Kestrel stood in the shadows at the edge of the trees. She watched Maggie run to greet her mother, and she saw Maggie’s father close the barn doors and lock in the chickens. He turned slowly, scanning the pasture, looking at the trees. Kestrel laughed to herself and stepped quietly back into deeper shadows. “He thinks he can stop me, but he can’t. No one can.”
The house glowed. Warm lights shone through the windows, and smoke wisped up through the chimney, its tendrils slowly dispersing in the night breeze. “You think you’re safe in there, with your warm fire and cozy kitchen,” Kestrel thought. “You’re wrong.”
“I’m going to kill you right where you and those stupid friends of yours saw my mother and me. I’ll slip my knife between your ribs, complete the circle and be reborn.”
Maggie felt a shiver along her spine. “Kestrel’s near,” she told her father. “I can feel her. She’s watching us. And waiting.”
“She can’t get you here, “Maggie’s father tried to reassure her. “She won’t get past me.”
Maggie wished that was true, but she just smiled and hugged her father. “I know, Dad. Thank you for protecting me.”
Outside, Kestrel turned and strode further into the trees. She found the spot where she and her mother had cast their dark circle. Opening the bag she carried on her shoulder, Kestrel took out the tools she needed. Her knife flashed in a sliver of moonlight. Satisfied she was ready; Kestrel pulled her cloak closer around her and sat on the ground to wait.
Kestrel felt the air above her move with the beating of wings. Looking up, she could barely make out darker shadows among the trees. Big shadows. She heard the “Who-who-who” of a great horned owl. “Who-who” answered another. Then Kestrel ducked as two owls swooped down and scraped her head with their sharp talons. “Again?”, she thought. “Birds are attacking me again?