The forest was magnificent in that spring. Birds were chirping, the wind blowing smoothly, and butterflies flowing from a flower to another. That morning stroll was perfect, but Hope needed to get back home before her mother started plowing. She was the only help her mother had, and she was trying her best despite her usual laziness.
Even if she was twenty years old, Hope was still acting like a child sometimes. She loved playing around with her pets and strolling through the woods.
She got back into the village and started the usual ritual of friendly greetings. Everybody knew everybody, so it was only polite to greet at every step of the way. Hope had many acquaintances but no real friends, except for her animals, which she didn't consider animals at all. They were as intelligent and loveable as actual human beings.
"Finally, you are back," her mother, Ona, greeted her. "I will plow, and you will come after me and sow." Ona went on with the task while Hope rested against a tree. It was so good to stay in the shade and enjoy the day. Hope opened her jacket and pulled off her squirrel, Josephine.
"Jo, please take this," Hope whispered, giving it the bag with seeds. "These are not for you. Just go after my mother and drop a little bit along the way. When you finish it, come back for another. If you manage to do this five times, I'll reward you with a huge bag of nuts."
Hope had found Josephine in terrible shape two years ago. A red-tailed hawk hunted her down. Josephine fought him mid-air, and he dropped her on the ground. For months, Hope took care of her and healed her with herbs and love. Now, the squirrel squeaked happily and went off. Hope sighed in relief; finally, now she could take a morning nap.
"Hope, bring me a glass of water. I am parched," she heard her mother shouting. "Oh, alright!". Hope put two fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly. A colossal grey curly dog appeared next to her. "Max, good boy! " she started petting him. "Follow me, boy!".
Hope went into the kitchen, filled a glass of water, and put on Max the special harness she made, especially for these kinds of emergencies. Two straps grasped the glass of water, and she tied it perfectly. "Perfect! Max, go to my mum and give her the glass. Oh, and walk slowly, or the glass will be empty when you arrive." The dog left with his tail wiggling.
Hope didn't want to have a favorite child as any good parent, but Max was definitely her favorite. In the forest, she found him starving and suffering from several wounds inflicted by animals and humans. Almost a year it took for him to trust people again and to become this happy, beautiful dog constantly wiggling his tail.
Hope was preparing to go back to her nap when she heard a sudden shout. A full-blown commotion had started in the village, but she couldn't make sense of what was happening. So, she started running towards the point where the shout originated.
A scared little boy was in the middle of the road crying, and no one was helping him. She recognized him as Tom, the butcher's son, a sweet child that often came by to pet Max. Hope wasn't a huge fan of children, but she couldn't understand why no one was helping him get up. Also, his cries would have meltdown even an ice golem.
Hope ran towards the boy, and only after she took him up in her arms, she saw the giant monster in front of her. The beast was twice her size in height, and its glowing yellow eyes petrified her. Its paw was huge, and it had three sharp claws going straight towards her.
Hope realized she needed to protect that poor boy, so she needed to do something immediately. Without thinking it will actually work, she screamed, "Go away! Don't hurt us!". Her heart was crushing her chest, and her feet started shivering.
A complete silence surrounded everything. Hope opened an eye, being too scared to move. The creature was turning its back, and it was moving away from them. The whole village burst into applause. Everyone came to congratulate her courage, and without even knowing it, she became the village hero.
This entire situation was a huge drag. Hope only wanted to take a nap. This kind of reputation could bring only more trouble and undesirable problems. A hero always gets in trouble and often pays with his life or any other important thing in his life.
Hope didn't realize how right she was until a few weeks later when armed guards appeared on her doorsteps. They were looking for the girl who tamed the beast, and they weren't going to leave without her. Ona started crying, explaining that Hope is her only daughter and she can't live without her.
The officer in charge of the squad interrupted Ona abruptly. "Your daughter will come with us either way. That is the only possible outcome. It is your decision if we take her nicely or we beat both of you, and we take her unconscious." He was an emotionless wall, and any other argument would have just bounced back and crushed them.
Hope couldn't bear it anymore. She couldn't stay quiet and let those men beat her mother. There wasn't any other option. Hope kissed her mother on the cheek and held her tightly, not knowing when she will see her again.
"Mum, take care of Max and Josephine. They will also be alone, and you guys will need each other." These were Hope's last words before being shoved in a carriage and took off, not knowing the destination or even the purpose of this voyage. She had tears in her eyes, knowing this could be the last time she saw her mother.
At least, Ona was safe, along with Max and Josephine. But who was this important person who wanted her so badly? One thing was sure: she will not be easy prey, and she will fight until her last breath against tyrants who feel they are above everyone else.