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Briar of the Ash
Author's note: This was actually my NaNoWriMo project, but I failed to stay consistent to it. So I took the chapters and placed them here!
“Remember Briar, stay close. Be careful you don't get lost in the crowd,” Analyne's voice steered me back to her side, from which I was drifting away from. I was easily distracted by the things around me with all the shouting and flashing and jingling that common for the concrete forest.
“I know,” I replied absentmindedly, paying more attention to the strange sights, sounds, and smells that bombarded my senses. My head whipped around to the sound of a ... bell? Was that what Kaden and the others called it? Then the smell of fish entered my nose, followed by a strange mix of herbs and spices. Things flashed, causing me to cringe away from the brightness. I hated it when market day came around, especially since Analyne dragged me here, despite how much I struggled. I never liked the town. Or as I called it, the concrete forest. Where was the grass beneath my toes.
Before I realized it, I became disoriented and confused, only just managing to stay by my sister's side. Thinking of the forest and its peaceful quiet, its clean scent, and the calming scene, my thoughts became less muddled and confused, and my senses cleared a little. Analyne knew how much I hated coming here. I stuck out enough with my 'strange' clothing and 'unusual' hair color and length. Or so the villagers liked to point out. They had never seen a forest dweller before I guess.
“Briar! Over here!” I looked up and say my sister waving at me from a nearby stand. Coming closer, I soon realized her intent on bringing me here. On the stand were various metal strings and shiny stones that glinted with a strange gleam. I knew instantly that some of those must be fake. What did Analyne call them? Jewelry? Necklaces? She was always wearing one. “Do you like them?” Her voice cut through my thoughts, and I looked up at here with a curious and strange look.
“Analyne, they're just fake stones made to look shiny and real hanging from a simple metal string. I mean, they did do great on the shiny part, but what's to like?”
My sister sighed. She had obviously expected this answer. “They are necklaces, Briar. They're made to look pretty and shiny. Girls wear them to try and make themselves look pretty and to help attract a guy. Just... try one on for me please.”
I had expected this too. I sighed myself, rolling my eyes. “They're pointless if you ask me.”
“You can't live in the forest forever you know. You've got to learn how to live with humans sometime, not just the animals.” By now, we had wandered away from the stand and were standing in the middle of the seething mass of people.
“I've managed without humans so far, haven't I?” I turned to look her in the eye, determined to show that I could live the rest of my life like that. Then I whirled around and stormed away. Little bouts like these were common between me and my sister, Analyne. While she tried to get me to live in her world, a world of dresses, jewelry, and boys, I adamantly stood my ground in my world, a world of trees, animals, and the thrill of the hunt. My siblings just couldn't see the joy in the world I grew up in, and in return, I couldn't see the joy in the world they had lived in.
“Briar! Come back!” Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the twenty-four year old pushed her way through the crowd toward me. I had a moment of enjoyment watching her struggle, but that disappeared as she made her way over to me. “Briar! You just can't go storming off any time I try and get you to try on something. Seriously. You're a sixteen year old girl. Normal girls your age wouldn't act like this.”
“In case you forgot, I'm not a normal girl. The life I know is the life of the forest. I grew up there for God's sake!” For a moment, my voice was lost in the sounds of a crowd of squealing girls somewhere nearby.
“You could at least try to--” She never got to finish her sentence, for soon the crowd split into two. She was swept away to one side of the street, I to the other. My anger disappeared as I gave Analyne a curious look, but she just shrugged and looked around as well.
“There he is!!!” Without a warning, I was shoved backwards into the crowd as some girls my age pushed forward, gathering at the edge of the street, some spilling over. I grew even more curious, but my answers where given to me quickly. Soon, a troop of horses with riders appeared, with a handsome guy sitting on the front horse.
Both he and the horse held their heads high, as the other men behind shouted, “Make way! Make way for the crowned prince, Syrus Klyce!” I cocked my head up at him as he toward overhead on his horse. He handsome, but that solemn look drew a sort of speechlessness from me. Crowned prince Syrus was obviously the serious type of guy.
I was about to turn away and find a path through the crowd back to my sister when our eyes met. It was just for a brief second, but still it made me freeze. What was with this man? That look was cold, and it made me shiver for moment before resuming to cut through the crowds. The guards' voices grew quieter and quieter as I quickly ran ahead to an open stretch of road. Thinking it was clear, I crossed.
True, it was clear at first, but then I felt the pounding of hooves and saw the oncoming horse. For a fleeting second, I admired the guy for taking such good care of the horse. For it would've never run that fast had it been under a worse master. Then the next I realized I was already rolling out of the way as the horse reared up and became startled.
On instinct, I approached the horse and started soothing it with a calm voice and a gentle touch. Within moments, the horse who had been dangerously started, was a calm beast who rubbed against my hand. The guards came pounding into view upon hearing the sounds of the horse, but only found the scene of me petting the horse and meeting the prince's gaze.
“You have a fine horse. It obviously cares for you and is well treated. I am sorry for running out like that. I did not hear you or see you at first.” I bowed my head, gave the horse one last pat, and lost myself in the crowd only to find a wide eyed Analyne waiting for me. I giggled at her expression.
“You look like you just saw a ghost. Come on, lets return home.” She only nodded and followed me back toward the forest as the parade continued down the road. But my attention was soon stolen by something else other then thoughts of home.
Something winked and blinked from the middle of the parade. I slowed, watching it, and soon saw it was a single pearl, a rainbow one, and a large on at that. It was on a padded pedestal, just sitting there in the gilded cart carried by four other strong looking guards. Of part of me wanted to get closer, another part wanted to steal it, and another wanted to turn and leave.
Sadly, the stealing part won. Quickly brushing of Analyne with words of returning later, I once again sifted through the crowd, only this time, I did it with a different intent. For a while I followed it, until the crowd thinned out and the guards grew lazy and relaxed. When no one was looking, I leaped up into the cart, snatched the pearl, and leaped down, zipping away into the back alleys. I waited until they passed, then I started grinning. The adrenaline rush from the 'hunt' was still there, and I had a lot of extra energy to spend.
So I decided to spend it running all the way home. The scene quickly changed from stone houses to open fields to ash trees of my home forest. The birds high up called a greeting, and I waved back, still running. Slowly the trees grew denser the farther in I got. Leopards and bobcats raised their heads, flicked their tails, and simply went back to sleep, recognizing the blur that was me. Wolf pups near their mother gave a friendly yelp, and wagged their tails. At them, I couldn't help but slow and smile softly at the little wolves.
Finally, I reached the clearing. On the other side was a rope with a bell, and I ran over and rang it. While waiting. I took a couple of seconds to calm my breath. Above me, the Tree House was hidden in the leaves of the trees that towered over me, it's network of wood and bridges well concealed. This was my home. My home that resided at the heart of the forest, where the oldest trees grew.
“Briar's back!” Kaden's rough, loud voice resounded over the clearing, and in moments, a ladder fashioned of rope and planks came tumbling down. “Welcome back! You look like you just ran a mile!”
“I did!” I called up, climbing the ladder. “Ran all the way from town to here, slowing down at only the wolves.”
“Were new pups born? Great! I always did love the cute little things,” Felix's voice reached my ears, and his dull red, berry-dyed, head appeared beside Kaden. “Know when they'll come to play?”
“Nope! But as long as they stay cute for a while, I don't mind!” I said, laughing as I pulled myself up and over the edge. I rolled up the ladder and stored it in a nearby chest. “Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to check on the baby birds that where recently hatched.” This wasn't the truth, but it wasn't really a lie either. There had been a few new hatched birds in the nest right outside my window. I had promised the mother bird I would watch over them while she was out looking for food.
So in my room, I sat my pack down on my bed and walked over to the window, looking at the new-born birds fondly. “Momma Bird not home yet? It's okay. She'll be back soon with nice juicy worms for you.” As if on cue, the mother bird flew in, three worms hanging from her beak. She twittered a thank you and started feeding her babies.
“Happy to help.” I smiled at them one more time before going back to my pack and pulling out the pearl. It was large, larger than most pearls that I've seen, but it still fit right into the palm of my hand. As the light from my window hit it, it lit up in all sorts of colors. Falling back on my bed, I yawned and examined it closer. “Pretty, and very, very shiny. I bet it's worth a lot. But why in the world would they bring it out in public. Someone could've stolen it.” I stopped, and sat up again. “Someone did steal it. I did!” A grin slowly spread itself across my features.
“Briar! Lunch!” I could hear Felix's footsteps and quickly hid the pearl.
“I'll have to find a place for that later.” Making sure it couldn't be seen from under my pillow, I called down, “I'm coming!” I could smell lunch. Analyne always outdid herself when it came to food. And I loved her cooking. I rushed down to find her down below on the forest floor with a fire going and deer meat cooking over it. I could tell it was deer from the scent that drifted up to my nose.
Felix and Kaden were already climbing down the latter, and to beat them, I took my usual tree path. The tree path was a path I found I could do only going down. It proved to faster than the rope at times, and I used it often. No one could use it, so they had officially dubbed it Briar's Tree, much like we called our home the Tree House.
“Meat! That smells wonderful!” I exclaimed, rushing over to the fire. Over the fire stuck through the center was a slab of deer meet, roasting merrily. The smell that came off it was delicious, and I could hear the animals around the clearing shuffling.
“I second that!” Felix shoved me out of the way surprising rough with his skinny frame. He was practically drooling at the sight.
“And it's fresh venison too. Tell me, was that the deer Briar caught the other day?” Kaden crouched down, staring at it hungrily. To others, this would seem like we hadn't eaten in days. But that was the nature of things when you lived in the forest. If you constantly hunted animals, they got mad at you. So we would normally stick to market bought meat, which didn't actually taste as good at fresh caught here in the forest. I would know, but my siblings couldn't tell the difference.
“Yep! Briar said that the wolves complained about there being to many, so they asked her to kill a few. The other animals agreed. So she got to hunt a little, and they let her take home one. I thought I would cook it today.” Analyne smiled as she said this, and pulled the meat off with a large stick, plopping it on a large chipped plate. She then preceded to cut it into eight equal pieces, making mine just a bit smaller.
“Thank you!” Taking my piece, I took the extra three and threw them out to the woods. In no time, three animals came out to take them away. I smiled at them, they seemed to grin back at me. Such was my connection with the forest. It was a special bond my family couldn't even compare to.
And in no time, our food was gone, the fire was out, and we were just sitting around, taking about random things. But my attention was soon directed to the black bird that had appeared at my window, upsetting the family there. It paid them no mind and disappeared, soon reappearing with something in its beak. When it took off, colors glinted at me from the object it held. With a start, I realized what it was.
The pearl I had stolen, had just been stolen by a crow.