Prologue of my fantasy trilogy “Fig”
Her foot slapped a puddle, though it hadn't rained in weeks. The bodies littering the streets, some still spilling fresh blood into the soil, gave her a clear idea of what might be coating her foot, and it most certainly wasn't water. Shaking off the thought, she continued forward, quickening her pace to match her husband's hurried steps. There was no time to stop. Stopping now would only mean death, and she had to survive, if only for the one precious soul growing in her womb.
Her hand slid around the large protrusion on her stomach, attempting to relieve some of the weight as she ran. Her back was screaming as terror and weariness ground together beneath her bones. Her lungs ached for more oxygen, but she pushed on, fighting the need for rest.
A lifeless form lying in the dirt caused her to stumble momentarily as her eyes slid over his youthful face; such innocence. Horror was still evident on his features, and she wondered what he saw in his last moments.
She gasped when her husband grabbed her arm and forcefully tugged her forward, spurring her back into action. She couldn't allow herself to end up like the boy behind her. She had to keep going.
She didn't glance back at him as she urged her feet forward, following the footsteps of her husband as they both fled. Their town grew smaller behind them as they ventured deeper into the forest.
Tree limbs slapped at her face as she attempted to dodge the reach of their bark-covered arms. Her breathing matched the rapid pumping of her heart. As the minutes passed, she began to lose momentum. Her body no longer cared.
Her husband, seeming to sense her need for rest, pulled her towards the safety of a large tree. She leaned against its support, tilting her head back against the bark as she pulled air into her stinging lungs. Her husband stood guarding her as his eyes scanned their surroundings. Everything appeared still. Quiet.
Maybe they had given up the chase.
After eyeing the wooded landscape for several moments, Cylis turned to face his weary wife. "Roslyn," he whispered, "look at me."
Her eyes lifted to meet his.
"We must keep going," he murmured softly, pulling her face closer to his own.
"I know," she agreed, but made no move to obey his warnings. She began shaking her head before responding, "but I can't, Cylis. I can't."
"Please, Love. Please try," he begged, his eyes sliding over her stomach before darting behind him.
Roslyn could see the concern etched into his brows. Their pursuers could be anywhere at this point, and Roslyn understood the danger in stopping. She wished she could keep going, but her body protested. She watched her husband's shoulders sag in defeat as he gave into his wife's pleas.
"Okay, rest," he muttered with a sigh.
Without responding, she slid to the ground, closing her eyes and leaning her head back to rest on the tree. Cylis remained alert, his gaze swinging from tree to tree. Roslyn followed his gaze, but found nothing amiss. Eventually, he let out a long breath before joining his wife on the ground.
They remained quiet, listening, as the lights began to fade slowly. Darkness would settle upon them soon and Roslyn could feel her husband's unease as he fidgeted beside her. They needed to find better cover before the earth awakened and the warmth vanished.
"We'll be okay," he assured her as he rubbed Roslyn's round stomach. The child kicked beneath his hand, and a smile settled on his lips.
Neither spoke, but the gentle creeks and groans of nature kept them alert. Roslyn fought to stay focused, but the pain in her lower back was consuming her thoughts. She could feel Cylis watching her, his brows dipping with tension. It was obvious that he knew something was wrong.
"What is it?" he asked softly, shifting closer to his pregnant wife.
She pulled in a deep breath, closing her eyes as she answered. "I'm not sure. It just hurts."
"Where?" he questioned, sliding his arm around her back and tugging her to him.
"Everywhere," she whispered into his neck.
Cylis allowed a few more minutes to pass before he stood abruptly, gently pulling his wife up with him. He planted a quick kiss on her forehead and took her face in his hands.
"Stay in front of me," he told her firmly, allowing his arms to fall away from her face. "We must hurry."
She nodded her agreement, and stepped forward, leading the way as Cylis kept guard behind her. She slowly trailed along the path, using the trees as support. They trudged forward, for what felt like miles, before the gated archway finally came into view.
It was so close, and yet, the intensity in her back was preventing her from moving any further. It was as if someone had shoved daggers into her spine, twisting until the vertebrae broke loose. The pain hit her with such force that she stumbled before righting herself again. Tears spilled from her moss-colored eyes, splattering against the chilled ground.
"Don't stop," Cylis ordered from behind her, but Roslyn barely heard him above the pain screaming through her body. She stopped, holding herself up against a tree. Cylis hurried towards her, but it was already too late.
She didn't even hear the swoosh of the arrow before it sliced through her swollen abdomen, blood spilling into the amniotic fluid as it penetrated the infant's flesh. A cry surged from the woman's lips, and she stumbled, her weary body unable to carry on. Her eyes swung down to see a trail of red pouring from the hole. Desperate, she ripped the arrow from her stomach as she put her hands to the leaking wound, belief that keeping the blood from exiting would somehow save the child inside her.
"Roslyn!" Her husband's panicked scream broke the still air, but she barely heard it. Her mind was swallowed in her own misery as she fought to keep breathing, to keep fighting. She had to stay alive - for her child.
She could feel her body being dragged along the gritty terrain, the now cold surface going unnoticed. Her head felt like a loose pebble being tossed by the current. She could no longer hold it up and finally gave up, resting her chin on her chest.
"No, no, no!" Cylis shouted as he continued to drag her limp body to safety. "Stay with me. We have to get through the gate."
And then she was released, her body slamming into the ground. She groaned, rolling onto her side and wrapping her arms around her damaged body.
She lay there, the muffled cries of her husband, and the pounding of multiple feet so faint behind the rapid pulse of blood rushing through her ears that it blended together into a sea of indistinguishable noise.
In the distance, a small four-legged creature watched as a man and woman fought for their lives. The woman lay helpless on the floor, nearly invisible among the chaos, as the man swung and battled for survival. His cries pierced the frigid air as the screech of the sahuls' warnings blared above them.
She ducked further behind the shrub, out of sight from both the ghastly looking attacker and the dragon-like creatures swarming the air above, waiting for death. She silently witnessed the fate of the family unfold. A flash of white blended with the dark of the husband's skin as the two men battled for survival. With a final blow to the husband's temple, he crumpled to the ground.
Two peculiar looking creatures seemed to materialize from thin air. They had masked themselves so naturally that if they stood still they'd simply become one with nature. The four-legged creature watched as the camouflaged beasts gathered up the limp man, clutching his upper arms, as his feet dragged behind him. Within minutes the world was once again at peace as the three strange beings vanished from sight with their hostage.
Glancing in all directions, the small creature concluded that it was safe and made her way towards the body. She had to hurry before the sahuls returned to tear open the limp corpse. The woman's breathing was shallow and her body cold. With the help of an underling, they were able to successfully carry the woman to safety.
The human's eyes were vacant as she lay in the dirt, unmoving beneath the powerful tree. Death had found her, and it was only a matter of time before the child suffered the same fate. The lives of the innocent had already been lost today; they couldn't allow this pure soul to go to waste, too.
The earth began to pulsate, warmth radiating up from the depths of its core. They watched, awe descending upon them, as the roots of Nurigor began to wrap the woman in a solid cocoon before pulling her into the earth. The ground broke apart in invitation of her arrival. Within minutes her body was consumed beneath layers of dirt. The foundation shook violently for several moments, alerting the forest to Nurigor's power.
Curious eyes watched from treetops and hidden crevices, waiting. For what, none of them knew. The trembling continued on for several violent minutes before finally settling. And then they saw it. A small mound of dirt shifting as something from beneath fought to be released. A small foot eventually broke through the surface, followed by legs, arms, a head.
There, lying cradled in the root-like arms of Nurigor, was a child. She was quiet - asleep; like she hadn't just been ripped from her mother's womb, and pulled up from the ground. It was as if nothing spectacular had just taken place. She was oblivious to the miracle that she was.
Timidly, the forest beings emerged from their holes to view the child before them. They watched in amazement as a small trickle of blood spilled from a wound in her otherwise flawless arm. It glided along the roots of the powerful tree to blend into the earth of her mother's grave.
They watched as the tree slid a thin root into the leaking cut, wrapping itself around the infant's flesh and sealing off the wound. Like a body rejecting a limb that's been too long deprived of blood and oxygen, the root broke apart - the remainder now woven like stitches into the child's arm. A small white bud released itself from one of Nurigor's branches and drifted down towards the child. It skimmed the delicate skin of the babe's cheek before floating off into the wind.
And, as the hum of excitement grew among the forest, so did hope.