Chapter 3: People Like Me

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The valley floor was as cold as stone, damp soil crumbling beneath Aderyn's fingers as they curled, in time with the groan that escaped her throat.

Her eyes flickered open, to see a faded green curtain, early-morning light filtering in through the green ocean of a canopy.

Every part of her body ached in an indescribable way, as though she'd been crushed to dust, and had slowly formed back together over the span of a thousand years.

She sucked in a shaky breath, the air filling her compressed lungs with a feeling of relief.

Alive....

She was alive.

How was she alive?!

Aderyn could still feel the rush of air, her stomach rising to her throat, as she fell to her death. The one place that had provided her with sanctuary had been the very place to end it.

And yet, somehow... it hadn't quite succeeded.

Slowly, her muscles crying out with every movement, Ryn pushed herself into a seated position. Her sight wavered for a moment, the world swimming, before sharpening into crystal-clear focus. 

Her head throbbed, and her shoulders felt heavy, crushed almost, as though carrying a tremendous weight.

Bracing herself against a tree, she inched her way to her feet, leaning heavily side-on against the trunk once the task had been completed.

The trees, she thought... they must have broken the fall.

But even now, looking through the gaps in the canopy, Ryn could make out the cliff face, stretching up towards the heavens, seemingly higher from down here, than she knew it really was.

Even with the trees to break her fall... she never would have survived that.

And her body... it was sore, yes. Weary... yes.

But it wasn't damaged. She could feel, just from the lack of complete agony, that none of her bones were broken, her muscles were intact. Not even a graze marred her skin.

'Impossible,' she murmured.

Steadying herself, she pushed away from the tree, feeling strangely out of balance, as though she were about to tip backwards at any moment.

What is going on? She kept on thinking to herself. What happened to me?

Ryn knew it shouldn't be too far from the edges of the city. Maybe, from there, she could ask someone to open up a Port Window for her. If she could make the walk without falling over, that was...

Her parents would have to be worried sick, knowing that their daughter had gone out last night, and still hadn't returned. They would be fearing the worst, she just knew it.

She could almost imagine them, late at night, and into the early hours of the morning, well after Ryn said she'd be home, sharing worried glances. Her mother might have been in tears, while her father called up the authorities to report a missing daughter. Especially with that shockingly sudden storm that had crept up on The Lights, last night. Anything could have happened to her out there in the rain and the lightning. The town would be in shocked uproar. Nothing as devastating as a daughter disappearing in a storm has happened in decades.

And just before the Festival too....

She had to make sure they knew she was safe, before things got out of hand.

Then, and only then, could she think about what happened to her.

Forcing her aching muscles to move, she stumbled through the overgrowth; ferns and grasses which tickled at her legs through her jeans.

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