Once upon a time, there lived a man in a clearing behind the forest of a now forgotten town called Peteonia. He lived alone in a world full of people for he never found himself to be a man of the crowd. His name was Irwin, or so he was called before he was left to fend for himself off of the small piece of land he speak of as home, having a small farm to harvest his vegetables and fruits, keeping his need and selling the rest on the one-month trip to the town. His land was blessed and magic resided in its soil, and so it did in his heart.
One morning he was sitting, reading a book from his vast collection, just like any other day, while sipping on the herbal tea he brewed for himself. The scenery in front of him is what people usually call breathtaking. The forest created the borders of his land and protected it against any ‘outer’ interference. It was so dense that a person can get lost if they happened to miss the trail that Irwin used for traveling between Peteonia and his own little haven. The small lake that resided beside his cottage, its water always having the same level no matter what season it was, only added to the majestic view.
While relaxing at his rocking chair that day, there came a sound that shook the sleeping forest awake, causing birds and animals to rush in a frenzy of feather and fur. Irwin placed his book aside, he left the comfort of his home-zone and walked to the edge of the forest looking for the gunman who caused the disturbance, but he saw nothing, not even a shadow. However, he did hear a heavy intake of breath coming from somewhere around the area, so he walked a few more steps between the huge mass of greenery. And there he saw her.
A woman dressed in what once was called a dress, but now tattered and torn and full of dirt, was leaning against a tree for support, blood trailing down her right leg and mixing with the soil under her feet. She heard the steps coming closer to her, and looked up abruptly. She saw him coming her way and her eyes filled with fear as a shrill of terror coursed through her veins.
“P-Please don’t hurt me,” she stuttered, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes, “Don’t kill me please.” She begged again desperately wanting to preserve her life.
Irwin was stunned by her pleading and he couldn’t help but try to assure her that he won’t bring her any harm, showing her his bare hands-no weapons.
He brought his hand forward as an offering of help, to take and shelter her away from the danger that was lurking behind the bushes. The woman only watched him, debating whether to trust this stranger or not. But soon, the time for deciding was running out when the sound of leaves crunching under hard steps was drawing closer to where they stood. The young lady looked into Irwin’s now pleading eyes that sensed the alarm in hers, and at that moment, she decided to take what he offered and go wherever he thought would be safer for her.
She tried taking a step towards him, but the pain in her leg seared through her nerves causing her to stop and hunch over her wound, the shot left a wide gash as it grazed her skin. Irwin saw that there was no time left to waste, so he took a step closer to her and scooped her in his arms. Involuntary, her arms wrapped around his neck to keep herself from falling when he practically started running in the direction of his cottage.
Once inside, Irwin laid the girl on the small coach that resided in front of a dying fireplace that he restocked. When he went out to gather his belongings from where he left them, he spotted two men running out of the forest. He knew that they were no good news, yet waited for them with a look of confusion marring his features in order not to raise suspicion.
One of them had long, braided hair while the other had none at all. Their features resembled each other’s and Irwin knew that they were of the same kin even when the latter appeared to be older than the former. “Aye, have you seen a woman wonderin’ around?” The bald man asked with no greetings whatsoever. As if it was very normal to come upon a living soul, other than animals, around the forest.
“The forest is no place for a woman...” Irwin voiced, his genuine statement derived from a question he intended to ask when he first saw the girl.
“The wench is a sister of ours,” the one with the long hair replied with distaste. “She ran off when we were headin’ home, she brings us shame!”
Irwin regarded the two of them with a calculating look, seeing that one of them had a fresh wound on his left cheek, he smiled inwardly to himself, realizing that the woman was able to put up a fight. Finally he decided to answer them with a shake of his head, “I’m afraid I can’t be of much help.” With that, he turned to enter his house, but was stopped with a hand on his shoulder.
“You can’t or you won’t be?” The brother that appeared to be younger asked with suspicion lacing his clipped tone.
Irwin glared at the hand on his shoulder for some time then his lips broke into a small smile, “the forest is so wide,” he stated, “she could be lost somewhere inside or maybe she fell into the river for all I care.” Irwin removed the hand on his shoulder harshly now glaring at its owner, “and if you don’t wish to die I prefer you leave me with my peace.”
The younger brother placed his hand on his rifle, but the eldest was fast to stop him, “we’re sorry to disturb you,” he addressed Irwin, “but if you happened to be lyin’, I won’t be stoppin’ my brother next time.” With that threat thrown, the two brothers walked away and back into the forest to continue their search and only paused for a while to hear what Irwin had to say.
“I’d rather not go back inside if I were you,” he said and looked behind them and at the forest, seeing some blinking eyes in its shades. “Once you’re lost inside, you’re never going to find your way out. It would suffocate you and leave you there to die. And if you happened to be so unlucky, you’ll encounter a monster or two that’ll tear you apart. Limb by limb.” The look of horror on the youngest brother’s face was enough to tell Irwin that he frightened them enough not to continue their search, or so he hoped.
“She’d die sooner or later then.” The bald brother muttered as if he discovered a mysterious riddle.
These were the last words said between the three and Irwin was finally able to let the breath he was holding out before he hurriedly entered his house and bolted the wooden door.
“You didn’t have to lie,” the girl’s voice came week from where she stood beside the window, leaning on the wall and looking out as the sun was nearing the middle of the sky. “But thank you, that forest story should do the trick.” She gave a strained breath that sounded like a laugh and one that earned her a glare.
“I tell no tales.” He snapped. A look of fear resided in her eyes and she managed a small sorry. They stayed silent for a long while, the woman watching as emotions crossed between Irwin’s forest green eyes. They were dulling and dilating with his memories as he stood in the middle of the living room, staring at the wooden floor with no purpose.
“You don’t need to thank me,” he replied breaking the silence after sometime, “I did what I had to do.”
A silent moment passed again between the two, “what’s your name?” The girl inquired still looking into his eyes.
“Irwin.” He answered, “What’s yours?”
“They call me Mallory,” she scrunched up her face, but her features glowed at what she continued, “I like to be called Faye, and you can call me that.” She smiled lightly and held Irwin’s gaze for a while longer, but soon she felt conscious of herself and lowered her eyes, cheeks flaming red.
“A fairy, huh?” Irwin gave a teasing smile.
“Yes.” She answered shyly.
Everything happened in slow motion after that, her sapphire-blues rolled and her eyelids closed. Her body was falling endlessly as if never reaching the wooden floor.
Irwin’s eyes widened then and he rushed towards Faye’s sleeping form that now lies on the hard ground with her chestnut tresses framing the pleasant features of her face. He carried her again and laid her on his bed, noticing the blood that littered the mattress.
Irwin rushed between the small kitchen and his room, warming water, getting medical herbs and clean linens to help stop the bleeding and clean her wound. The beauty was asleep and it was going to take some time for her to wake and heal from whatever the world had decided to put her through. Such a cruel world, torturing such a pure soul.