The forest was silent as the grave as she moved between the massive trunks of the ancient trees. Tension hung in the air, thick as tar and palpable, it pushed its way in to her lungs and made her feel as if she were suffocating on it. To say that it was difficult to know what was wrong would have been an understatement… it was impossible to know what was wrong. No one was speaking… not the sly fox, the brave wolf, nor the playful squirrel. Even the birds, with their bright feathers and large voices were silent, huddled within their nests, nooks, and crannies, unwilling to make themselves known.
No amount of pulling at the invisible threads connecting her to the swaths of life around her seemed to stir her family from the still, anxious state they’d tucked themselves in to, and worry gnawed at the delicate creature’s belly. The reed fibers that had been woven and fashioned in to her sparse closing shifted tight against her tough skin, and part of her wished she could peel the clothing away from her figure, but the druids that occasionally came to the forest had made it clear that it bothered them. They’d been kind enough to fashion the clothing for her, and though she’d altered them to cover far less skin, she continued to wear them so as to not upset them again.
“Why is everyone so quiet?” came her quiet voice. The sound ranged between the soft growl of an animal and the call of a bird on the wing, with just enough of a smooth tone to sound semi human. Moving to one of the massive trees, she let her small hands with their long, slender fingers rest against the tree bark, stroking it gently. “Why are you hiding?” But no answer came. Not a creature stirred, not a single branch shuddered.
Frowning in her growing anticipation, she was about to turn back, to go back to the thicket she called her resting place and follow the example set by her family when a noise caught her attention. Blinking wide yellow eyes, she turned toward the source of the noise. Crackling and snapping preceded a sudden roar and rush of heat that made her skin suddenly feel brittle and dry, and a cry left the creature as she stumbled backward. Like a wave, the fire pushed toward her, reaching for her, licking at her skin and pulling a scream of pain from her. Fear filled her wild eyes, with their oval pupils as the gentle creature turned to run. Birds burst from the foliage around her, animals gave their warning cries, and the forest was swallowed by a wave of fear as it’s occupants ran for their lives.
“Run!” she cried, and the animals echoed her sentiments, but even as the animals led her run for freedom from the hot evil that chased them, a strong push of wind met her, causing her to stumble backward. She watched her friends run along unhindered in confusion and terror, trying desperately to push past the wall of air that continued to buffet her backward. “Help!” Unable to move forward, she turned, expecting to have the flames swallow her whole, only to feel the air begin to swirl wildly around her. Something firm and unforgiving found her wrists, pulling her hard toward the ground, where she landed on her knees.
“Help!” another scream of terror as the wind picked up leaf, twig, and dirt and caused them to swirl wildly around her kneeling form. “Please…” A pained whimper escaping her lips, she looked down, finding herself staring at thick, foreign vines wrapped around her arms and looping themselves up around her thighs, tying her to the ground. Breathing heavily, she coughed and sputtered as the flame formed a circle around her new prison, and her body trembled as she looked up in time to see the flames part.
Stepping through the flames as if they were a curtain came two figures, swathed in heavy robes. “I told you it would not be a difficult conquest,” came a male voice.
“Indeed, though her lack of resistance makes me wonder if she will suit our needs?”
“Well we will find out, won’t we?”
A gruff sound of affirmation escaped the second man’s voice a moment before something hard struck the back of the creature’s head a moment before the world went black around her.