Glade without having it absorb the magic," Adriane mused.
"Guys, we got some new emails," Emily announced as she scrolled through the list. "This one is from Sie—"
"Portal alert! Portal alert!" Ozzie screamed as he ran though the Ravenswood Manor to the library. His franticness was well justified. It was the first opening of the portal since the girls' summer vacation began and it was an exciting event. Ozzie rushed into the library, still screaming. Startled, Emily, Adriane, and Kara looked up from the computer and, without thinking, rushed down to the Portal Field.
The whirling colors were both overwhelmingly beautiful and incredibly foreboding. Adriane dropped low with Dreamer at her side, ready for whatever came through, and Lyra stood protectively in front of Kara. Emily stood to the side, Ozzie scampering around her feet.
"Where does it lead?" Kara asked, squinting into the depths of the portal.
"It just opened!" Ozzie exclaimed. Adriane readied her wolf stone, whipping gold fire around her arm, and the swirling portal became a vortex, sucking mage, ferret, mistwolf, and leopard alike closer.
It's pulling our magic! Dreamer howled. All slid closer, unable to break free, and were finally pulled through the portal. They tumbled onto the floor of a dark, dank corridor in a heap.
"Uh oh. If we're where I think we are, we shouldn't be here," Kara groaned as they struggled to their feet. There was a swish! and they were surrounded by spiders and reptilian creatures with sparking green staves.
"So nice of you to join us," the Spider Witch said, dropping from the ceiling. Adriane pushed herself in front of the others and Kara put a hand on her shoulder, amplifying her power. Adriane suddenly turned and blasted a gap in the ring of enemies. They dashed through, Adriane dealing with any spiders or lizards that they happened to meet. Ozzie slid from Emily's shoulder and darted in front of her, throwing her off balance. She stumbled and fell forward, her hands slipping on the wet stones when she tried to catch herself. Spiders clustered around her, blocking her exits. She screamed as one bit into her arm and began dragging her back to the witch. She was freed as a blast of magic sent the arachnids flying backwards. Emily staggered heavily to her feet and ran towards her friends. They were trapped in a dead end room, but Kara swung the heavy iron door closed behind her and they were safe. Having nothing to do, they sat.
"My clothes are soooo dirty," Kara moaned. Emily and Adriane couldn't help but laugh. They were exhausted. The healer leaned her back against a wall and closed her eyes. They dark energy in the Witch's lair was draining their strength. Kara yawned and Lyra snuggled up next to her. Dreamer collapsed next to Adriane and Emily slid down the wall, her hair covering her face, with Ozzie beside her. Before long they were all asleep.
The Spider Witch called her minions back to her, her eyes glinting gleefully. The Dark Sorceress appeared from the shadows behind her.
"They have escaped?" the Sorceress hissed angrily.
"No, they have been captured. Besides, we don't want them dead. We want their magic," the Witch smiled sickeningly.
"It is already ours."
Adriane felt a little better after her nap. It must have been a few hours, but they were safe, and for the moment that was all that mattered. Kara was stretching and yawning. Emily was tossing and turning restlessly.
"You awake yet?" Kara called to Adriane. Lyra and Dreamer stretched their lithe bodies in unison and turned back to their bonded.
"Yep. What about Emily?" Kara shrugged and both got up to wake her. She must be having a nightmare, Adriane thought when Emily's sweaty skin glinted in the light from the wolf stone and the unicorn jewel. I know I would be. "Wake up, Em. We need to get moving, find a portal out of here." Emily woke and blinked a few times, clearing her eyes of sleep.
"Do you guys feel weak?" she mumbled as she stood. The others, even the animals nodded.
It's the dark magic. It drains our strength, Lyra growled from beside the door. This time it took Adriane and Kara to open the door. They were surprised that the Witch hadn't posted guards at the entrance to the room.
"Maybe she doesn't remember this is a dead end. She was in the Otherworlds for a while," Emily suggested from behind them. They walked in silence for a few moments before Adriane and Kara looked down at their jewels. They were pulsing with warning light.
"Do you know where
we are?" Adriane asked Kara urgently.
"I never went this deep," Kara admitted.
"Hey-" Emily started wearily from behind them.
"You have to remember something!" Adriane burst out exasperatedly.
"G-guys-" Emily called weakly. Her strength was almost spent.
"I don't remember!" Kara said testily. "It was a long time ago and I don't have a perfect memory."
"Stop it, please!" Emily moaned. Her vision was beginning to blur and her head was foggy. She put a hand to her forehead and rubbed her eyes. When she opened them again, the room began to spin. Her eyes closed again and she slid to the floor, her knees making a dull thud! and then her head making a sickening thwack! as it cracked against the stones.
"Do you know where
we are?" Adriane asked Kara urgently. She felt the need to get out
of the evil lair growing.
"I never went this deep," Kara admitted.
"Hey-" Emily started wearily from behind them. Neither answered, too caught up in their argument.
"You have to remember something!" Adriane burst out exasperatedly. The dumb blonde routine was getting old.
"G-guys-" Emily called weakly.
"I don't remember!" Kara said testily. Adriane was getting on her nerves. "It was a long time ago and I don't have a perfect memory."
"Stop it, please!" Emily moaned. They ignored her. Adriane opened her mouth to say something, but instead spun on her heel at a thud! that resounded through the hall. She and Kara turned just in time to see Emily's head whack the floor with a hollow thwack! They both rushed to her side, Kara feeling for pulse, Adriane checking her jewel. It beat in time with her faint heartbeat. Adriane glanced over her friend's body for injuries and saw the gash that the spider had made. It was glowing a faint, sickly purple.
"Poison," she muttered under her breath. "We need to find a way to heal her, now!" Adriane ordered.
"Easy there, Xena, I'm a blazing star, not a healer!" Emily was groaning, her body trembling with the chills of fever.
"Well we need to do something fast! She could die!"
"What should we do! Neither of us can heal her! We ne-"
Stop! Lyra commanded from Emily's side. Your bickering is going to get us nowhere. Adriane, you have healing magic from when you shared your power with Emily. Kara, you can strengthen that magic. Ozzie also has healing magic and Dreamer and I will help however we can, she explained. The mages nodded, not sure whether it would work. Adriane held out her wolf stone and focused on the healing side of her powers, forming a sphere of gold and blue power. Emily let out a strangled cry and her muscles tightened. The poison was reacting with their magic. Kara lent her strength and determination in white unicorn fire. The sphere grew. Ozzie, Lyra, and Dreamer added their magics to the blaze and Adriane let it wash over the healer. She relaxed and gasped as the power coated her skin and sunk in. Ozzie leapt onto Emily's chest and patted her cheek.
"Wake up, Emily, c'mon," he urged the redhead. Emily shifted slightly and opened bleary eyes, uncomprehending and filmy, as they all gaped at the transformation. They were the feral slits of the sorceress shot through with violet veins, and a sickly purple glow was spreading under her skin. The spider's venom was transforming her. The healer's mouth opened in a desperate plea for help, but only a pained moan escaped her pale lavender lips. Her body suddenly jerked and her back arched, throwing Ozzie against Lyra, who caught the surprised ferret in just in time to hear Emily scream and disappear in a clap of purple light.
Adriane stared in horror at the bare stones before her. She felt drained and worn, as though all hope had been stolen from her.
"She's gone," Kara whispered breathlessly from across the hall. Even the animals were shocked into silence.
"GaH! We have to find her!" Ozzie exploded suddenly, leaping off of Lyra's back and scampering down the dank corridor.
"Ozzie get back here! We can't just bust in there. She'll be expecting us, maybe even watching us," Adriane called.
"Even if we knew where 'there' is," Kara grumbled. Lyra leapt after the ferret and grasped his tail firmly between her teeth.
"Hey! Put me down you big fuzzball!"
Fuzzball? Hmph, you seem to forget yourself elf, she chuckled as she set him on the ground. He smoothed his fur down indignantly and looked up at the mages.
"Well? How are we going to find Emily?" They looked at each other and Adriane looked down.
"We don't know." Silence fell once again, more ominous and foreboding than before. "We can't work together. Emily was the balance between us."
"We'll just have to find a way around it," Kara said firmly. "Do you think we can lock onto her jewel with our magic?"
"It's worth a try," Adriane shrugged dejectedly. Both girls closed their eyes to focus and their jewels began pulsing with soft light. Kara's hand suddenly shot out and grasped Adriane's.
"Feel that?" she mumbled, her eyes squeezed tight. Adriane nodded, forgetting for a moment that Kara couldn't see.
Emily? The redhead jerked out of her restless slumber, bumping her head against the rough stone wall. Her fiery curls were tangled beyond hope and her bloodshot eyes glowed purple as they flickered between catlike and human. Are you there?
No! Go away!
Emily, please, we just want to help. Emily tentatively brushed the connection. She didn't trust her senses to tell her that Kara and Adriane were speaking. Silver magic splashed over her vision and pink fire exploded behind her eyes.
Can you stop the lightshow? My head hurts. The flares receded to a faint glow.
Sorry. Can you tell us where you are? Kara whispered.
I don't know. There's a black bowl with w-water in it that the sorceress uses to spy on you. The doors are metal and…clean, no spider webs. The…the witch also has a glass globe in a web for the same purpose. And there's a web over the t—she's coming! Emily cut the connection and listened. Her eyes were useless. As they switched back and forth between human and cat the room went from palpably dark to comfortably bright and back. A hand touched her shoulder and the room brightened…permanently. She didn't see the sorceress, but her frigid breath carried the now familiar tang of dark magic. The thought of such power made her body buzz with hunger, but she shuddered and pushed the thought far away. A pale hand flexed out claws and took her arm. A thin line of blood appeared across her palm and lips pressed against her skin, drinking their fill. Her mouth opened to cry out, but rich liquid dripped down her throat keeping her silent. Fire raced through her body as dark and light met. I fought hard, Emily whispered across the immeasurable void growing between her and her friends. She heard a sigh and the hand pulled away.
"Not much longer now, my daughter. You will know what must be done when the time is right." The Dark Sorceress swept out of the room and Emily looked up, her vision as clear as daylight.
"This is useless!" Adriane burst out, her jewel flaring with her temper. Kara flopped onto the floor and looked wearily up and the raven haired girl. "We've been wandering around for ages looking for this mystery room that we only have a vague description of! I mean, a bowl of water for scrying, a door with no webs, and a crystal ball in a web for the same thing? She doesn't even make any sense!"
"She's sick, Adriane. You can't expect her to," Kara mumbled, stifling a yawn. The warrior sank to the ground beside her and rubbed her face. Adriane was on her feet again in a split second.
"We need to keep moving. This is when the poison struck, when we were resting. The dark magic saps our strength…but remember when we got through the Dark Sorceress' lair?"
"Yeah. Our laughter helped us." Kara stood and stretched, Lyra rubbing up against her. "Better be careful," she murmured looking down. "We'll all think you've gone and turned into a harmless little housecat."
Yes, well you would be sorely mistaken Lyra sniffed. Adriane chuckled weakly, but their smiles seemed to light up the corridor.
"C'mon furballs. Lets get a move on," Adriane grinned and began walking with Dreamer at her feet.
"Hey, who you calling a 'furball'?" Kara called after her indignantly. Snorts and giggled rang down the hallway, barely penetrating the thick gloom of the dark courtyard towards which they unknowingly headed.
"Laugh while you can, mages. You've never tasted my fire." Deep hazel eyes with catlike slits glared through the darkness and the violet veins running through them pulsed brighter until they glowed, but the light was swallowed up by the thick shadows that blanketed the edges of the room, clinging to the arched doorways like sinister black frosting, and never reached her face. Sickly purple magic raced up the pale girl's arm in veins, but only her fangs glinted in the ghostly light. She laid her hands in her lap and watched as silver claws slid from her fingers. The twisted mage shifted slightly so that she was turned towards two figures who conversed quietly in the corner. "They're coming for me," she called in a low taunting voice.
"Excellent. Lure them here and we will take care of the rest," the creature hissed in approval. A tall, slim woman in a black cloak stepped forward and knelt beside the column.
"Be careful my daughter," a pale hand ran claws through her curls. "I want to be able to celebrate this victory with you at my side."
"I will, Mother, I promise." The girl stood, her fiery hair barely catching the glint of a glowing crystal ball set in a web sitting beside a thick silken weaving not yet finished. A faint ray of light fell across her cold freckled face and she squinted her new eyes, eyes that saw all, against it. "They won't know what hit them."
5: Crystalline Hopes
Healing magic, Dreamer barked. His sleek black coat rippled with excitement as Adriane held up her jewel for light.
"Lead the way, packmate," she said confidently. Kara put a hand on Lyra's back for comfort and felt the leopard purr reassuringly. They had been plodding along steadily for a couple minutes when something on the floor reflected the light of the wolf stone.
"Hold up," Kara called to Adriane. The warrior stopped and looked exasperatedly over at the blonde.
"C'mon, we don't have time for fashion!" she groaned. Kara glared up at her and stood with something clenched in her fist.
"I found this on the floor, Xena," Kara said, tipping the jagged crystal onto the palm of Adriane's hand. Ozzie scampered up Adriane's leg and picked up the stone.
"Wow. Are you sure this is safe? I mean it looks kind of—"
"Shhh! What was that?" Kara hissed. A bright purple flash left them all with afterimages floating across their vision and a thin thread of purple magic connected with Adriane's jewel. She yelped and tried to pull away, but the thread became a cord, and then a thick rope. Reaching out with her power, Kara formed a blade of diamond magic as she had seen Adriane do and sheared through the lavender light. The remaining magic attached to the wolf stone turned aqua blue and Adriane tentatively brushed it with a finger. A familiar sensation of warmth and light fizzled up her arm and she grimaced. Her grimace turned to a look of surprise as the healing magic slithered into the crystal, which began to glow blue as well. She held it up for the rest to see.
"This is Emily's magic. Whatever that was is using her power to fuel their dark magic." Kara frowned, unsure at Adriane's conclusion.
"This was a trap," Kara realized, her eyes lighting up as she formed her thoughts. "It all fits together! The portal was a spelled vortex to pull us here and then capture us all…but something went wrong."
"When Emily was bitten by that spider, her healing magic was directly affected because she doesn't have the same aggressive magic that we have," Adriane finished.
"The Spider Witch and the Dark Sorceress called on the magic that had infected her and poof" Kara exclaimed, "she vanished."
So we may have to fight her, Lyra stated grimly. Kara nodded, her frown deepening.
"Hmph, and I always thought you and your kitty were just dumb blondes." Kara looked up indignantly, her eyes blazing at the insult. She met the stony, purple eyes of redheaded teen with translucently pale skin that showed the flickering curls of dark indigo magic. Her jewel was a swirling mix of black and deep lilac that sent out sparks to be swallowed up by the thick darkness. Lyra growled warningly, but Kara's anger melted away and pity and…was that fear its place? "You should fear me, mages. I'm your worst nightmare come to life," Emily sneered. "Catch me if you can." She vanished down the hallway and Adriane took off after her.
"Wait!" Kara had to pull Adriane back to keep her from charging into the next room. Still, Adriane struggled against Kara and the animals. "Look at me!" Adriane complied and the blazing star caught a glimpse of pain and fear in her black eyes. "We can't just barge in there! This is part of the trap. They're going to lure us in and do exactly what they did to Emily!"
"And what do you suggest we do? Just leave her to die?"
"No, I'm saying why don't we plan this out before we start the ball rolling so that we have time to get out of the way before it crushes us!" Adriane nodded and looked down. Silence took the hallway, stretching the air taught until the tiniest breath was an explosion.
"We should take Emily out first and then deal with the witch and the sorceress. If Emily is the focus of their plan, that should weaken them," the warrior suggested, her eyes sparkling again.
"You know," Ozzie cocked his fuzzy head, "if you catch more of Emily's magic in that crystal, we could amplify it and heal her." The mages looked at Lyra and Dreamer for confirmation.
Maybe it is worth keeping you around after all, Dreamer huffed, cuffing the ferret with a paw.
"C'mon! Now that we've got a plan," Adriane grinned at Kara, "we should put it to work."
"Couldn't have said it better myself." The five raced down the hallway to save their friend.
The group entered a small, almost churchlike room with a raised platform of stone in the center. Emily sat there, her dark eyes daring them to come closer.
"Things aren't quite ready, so we can't proceed yet. I figure we might as well wait here, but what's the fun in waiting without a few games, hmm?" the healer's mouth twisted in a sinister, mocking grin.
"As long as we get to go first," Kara reasoned, unconsciously stalling.
"I don't want to play with you," Emily pouted, levering herself off the dais.
"Why not?" Kara challenged. Maybe if we stall long enough, we won't have to fight her, she whispered to Adriane.
Because you cheat! The redhead's words lanced through Kara's mind and white lights exploded behind her eyes. She clutched her head and moaned in pain. Lyra unfurled her wings and covered Kara protectively. Emily's cruel laugh made her angry, but Adriane still barely managed to spin a shield in time as dark magic flew at her.
"GaaAaaHh!" Ozzie screamed as the power bounced off the golden magic and ricocheted around the room. It lightened and became a pale, spearmint green that the uneven crystal readily absorbed.
"We don't have to do this," Adriane warned. Emily sneered derisively, her eyes sparkling with perverse pleasure. "You aren't yourself! Think of your mother, your fam—"
"What I think you fail to realize, warrior, is that I am Emily. I am your pathetic healer, but my powers have changed. Think of me as a different side of her personality. I'm everything your kind, loving, caring Emily fears," she began pacing the room with dark magic spiraling from her jewel and twining around her, "but I'm also stronger. I've finally beaten the good side back. The Dark Sorceress gave me her blood to ease the pain, and I gave mine in return. In a sense, she is my mother." Adriane narrowed her eyes, angered yet again by the inhumanness of the girl who stood before her.
"You may look like Emily, you may speak with the same voice, you may even use her magic, but I will never believe that you are her!" A thick blast of magic shot out of the poisoned jewel and Adriane moved swiftly to avoid it. With a howl Dreamer leapt at Emily and snapped viciously. While she dodged the attack, she lost her concentration. The connection to the dark mage was severed and the stream of healing magic flew to the crystal in Adriane's hand. The crystal began to glow fiercely now, warming in Adriane's hand. Kara tottered unsteadily towards Adriane and placed her hand on the crystal, basking in the cool glow. Dark energy flowed up her arm, but Emily stood uncharacteristically still, as though waiting. Black eyes met a flicker of warm hazel in the hard violet irises and the warrior saw her chance. A light, far away voice whispered, Do it now! when she hesitated and Adriane, her power fueled by the unicorn gem, threw a blast of wolf magic at Emily collapsed in a heap against the wall. Kara delved deep into the crystal and thrust her magic into the blue depths, deeper even than the ocean for which her redheaded friend stood. The blazing star rushed to the healer's side and laid the crystal on her chest, pushing the power outward until her body ached with the effort. Adriane knelt as well and put her hand over Kara's, but nothing happened.
"It's her magic," Ozzie reminded them. "You have to heal her magic first." Kara shook her head. She couldn't think straight anymore. Her hands trembled as she moved the crystal to Emily's wrist.
"Stay strong, Emily. We're going to get you back!" Adriane insisted, but it was more to reassure herself than the unconscious girl before her. Pale turquoise light rippled up her pallid arm pulling color and warmth back into her skin and absorbing the weak lavender light that veined between the freckles on her face. A sudden moan brought them out of their reverie, and they looked down as Emily's body shifted. Gazing up at them were drowsy hazel eyes, human eyes.
"Emily!" Ozzie leapt onto her chest and wrapped his fuzzy arms around her neck. Adriane smiled brightly, her eyes sparkling in the light of their jewels. Kara reached out and, with a bright smile, helped her sit up.
Are you well, Healer? Lyra asked, nuzzling Emily's ear.
"Better than I was, that's for sure," she smiled at the leopard and scratched her ears. Dreamer licked her and she ran her hand over his sleek black coat.
"Let's get moving shall we?" Adriane held her hand out and helped Emily stand. With that they began walking down the hallways, the three mages and their bonded ready for anything.
"The only way out of here is the portal in the courtyard," Emily told them as they walked through the hallways.
"So, basically, we have to get past the Dark Sorceress, the Spider Witch and their disgusting minions to get home?" Kara winced. Emily nodded, goose bumps rising on her arms.
"Don't worry," Ozzie said firmly, his ferret stone glowing brightly. "We'll get through this."
"We hope," Adriane murmured. They continued, hardly noticing Emily guiding their way.
"They'll be here soon and your plan has failed, again!" the Spider Witch hissed angrily.
"Your plan failed in the beginning as well. At least some good will come of my actions." The Spider Witch squinted at the sorceress, suspicion making her wary.
"And just what is that?"
"The healer is my kin now. She must come when I call, even if she doesn't want to. True, she may resist, but I will make her. Until she yields, I can see and hear through her. I can influence her friends through her magic, make them so suspicious that she will come to me willingly. I will have her."
"You have no reason for having her."
"She is my daughter," the Dark Sorceress said simply.
"Her magic is weak, useless to us! You are a fool!"
"Perhaps, perhaps not. We shall see what she can do," the Dark Sorceress' fangs glinted in the ghostly light of the crystal orb. "You shall see."
"This is the courtyard?" Adriane asked, her eyebrows widening in disbelief.
"I certainly hope you didn't expect it to be outside. The witch hates all things elemental. Even her spiders are spawned from her dark magic." Two of the mages turned, their eyes searching for any possible danger. The third was drawn to a bowl of black water on an ornately carved stone column, now shattered in half to make a waist high stone pedestal. A pale figure with white lightning streaking her hair looked calmly through the water.
"What do you want?" Emily said in a strained voice.
"What I can have anytime I wish," the sorceress whispered, her lips curling in a smile. Emily shivered and looked down. Adriane came up beside Emily and Kara appeared on her other side. They glared at the vision as it rippled from the water and disappeared. As if on cue, a portal popped into existence in the center of the room.
"C'mon, let's get out of here," Kara urged, hurrying over to the whirling splash of color. "Yep, it's our way home," she called back to them as she quickly hopped through and back. Adriane nudged Emily and walked away. Emily shook her head and moved toward them. As Ozzie's furry tail disappeared through the portal, a voice echoed through the room.
"You will be mine, Emily. You will be me!" Emily spun on her heel, halfway to the portal.
"NO!" she screamed, her arm whipping around her head and her eyes flickering violet. Sparking amethyst magic flung the bowl to the ground, spattering the vile liquid shadows across the stones. "I am nothing like you!" She sent purple lightning at the crystal and it shattered, sending shards everywhere. Magic fire rebounded off of a curtain of thick, artificial shadows and the weaving shivered into view. A bubble of air distorted her vision and she felt as though she was traveling the Web, her arms prickling and a sense of timelessness came over her.
"It is timeless, my daughter. The clock has stopped ticking for everyone but you and me," the Dark Sorceress wrapped pale arms around her and Emily fell to her knees in the warm embrace, sobbing and hiccupping like a child, exhausted after a tantrum, will fall into a mother's arms. They stayed as such for what seemed like hours for them and then the sorceress broke the silence. "You must go now, my daughter. The mages and their animals will be worried." Emily nodded and stood, her face as normal as it had been before. "Remember, I will always be here. Call me and I will come."
"I will, Mother." Emily turned and exited the bubble, feeling a whoosh of disorientation as time started up again. She shook her head and entered the portal.
"Interesting," the witch murmured from the corner. She moved out of the shadows towards the weaving. "She has so much power, and so much pain. It is difficult to fathom how much she is concealing if she can shatter my magic with so little effort."
"She looks and acts sweet, but her blood is like acid. She won't be difficult to turn, but she will be extremely independent and difficult to control."
"I'm sure you'll find a way."
"I always get what I want," the Dark Sorceress agreed.
"Hey! We almost came looking for you!" Kara announced, a bit worried as Emily came through the portal.
"I came through right after Ozzie," Emily insisted, shrugging her shoulders.
"What's that in your hair?" Kara picked out a small shard of glass, squinting at it in the bright sunlight of the Ravenswood Preserve.
"I was on the floor for a while. Must have gotten caught," Emily brushed the question off. Adriane narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
"C'mon. It doesn't seem any later than when we entered the portal, but we'll have to check and see," she said warily, unable to shake off the feeling that something was wrong.
And then we're taking a nap, Lyra yawned, coming up beside Kara.
"I think we all are," Emily smiled weakly. They headed towards the house, trekking though the forest. When they reached the door of the cottage in the back, however, Emily paused and looked around, her eyes seeming to search the trees.
"Come in, Emily, so we can close the door! You're letting out all the cold air," Kara invited in annoyance. Emily looked down as she entered and a small smile crossed her lips. This may be easier than she'd thought.