Zena looked around the forest at her surroundings and took in the remnants of the fleeing villagers that had thought this was a haven. She sighed and shook her head, making the sign of The Moon across her chest before walking onward. The leaves of the trees shrieked above, warning her of the night to come and to get a move on before twilight. She knew she didn’t have much time to collect the thistle that was needed for her father’s tonic, but he had been out for over a week and his aura was growing weaker everyday, so she trudged further into the depths of woods she knew and feared.
Finally, she reached the rose bushes of her destination and the rare vegetation that grew beneath. She knelt and swept away the thorns that reached towards her, she inserted her hand deep into the base of the plant, tugging at the knotted greenery hidden below. It gave away with only a weak cry, the thistle died quietly in her palm as she wrapped it in paper and put it in her coat. She wiped her hands and stood quietly, whispering a spell, “To death and the moon, those alone can consume the weeping of the woods.”
An owl screeched, it jolted Zena from her spot and reminded her that night was coming, but twilight was here. Her father had warned her of dawdling in the woods too long, but the path was washed out and her discovery of the villager’s bodies had caused her to stall. If she did not hurry, she would be lying there too. She made the sign of The Moon once more and set off.
The woods curled around her, warning her of their nightly descent as she quickened her pace. The whispers of their leaves grew louder and louder. Zena was scared, but she knew the woods would give her more time to escape because of her lineage and their oath. She ran as quickly as the trail would allow until she stumbled out of the tree line to the field leading to her home and the hamlet it resided in. She let out the breath she had not known she was holding and patted her coat pocket with the thistle inside – she did it.
Zena ran the remainder of the way to her cottage, the only thing that separated the village from the woods. It wasn’t much, a simple mud laid dome structure with sturdy wooden planks for the roofing. A reward earned from her late mother’s skill as a midwife from the town’s head before she had been born. She pushed aside the fabric woven door and stepped inside. She smelled the warmth of her home as her eyes adjusted to the darkness within.
She made out her father laying in the bed and rushed over. “Father, I have the thistle. If you will wake, I can boil it for you to drink.”
Her father’s milky blue eyes opened and he smiled, “Aaah, the woods have not forgotten, I see.”
Zena smiled at her father, “No, they have not.” She pushed the matted hair from his forehead and gently kissed his cheek. “And soon, they will remember us always, you just wait, Father.”
“You are full of dreams, dear daughter. Your mother would be proud.” Her father replied as he took her hand into his own and gently squeezed. “Now, let us boil that thistle, hmm?”
“Yes, let’s.” Zena told him, as his aura waned further from the depths of her view. If she was going to find a way to save him, she would have to do it soon.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)