Aspen woke me up just before dawn.
"Listen!" She whispered, leaning over me, eyes blazing with anticipation. She was deathly still, yet trembling with excitement. I sat up, making the grass beneath me rustle. She put her finger to her lips slowly and gave me a scorching look. I froze.
She sat erectly, head high, her hands folded in her lap. She blinked her eyes slowly, cocking her head and doing another bird impression.
Off in the distance, a bird started a trilling song. Another joined it, its voice a series of chirps and chips. A third thrust its voice into the mix, its song whisking my thoughts off to exotic lands where giant flowers bloomed lush, and brilliant.
And then the enter forest erupted into song. A swirl of music filled the air and danced around me, stealing my breath, and dashing off with it, laughing .
Aspen looked rapt and peaceful, joyfully alive and glowing. I glanced at my reflection in the water, and saw that I looked much the same, despite my filthy clothes and greasy hair. I was a Goddess of the Wild Hunt, A Nymph of Destruction, A Lost Soul of the Chiasm. Something to be feared and loved, something to be hunted . I was raw power.
Terror swept over me. I had to get away from myself. I was not a person, I was a THING.
My horror was cut short by the sudden stop of the bird song.
"Wasn't that wonderful ?" Bubbled Aspen, childish innocence gushing out of every pour. "Its music isn't it? I think its the best."
I wasn't listening. She looked so fragile. I could hurt her. I could slacken my hold on my powers for one millisecond and hurt her. And that was the last thing I wanted. I loved Aspen, despite having only just met her. I loved here like you love a sibling. When your parents say "Here is your baby sister." just after she has been born, you love her instinctively. You have only just met her and you love her even though you know nothing about her. That is why you love her. The any thing about her. The innocence that hangs off them because they have no idea of what they could do. That is why I loved Aspen. Some how she had that same complete ignorance about what her future could hold, and she just came into my life even though I had nothing to do with it. And if I hurt her, if I hurt her...
I stood up hurriedly. I started to walk off into the woods.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving. You should to. There could be anything out here." I didn't turn around.
"Your leaving without me?!"
"Yes." My back stayed to her.
"Why?" I was honestly curious, but I still didn't turn around.,
"Because, because, you gave this to me."
I turned around to look at her. She was holding the cup I had made the day before. It was cupped in her hands, cradled in her palms like a bird. A hideous clay bird.
I stared at it. Then at her face. Then back to the cup. "What?"
"We're friends." Her voice was pleading. "Aren't we?"
I looked hard at her face. Her eyes were begging, begging for one thing. A friend.
"Fine. You can come with me." I was probably going to regret it.
"Yeeeeeeeeeesssssssss!" Aspen squealed with delight, leaping up and running over to me, flinging her self around my waste. I noticed that the cup was still held carefully in one hand.
That's how Aspen joined me, really.
* * * * * * *
The Prince was scribbling signs and runes in the dirt. They where in the south end of the kingdom, in the forest, which, it turned out, had a name . It had been engraved into his mind by an offended farmer, who had been completely unaware he was scolding the future King. The Forest was called Mort Salt. The Prince was deeply confused by this name, but he thanked the farmer any way, even though he felt that the farmer didn't deserve thanks because he hadn't been asked a question. The random squiggles and lines he was scrawling into the dirt was a simple tracking spell specifically designed to locate any magical activity.
But there was no sign of any magic at all. Despair was pressing on his heart now, whispering to him, telling him to give up. The Prince stared with solid determination at the tracking spells.
Suddenly, there was a flare of magical activity. The Princes heart leapt, flinging the despair away. The flare wasn't far away, and the owner of it was making its way steadily towards the camp. If the Prince's camp moved now, they would intercept the flares owner in 2 days, maybe less.
A smile spread across his face. He didn't now if it was Lillian for certain, but, some how, he had a deep set feeling it was.
And she wasn't alone.
To be continued.