Quietly climbing down the tree, Celeste and I hit the floor of the forest with soft thuds. I spend one moment glancing over at the slave quarters, which is alive with activity of girls being brought back. Already captured.
“No,” I whisper under my breath. They would be punished in our absence.
“I thought you said we needed to run,” Celeste interrupts my thought process urgently and I turn to see her still red eyes and exhausted face. I didn’t want Traegr to hurt her or me.
“Let’s move it, if you remember anything about this forest, please, now is a good time to speak up,” I grab her arm and pull her along with me until we are running side by side.
“As far away from the slave quarters as possible,” Celeste redirects me and every time we hear anything that might be the Others, we pause until we are certain we are alone.
For at least an hour we run, miraculously not disturbed by any of the Others. We slow to a walk when the black forest sparkles to life just ahead, with glowing flowers and glittering bugs.
“Beautiful,” I whisper under my breath as Celeste and I approach in awe of the glowing forest. We find it near a tiny trickle of water, a stream from a nearby creek.
“I’m so dehydrated,” Celeste rasps dryly and she starts following the trickle towards the bigger stream it originated from. The trees slope down towards the tiny creek and we drink our fill, pressing out knees into the soft mud at the banks as we lean down and greedily slurp up the H2O.
“So lucky,” I gasp out, using the water to clear the sweat from my brow also, “We are so lucky we escaped.”
There is a feminine chuckle from above us and Celeste and I nearly jump out of our skins as we scramble to our feet and spot a girl on the other side of the creek, resting against a thick tree trunk.
I narrow my eyes and see the long straight brown hair and the cocky smile.
“Kaelyn,” I gasp out, “You made it too?”
“We all did,” she says proudly, beckoning Celeste and I closer.
“All of you?” Celeste asks, confused as we both jump over the small creek to stand by Kaelyn who jumps to her feet and grabs the nearest tree branch. She pulls her self up onto the thick branch and rests on it from above us, swinging her feet.
“Correct,” Kaelyn nods, “My girls and I escaped.”
“More tried to escape afterwards, but they didn’t make it. They were caught,” I explain and Kaelyn raises her eyebrows mockingly.
“Well, they should have thought about agreeing to be those idiot’s little lap bitches before realising that was a terrible mistake,” Kaelyn says cruelly, clapping her hands together twice, more girls appear from the shadows silently.
Celeste and I both look on in surprise as we are steadily surrounded. Kaelyn had formed a squad of rebels already it seemed and they were impressively co-ordinated.
“What is this?” Celeste asks suspiciously as we are literally trapped in by the other girls.
“It’s time to swear allegiance to the Seraphine Rebellion Squadron. You must swear fealty to me, I’m the leader,” Kaelyn smiles with her authority and no one questions her otherwise, “Our mission is to stay the hell away from those alien assholes and survive in the forest without them.”
“Where did you learn the name, Seraphine?” I ask and Kaelyn shrugs.
“I just made it up, sounded cool,” she snaps, “Why does it matter? Do you swear fealty to me and the group or not? It’s easy, you just have to say yes.”
“Yes,” Celeste mutters, giving in and then looking at me hopefully for my compliance.
“Okay – I mean, yes,” I nod, not sure what else to say. I had two choices either way, go back to the Others or try and stay safe and strong with the girls. The Seraphine Rebellion Squadron sounded far more appealing at the moment. Even if I didn’t fully appreciate Kaelyn’s attitude to leadership. She liked the attention and the power – but would she make a good leader?
“Good,” she climbs to her feet on the tree branch and stands above all of us as she announces with hands on her hips, “Everyone find a spot in the trees and fall asleep, we search for food and water and more shelter at dawn.”
Without hesitation the girls move off, Celeste seems eager to do so but I remain below Kaelyn.
“You have a problem with an order?” she jokes casually, “All I said was to go sleep – don’t look so offended, princess.”
“I’m not offended,” I snap, “I’m frustrated. You said you made up the name Seraphine but I don’t think you did. I think the name is in your memory from when we use to live here.”
“So you are telling me we are originally from here? I thought so, but can you confirm it?” Kaelyn jumps to the ground so she is level with us and waits for my answer with raised brows. Celeste raises her chin, still nervous but ready to answer.
“I cast a spell for everyone to lose their memory before we escaped Kiyr but half my memory remains and all your memories will soon come back. At least most of them will,” Celeste explains.
“I thank you, then, Celeste,” Kaelyn nods at her, pretending to curtsy, lifting a pretend skirt, “For your help in erasing those men’s stupid faces from our memories while we had freedom on Earth. And Sapphire? Perhaps Seraphine did mean something more to me, back in the day,” with that, Kaelyn turns on her heel and walks off muttering to herself and laughing.
“Hmm...” Celeste hums to herself, “Not the answer I was expecting.”
“Me neither, she’s an odd one...” I mutter to Celeste, “At least she has leadership skills it seems. The girls listen to her.”
Celeste pauses and glances at me briefly, looking concerned.
“They use to listen to you,” she states and I also hesitate but eventually shrug.
“I’m exhausted, let’s find a tree and hopefully sleep comes easy,” I suggest, shaking my head of fast thoughts. I didn’t want my mind to start racing now.
I had too many thoughts to think about but sleep was more important so I could think clearly in the morning. Celeste and I quietly find a tree back in the glowing section of the forest. We both climb a thick trunk and find a branch each. They weren’t like trees on Earth. These Kiyr trees had hollows in the branches like they were made for sleeping in.
“Goodnight, Sapphire, and thank you too,” Celeste whispers from around the bend of the tree, “You saved us today – you saved me from Traegr’s wrath.”
“I wasn’t sure what he would do,” I respond, curling up on my side, closing my eyes, “Good night, Celeste!” Soon all I hear is the sounds of the forest. Squeaking, buzzing bugs and the wind rustling the leaves. It helps calm my mind, despite my need for answers.
My last thoughts before I give into sleep are persistent in my mind and they influence my dreams to come.
If Seraphine use to be the leader of the resistance, where was she now? And If I was listened to by the girls back in the day, who was I in relation to her?
And what the hell did Traegr’s words mean?
...perhaps we can return to what we all use to have. The old times. Nothing but pleasure, every day, every night and freedom to let instincts rule...