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Archive Writing Competitions > April 2018 Writing Competition

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message 1: by lorien, In Between (new)

lorien | 2558 comments Mod
Starting Date: April 1, 2018
Deadline: April 30, 2018
Word Limit: 1000 - 6500

The monthly theme for April is. . . Spring. Incorporae this word into your entries. Whether that’s mentioning the season, or your story takes place in the spring. Whatever you want to do is fine though keep the rules in mind.


message 2: by Isabella (new)

Isabella (theomniscientnarrator) | 18 comments Spring!


“Penny, freeze!”

The child did as I had instructed her, even her lengthy chestnut hair ceasing to move with the wind. Though I stared intently at her for several seconds, my renownedly sharp, crimson eyes detected not even the slightest of trembles from my young dreamer.

I nodded in approval, silently confirming that it was okay for her to snap from being a four-foot tall statue back to a breathing, blinking, and moving human. Before she could quite catch her breath, though, I issued another brisk command: “Disappear.”

Before my eyes, she did as I had ordered. Like I had taught her to, she poked me in the back, so I knew that she had successfully reappeared behind me. I spun around, locking eyes with her so she would remember to focus extra hard on this last, most difficult exercise. “Now, spring.”

At first, she panicked, but then she clenched her eyes shut and muttered a prayer. With a shaky breath, she jumped and successfully, albeit awkwardly, soared a good five feet in the air before clumsily landing again at my feet.

A grin broke out on my scarred face. “Excellent! I’ll make a warrior of you yet, munchkin,” I praised, squeezing her shoulder affectionately. She giggled excitedly at my words, dancing around in a little circle.

“Will I ever be as good as you, Merdoc?” she asked, her tone suddenly somber. She wrapped both of her small, smooth hands around one of my larger, more calloused ones. “Jason told me that you’re famous in your dimension. He said that no one is a better guardian than you!”

I couldn’t help but to laugh at that oversimplification. While it was true that I’d become somewhat of a legend--‘Bloody Merdoc’, they called me--I was hardly the best guardian little Penny could have been assigned. The best archer, without a doubt, but guardian? No.

“Your brother exaggerates, as he always does,” I assured the seven-year-old, shaking my head with a bittersweet smile. It seemed like I never saw enough of Jason, with him being a human and me being an alternate-dimension dream guardian. “Besides, you have the power to far surpass me as a combatant.” I faltered when I saw confusion light up her big, blue eyes at the unfamiliar word. “As a warrior, I mean.”

Tilting her head in thought, the young brunette licked her lips and mused aloud, “You said that before, that I have power. I’m like a superhero, right?” Frowning, she leaned forward, pulling me down to her height. I was taken aback by the genuine grief and confusion that suddenly overflowed from her eyes. “Then why don’t I save anyone?”

I blinked, the weight of her invisible burden bearing down on me all at once. Though she was naive in most ways, and I sheltered her from many things, little Penny was not oblivious to all of the danger that we were constantly in. As a dreamer, she faced the peril that any injury she sustained in her nightmares would carry over to the waking world; as an extraordinarily powerful one, she was susceptible to the most malicious entity of them all.

The truth was, I was training her to save herself, not others.

“We haven’t yet finished your training, Pen,” I answered softly, attempting to smother my uneasiness for her benefit. I ruffled her chestnut brown hair absently, assuring myself as well as her: “You’ve made a lot of progress, munchkin. You’re going to be alright.”

“I hope so,” she murmured, poking me in the leg and allowing a bright smile to shine through her gloomy face. I never will understand children, or humans at all for that matter. “I’m learning from the best. Right, Jason?”

I froze, my blood running cold as I followed her gaze. About twenty yards away stood what would have appeared to be her brother, my closest friend, if I hadn’t known better. I shoved Penny behind me and drew my bow all within an instant. “Penny, get ready to run,” I hissed.

The poor child looked like she wanted to protest, but my tone prevented her from doing so. She cowered behind me, clutching my coattails like a lifeline.

“What’s wrong, Penny?” asked the apparition, tilting its head with an evil smile. Instead of Jason’s silky voice, it spoke with the voices of an army all chanting in unison, causing my little dreamer to recoil even further in horror. As a reflection of her fear, the dream began to change around us; the sky above rolled with an abrupt storm and the blank, white ground began to quake. “We just want to ask you some questions.”

“Leave,” I demanded, my voice vibrating off of the dream’s walls. Fury was climbing up my throat, but I refused to let it blind me. “My name is Merdoc McCreary, and Penny is under my protection. So help me, if you take one more step into her dream, I will put an arrow between your eyes so fast you won’t have time for your life to flash before them.”

The fake Jason seemed to consider this, his enchanting brown eyes flickering with hesitance before they settled on my little Penny. He was calculating something: I could feel it. I could feel it in the twitch of his mouth, his icy stare, the tilt of his chin. And I knew that he had reached a conclusion when he met my eyes and took a step forwards.

I released the arrow with a mighty blast of rage and energy, but in the crucial tenth of a second before it went flying, I was knocked to the ground with such force that I loss all sense of direction as I tumbled. Bewildered and disoriented, I scrambled to my feet to see Penny, at least twenty feet away, staring at me with a mix of anger and terror that made my blood grow cold. “Do not. Shoot. Jason.”

My head whipped towards the impostor. He hadn’t moved closer than ten yards--she was holding him there, I think--but her display of power had caused a sickening hunger to erupt in his features. “Penny, run!” I rasped, still dizzy from my flight. “It’s not really Jason! It’s a monster!”

Her watery eyes went wide with a panicky struggle between trusting me and reluctance to believe my words. The creature fought forwards another step.

Releasing a scream, she turned and bolted in the other direction. When the imitation of Jason took pursuit, I shot at him, my lasting vertigo causing me to strike him in the leg rather than the back of the head. It let out an unholy, earth-shattering sound of agony that almost incapacitated me, but continued to quickly hobble after my dreamer.

I tried to sprint after them, but Penny’s fright was warping the landscape of her dream around me. Even as I ran, a great rift split the ground between me and them, and a surge of energy burst upwards from it, preventing me from flying across. Horror and dismay gripped my heart, and I screamed out Penny’s name every time I lost sight of them, which tended to happen as they ran through the various obstacles she was accidentally creating. I didn’t realize how badly I was shaking until they came bounding towards the rift and I tried to aim an arrow at the villain.

Penny scrambled to a stop, gawking at the ridge in front of her before looking at me in a silent beg for direction. The evil imitation of Jason was only moments behind her. A great despair threatened to overwhelm me, to swallow me whole and pull me into the dangerous depths of panic, where I’d be forced to allow my little Penny die.

But I did not give in.

For the flick of an instant--a blink, almost--I closed my eyes in preparation for what I was about to say. Penny had made this rift, this magical boundary, and she could cross them both. Still, it was an impossible distance to leap, and the statistics were screaming in my mind that she was dead, that what I was about to say would kill her. I didn’t even know if she would freeze up at my command, allotting the fiend to capture her, but nevertheless, this was my only chance. If I said nothing, it would wrap its lean, taut arms around her and drag her back to the nightmare factory, where she would be tortured to death, and I would rather take the risk a thousand times than deliberately allow it to take her.

I took a hasty, shaky breath, locking eyes with her and channeling every ounce of urgency, importance, and authority that was in my body, every memory that I shared with Penny, every wish and hope and dream that this would work into the simple, two words that I shouted across the great chasm that divided me from her.
“Penny, spring.


message 3: by Coralie, Wordy Writer (last edited Apr 27, 2018 04:21PM) (new)

Coralie (corkybookworm) | 1249 comments Mod
This one's kind of long. Bear with me guys! *hides*

The Little Fairy
Words: 5,871

“Maya, hand me screwdriver, will ya?”

“Willow!” the young girl’s voice whined. She marched to the window and pulled back the curtains, letting in an awfully bright light. “It’s sunny outside. I want to play!”

“It’s the one with the yellow handle,” the older fairy didn’t seem to hear her young charge. She pointed vaguely to her right, but never let her eyes waver from the strange trinket on the worktable before her, “Just over that way.”

With an exasperated sigh, Maya rolled her amber eyes and followed Willow’s finger to a disorganized pile of tools. She held up a wrench between two fingers and wrinkled her nose in disgust. “How do you find anything in here?” she mumbled, poking at the tools to move them aside. She glanced over at Willow, but her guardian still stared intently at her newest project. Maya sighed again, turning back to the pile of used tools. After resolving herself to digging through them, her eyes caught on a faded yellow handle. With a triumphant smile, she fluttered to Willow’s side, hand outstretched.

“Thanks,” Willow mused, taking the tool without so much as a glance at the preteen. Instantly, she was lost in screws and bolts and springs. Maya’s smile faltered, but she only turned away and walked back to the window. She rested her head against the frame and gazed out into the world around their little home.

Outside, the sun shone brightly, filtering through the trees and lighting up the new green grass. She watched as the wind raced through the forest and the trees hummed their delight. It wouldn’t be long before the dryads awoke from their slumber and graced the wood with their infectious laughter.

Maya picked at the splinters in the windowsill and rested her chin in her hand. She was small for a fairy, but the dyrads never seemed to mind. They played with her and often kept her from getting into too much trouble. Willow said she still had time to grow, but none of the other fairies wanted anything to do with her, except for the children. Of course, Maya couldn’t tell Willow she felt like an outcast. Willow never seemed to notice that they had no friends, let alone mind. She was always so wrapped up in tinkering.

Maya let out a frustrated growl and blew a strand of her dark brown hair out of her eyes. Briefly, she considered slipping outside on her own. Biting the bottom of her lip, Maya weighed the idea. She was nearly thirteen. She should be allowed out by herself by now. She glanced back at Willow, but the pretty blonde was still hunched over her worktable. Willow wasn’t even that much older than her, only four years. Turning back to the window, Maya studied the picturesque scene before her. The days were finally getting warmer and Willow never truly meant to keep her cooped up. She just didn’t like the winter. No fairy did.

“She’ll take me exploring with her again,” Maya whispered to herself, “She always does.” She watched as the wind toyed with the leaves on the roof of their home. Even the house seemed delighted with the attention. I should just wait for Willow, she thought, but on the next bought of wind floated the shrikes of laughter from the other fairies and Maya bounced on her toes. Excitement rushed through her and she decided to throw caution to the wind. He was a fine catcher, she reasoned.

With one ear tuned into Willow’s clinking and clanking, Maya fluttered lightly from the window to the door. If she kept silent, Willow would never notice her slip out and she’d be too preoccupied with her new whatchamicallit for a few hours yet. Maya grinned. She could enjoy the warm, sunny day and be back before Willow even looked up from her trinkets and tools. She’d never know Maya had been gone.

***

“Maya?” The small fairy winced. She hadn’t thought about the others seeing her. They seldom did. Keenan sounded surprised, but not unpleasantly so. Slowly, she turned around and offered a small smile, but it felt more like a grimace.

“Hello, Keenan,” Maya greeted the boy. He’d never been rude to her, so she supposed she should at least try to make nice, then get out of here as quickly as possible before Willow got word of her outing.

The young fairy boy smiled brilliantly at her. “I didn’t know you were coming out today.” He was taller than she was, but that didn’t say much. Not only was Maya smaller than the other fairies, but she was considerably shorter. Her wings hadn’t fully grown in yet, so she walked most of the time. Although other fairies sometimes walked short distances, they usually flew or at least hovered several inches off the ground. But Keenan stood before her, feet solidly on the ground. He was admittedly taller than some of the other fairies and his brown hair was lighter than hers. Self-consciously, she reached up to tug on a strand of her dark hair. He had hazel eyes, like many of the other fairies. But unlike many of the other fairies, his were staring straight at her.

Maya’s eyes narrowed just slightly as she looked him up and down. Keenan had never spoken to her before, other than to ask her for something at the dinner table or to excuse himself when they ran into each other by mistake at school. Automatically, she felt herself tense and go on the defense. “Well, I don’t make a habit of informing every fairy in the village of my every outing.”

Keenan tilted his head to the side and studied her unabashedly, but his grin never faded. When he didn’t rise to her bait, Maya shifted on her feet and felt doubt creep into her chest. “What?” she asked hesitantly.

He shook his head and let out a small laugh. “Nothing,” he said, finally glancing away from her. With one hand he rubbed his neck and he held out a hand as his eyes found hers again. “I just don’t see you very often.”

“Well…I…” Maya blinked, not sure how to answer that. She took a quick breath and nodded, “Right, then. Well, nice chatting with you, but I should be…ah…going.” She pointed past him deeper into the forest and flashed him a brief smile before walking away. “Oh,” her face scrunched up and she snapped her fingers. “Almost forgot,” she spun back on her heel, jumping up and hovering in the air just an inch or so above the ground.

“Yes?” his face lit up as he faced her, still standing on the ground. He met her gaze, waiting patiently, waiting…hopefully?

“Could you…” Maya paused, but then shook her head, sure she’d imagined it. “Could you not tell anyone you saw me?” she winced, “especially Willow?”

Keenan looked conflicted for a moment, but she sent him her most pitiful, pleading look and he reluctantly nodded. “I won’t tell,” he said quietly. “Bye, Maya.” He gave her a small wave and then walked off with droopy wings.

“Well,” Maya blinked after him with wide eyes. “That was strange.” She had to bite back a stab of guilt, but confusion quickly swallowed the feeling. She lowered back down to the ground and stood where Keenan had left her, pondering the encounter. He couldn’t have wanted to tell anyone anyway, she told herself, his friends would only laugh and, well, he won’t even see Willow. So it doesn’t matter that I asked him to keep my secret…right? More confused than she’d been before she started trying to untangle her thoughts, Maya brushed away the webbing and shrugged her shoulders. Grinning widely, she turned back to the forest and nearly skipped in her delight.

***

Willow stretched on her stool, grunting as her sore muscles protested the movement. By now, she’d been hunched over for nearly two days, hardly moving from her seat. She sighed and tilted her head gingerly from side to side. Stifling a yawn, she shook her head quickly and slapped her cheeks to wake herself up. “Almost done,” she encouraged, “You’re almost done. Just a little while…longer.”

The fairy looked around the room, but didn’t see Maya. “Hmm,” she mused, deep blue eyes narrowing. The room was considerably darker than when she’d last looked up. Didn’t Maya say something about the sunshine earlier? Willow stood and flew over to the window at the front of the room. The curtains were drawn and they fluttered in the wind, but it was a chilly wind and their small home on the outskirts of the village fell in shadow. With a shiver, Willow quickly drew the window shut and the silky curtains closed.

“Maya?” she called back into the house. Her stomach growled loudly and Willow groaned. “She’ll never let me hear the end of it for working through supper again.” With quick movements, Willow cleared her work station and threw the loose strands of her dirty blonde hair back up into a tight pony tail.

“Maya,” she called, glancing up at the wooden ceiling, “I’m starting on supper. You don’t have to mope around up there any longer.” When the girl didn’t answer, Willow sighed and fluttered into the kitchen at the back of the house. She pulled down a pot and started a fire. As the fire grew, she glanced out the back window and tried to swallow the hurt she felt surge through her. She’s mad at me again, Willow thought, glancing at the stairwell.

“Well, I’ll just…” Willow tapped the counter, thoughtfully, “I’ll…make her favorite soup. She can’t stay angry with me forever.” And besides, Willow smiled as her hands quickly got to work,Tomorrow, I’ll have the sailboat finished and she’ll be so surprised. I can’t wait to take her down to the southern springs and show her how it works.

***

Maya picked at her light green dress and slumped against the great tree trunk. “It’s not my fault,” she protested when the tree snickered at her. “Well,” she glared up at the branches, “You could come out and help me!”

The wind rustled the leaves again, but Maya had given up hope that the dryad would emerge. It seemed content to laugh at her plight. She sighed and stared out at the unfamiliar patch of trees. “The trees back home are much friendlier,” she mumbled, crossing her arms.

The truth was, she’d gotten lost. She bit her bottom lip and shot a worried glance up at the sky. She’d considered climbing a tree and trying to get a view from the top, but it seemed awfully rude when you weren’t properly acquainted with the tree. Furthermore, she stared gloomily into her lap, it probably wouldn’t do much good since she didn’t know what direction home was or what anything looked like from above anyway. She cursed her tiny wings and wished, not for the first time, that she could fly as well as all of the other fairies. Her wings had tired out hours ago and her legs were beginning to cramp from walking nearly all day.

“Well,” she stood, scowling, “It’s not like I’m getting anything done here. I might as well try to find my way back.” She chose a direction and marched off, ignoring the ache in her wings. “I walk more than any of the other fairies put together. My legs are stronger than theirs. And I have to come across the village some time or other, don’t I?”

Something strange tickled at the back of Maya’s mind, but she quickly brushed the sensation aside, too caught up in her frustration. She continued to stomp through the forest, stepping over logs and pushing aside the thick foliage. She wasn’t even near a decent trail. While she huffed and muttered, she tuned out the forest around her, upset that even the trees in this new area wanted to mock her. But then that strange feeling tugged at her again, demanding attention.


message 4: by Coralie, Wordy Writer (new)

Coralie (corkybookworm) | 1249 comments Mod
“What?!” she yelled, “What what what?” She looked up from the ground and blinked into the darkness before her. “Oh,” she whispered. She hadn’t realized it was so dark. With a dejected sigh, she closed her eyes and then opened them again. A faint glow shone from her, but she didn’t have much energy to maintain anything brighter. She’d never been afraid of the dark, but it did make traveling a bit more difficult. “Well,” she said quietly and to no one in particular, “I still don’t think I should stop just yet.” She glanced around her and took another step forward, but her foot caught and she cried out as she flew forward and landed in a thicket of branches.

“Ow!” the branches stabbed and poked at her. She turned in the odd, branch-made seat and faced the direction she’d stepped from. “I’d say you did that on purpose,” she glowered, “but I hate to accuse complete strangers of such…” Maya’s words died as the peculiar thought swimming in the back of her mind surged forward. She swallowed hard as she realized what it was that had been bothering her. Silence.

Carefully, the little fairy stood to her feet and sucked in a sharp breath when a stabbing pain shot through her foot. She whimpered and glanced at the branch that had tripped her. It slowly sunk back into the ground and she pouted, staring at the tree beside her. It had tripped her on purpose!

“But why?” she whined and her eyes widened. She swallowed and looked around her, but saw only darkness beyond her meager light. Her question had sounded dead against the silence. The forest was never silent. There were always small animals foraging for food, the wind always surged through the woods, and the trees had whispered to her all day—even the ones she’d just met. The complete silence was disconcerting. It felt…wrong.

Maya’s heartbeat pounded in her ears and she shivered. “Okay,” she whispered and tears sprung to her eyes, “Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Please don’t panic.” She took several deep breaths and concentrated on her light. With the focus, it brightened slightly. Placing a hand against the large tree that had tripped her, she gently turned back to continue on her path. She grit her teeth together as she set her injured foot on the ground. But before she could step forward, the branches pushed back against her.

“Let go of me!” Maya fell back again and landed on her rear end. She glared at the tree, but it was just as silent as the forest around her. Maya huffed and gazed forward. It was no use arguing with these trees. She’d just have to pick her way around it until she was out of its reach. But before she stood, Maya thought she saw a flicker of movement on the path she’d chosen. She narrowed her eyes and tried to put as much concentration as she could on the light she emanated. The golden fairy glow reflected off of a single waxy, green leaf that fell from the top of the tree. Maya shook her head and told herself to relax, but just before she glanced away from the leaf, it fell through the ground.

“What?” She leaned forward as a branch wrapped around her middle, almost gently. Maya looked up at the tree and placed a tentative hand on the trunk before searching for the leaf again. She gasped when her golden light reflected on the large green leaf. It was several feet below her. The leaf hadn’t fallen through the ground; it was still falling down to it. Maya was on the edge of a cliff, staring deep into a dark canyon below.

Maya swallowed hard and took a slow, steadying breath. She patted the large trunk beside her with a shaking hand and the branch around her waist gently set her upright. The young fairy stood awkwardly on her uninjured foot, still staring out into the dark emptiness before her. “Thanks, I guess,” she whispered. She heard the tree’s low hum in response and decided that maybe the trees here weren’t as unfriendly as she’d initially thought. “Do you…” Maya cleared her throat and glanced up at the tree, “I don’t suppose you know which way I should go…to get home?”

The tree didn’t answer. “Hmph,” Maya grumbled, “Selective, aren’t we.” She hobbled back the way she’d come, using her wings to help her hop and avoid using her bad foot. To her surprise, the great tree moved with her, offering her a steady branch to lean on as she walked. Roots rippled through the ground, up and down, up and down, matching her slow stride.

“I’ve never seen a tree move before,” she commented, but still, the tree remained silent. “Won’t you tear up the ground?” Finally, she gave up the light chatter and moved forward in silence. Silence. It was still disturbing.

The tree beside her stopped, handing her off to another large trunk. She heard hushed whispering between them and then the great tree retreated. Maya watched her rescuer fade into the darkness of night and then slumped against the new trunk, noticing that she was again surrounded by the forest. Somehow, she’d managed to walk away from the trees, but the eerie silence still enveloped her, even here.

“Where am I?” she whispered, gazing as far into the wood as she was able; but try as she might, she couldn’t see much further than the next tree over. She stifled a yawn and her glow dimmed. With a shiver and a sigh, she settled into the base of the new tree and resigned herself to a night lost in the woods. Maya moaned, letting her head fall into her hands, “Willow is going to kill me.”

***

Keenan picked at his plate numbly. His head rested in his palm and his elbow against the table. Fairies chattered around him, chipper in the crisp, morning air. Most of them all gathered in the glen to break fast together. Sometimes Willow and Maya joined them. Sometimes they didn’t. It seemed this morning, they’d chosen not to. They hadn’t come to dinner either, but that wasn’t so unusual. Willow didn’t really like participating in community events, but Maya did.

“Keenan!”

Keenan looked up and wiped a hand across his face and through his messy hair. “What?” He looked around until he found his friend Jamaya glaring at him through dark green eyes.

The boy flicked a berry across the table at him. “You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said,” Jamaya accused quietly. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing!” Keenan said a little too quickly. He flashed a quick smile and did his best to assume an innocent air.

“You haven’t touched your food,” Jamaya’s eyes narrowed, “and you’re not one to skip meals.”

Keenan shoved a slab of meat into his mouth and a few berries, giving his friend a double thumbs up as he chewed. “See,” he spoke around the large mouthful, “Fine. Now, what were you saying?” A partially chewed berry slid from Keenan’s cheeks and bounced off the table onto the ground. Down the table, he heard a snicker, but chose to ignore it.

Jamaya shrugged and suddenly looked very indifferent. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” he said casually, “As your best friend, I know when you’re mooning over that girl.”

Keenan choked and sputtered a cough, trying not to spit out the food he’d just stuffed into his mouth. Jamaya flashed him a wicked grin and passed a cup of nectar. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Keenan deadpanned after a painful swallow.

“Of course you don’t,” Jamaya answered dryly. “You know, one of these days, they” he pointed not-so-subtly down the table at their peers, “are going to figure it out and then you’ll be the talk of the town. So, if you want my advice, you should hurry up and talk to the girl so at least you have her at your side. I’d hate to go through their torture and still end up on the bottom because I was too scared to admit to her how I felt.” He shot Keenan a pointed look and stabbed the last square of meat on his plate with more force than necessary.

“Come on, Jamaya,” Keenan sighed, “You know I’d never—”

A sudden burst of chortles to Keenan’s left drew their attention. The boys looked to see the other fairies their age trying—and quite clearly failing—to contain themselves. Keenan and Jamaya exchanged curious glances and then turned back to the noise.

“Oh, no,” Keenan stood as he followed their pointed fingers and derisive gazes. Willow darted wide-eyed from table to table in the glen, frantic. The elder fairies watched her with disapproval, grumbling beneath their wrinkled masks. Younger fairies openly showed their disgust or amusement. The children hopped and flipped in the air, too innocent to know that the fairies laughter was mocking.

“She looks distraught,” Jamaya noted, neither amused nor concerned. He turned back to his meal and drew a drink from his cup, ignoring the mild glare Keenan shot in his direction.

“Shouldn’t we see what’s wrong?” he asked, watching the fairy flit from table to table. When she turned, he saw the raw panic in her eyes and his heart stumbled. Something was truly upsetting her.

“See what’s wrong?” Daisy flew up behind Keenan and placed a hand on his shoulder. She wiped a tear from her golden eyes and bent over, laughing. “That’s a good one, Keenan.” She flew past and glanced over her shoulder, “Willow’s as crazy as a banshee. She’s probably misplaced another one of her stupid toys.”

Something in Keenan flared up and he glared at the girl. “What if something really is wrong? Shouldn’t we help her?” he argued.

“Help her?” fairies around him shrieked with laughter. Apparently this suggestion was even more amusing than Willow’s odd behavior and unexplained plight. In an instant, Jamaya was at his side, placing a calming hand on his shoulder.

“Maybe not the best time to defend her,” he hissed.

Keenan shrugged him off and glared at each of the fairies. When his gaze met Jamaya’s, he merely shook his head in disappointment and turned for the center of the glade.

***

The first rays of dawn flickered through layers of leaves and branches, landing gently on Maya’s sleeping form. Stirring at last, the fairy groaned as she awoke. Every limb in her body screamed and the kink in her neck sent a sharp pain through her when she sat up. Sleeping outdoors wasn’t as glamorous as it sounded.

Maya’s eyes flickered open and she slowly took stock of her surroundings, praying she could determine a better way home in the light of day. To her right she saw the clearing she’d stumbled into the night before. The great tree that had saved her stood tall on the edge of the cliff, like a lonesome protector. Her nose wrinkled as she took in the trees around her. She’d thought the forest might look less frightening in the warm glow of daylight, but evidently, she’d been wrong. The light was anything but warm here—wherever here was—and the forest looked anything but kind.

Suppressing a shiver, the fairy stood to her feet and studied the foreign trees. They still stood in complete silence, which unnerved her. The trees she’d known all her life were rather chatty creatures. The young ones loved gossip nearly as much as her peers. Maya pursed her lips at the distasteful thought and stepped around the roots she’d slept in.

Gingerly, she stretched her wings out, glancing behind her as she tested them. With the little sleep she’d gotten and her long empty stomach, she was afraid they wouldn’t last long today. If she’d felt comfortable with this area of the forest, she might have ventured to forage. Her stomach protested the decision to abstain, reminding her she had left before supper the day before, but she knew better than to trust berries and mushrooms in unfamiliar territory. With a sigh, Maya reserved to save her energy and opted for walking, slowly.

It didn’t take long for Maya to feel hopelessly lost again. In every direction, she saw only more giant, silent trees. She could tell they were older trees, but she couldn’t think of a reason why they wouldn’t offer to help. Even in hibernation, fairies could hear the contented hum of the dryads beneath their wooden encasements.


message 5: by Coralie, Wordy Writer (last edited Apr 27, 2018 04:25PM) (new)

Coralie (corkybookworm) | 1249 comments Mod
A sudden rush of voices startled Maya. She looked up into the canopy, searching for the source of the sound. The fairy’s heart beat faster as the sound became louder and more urgent. She spun, fluttering in a full circle. It was the trees. But they weren’t whispering in hushed tones or chasing one another gleefully. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

The voices spoke over one another and soon the rush sounded more like a roar. Just as she knew the moment when a spring rain became a torrential thunderstorm, Maya felt the instant the trees shifted from startled outburst to frantic panic. Even the wind seemed to tug on her dress, pressing her toward something.

“I’m sorry,” Maya’s wide eyes searched the trees, “I don’t understand you.”

A horrific crack sounded behind her and she turned to see the wood of a tree trunk splinter and sputter. The groan of the tree sounded so painful that Maya’s heart squeezed. She took a step toward the tree, but sucked in a breath when the wood of the tree began to stretch and bend. Mesmerized, Maya watched as the wood formed a hand and then an arm. Slowly, flesh split the wood and a pink hand emerged from the wood, followed by the arm, shoulder, and torso of a woman. The last to emerge from the wooden casing was the head.

Tears pricked Maya’s eyes, fixated on the dryad before her. The woman’s face strained against the wood, pinched in agony and twisted in terror. Her wordless scream stole Maya’s very breath. The fairy could feel the trees around her crying for the dryad and their voices still buzzed in her ears. The moment the woman’s face was free of the wood, her wail shot out into the forest. It was all Maya could do not to scream and bolt at the horrific sound.

Maya stumbled back, barely avoiding the dryad’s outstretched arm. The creature blinked until her gaze locked onto the fairy. The dryad’s eyes were a dark void, piercing into Maya’s soul, rooting her to the spot. All the voices of the trees came to a sudden hush, leaving them in that dead silence again.

Maya sucked in a breath and tore her gaze from the dryad to look at the trees. The dryad followed her gaze and her heart skipped a beat. Then the dryad’s head snapped back down and she looked right at Maya. The most horrific screech pierced the silence,“Ruuuuuunnnn!”

As the trees roared back to life, Maya spun on her heel and fled. Shea ran, dodging branches and bushes, fluttering over roots, and refusing to look back. She ran heedless of direction until her wings and feet could carry her no further. The terrified fairy didn’t stop until her legs gave out and her lungs felt as though they would burst. She fell to the ground at the foot of a tree and cried.

The tear-stained tree protested and branches pulled her to her feet. Though the rustling voices of the trees had died away, Maya’s ears strain to detect the sound. Her heart still raced and her limbs shook. She glanced around, realizing she’d left the large, silent trees behind. The tree before her whispered to her kindly, but Maya was still too panicked from her flight.

“Go to the stream,” a deep, rumbling voice intoned, “Follow it to the inlet.”

“I can’t,” Maya shook her head, tears still streaming down her face.

“Yes you can,” the voice said softly, “It isn’t far.”

Maya wiped a hand across her face and took a deep breath. She glanced back over her shoulder, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Whatever had startled the trees must be far behind her now. She decided a drink might be a good idea, thanked the tree, and numbly made her way to the brook. The tree had been right; she could see the inlet from where she stood.

The fairy’s brow furrowed. She couldn’t think of any large bodies of water near the village. “Where am I?” Maya mused, following the stream. As the trees began to thin and the water widen, the sky around her seemed to lighten. Maya knelt at the water’s edge, gazing out at the vast expanse. The land dropped off rather abruptly and the water looked deep even against the short ledge. Gently, she leaned down to wash her face and drink. Exhausted, the fairy’s eyes fluttered shut. She rested her head against her knees and drifted off.

***

“Excuse me.”

Maya’s eyes flew open and her head jerked up. She scrambled to her feet, immediately alert. Dismay flooded her as she saw the colors that reflected on the bay. Fighting against despair, she pushed aside the thought of spending another night curled into a ball. She’d lost a full day.

“Look what you’ve done!” a second voice hissed. Maya’s eyes widened when she found the source.

There were two women in the inlet. The blonde watched her with concern, her stormy gray eyes trained on the fairy as she spoke softly to the brunette beside her, “I think we woke her.”

The brunette rolled her eyes and Maya gaped. They were the lightest blue she’d ever seen, almost like ice. The woman swam closer and Maya scrambled back, yearning for the safety of the trees.

“Mira, stop!” the blonde called, “You’re scaring her.”

The brunette—Mira—hesitated. She glanced back at her friend and then looked over the water at Maya. “We don’t want any trouble. We just,” she sighed, “We’re a little lost.”

The blonde woman moved forward to tread beside Mira. “We were hoping you could tell us where we are,” she said gently.

Their eyes were kind and Mira relaxed a little, chiding herself for being so on edge. She sighed and picked at the grass on the forest’s edge. “I wish I could tell you.”

The women blinked in surprise. Mira opened her mouth and then closed it again and the blonde’s eyes softened. “You’re lost,” she breathed. Maya felt the sudden urge to cry. Fighting back tears, she nodded once and started back at the ground.

“Well, that doesn’t help,” Mira grumbled under her breath.

The blonde girl glared at her friend and swam closer. Gently, she placed a hand on Maya’s. Startled that the stranger was so near, the fairy glanced up to meet her gaze. They were both close enough to touch, but she hadn’t heard them swim through the water. Now that she could see them more clearly, she realized they were still girls themselves. They couldn’t have been much older than Willow.

A movement beneath the surface caught Maya’s eye and she lurched away from the blonde. Confused, the two girls exchanged glances and backed away just enough to give Maya space. “W-what are you?” the fairy leaned out over the water, searching the depths.

A smile played at the blonde’s lips. “We’re mermaids,” she answered. When Maya had no response, the mermaid continued. “What’s your name?”

“Maya,” the fairy answered slowly.

“Maya,” the blonde repeated, “Tell me, where are you from?”

“A village,” Maya met the mermaid’s stormy eyes again, trying to reel in her shock. She’d heard stories about mermaids before, but never dreamt she’d ever meet any. “A village in the forest.”

“What’s the name of the village?” asked Mira, pulling something from a satchel at her hip, beneath the water.

“S-shadow Grove,” Maya stuttered, her gaze transfixed on the mermaids’ tails.

“Oh!” the blonde giggled, “I think we passed Shadow Grove on the way here.”

Maya’s attention snapped up to the blonde mermaid. “What?”

Mira rolled her eyes again, smiling. “We didn’t exactly pass your village. It’s further inland,” she watched Maya earnestly and pointed to the map in her hands. “But we can tell you it’s further south than wherever it is we are.” The brunette mermaid pointed to Maya’s right. “And it will be further west, of course,” she added. The mermaid rambled about bearings and started to explain how she could use the sun to orient herself.

Maya felt her head spin at the directions. She glanced between the mermaids, her confusion evident in her features. The blonde mermaid giggled again and then leaned in conspiratorially, “She just means deeper in the woods. Not against the water.”

Maya nodded hesitantly and shot a worried glance over her shoulder. She didn’t want to travel back the way she’d come, but truth be told, she wasn’t sure which way she’d come. Perhaps she could travel…south…as these mermaids said and then back into the woods. The three sat in silence as the sky darkened around them. The colors had faded and the stars were beginning to shine against a cloudy night.

“Um,” the fairy cleared her throat, “Thank you. I’ll try that.”

“You’re welcome,” the blonde said brightly. She opened her mouth to speak again, but her friend grabbed her arm and began to drag her back the way they’d come. “Hey! Mira, I just want t—”

“She doesn’t want to answer any of your questions, Sabi. Come on.”

“Told you they were real,” the blonde answered lowly, elbowing her friend with a giant grin. “It was nice to meet you!” she called cheerfully, waving. “Good luck finding your way home!”

“Thanks,” Maya said quietly, watching as the two disappeared beneath the surface. She took a deep breath and stood. Her foot throbbed, her wings ached, and her body was sorer than it had ever been, but at least she had a plan now. She’d spend the night with the tree that had led her to the inlet and then start her journey home in the morning.

Maya stumbled back to the tree just past the stream. Gazing up into it’s thick branches, she spoke softly, “Would you mind terribly if I stayed with you tonight?”

In response, branches and roots threaded together to form a hammock-like structure. The top of the tree shook and several large leaves fell to blanket the makeshift bed. As Maya settled into place, she felt the tree hum beside her and as she drifted off, she thought she heard a deep voice rumble, “You’ll be safe here, child. Dream sweet and strong, for your journey is just beginning.”


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