day one of #noperfectprose
The night was cloudy and the forest was restless. Aowyn trod lightly through the underbrush, careful not to make too much noise. She paused by a weathered oak and tried to catch her breath. Purple and red lights twinkled in the distance. Above her, an owl hooted and made every last hair on her body stand on end.
The lights were difficult to follow as they moved sporadically across the horizon. Aowyn ran and ran, her legs pumping wildly beneath her until they were numb. She tried not to think of Jez, or the trained band of trackers that was probably gaining on her with every moment that passed. Not for the first time, she wondered if she’d just made the biggest (and possibly last) mistake of her life.
Aowyn heard a howling to her left, and immediately banked right, taking care to keep the faraway lights in her sight. Fairies were fickle, and known to withdraw their assistance from those not nimble and clever enough for their liking. Her lungs were on fire, each breath felt like forcing air through smoldering wool.
She forced herself to keep going, focusing on the changing lights and telling herself that once she reached them she would be safe, truly safe. It was a feeling she hadn’t experienced in years, and for it she was willing to risk everything. There were things that Jez didn’t know, things that Jez couldn’t know, without being forced to stop pretending that she cared for Aowyn. How ashamed she would be, to have to round up her own little sister with the rest of the others. After she had worked so very hard to be Chosen.
The sun started to rise in the east, and soon the fairy village would be indistinguishable among the flowered trees at the edge of the forest. Then it would be too late. Aowyn hadn’t heard any noises from behind her in a while, but instead of being relieved the silence made her anxious. She chanced a look over her shoulder, and saw only trees and the rising fog. It seemed impossible that the band of trackers had lost her scent when they had caught so many others, but Aowyn knew better than to question luck. Maybe there were unseen forces in her wake that had decided to lend a helping hand.
She stumbled through a thicket, barely noticing the clawed branches scraping at her face and dress. After fighting her way through the closely gathered trees, a sudden lack of impediment made her fall to the ground. Righting herself, she looked around frantically, trying to find the guiding lights and orient herself once more. There was something about the clearing that nagged at the back of her mind, something about the oversized violets and fiery rose bushes, but there was no time to indulge the feeling.
Aowyn started to run forward once more, desperately hoping that her path had stayed true, when a soft pop made her turn around. What she saw was like fitting the last piece in a puzzle she didn’t know she’d been solving, her stomach curdled and she sank to the ground.
“I had to try,” she whimpered, more to the air than to herself.
Across from her stood Jez, wand in hand, with her arm raised and a sad smile on her face. “Come on, Wynnie. It’s time to come home.”