"Bandits came to Zordain, a few months ago," she said, "It was a massacre. Raachel gave Kari to me, told me to hide. But I looked back. I saw her die."
She stopped talking and saw Nathan's eyes grow cold.
"We hid, waited. A few hours later it was safe to come out. There were so many still dying. A few others were left, relatively unharmed. We knew that the safest place would be here. Unfortunately that meant we would have to come through the Forest of the Catmorphs"
She remembered that day too well. They had been almost through the forest and were relaxed, letting their guard down. Kari skipped on ahead and chattered to Josef as they walked. Kaleb hung back silent as ever. Aria turned back just in time to see him fall to the ground, his blood filling the air. The catmorph stood six feet tall. It's tawny brown hair fell in a sheet down it's back and it's brown eyes looked bored, but feral. It slowly raised its hand to its mouth and blew on its fingernails. It wasn't the sight of Kaleb's blood dripping from those perfectly shaped, razor sharp nails or fear for her own life that made her through the knife through its heart. Instead it was her own rage at its casual reaction to murder that made her react. Josef drew the sword that he had salvaged from the ruins and Aria drew her second knife. While sprinting to retrieve the first she remembered what Nathan had told her about catmorphs. They lived in family groups of five to fifteen in the forests. Stealth was their main asset. They had a cat's agility and balance and could jump slightly higher or further than normal. They had exceptional night vision and better daytime sight than humans or even elves. If you were attacked then your best chance was to win as fast as possible. Their natural instinct was to toy with their victims, but once that was over their increased speed meant the odds were against you.
Then there was no time left to think. Four of the monsters attacked her and three Josef. She got her back against a tree and lashed out wildly. One fell dead, but another blocked her. She felt a sudden shard of pain in her left arm. When she looked at it blood was dripping slowly staining her hand a pale shade of pink. Forcing herself to look away she could feel her face go pale green. She struggled to stay conscious and keep fighting. She was dimly aware of her knives slipping from her grasp. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Josef fall. A high-pitched scream cut through the air, but she was too far gone to care. As she fell back against the tree and slid down its trunk she gave up and let the blackness surround her.
"When I woke up I was safe in the Wardens' camp, but everyone else was dead. The scream I heard was Kari dying." She began crying, becoming hysterical within a few seconds. "Kari's dead and its all my fault!"
She could feel Nathan put his arms around her, protecting her and rested her head on his shoulder. Gradually she ran out of tears, but couldn't stop screaming. Nathan's hand went to his belt and he pulled out a small vial of dark purple liquid. He tipped some in her mouth and she willingly swallowed. She recognised the taste as that of eiderberry juice, a powerful sleep elixir. As she drifted to sleep one thought stayed in her mind: 'It's all my fault'.