“Wait!”703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡx0SIvtUYMa
Arahlynn stumbled back a step, removing her foot from the boundary line. Craning her neck, she looked back at the male who had called out to her. Confusion was written clearly across her face. With eyebrows dipped and lips pinched, she made her way over to the counsellor who had called a halt to her progress.703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRA7DvUXJ82
“You have forgotten the one thing that may be able to keep you safe,” the man spoke, softly.703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXA1ZFaACzd
Arahlynn studied his face, looking for any indication as to what she could have forgotten.703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNS8WgSRKA7
The man pulled aside his burgundy robe to reveal a taut, mahogany bow and quiver set; complete with arrows.703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡP3nWmapvTs
How could she have forgotten? Sure she had her fathers revolver, but what good would five rounds do her against the beasts that reside within the woods?703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡH6F3ZWq3L6
The man's tattooed eyebrows crinkled as he assessed the young woman before him. Her emotions played out across her face like a moving picture; confusion, worry, realisation and dread. He suspected she was dreading being alone, or entering the woods. He and his associates had drummed it into the community that the woods were to be feared, ever since they began their reign four-and-a-half-thousand years before.
“Thank you, Orist.” She plucked the gear up from beside the counsellor, pushing the bow and quiver onto her shoulder. She smiled at the man, trying to conceal the pit of dread that had formed within her. Scenarios of what could have happened without her bow swirl within the pit, lending a feeding hand to nausea.
Nodding a goodbye, Arahlynn watched the retreating backs of the counsellors as they made their way to the village. Her mother still stood sniffling into the corner of her shawl, her tears flowing more freely now it was just the two of them.
“Go quickly and return safe,” the mother sobbed, turning away from her daughter. She could not bare to watch her child disappear beyond the trees. The stoic mask she had tried to erect had crumbled so quickly, as if made from dry sand.
It upset Arahlynn to see her parent in such distress, but it would not deter her from her mission.
Pivoting on her heel she made her way back to the border. The woods seemed darker now. The trees that towered over her were quiet and unmoving, waiting for her to take the plunge. They seemed to lean in her direction, moving closer to the action, their bony limbs pointing down the path she must take.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed one leather boot over the border. “Goodbye, mother,” she whispered, closing her eyes, as she leaned forward and pulled her other foot into the woods.
Planting both feet firmly on the ground, her eyes remained shut. She felt a stiff wind fluff her hair around her shoulders, like she was standing in the eye of a tornado.
Slowly the quietness of the woods gave way to chirping song birds and rustling leaves. Opening one eye first, she peered at the forest, before snapping the lid shut again. She wondered if what she had seen was real, or if her mind was naive enough to conjure such beauty.
Slowly peeling her eyes open, she peered through her lashes. The woods were not dark at all, but bright and shining. The sun pierced through the canopy, lighting up the grassy leaf covered ground and highlighting the trunks of oak trees. Opening her eyes fully, she saw their low-hanging branches were widespread like a welcoming embrace. A multitude of coloured flowers and toadstools grew between lifting roots, whereas various types of fungi sprouted out upon the surfaces of the trees trunks. Some looked as if they had stepping stones growing up and around their base. Raindrops from the previous night trickled down the bark, as miniscule droplets fell from the canopy, creating a fine sheet of mist.
Arahlynn stood slack-jawed for a moment, amazed at the mystical comfort of the woods. She had never seen grass so green, or flowers so bright. Stepping closer to a large oak, she ran her fingertips over the fungi that sat within the cracks. Never had she felt anything so soft, yet so delicate.
She grinned at the coming adventure, she was sure it would be the best thing to happen to her in her lifetime. The dangers she had grown up believing seemed dramatic and exaggerated compared to the wondrous sight before her.
A pocket sized blue-bird swooped out of the sky and perched on a branch near to her. It looked her straight in the eye and began to squawk. Arahlynn flinched. She didn't know something so small could make such a belly-aching racket. Cupping her hands over her ears, she span around -searching for somewhere to hide in case the birds call drew in the beasts.
The trees were out of bounds, she didn't need to worry about upsetting the rest of the flock. Her eyes glanced about the forest at a rapid pace. Her heart began to smash wildly against her chest, and pain bloomed with the force. Then she thought of the way she came, if she could duck out of the woods, hopefully the bird will be calm once again.703Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBjlHqTkav5
Frantically, she spun on her heel toward the direction she came. She stopped and looked. Her eyes grew wide. She had expected to see the village, but what she saw instead set the foundation for fear to blossom in her heart.ns126.96.36.199da2