Instead, he forced himself to stay still, to breathe with the earth as his mother had taught him, to let the worms burrow between his fingers and under the cuffs of his trousers. He leaned back into a bramble-bush, ignoring the thorns that caught on his shirt, scratched at his too sensitive skin. He pulled one knee up to his chest, kinked an elbow, trying to mimic the shape of the bushes, their twist and snarl and felt his lips follow suit.
He could feel his heart pounding, each beat slower than the last, but heavier, as if the blood pulsing throughout his body was not merely blood but some mix of sap and earth and the thrumming echo of the nearing hoof-beats and the over-taxed organ struggling to compensate.
Eric’s nose itched but he resisted the urge to scratch. The exposed skin on his arms seemed to glow in the moon-light, too pale to possibly blend into the green and brown mesh of the weeds and bushes he had settled in. A part of Eric was terrified, a very small, very human part of himself that wanted nothing more than to wipe the dirt from his fingers and run as fast and as far as his legs might take him.
Instead, he sat still, forcing that very small, very human part of himself to the back of his mind as he tried to recall his mother’s lessons.Earth magic was slow, was subtle, was magnificent.
The horses shied at the crossroads, bestial senses all too aware that magic was at work. They shied and pulled at their bits, tossing their heads and whinnying in alarm. But their riders, cursing with whip in hand, saw nothing, sensed nothing, felt only irritation at the delay, the trail gone cold.
Caleb, the last of the riders, was the first to move his horse forward, striking the poor beast with curse and with whip, setting his heels into its sides. His eyes, dark and angry, looked directly at the bramble bush, at Eric with his kinked elbow and bloodied thorn-pricked flesh and saw nothing.
Eric waited as each horse and rider passed by, each set of angry eyes, each red-ink tattoo. He could have named them all, every man among them once his friend, every man among them sworn now to his death. He swallowed against the urge to call out, to protest once again his innocence, to plead for a mercy he knew they dared not show. Instead, he stayed where he was, in plain sight and out of sight all at once and suddenly certain that would never change.
Tears burned in his eyes so he shut them, wishing he could follow after them, join his brothers on their quest for vengeance, his heart filled with the same sense of self-righteous fury, of hate. He stayed where he was, his hands coated with dirt and, beneath that, with Shanna’s blood.
Author's Note: Another snippet...maybe the start of something more. I'm having fun! Yay!