Delisia was stumping towards the camp’s open stream. The crunch of the gravel beneath her leather boots was in beat as she hummed her grandmother’s foresting rhyme. It was in an old language, passed to one forester to another, to serve as a greeting to the wild forest beyond. She would have rather sing a love song, one to snag the attention of a fae right where the line of trees end. That a beautiful male would swift her off her feet and leave her boorish life. She even hardly ended the words of the lyric in its proper note.
She was bending down over the cold spring stream, dark baby fishes struggling to swim the strength of the water’s flow. Unbothered by Delisia’s presence, she was however lured to the rustle of branches. Her head snapped to the other end of the bank, the bucket on her hand lay forgotten as she sought the source of the noise. When one of the bushes shook and crinkled, Delisia immediately sang her parents’ love song. A rather amorous tone in the common tongue, the caution of the foresters’ rhymes now a memory.
When the rustling came again, Delisia’s song echoed louder. Hope was at the brim of her throat only to be swallowed back as she recognized the screaming and Delin crashing out. Her younger brother fell to the shallow water and remained his fear from where he burst free. Delisia was harboring disappointment when Bernadette appeared from the same exit. A large stick in both hands, her eyes lidden with rage. The child-cousin was singing the forester’s song when she caught a rest and glared at Delin. The sorry wet lump was indisposed and basically shaking as Bernadette reached her hand out and pointed at him.
“You… don’t you ever hurt Mister Sanders again!” the chubby girl warned. “If I see you annoying his family, I will hit you with this stick!”
Delin was frozen before Bernadette iterated, “Understand?”
Even Delisia was glad when her brother nodded.
“Good.” Finally realizing the presence of her prey’s sister, it was Bernadette’s turn to stand frozen.
Noticing his cousin’s shock, Delin twisted to Delisia, a sneer growing on his face. “Oh, you’re in for it now.”
Bernadette struggled against Delia’s pull. The older sister was too tall for her age and Delin even fell twice on the rocks as she dragged them together. Delisia heaved them both and they dropped on their knees as they were presented to her father and aunt. Balta and her usual scowl planted on her face.
“Mother, I found these two brats practicing murder,” Delisia said.
“She was going to hit me with a stick Ma!” Delin cut in.
“You were hurting Mister Sanders!” Bernadette defended.
“I was just playing with him!” Delin turned to his cousin, earning the courage to be angry at her mother’s vicinity.
“You were throwing rocks at him!” Bernadette spat back.
“They were rocks! He’s a—”
“Enough.” Balta interjected. “Bernadette, we all know we left Mister Sanders at Rising Hills. He and his family stayed because of his scholarly duties. Are you saying you were going to hurt Delin out of nothing?”
“Now, Balta. This could be a misunderstanding.” Her father offered. His leathered hand reaching for his sister’s shoulders.
“Don’t touch me with your soiled hand, Bernard.” She spun to her brother. “Your daughter has been terrorizing my son since we started the Frontier. If you do not control her, I am turning to the Colonel to finally rid of that embarrassment!” When her brown steel eyes glowered at her niece, Bernadette just wanted to cry.
“Balta, please.” Bernard eased. “Let us hear first what the children have to say. “Delin, you go first.”
“Just as I said, uncle. I was playing and miss piggy here wanted to hit me with a stick.”
Bernard ignored the offensive name and turned to his daughter. “Well, say you, young lady. Why did you threaten him?”
Bernadette barely acknowledged the name calling and stood straight to her father. Sniffling the growing tears before responding. “Delin was going to the forest and I tried calling him back.”
What?” Her Dah’s dark voice a whisper.
When Balta heard the account, her ire went to her son. Grasping his mistake, Delin’s eyes popped out.
“I followed him to the forest and kept calling his name. You said, Dah, that I should always remember to sing Ileahn when I’m entering a forest, so I did. I looked for Delin and found him throwing rocks at Mister Sanders.”
“Oh, shut up. He was just a frog,” Delin rolled his eyes.
“Mister Sanders is a toad, Delin. There’s a difference. And besides, what if I were to throw rocks at you, wouldn’t you be hurt?”
“Lest if you can even hit me!”
“Delin!” Baltha was huffing fire. “Delisia, is this true?” She turned to her daughter who had stood through all the banter.
“Yes, Mah. The two of them came out of the forest when I was getting water.”
Being siblings did not mean to Delin as a line to where his mischievousness ended. Feeling betrayed, he turned to his sister. “She was singing Dah’s love song again Ma! She really wants those fae to give her kisses!”
“Delisia.” Balta stared daggers at her daughter. “Delin.” Then to her son. “Tent. Now. Your father will deal with you.”
Without asking leave from her brother, her aunt left with her cousins. Her hands both clipped their arms and probably hurting them. Unknown to the trouble they were in, some of the people of the Frontier nodded as they passed by.
“The forest. Haaah.” Her father sighed.
“We are Foresters, Dah. I do not fear the forest even though I almost did get lost.” Bernadette smiled at her father’s distress.
“It’s not just the forest, Sapling. It’s those that live there.” He knelt in front of her. His hand rubbing her tanned heart shaped cheeks before squishing it firmly.
“Aw! Those hurt.” She pouted and swatted her father’s hand away. Tears were lining her eyes as she caressed her cheeks, dubbing the pain of their stretch.
Her father laughed. He was enjoying his daughter’s torcher when Harris staggered towards them.
“Forester,” the lad greeted.
“Hunter.” Her father responded as he stood up. “In need of me?”
When Harris noticed Bernadette’s red mask, he brightened. “Finding trouble again, young Forester?”
“She always does. Concentrate, Harris.”
“Oh! Forgive me.” Harris scratched his bushy hair. “It’s Colonel Kremillen. We are to enter the Forest Aluwein. You are requested to lead us in.”
“Haaah. The forest,” he sighed again. “Alright. I’ll be there.”
“Can I come Dah?” As she asked, Bernadette noticed the saddening limp of Harris’ lips.
“The Colonel would not allow—”
“The Colonel will allow a Forester to join and greet her new forest.” Bernard patted his daughter’s shoulder as he waited the usual rebuff.
Intimidated by the largest man of their Frontier, Harris would rather escape any arguments from him. Defeated, Harris could only nod.
“To our new forest!” Bernadette fisted her hand to the sky.
The Aluwein Frontier has separated the Foresters to the four winds of the Syvriche Republic. Aspiring to become like her father, young Bernadette tangles with both her new forest and found strange friends as she rises against the prejudice put upon her. Its going to take a lot of curses and monsters to crush this growing ranger down. And a lot of compassion to earn the hearts of the Fae Folk.