Laufey and his crew spent the night at the compound in silence, preparing themselves for the day ahead, for when they lefts the following morning a yearning dwelt over them to be finished with their journey. What was meant to be only a weekend excursion had turned into a nightmare, and with one day left, Laufey knew they only had one chance to get Amma back. The thought of asking his father for help was humiliating. More importantly, what would she think?
Back up the mountain they went, the whole lot of them, trudging up what seemed like an infinite slope of rocks and roots. What, on any normal day, would have seemed to him a casual hike in the forest became a daunting task. Anke walked without aid, but fell into Kaun and his brothers frequently. Ragna kept friendly conversation up between herself and Geira all the while. Laufey assumed it was to distract the poor girl, who until that moment, was worried sick about her sister.
By the end of the day they had returned to their fire. The flecks of carbon in the fire pit were flat and matted down by the passing showers. All around them an ethereal presence permeated the air. There were spots of new growth that Laufey had never seen before in his life: thick emerald patches, with large leafs and waxen exteriors. Ragna looked around at the tree line nervously, cycling on her construct weapon.
"He never told us where to wait," she said warily.
"He's been here," Geira said, her eyes slowly scanning the surrounding bush. "I think we are in the right place. Stay close."
Not wishing to lose another of their company, they huddled around on another, each with their eyes focused on the trees. Laufey felt his body pressing up against Geira's and felt her warmth. There they waited with Anke pressed in the middle for safety.
They waited for an hour.
When Laufey was ready to give up, feeling rather irritated with himself that he lacked the sense to at least coordinate with the beast, he saw a rustling in the trees. Fading from the dimly lit canopy of the pines into the waning daylight the creature emerged, no longer shrouded by smoke and darkness as he was before. The creature was hairy and bestial, with the face of a man but the body of an ogre. Aspects of his body shifted in the light as if greater powers manifested around him. It's eyes were green, dilated, and inflamed, embedded in a world weary sunken visage.
"Oh... Hello again. You have brought the prize," it said in a moderated, breathy voice. Geira was facing the creature as it approached, limping towards her mesmerized by the vials attached to her waist.
"Stay right there," Laufey growled. "Where is she? We had a deal."
The creature halted in its tracks, blinking in confusion. Looking around quizzically, the creature heaved a sigh and then squinted really hard at part of the tree line. When he did, a shimmering veil broke apart in convulsion and revealed Amma, sitting down on a stump, thin, hungry, but otherwise unscathed. She she looked up, her eyes widened and stood up running towards them. Geira, turned to her sister and embraced her in tears. Laufey watched all this transpire, but never took his eyes off the creature, who stood expectantly and unimposing.
"The girl... please. For my rest... I have fulfilled my end." it said, slowly, patiently.
Amma stood back, burrowing herself in the center of them all next to Laufey and Anke.
"Just give him what he needs," she said in a still voice. "Please."
"Geira," Laufey said, "you heard her. Pass him the vial so we can leave."
Geira, without hesitation, unstrapped her vials and tossed the holster across the clearing to the beast. With it's large, clumsy hands, it took the vials and drank them hastily with satisfaction. A glassy haze formed in its eyes as they rolled back into its head. With a smile of peaceful relief, the creature fell forward to the ground dead.
"It wanted it this way," Amma said in a sad voice. "If only you knew..."
Horrified, Laufey shook his head in frustration and turned back to the fire pit, kicking it angrily.
They went home shortly after, and all was mostly well.