Tapping at a window and voices, an animal scurrying and then a wall. A single chime of the town bell. A door opening. A song of the Whzgoinon. The steady sways of the breeze. She heard a flock fly above and the rain spraying from the sky and the knock on the door. She was riding a horse. She felt someone pull her backward. The horse a room. Someone familiar spoke to her and she said, no, it can't be. She drew her bow and lifted the tip of the arrow. A group of knights whistled and clapped before rushing into battle.
And then she was running, she saw her sister and they moved through a corridor of houses where rows of wheat grew from the roofs. The wheat turned into a tree slowly spiralling the tree turned to beautiful treehouses. Someone drew a knife to her face, not her face, a mans face, someone vague. A place untouched by the king. A ruling menace. Swans flew around her as she fell through the floor. A patch of flowers unscathed. Rebellion formed. Destroyed. And victorious. Greedy royals, submissive peasants. Overruling authority. No care. Calmness throughout the sky, the stars brighter than ever. Soaring, Flying, Gliding, Sailing through the blue sun stroke sky.
Lihn was awoken by her sister Sophie as she slowly shut the door. Her sister made her way to Lihns’s desk and ducked under coming back up seconds later carrying the sack of emergency supplies.
“What’s going on,” whispered Lihn but it sounded more like Whzgoinon. Sophie made a shushing motion saying, “The king's knights are downstairs; they have mum and dad we have to go”.
“My window, it’s the only way out” started Sophie “but Mum and Dad,” Linh whispered tears streaming down her face.
“We don’t have a choice.”
“Don’t do this!” A voice from downstairs screamed.
“Mum,” said Linh silently sobbing as their mum screamed again and then everything went eerily quiet. There was another scream this time their dad’s.
“Window, now.” Sophie urged grabbing her sister and jumping out the window. They landed on their faces and quickly hurtled into the woods. When they couldn’t run anymore, they collapsed onto the dew littered ground, “Do you think we got further enough away.” Linh asked the moment she caught her breath. Sophie breathed a few deep breathes and looked into the moon-lit sky.
The tall trees crowded together whispering in the chill breeze, Lihn pushed her hair out of her tear-streaked face. The trees seemed to examine the two isolated girls, with their damp grassy clothes. Lihn looked up at a nearby tree as a bird suddenly came to life with a chirp and flew tree to tree, waking up its brothers and sisters. A rustling sound came from a small animal scurrying under the thick ferns and over the thousands of brittle branches and twigs. The constant sound of the breeze, rustled the leaves leaving them to gently sway in its caress. A sound came from a smooth-barked tree up above them as if it were calling to something, letting it know it was still there. The strong smell of the trees scattered across the somewhat open forest mixed with the distinct aroma of fetid earth.
The gentle gurgling of a small creek somewhere nearby as the forest hid all the critters that drank from it. The moonlight lightly shone through the leaves making polka-dots on the ground, slightly lighting up the dead tree trunks where shelf fungus had grown like dinner plates for the creatures inhabiting its sweet sanctuary.
“I don’t know, Mum and Dad never told us where the rebellion base is.”
“We hide in plain sight,” a light voice called from the trees above.
Sophie drew a dagger from her bag, “Who are you?” She called gripping her knife so hard her knuckles went sickly white.
“I’m with the rebellion.” the voice called.
“How can we trust you if we don’t know who you are?” Sophie replied hating her voice for being shaky.
“You can’t, not yet. – what if I led you to the rebel base, would you trust me then?”
“Well… yes but, -” started Sophie.
“Excellent, let’s get going, they will be waiting for us at, dawn,” said the voice as a fierce-looking girl appeared on a sound looking branch arching over them. She had braided brown hair and a quiver of arrows with a beautiful bow with etchings down the sides, she had a handful of daggers strapped to her side.
“The rebellion is this way,” she said as she started walking through the forest, she turned to the sisters holding their stare and asked, “You coming, or would you rather be eaten by the geres?!”
Sophie shared a frightened look with Linh before following the strange girl into the twisted forest.
They walked in silence, looking for signs of people following them.
The path they were on stopped and the strange girl took a sharp turn into the unknown.
“You never told us your name,” queried Linh with a nervous expression.
“I don’t think I did.”
“The names- Bella," she puffed proudly, “but,” she said stopping suddenly to choose her next set of words, “that is all I’m allowed to tell you right now”.
“How can we trust you if you won’t tell us anything?” questioned Sophie.
“As I said, you can’t”.
They took another turn veering to a clearing of tall trees that seemed to reach the sky. There was a river cutting through the clearing, its sparkling water looked almost crystal-like.
Bella turned to Sophie and Lihn, saying something they couldn’t quite hear as the wind was drowning out most of the noise, which was strange given that, outside of the crystal lake it was not as loud, the wind grew louder and gustier as they kept on walking with Bella. Sophie yelled at Bella to repeat what she said.
“Here we are” Bella screamed her voice barely audible against the pounding wind.
“What do you mean we’re here?” Linh called shivering at the cold wind.
Bella didn’t answer but made her way to a tree unsheathing one of her daggers and sliced something in the air. A rope dropped down next to her, and the howling wind grew to a halt.
“This is how you get to the base, there are powerful illusions to protect this place that’s why the wind was so loud. Bella dragged her and Linh to the rope pulling on it twice before it launched them into the trees scarcely hearing the faint echo of wind starting to blow again.
“Wow.” was the only word that she could say. The base was beautiful treehouses spiralled around the trees, bridges connecting them all, houses were covered in lush vines with flowers of some many colours and scents, Sophie wondered if she would faint from the perfume.
"Yes, our benefactor must be pretty special."
"You don't know who it is?" Lihn questioned.
"Not a clue." Some platforms held tables and there was also what seemed to be a battle training area too. Bella watched them as they looked around in awe.
“We were supposed to arrive within another hour, but you were much easier to convince than your guardian thought. Flora should be here soon, she can show you some things.” She motioned for Sophie and her sister to follow and they made their way to a rickety bridge,
“Is that safe to cross?” her sister questioned.
“Of course, we had it built a couple of years ago” Linh didn’t look convinced but placed her foot lightly on the bridge anyway. Sophie followed her sister stepping just as cautiously. They followed Bella to what Sophie had thought was a general meeting area, but instead, there were weapons in neat rows and a woman dressed in a silvery dress that was cut to her thighs and she had black knee-high boots that had a sliver strip on them. Her belt was strapped with knives and throwing stars, she also had a bow that had pretty markings that looked a lot like Bella’s.
"This is them?" She looked at the two leaf-strewn girls.
"I believe so."