Rise now, dance in the sunshine of the day; the brightest sun. Rise now, walk in the field of royal blooms; the crimson flowers. Rise now, tickled by the gentlest breeze; the verdant wind…
Serena sang to herself softly, making up the lyrics of the song as she made her way through the forest as usual. Along the way, she stopped frequently to gather various plants and herbs, storing them in the wicker basket she had brought along for her morning walk. Zetreum Forest was full of magical, natural life. It was her sanctuary, this bright, lush forest. Serena picked a bright red fruit off a tree, biting into it to reveal dark blackish-blue flesh. The thick gold juice dripped all over her hands, making her fingers stick to each other and turn numb.
Candy korlan apples, a favorite of Serena’s and a magical fruit that enhanced one’s night vision. Such plants and other flora were fairly common in Zetreum Forest. Even the animals here were strange and with their own mysterious secrets. Magical flora and fauna of all kinds made their home in this enchanting forest, with its towering pine trees. Many plants were edible, granting various temporary powers, and the meat of animals offered blessings to whoever managed to capture them. But with the sun fully out and glistening on the morning dew, the candy korlan apple didn’t offer much other than sweet refreshment to start Serena’s day.
Once she was done, she buried the core in some moist soil, whispering an ancient blessing of fertility and fruitfulness. A stream was right nearby, and as Serena washed her messy fingers in the cool, clear water, she saw a jackalope and a magnificent white deer with golden horns feasting on teardrop-shaped milkberries. They were right across the water, so close that Serena only had to take a few steps if she wanted to run her hand across the deer’s snowy coat.
The animals were not afraid of her and they ignored Serena as she rose from the banks and continued on her way. She had no intention of interrupting their meal, as she had places to be.
Rise now, kissed once by swirling forest air; the silver trees. Laugh now, beasts of great to guard you as you run; rabbit, wolf, and deer. Search, seek, find the waving flag that holds our destiny…
Serena continued to sing, twirling and humming to herself as she skipped past towering trees and clusters of bushes. She came to a halt when she rounded her favorite pine tree, becoming silent and observing the sigh solemnly. Serena leaned against the tree, tilting her head and frowning.
A huge pile of mud had knocked down several trees and overturned boulders, blocking her path. Considering the rainy season was upon them with its many thunderstorms, this was not a surprising sight. The massive downpours, along with the lightning, often destabilized the cliffs overlooking much of the forest, causing massive amounts of mud, plant life, and rocks to fall down onto the lower levels of the forest. The men from Serena’s village often spent several days tidying up after the mudslides.
What was surprising, however, was what the mudslide had brought with it. Laying on a broken boulder was an unconscious boy. His strange clothing and features indicated that he was not from around here, but he did not have any weapons on his persona or anything indicated that he was here for ransacking.
He seemed to be around Serena’s age, perhaps even the same age. His messy black locks were caked in dirt and blood covered his body. A strange scar adorned his right cheek, disappearing behind his ear and hair. The blood seeping from his wounds and onto his clothes was still fresh, telling Serena he got caught up in this mudslide not too long ago. They didn’t look like injuries he could have gotten from a mudslide, but Serena had no time to worry about that as she quickly began to tend to him.
Pinkish-purple lights gathered in her palms as she slowly ran her hands over the boy’s cuts and scrapes. They closed up instantly, but his body remained covered in all sorts of foul forest matter, such as mud, leaves, and twigs. Seeing as she couldn’t leave him here, Serena decided that she’d have to move him to her workshop.
It wasn’t that far and it was the only place where Serena had any sort of privacy. Her mother and teachers would throw a fit if she brought this boy back to the village with her. Strangers were not tolerated whatsoever and for good reason. Many bandits came from the north to rob Zetreum Village and the surrounding forest of its natural riches. In the past, this thieving left the village in a state of depression and famine.
But Serena saw no harm in trying to help this boy. He didn’t look like a bandit, and he definitely needed time to heal. Using a bit of wind magic, Serena levitated the boy and headed towards Zezill Mountain, where her workshop was carved from mountain stone.