Rated PG; descriptions of past injuries
Author's note: thank you friend, for your amazing drawing as inspiration
She swore the jtterbugs got prettier every time she passed through this area.
Willow sat on a log. It was wedged between two moss-coloured boulders. Her silver lantern rested next to her, the eternal flame within flickering yellow tonight. Her bare feet dangled over the edge, above the rocks and fungi below. The moon poked through a few trees. The area was warmly lit by the groups of jitterbugs moving around Willow.
The bugs were small creatures without wings who flew nonetheless. They gathered in bunches of a dozen, near the mushrooms they ate. At Willow’s best guess, it was dinner time. She had no reason to visit this clearing anymore. The first few times had been to collect samples. Mushrooms, moss, and leaves. So many types to explore and study. But she had long finished getting a specimen of every plant residing here. Now, she just came to this clearing--which she called jitterbug grove--to relax.
And did she need the time to sit down and think of nothing. Not that she didn’t love traveling. Moving around the neverending forest--whose end had been found a few years ago, rendering the name inaccurate--seeing all the climates this single wood had to offer. She had ridden giant glowfish over the whirling falls. She had lived with a family of jacks, even growing fur as a result of exposure. She had kissed countless species and danced with many hidden officials in the shallows, under the light of bulb trees. She secretly believed she had the best life of anyone in the forest, because she was slowly making her way through experiencing every life the woods could offer.
However, Sitting with her thoughts and jitterbugs every now and again was therapeutic. The eternal flame in her lamp began to turn black at the tips. It was telling her to go to sleep. Willow smiled. The flame had been with her since she first jumped off the air balloon into the neverending forest. It knew her well. Willow patted the lamp.
“Okay, understood.” She whispered.
She kicked the lamp to one end of the log. She stretched out on the middle; on the soft moss this area grew. She pulled her brown cloak over her feet and stained white blouse. The cloak went over her eyes, and it was dark. Her eyelids now weighed too much. She closed them, drifting off to dream. . .
The voice. It scraped Willow’s ears. She had a falling feeling in her stomach. It belonged to someone she knew. But who? She sighed, throwing her cloak off her head. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.
She squinted, and her vision cleared before her. Below her, a few metres in front, was Cariah. Her glass-like wings fluttered, their sparkles reflecting the moon. She was wearing a black skirt made from glowfish fins. They shimmered cruelly. Her white top covered her chest. It was made of cloth. She had gotten it from an outside shipment. Cariah’s light cheeks had small, dotted blue hearts on them no amount of river washing would get out. Her medium length brown and navy hair was twisted into a high, loose ponytail. She seemed to glow in the light of the jitterbugs and the moon.
“Ah, Lady Cariah.” Willow muttered. “What brings you here?”
Willow attached eternal flame to her belt. She then jumped off the log. A gust of wind she summoned lowered her slowly and gracefully to the moss-covered ground. Cariah scoffed.
“I’ve been looking for you for moons.” Cariah crossed her arms over her chest. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been traveling around the forest. As always.” Willow shrugged. “No surprise you had trouble finding me.”
Willow raised an eyebrow. “The north sector. why?”
“I’ve had trouble tracking you down. If I hadn’t remembered you mentioned this place. . .” Cariah trailed off.
Willow’s heart began an unnatural rhythm. Too fast. Too many ba-dumps every second.
“Why? Why were you looking for me for months?”
Willow had met Cariah, her whole kingdom, 10 moons ago. She had met the lady of the west branches and had been intrigued by her. The two of them had run around the kingdom like the children they were for weeks before Willow wanted to move on. They shared intimate secrets sitting at a window and giggling in Cariah’s hammock. Their separation had been bittersweet, but Willow had kept going forward. She couldn’t let someone derail her life like that.
“An air balloon sunk to my kingdom 4 moons ago.” Cariah didn’t let Willow’s mind run wild.
Now Willow’s heart had different cause to go berserk.
“What. . .are you serious?”
Willow’s legs trembled. The ground now seemed so much safer than standing. When she decided to drop into the neverending forest to explore at 12, almost ten years ago, she had not told her family. They were moving to a different city, and had to cross the neverending forest. West to east, of course. North to south was still thought to be forever. Willow saw this as her chance. While her family put their belongings in trunks and bags, Willow made a big sack with things she would need to survive. Including a book she had gotten for her birthday on the known forest. It inspired the idea. It was sitting in her pack by the river bank right now. Signed by her dad and sisters. Who she had abandoned when she snatched a parachute and jumped out an air balloon window.
Her parachute had snagged on tall trees. She had been stuck in the tree until the fabric ripped, dropping her too far down. She had broken her left foot. The bone had kind of popped through the skin. She also had bruises and a few gashes on her palm. If it was not for a few nice members of the root elves, she would have not made it. Some people, including Cariah, thought that the terrible injuries would have made Willow think that coming here was a mistake. But no, the kindness of the forest residents, allowing her to heal slowly and teaching her about the forest, just made her more in love and sure about her decision.
So, it was especially strange when Cariah’s news made her long for home, with an aggression she thought had left her a long time ago. She wiped tears from her eyes and looked to Cariah for an answer. Cariah gave a small nod. She took Willow’s hand.
“One of the passengers says her name is Calendula Colt.”
Colt. It was the last name of her father, which she had not heard or said in years. The forest didn’t ask your last name. Although, the first name was strange to her. Left without thought for too long.
“And the name rang a bell, because you told me about someone with that name, who you said was. . .”
My sister. Willow’s grip on Cariah was too strong, but she didn’t care. Her world was shattering before her eyes. Windows smashing, walls tumbling, floors cracking and letting her fall into the unknown.
“Do you want to come with me?” Cariah asked softly. “To see her?”
The answer was easier than she thought. She nodded, nuzzling her face into Cariah’s warm shoulder.
“Take me home.”