The petite bare feet of a child skipped across the wild and uneven forest floor. A long and thin leather wrapped package slapped against her calves with every stride, bouncing around as she weaved between trees. Her breath was laboured and tears stained her cheeks.
She had been running non-stop for nearly an hour, scrapes and cuts littered her legs telling of the hardships she had gone through – the overwhelming call for self-preservation cared not for those minor injuries.
Briefly, paranoia forced her to look back, hoping beyond all hope that nobody was following.
Several distant weak spires of grey smoke wavered as they tried to reach the sky, only for the uncaring wind to blow them away. Other than that melancholic sight, she saw only flashes of movements in the foliage.
The aches in her feet soon spiked once again as she tripped over the terrain, causing her to tumble to the ground for the nth time. This time she did not try to recover.
Spotting a shallow rocky cave, she scrambled, small fingers stabbing into the hard ground as she pulled herself into the safety of the alcove. Immediately, her back was against the wall, her legs tucked to her chest as she tried to control her breath and calm her racing heart. She cared not if the package was pressed uncomfortably against her spine.
Bones littered the stone recess and it smelled of wet fur and carrion, signs showing she had invaded the lair of some beast. A silent prayer to the Queen left her lips, pleading that whatever creature it was would not return.
Her breath began to calm but quickly mutated into soft sobs.
She mewled pitifully, tears returning to her pale blue eyes as she called for a mother that would not hear. Inwardly, she berated herself. No Fae, especially one of the Winter Court, should show emotion as she was now. But her more human nature could not help it as the day’s events sank in.
Mother, for some reason, had thought it prudent to take her along with a large troop of fae to escort an artefact of great importance. It got stranger the longer she thought about it as Mother would usually leave her at home. They had taken a roundabout route both there and back, which had been pleasant, despite the occasional disgusted glare she received from the rest of the troop.
On the way back was when the expedition turned down hill. Summer Fae, hidden amongst the foliage, attacked the cohort with their magic and arrows. Troops fell before her eyes one by one and, while she may have been no stranger to death, it was a horrifying sight to see her own people die. Mother had been hit fatally in the chaos. Yet, despite her wound, Mother managed to keep hold of life to offer up a last few words of wisdom.
“Maeve, Maeve my darling,” she had said, having pulled the girl safely behind cover, “Victory will not be ours. Go, take the artefact, take it to your father. He will be able to bring it to the queen, and only he can protect you. Go South-East, find his village, Go!” The package which now rested on her back was thrust onto her and with a final push, she sent Maeve on her way.
She barely made it out alive. she could still smell the remains after their final assault on the cohort.
A deep bestial growl disrupted her musings.
Her eyes flashed up, quickly taking in the form of the interloper; A large grey wolf with murky green eyes which held nothing but animalistic anger.
Without warning, the wolf lunged.
Four frosty blue tendrils shot from her back, deflecting the agitated beasts attack. Quickly, Maeve shot to her feet, running from the alcove to get an advantage, the four tendrils flowing behind like hair in water.
The beast bared its teeth, its hair standing on end as it looked at the Fae, anger diminishing in place of fear.
Her ‘wings’ flowed erratically, her own fear overriding her discipline, though she tried to use it to her advantage, to look bigger than she was as she glared down the creature. The wolf lunged again, only to get restrained inches from her face, tangled in her tendrils. It thrashed around, struggling in her grip.
Maeve called upon her ice magics to summon a dagger of ice, but before she could, pain flooded her system. The wolf had broken from her grip and clamped its jaws around one of her ethereal tendrils. With all her might, she threw the beats away from her, slamming it into a tree which snapped ominously.
Cursing, she looked at the trees, trying to find the tallest. When she did, Maeve stretched out two of her icy tendrils and latched onto the closest branch and pulled.
Up she went, as her wings pulled her safely from the maw of the beast below. She shot out her two other tendrils and grabbed the next set of branches. Pain spiked again and the injured wing faltered in its grip. She slipped, but quick thinking stopped herself from the wolf’s ravenousness maw as she latched onto the tree trunk as if it were a lifeline. Her injured tendril drooped uselessly.
Maeve took in a deep breath and blocked out the growls from below. She knew it was going to be difficult, but she needed to push on regardless. Two of her working wings shot up, latching onto another thick branch and she slowly crawled up the tree, inch by inch as the last of her uninjured wings wrapped around the tree trunk like a belt.
Like a mantra, she repeated this action, soon reaching the tree top.
Her eyes were drawn East, and she could see that the storm was much closer than she had assumed. Maeve berated herself for her weakness, for wasting her time wallowing in grief. Using the sun and time, her eyes drifted South-East, the direction Mother had directed her.
From her vantage point, she could not see any signs of civilisation, but she knew there was nowhere else to go. Now to deal with the wolf.
She may have been trained, but she never had to put that training to the test in the field. So with this in mind, she knew it would be dangerous to fight the wolf. The only safe option was to get as far away from it before descending.
And so, she did. Crawling down the tree was much more difficult that climbing, but it was simple with the help of her wings. When she reached the middle of the trunk, she stretched out her uninjured tendrils to latch onto a closer tree in the general direction of South-East.
Again and again, she did so, always keeping an eye on the wolf and the direction she was going. Thankfully, after jumping nearly sixteen trees, the wolf had lost interest and returned to its home. Only then, did Maeve begin her descent down the truck until her feet hit solid earth.
Her wings retracted into her back, and she began the trek.
On occasion, she would climb to the treetops to scout for the village. All too often a curse would leave her mouth, aimed at her inability to fly like the older Fae. From there, she would scout out her position, looking for any sight of a town.
And as she did, she thought about her father; a man she had never seen but had heard much about. With all that her mother had told her – in hushed whispers of course as to mate with a human was heavy frowned upon; stillborns and mothers dying during labour were a common enough occurrence even without the social stigma of ‘sullying oneself with mortals’ – she had built a simulacrum of an image.
Her father, a competent human Magi who had, albeit accidentally, rescued her mother from the Summer Fae. In her mind, he was tall, strong, dressed in robes of pale blue, white and black, his trusty staff by his side, attuned to conjure powerful magics. But it was not just that, her mother had said that he had been kind and chivalrous, but hidden underneath was a cold and calculating man with a strong belief in being entitled to the sweat of his own brow. It was this that attracted mother to him, and what resulted in her birth.
It was these thoughts that drove her forward. It was her goal. Sleep mattered not for the Fae, and while being a half-breed meant that she was susceptible to human exhaustion, especially when she used her magics, she pushed on regardless.
Maeve needed to find her father. To deliver the artefact and find the sanctuary that her mother had promised. That was that.