The world has not always been as it is today. Several eras ago, the Ancient Forest’s roots once spread far and wide, embracing the world; giving shelter to every creature under its vast canopy. This was a time when life thrived, a time when the earth moved and breathed freely, without constraint. Back then, every living creature lived in harmony, and it was all thanks to the guardians of the forest, the Duenfee...
Whispers hung in the humid summer air as the marketplace began to fill with life. Summer often brought a bustle of merchants and nomads, but the marketplace seemed busier than usual this afternoon. Amber stood in front of a fruit stall, her bright, blue eyes peering out from under the rim of her cloak, watching as villagers rushed about.
“Did you hear?”
Amber’s ears twitched slightly, as the gossip dripped words reached her. Nearby there was a particularly chatty group of women and Amber knew from her many trips to the marketplace that gossiping women spread news faster than any messenger could. Amber shuffled to the end of the fruit stall, positioning herself to stand in front of the apples with her back to the group.
“Last night the fae snuck into Millstone and kidnapped five children!”
A few gasps escaped the group. Amber slowed her movements, carefully reaching forward and grasping an apple from the stall, pretending to inspect it. A sense of unbridled panic escaped the youngest in the group,
“That’s only two days by horse from here! The fae are bound to come to our village next!”
Apparently Amber was not the only one eavesdropping, for an elderly voice quickly interjected herself into the conversation.
“The fae won’t come to our little town. I have a grand-daughter in Millstone who said that the fae only kidnapped those children because last week the people of Millstone cut down a massive section of the Ancient Forest to make room for a new pasture. Everyone knows that the fae are vengeful little creatures. Millstone brought this upon themselves.”
The original voice that drew Amber’s attention let out a scoff,
“They needed to cut down that section of the ancient forest to make room for a proper pasture because the cows that wandered into that forest kept coming back diseased. Plus, when Millstone was built, the Ancient Forest wasn’t anywhere near the town. Now it has become so overgrown it is practically growing through the town.”
“Regardless of the reason, unless you bother the fae, you don’t have to worry about them coming here.”
The elderly woman’s voice held an entitled air that challenged the original voice to say something more. Yet, to Amber’s surprise, it was not the original voice who responded but a newer and much softer voice, fear lingering behind her words.
“But that’s not true anymore. My sister lives about twelve days’ ride from here and she sent word that the fae there have become violent. They no longer just attack those who enter or harm the forest. That, the fae, they are just attacking anyone from the village, antagonized or not.”
Unable to hold her tongue any longer, an exaggerated sigh was expelled by the original voice,
“Is this not the sister that ran away with that farmer’s boy? She didn’t have half a brain then and doubt she has one now. Who’s to say her stories are true?”
The women began to squabble amongst themselves, their conversation sliding into a flurry of personal gossip that no longer interested Amber. Taking a few more pieces of fruit, Amber handed the seller a few copper pieces for everything she had collected. She turned, attempting to maneuver through the crowd. The recent kidnappings at Millstone must be the reason for the crowd today. Millstone was the next closest marketplace to this one, but merchants and nomads must be taking heed of the gossip and traveled the extra distance to set up here as a precaution. As Amber moved through the crowd, she was jostled from a shoulder here or a hip there, despite standing a solid foot or two above most of them. One particularly sharp elbow hooked her cloak and knocked her back a step, causing the hood of her cloak to slip back, releasing a waterfall of strawberry blonde hair. Her pointed ears quickly popped out on either side of her slender face. Frozen in place, Amber felt herself drowning as a sea of eyes washed over her. She watched as one by one, their expressions changed from awe to disgust once they realized what she was. Under the shade of her cloak, she was often dismissed as an elf, for they shared many similar attributes. But the warmth of her sun-kissed skin was a quick indication that she was not one of her fair skinned counterparts.
Her ears twitched once more as muffled slurs reverberated through the crowd. “Flick”, “Pest”, －and Amber’s personal favorite－ “winged-tramp.”
Sighing, Amber tugged on the string of her cloak, releasing it to fall down into her one hand; immediately, two beautiful pearlescent butterfly wings sprung forth from her back. The crowd took cautious steps back, expressions twisting back into a sense of awe as thousands of rainbows danced along the ground from the sun’s rays getting caught in the thin membrane of her wings. With a roll of her eyes, Amber flapped her wings twice, leapt into the air, and whisked herself out of the marketplace without a word.
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