“Aren’t you scared?”
She glanced at the boy beside her; he was so small, but his eyes were sharp. Untainted, yet unafraid. She, all the more, had no reason to be. “It’s okay. She’s my friend.”
His expression was curious. “Friend?” Jonas asked tentatively, as if trying out the word for the very first time.
Luella nodded, her gaze on the path ahead. Something – or someone – was out there, just behind the veil of mist. “She’s not gonna hurt us,” she said with the certainty of a seven-year-old.
He seemed to sense the presence, too, for he suddenly tensed, and instinctively put his hand inside his jacket. He was only eleven, but he’d been forcibly trained as a soldier of the mountains; his fight-or-flight instincts were kicking in.
But Luella remained impassive. If she was breathing hard, it was only because of the hike, and not out of fear. “She’s not gonna hurt us,” she repeated.
They stepped through the mist and found themselves standing on the rim of a crater. Below was a lake, its water a very still dark blue.
“You said this was a volcano.”
She rolled her eyes. “It is. Didn’t you notice the dust, and the steam?”
He shrugged distractedly, captivated by the view. “It’s… pretty.”
“You think beauty can’t be destructive?” a voice behind them asked, soft but clear, and a little magical. It was disarming; Jonas made no attempt to reach for his gun, almost like he’d forgotten he had it.
They turned to see a woman who hadn’t been there before, but whose presence they felt with certainty earlier. She was undeniably beautiful, yet her features were forgettable.
“You’re an awfully long way from home, Luella Villareal,” she greeted.
Luella smiled. “So are you, Maria Makiling.” Then her expression turned serious, quickly moving on from the pleasantries. “I have a message from my father.”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.