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I lived by myself in the forest.
I woke up everyday to the twittering melody of the morning birds, the gentle whoosh of the stream trickling by my hut. Peaceful and silent, I lived in solitude. No others rushing about. Cut off from any outside communications. Only the forest creatures to accompany me.
But I liked it. There was a certain rich quality to the silence, whether I was gathering berries, or wielding my maple bow. The lack of sound in the air was full of sound, if one listened hard enough. It took me a fair amount of time to fully appreciate it.
It was easy to survive. The stream provided forever lasting fresh water, the berries always remained plump and ripe, and the creatures were never difficult to shoot down.
The forest was some sort of haven to me. I would live forever and ever in this forest. Everything was so perfect, so flawless. Like a repeating rhythm. Nothing ever changed. So I never gave much thought about it – about anything, really. It seemed like a given.
That day, I would never forget it. The day my world changed, the day where my miniscule, perfect world expanded and I realized my world wasn’t so perfect after all. The day I would never come back to my hut from a hunting trip.
He was riding a grand, dark creature, a creature that seemed to spark recognition far back in my chained mind, but I just couldn’t grasp it. It had a humped shape, with bulging eyes on a strangely oval head. Every stride of the four-legged creature had a clicking sound.
But I was more fascinated on the rider. The man. He was clothed in fine, regal clothing, made with plush material I’d never seen before with these eyes. A golden crown of hair sat above black eyes. Black eyes that were boring into mine expressionlessly.
He was heading right toward me.
I stood rooted to the spot, too terrified to make a run for it. Who was he? I’d never seen a human in… I racked my brain, but it didn’t seem to respond quite right. I was hitting a manifested wall of blankness in my mind. I lost my sense of time. How long was I here? I was always here, from as far back I could recall. Questions rocketed around in my mind. Why was I here? I didn’t know.
The man approached me. He had a nice face, with a strong jaw and straight nose, but hard, black eyes. They didn’t look quite right, I thought. Not on such a nice face.
He spoke something sharply, in a language that was barely familiar to me. I didn’t understand.
He repeated. I struggled to understand the words. I hadn’t heard them since… my mind hit that wall again. Dizziness attacked with my every effort to remember.
The man cocked his head and his eyebrows furrowed.
I attacked the wall in my conscious again. Again and again, until I felt it crack and finally shatter into pieces. A flood of images poured into my mind, words that slowly began to make sense. Knowledge.
I spoke for the first time. “Hello.” My voice sounded raspy and unclear, but the man understood.
“Hello,” he replied. I could understand him. “Would you answer my question, miss?”
I liked his voice. It was deep and silky, nothing like I’ve ever heard before.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand before.” The new words flowing effortlessly out my mouth seemed odd aloud, but it still made sense in my mind.
The man looked at me closely. “What is your name?”
I tried to remember again. Then it struck me. “Stella.” It was a nice name.
“Stella.” the man repeated. “My name is Tobias. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He paused, his black eyes searching my face. “Pray tell, where are you from?”
I couldn’t remember, no matter how much I scoured my brain. There were hidden walls set up everywhere; I had no control of my mind. It frustrated me to the point of madness. I wasn’t strong enough to break through those walls.
“I don’t know.” It felt ridiculous to say.
Tobias leaned back. He must think I’m absurd, I thought. How often do you come upon somebody who didn’t know where she was from, let alone barely remember her name?
He seemed unfazed. The creature underneath him – a horse, my new knowledge reminded me – whinnied impatiently. I wondered what would happen next.
Then, what happened next was too quick for my brain to process. In a blur, the man – Tobias – leapt off his horse and a gleam of silver flashed in his hand. The hilt of his sword smashed against my head.
I managed to glimpse my captor’s face, his black eyes unfeeling as ever. That was the last of my perfect world I saw before I blacked out.