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Out of the Woods, Into the Fire
About half of the characters in this story were actually from a much older novel that I attempted to write in seventh grade. This was initially going to be me rewriting that novel, but it eventually became it's own thing. Let us now pray that I will actually finish this one.
It was a dark and stormy afternoon. The forest floor had been reduced to the consistency of diarrhea, and smelled about as pleasant. Most of the villagers were inside their homes, sleeping or cooking or eating or a combination of the three. There were, however, two children that were not doing any of those things, nor were they nestled inside their homes at all. Instead, they were in the woods, trekking through the not-diarrhea and preparing for danger.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Marc. I want to go back. Mother is going to be worried.” The younger boy said, fiddling with the tiny sword that hung by his side.
“Be quiet!” The older brother, Marcus, hissed. “We’re doing this for mother, Noah, to off the monster that killed Dad.”
Noah looked down at his soggy feet and nodded quietly.
Marcus waved for his brother to follow, and together they walked farther into the deep, dark, damp forest.
Noah struggled to keep up with his older brother. “How do you know what this monster looks like, anyways? I thought Dad was alone in the woods when it happened.” He asked as he attempted to match his tiny legs to his brother’s long strides.
“It happened near the edge of the woods; some of the villagers saw it. I gathered some reports. The monster is large, black, and furry. It has six rows of yellow teeth, red eyes, and claws the size of the average human child.”
Noah’s eyes drifted away from his brother. Above Marcus’ shoulder, a pink light appeared.
“Marcus?” Noah whispered. Marcus groaned. “What now?” he asked, annoyance rising in his voice.
“You, um, might want to turn around…”
Behind Marcus, dozens of lights now appeared in all different colors. Glancing over his own shoulder, Noah saw that they began to surround him as well. Marcus saw them, too, and began to draw his sword. “What are you? What do you want?”
One of the lights drew closer. Upon closer inspection, the boys realized that they were not lights at all – they were tiny people. They hung in the air, wings flapping gently and their whole bodies aglow. The fairy that approached them was a girl. She had long wavy blonde hair and very blue eyes. She grinned bashfully at Marcus, smoothing out the pink dress she wore. Marcus lowered his stance, letting his sword hang by his side.
“Hello. What’s your name?”
He was answered with a nothing but a tiny sword punched through his throat.
“I heard they found some more humans sneaking through our woods today.”
There was a chorus of nods among the little circle of middle-aged fairies as they knitted away. Nestled into a far corner of the large hollow tree that their whole colony resided in, they spent much of their time being as innocuous as possible while most of their colleagues were away.
“Did the sentries kill them?” Ruby asked as she counted stitches. The fairy next to her immediately straightened up and replied, looking as if she had held in the news all day. “They got the first one really good, but there was a little one that ran pretty fast – they couldn't catch ‘im!” She laughed for much longer than she should have, allowing the cackle to hang awkwardly in the air.
Ruby smirked. “Hopefully he’ll tell all of his little human friends not to go into our woods from now on.”
Sunshine, the eldest fairy in the circle, snorted. “I doubt it. We’ve tried everything to keep them from coming in – mirages, vague ominous threats, fake monsters, assassins, actual monsters – They just keep coming. It’s almost as if they aren’t scared of us or something.”
The circle of middle-aged fairies scoffed over their knitting.
After a bit of silence, someone spoke up. Her voice was unusually high-pitched, and seemed to drip with sugar and innocence. “Really, I’m not surprised. Are you surprised? It’s been happening for the last 15 years! Ever since-”
“Shut up, Honeyhead.” Sunshine said without looking up.
Honeyhead shut her mouth and stared awkwardly at her knitting needles. Ruby dropped her own needles into her lap, her face a picture of annoyance and long, drawn out pain. She finished Honeyhead’s sentence. “It’s been happening ever since all of our men disappeared.”
There was a small gasp that ran through the group as all eyes turned to her.
“Ruby, you’re not supposed to say it out loud…” Honeyhead muttered. Ruby glared at her briefly, and Honeyhead once again looked at her feet. Ruby looked around the circle and spoke:
“I’m sick of brooding on this. It’s been fifteen years; we need to properly move on. We can’t just continue living as if their on vacation and will be back in-”
A burst of lightning illuminated the room, cutting her off. A figure appeared in the doorway.
“Mom?” The figure asked. Ruby sighed and looked at her daughter.
“Do you happen to know where I can find some more blankets?”
“No – don’t you have enough already?”
“Only seven” Her daughter replied as a sheet toppled off of her head.
Ruby said nothing, but her expression communicated well enough.
“I don’t like the rain.”
“I could tell.”
Her daughter shrugged and began to reach down to pick up her sheet, which caused her to drop two more blankets. Ruby sighed. “I think there’s some at the end of the hall by your right, in the farthest closet.” Her daughter stood up, tightened the blankets around her shoulders, and turned to leave. She paused, turning slightly and glancing over her shoulder.
“You’re welcome, Pyro. Now go away, please.”
Pyro’s steps seemed to echo louder than they logically should have as she wandered away from that room. There were no lights in the hallway, and the holes notched into the walls only succeeded in getting the floor wet. She glanced around and saw that there was no one around her. Holding her hand out, a handful of flames flickered to life in her palm. Shivering, she clutched the blankets around her shoulders and began to walk forward.
The hallway had obviously not been trodden on in years. As she walked farther down, she began to kick up the thick layer of dust that the floor had been coated in. She sneezed almost immediately, sending a stream of sparks up into the air and down onto the wooden floor.
Pyro swore under her breath and began to hurriedly stomp out the little fires that began to spring up, looking almost as if she were dancing in her movements. She finally stopped, hands on her knees, breathing heavily. She then straightened herself up and lit another fire in her hand. Sighing, she sneezed again (sparks-free, this time), coughed up the remaining dust in her lungs and continued down the hall, dropping blankets behind her like a trail of breadcrumbs.
“Closet, closet…” She muttered to herself, looking around the abandoned hallway. Most of the doors in the hallway were identical – identical and entirely generic. She decided to check them individually, realizing that she had nothing better to do with her time. And so she went down the hall, turning doorknobs to no avail, locked door after locked door…
After about the fifteenth time she finally became frustrated with the whole affair and decided to kick the doors instead. Starting on an arbitrary door in the hallway, she kicked violently with her tiny foot. There was silence, and then (surprisingly) the door opened.
There was a distinct lack of noise in the circle for a little while after Pyro left. Glancing up from the floor, Honeyhead decided to veer the conversation away from its previous track, before anything hazardous came from it.
“Your daughter is very sweet, Ruby.” She said, smiling gently. Sunshine scowled. “She’s an utter waste of talent, that’s what she is.”
“Oh, yes.” Honeyhead said awkwardly, searching for a way to agree. Eventually, she continued. “She really has such an immeasurable talent, though, but I have never once seen her use it! She could be devastatingly effective as a sentry or a…” Her voice faded out as she caught sight of Ruby’s expression, which rivalled a battering ram in terms of intensity. The sound of rain and the clicking of needles were the only sounds in the room, and for once, Honeyhead didn’t break the silence.
After a decent, borderline uncomfortable, amount of time passed, Ruby gently placed her knitting in her lap and cleared her throat, gazing around the room.
“I understand that my daughter is a near complete failure to her namesake, her heritage, and to our society and all that we stand for. Trust me, I understand. I’ve had to deal with that her entire life. However, I will not tolerate abuse of her, because, believe it or not, she still is my daughter. I know that she will grow into her abilities soon enough, and then she will come to her senses. She will become as great as you expect her to be. It’s not a maybe, it’s a fact.”
The door shot open with a clamor that echoed through the hall. A cloud of dust vomited forth from the doorway, blocking the light and stinging Pyro’s eyes. She backed up against the wall, coughing as the dust settled. When it did, she looked up. The room beyond was pitch black, the doorway serving as nothing more than a gaping hole lined with cobwebs. Taking a deep breath, Pyro unpeeled herself from the wall. Holding her hand as far out as it could reach, she allowed the flame to grow a little higher. She walked forward, counting the steps she made. In 5 steps, her hand was in the doorway.
She paused, trying to discern something from the darkness. She didn’t see anything, so she walked until the light caught something. When it did, she stopped, trying to make sense of what the she saw.
In the center of the room, a limp body was reclining in a chair.
Pyro felt her mouth go dry. Holding her breath, she began to back up; retracing the steps she had just counted. She was almost out of the doorway when the body moved.
At the same time, in a dark, awkward corner of the castle, there was a room lined with portraits of kings and queens past. Though it was a fairly small, square room, the paintings gave it an air of prestige. In the back, there was a huge pair of doors that engulfed the wall. They were tall and made of mahogany, with brass detailing and a large padlock right in the center.
The chamber was almost entirely empty, with the exception of one person. She was a young girl of about 14 years of age, who bore a striking resemblance to the portraits on the wall, right down to the condescending, mildly sour expression. She was pacing across the floor, with an almost precise rhythm – one, two, three, one, two, three—until she reached the doors, in which she stopped, swiveled on her heel, and let the rhythm begin anew.
This had been going on for nearly a half an hour. Eventually, one of the doors creaked open and a very tiny man stepped into the room. He gently closed the door, his back towards the room’s inhabitant. He then turned around and jumped nearly a foot in the air.
“Princess! How did you get in here?” He asked, clutching his heart. The princess ignored the question. “Can I see my mother now?” She asked, crossing her arms as she looked down on the tiny man. The servant shook his head sadly.
“Your mother is sick, Charmaine. We’ve told this dozens of times; we can’t risk you catching the same illness.”
“My father’s in there.” Charmaine pointed out, gesturing to the massive doors in front of her.
“Your father has decided that it was worth the risk. He wants to stay with his wife on her dying days.”
Charmaine rolled her eyes. “My mother isn’t dying.” The servant opened his mouth to speak, but Charmaine interrupted him.
“I want to see her.”
The servant cast a nervous glance at the doors. “I’ll speak with the king about your worries. Perhaps some arrangements can be made?” He grinned awkwardly, trying to interpret the princess’ expression. Charmaine nodded, but her expression remained unchanged.
“But for now…” the servant said, grabbing the princess’ hand, “we need to get you out of here. It’s about time you get to bed, anyways.” Charmaine whipped her hand out of his and glared.
“Fine.” She said. She paused for effect, and then with a dramatic twirl and a slam of the door, she was gone.