Their Woods!

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This story was contributed by ErichW

She's been chosen...

I could see the fear in mother's eyes...How they trembled in the torchlight and drained of clear liquid while red dribbled down her pale skin.

The blood priest called it a blessing. Even mother spoke the words, though there was little conviction in her voice.

She bowed her head as the priest wrapped a crimson cloak, as vibrant as the blood pouring from the wound beneath her breast, over her bare body. She looked to me and smiled weakly until a hood was pulled over concealing her face.

This was the life of a woman in our village. Most prayed to be chosen...I sadly did not.

I was only thirteen and I knew what was at stake. It was their woods afterall. And if we were to coexist we must abide by their rules: First, to never go into the woods after dark; second, to harvest food for their reaping; and third, to send one women a year, who could no longer bear children, to live amongst them.

All the girls dreamed of being chosen—to live beneath the old willow tree deep within the forest—but again, I did not.

I hugged myself under my black cloak. It was cold in the clearing where the village stood. The moon and stars sparkled in the blackness above while the trees encircled the village like a snare. Dense and black and deep and vast as I could imagine.

My eyes moved to the red priest; an elder with the longest and grayest beard of all the seven priests. Standing bowed and wise. A cloth in his hand; he used it against the serpent-shaped blade stained with mothers blood, wiping until it glowed torch-orange. He sheathed it and set it on the podium.

"My friends," he waved his hands, "we shall make our way into the thicket. To give our offerings and reestablish peace."

At once the seven priests glided around the wooden oiled stage, their robes rustling behind them as mother's crimson robe disappeared into their swarm of black. The anointed few, servant boys wearing their own black cloaks, rose their torches and followed hastily behind.

I took a step forward...

...Father caught my hand.

"No, Rosalie!" His voice was strong and carried from behind his black hood. "We must return home."

I knew he was right but I fought anyway. "We can't, father. The Fren cannot have her!"

"But it is the will of our Lords—you know this—we must abide by their words." He yanked my wrist, leading me behind the sea of black robes traveling towards orbs of light: the way to our village.

I pulled once more and father whirled around, yanking off his hood. He stared at me with black eyes dancing red. Ordinarily blue as the sky, the night and the torchlight had turned them angry. "We shan't disobey...You know the consequences." He spoke with worry. "Please, Love..." He kneeled. His right hand moved beneath my hood, brushing softly through my cherry-red hair, down my wet freckled cheeks, and across my soft, pink lips. "You look just as your mother. I'll be reminded of her when I look upon you. And you shall be reminded of her when you look upon yourself." He sighed. "Now come'll see her in your dreams."

My dreams?... I don't know what came over me next. Maybe it was the thought of never seeing her again, or the anger I felt at my father's words; I whirled around and turned my wrist, sliding myself free of my father's grip. He swiped but I ducked and pivoted avoiding him with agile quickness. I sprinted for the woods. They couldn't have gone far, I told myself, dashing through the grass at the heed of my father's call.

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