1. Mysterious Powers
North Larska River
It was late afternoon before Alanis was roused from sleep. Her eyes opened and took in the lush canopy of foliage that hung over her, examining the many strange vines that wrapped around the branches of the tall trees. There were hundreds of yellow sprouting blossoms that weaved within them, all twinkling in the sunshine.
Where the hell am I?
She lifted and turned her head to the babbling body of water beside her. Larska River, she figured without giving it a second thought, then continued to look around for a familiar landmark. Dense forest covered both sides of the river, and as far as could be seen, there was no sign of the settlement she belonged to.
Where the hell am I, she thought again, giving the yellow flowers a second glance, this time noticing their sweet fragrance on the breeze. The night before was a blur, and try as she might, she couldn’t recall the days before in great clarity either. Just fragments from them.
But she remembered something in great clarity.
"That woman,” Alanis whispered, lowering her eyes back to the water while she recalled her. The woman who held her in her arms, she could remember her vividly.
Was she real? Did she bring me here? Who was she?
Alanis stood up and brushed the dried sand that caked againt her skin and clothing away. After she made herself comfortable, she walked along the river searching for Larska, the settlement she called home. The forest surrounding her looked so different from the one she was used to seeing outside her apartment window. There were different types of trees, even the pines looked different, being taller and slenderer. She sighed, hoping she wasn’t too far from home.
After walking for a while, the shore began to narrow until trees blocked the way. Their branches swooped out over the water, preventing safe passage. It was around that time that she looked up at the sky to estimate what time it was. The sun was starting to fall below the treetops, so she figured it was late afternoon. Swimming was out of the question, knowing her clothes would still be damp by nightfall and how that would make for a more miserable evening.
Alanis made her way to the edge of the forest and broke off a branch from one of the trees. She grasped the thick-branch in her hands, and took several practice swings. It was her naive hope that this switch would help protect her from whatever dangers she would encounter within the forest ahead of her.
She hesitated at first, but managed to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat.
This isn’t going to end well.
The underbrush crackled and shifted under her weight as she made her way through the trees. Her forearm braced against the onslaught of branches and vines until she broke free to a clearing. She lowered her arm, a little worse for wear, as she gazed at the forest floor. Normally she would have been enchanted by the pillars of light that breached the branches above, but her thoughts were elsewhere.
As the afternoon sun gave way to red-skies, she took a break and leaned against a large tree stump to rest. She sat down and slipped her shoes from her feet and cleared them of debris, one at a time. Boy did her feet hurt, she rubbed them, noticing how dirty they had gotten. It was no wonder why as the shoes she had worn weren’t made for hiking. Stuff kept getting caught in them. She was constantly clearing pebbles and twigs from them.
Alanis closed her eyes, then slumped over surrendering to the toll of the trek. The thought of spending the night alone, in the woods, soon worried her. She sighed, fighting the urge to let panic take over. Keep it together, Alanis. This is nothing. It’s just an adventure, she reminded herself, remembering how on any normal day she would have daydreamed about going on an adventure like this outside of Larska.
How stupid was I, thinking I could do something like this.
She took in several deep breaths and closed her eyes, all the while, assuring herself that she would be okay, as long as she didn’t panic.
While she was trying to clear her thoughts, she could see an image forming in my mind’s eye. It was peculiar to her because it wasn’t her imagination. No, it was more real than that, it was as if she was seeing it right in front of her. She clenched her eyes, trying to make out the shape that was flowing towards her. The movement reminded her of the gentle rustle of the wind through the trees, but she could see it as clear as day as it flowed towards her.
The wind rushed past her, howling, and blowing her skirt above her knees. She held the silky fabric down while opening her eyes. The gusts had become so powerful that leaves and small debris were picked up in their wake. Alanis lifted her head as they twirled above her. Enthralled by the sight, she watched, and for a moment had the notion she was controlling it.
She continued to watch as the winds gathered above her head, growing stronger as it swirled into a single point, forming an orb. The light within it glistened and grew stronger the more she concentrated. Her breath released as she found she was holding onto it as she was in focus. Her eyes suddenly shifted to her feet . She shrieked loudly and jerked, stunned she was floating a few feet above the ground.
Get me down!
Her legs and arms began to flail about as she panicked. She stumbled forward, knocking the orb down to the ground with herself. It blasted a small crater into the earth and released a large shock wave that shook the ground and rattled to the top of the trees. The birds squawked from their high perches at the sudden disturbance, and she found herself joining them with a short scream.
What is going on, did I do that? I was floating off the ground. No, way... You can’t go crazy in this place. Snap out of it! It didn’t happen...
She leaned back on an old tree stump to catch her breath and looked over at the stick she had plucked earlier. Her thoughts raced while she tried to come to terms with whatever just happened to her. As much as she wanted to call herself crazy and dismiss it, something told her, she was the cause of whatever that was, even if she didn’t fully believe it.
Her hands shook on her lap. She had never seen anything like that before and was both amazed and frightened by it. She sunk down into the tall grass and scooped up a leaf that was carried by the wind, studying it with her tired eyes. As exhausted as she was, she wouldn’t close her eyes again, fearful of what would happen if she did.