Red Girl Rising – 6

The consequences of Midsummer’s festival lingered in Rossa’s mind for a while. After a few weeks, her parents had decided she could be trusted again (why did they not trust her?) and on a bright day in late August, when the sun shone bright and everything seemed fine with the world.

But the world did not seem fine at all to Rossa, who walked with a heavy burden on her shoulders. Why did nobody trusted her with such a simple task? Could it be that they feared the forest so much?

And yet they were all still there, all of them alive, and save for winter, they did not see even the shadow of an Eerie or a Fae.

Of course, she thought as she stepped past Ferravia’s walls into the white path that would lead her to her grandma, if the place around them was actually so dangerous, why did nobody ever took the time to think of a better strategy, to do something? Armed men with fire and salt and iron could strike at the Eerie waiting in the shadows, with the favour of the sun and the hot season.

She could admit that during winter the Heart of the Forest would have the mastery, but in summer they could do something. They knew the rules, as she did.

Perhaps she could prove it to them.

The idea popped in her mind like a flower rising from the wet earth.

If she broke the rules. That would prove to the entire village that she was right, that they could enjoy a larger measure of freedom than fear made it seem.

What did she have to lose, after all? She had heard the voice twice already and nothing bad had happened. She turned to look at the forest beyond, the high sun peering through the trunks with its golden veils, wind carrying that sweet and strong scent of resin.

And just a hint of something else, like overripe peaches.

“I know you are there,” she whispered, even though not a needle atop the highest tree nor a lingering shadow moved, not even at the corner of her eyes.

She waited, the only sound  the echoes of her whispers and the thunder of her blood as it roared in her ears.

“Thought as much,” she muttered, turning back to the road and the task at hand. Who knows maybe she had also imagined the voice the other two times. Maybe if she spoke with her grandma about it for a while she could-

I thought you would never come back, young one.

Rossa froze. Once again, the voice seemed to come from every direction at once around her, and also from straight inside her head.

Her breath hitched. That was it.

She would show everyone that you could talk with the things in the forest and that you could deal with them, as long as you were careful and kept a level head.

She would keep a level head.

“Y-Yes. I can understand as much. I was delayed, that’s all.”

Oh, I see how it is. Mistrust spoils the shiniest apple the core.

She kept walking, trying to stand up high even as the voice raked against her ears. It sounded more human than even the last time, and less so like the cawing of ravens. Perhaps the thing that was making the noises did actually get practice.

With other people? It wouldn’t surprise her at all. After all, nobody at the village would tell her anything about that even if it happened. They would just not think highly of her enough.

“I hope it doesn’t… it’s not like I resent my family.”

But maybe she did, just a tiny bit. Her mother did not believe her and her father wanted her to stay put and be someone’s bride, which she might be, one day, but… she wouldn’t mind if it was someone else than the village’s clueless bunch of boys.

Experience begets respect. Tell me, little red cloth, what do you wish to know from us? I told you I could speak to you about all the secrets of the forest, one by one.

Her mind reeled with the possibilities. She could ask this thing where the ancient treasures lay buried, or… she decided.

“What happened here?” She encompassed the path, now that she was halfway through, the pines that had grown to the point of strangling  the previous fauna, the forbidden area beyond the white stones, the world that mankind lost. She had only ever heard one side of the story. Maybe this thing, whatever it might be, did have something else to say? Something new she could learn and perhaps share with the others, so that at the next festival everyone would be looking at her and they would praise her for her knowledge and bravery and perhaps she could even call the woodsman there…

A blind river erupted, one that had been flowing underground for fourteen thousand years. It spread its blight all over the land, and the forest grew strong and tall from its nurture.

That was not exactly the answer she had expected. She still couldn’t seen anyone or anything around her. Shivering as she tried to understand those words, she kept walking towards her grandma’s house.

The voice followed her.

The strife between Mankind and the Old Country reaches back to the time of grinding ice, young one. It is a time beyond memory, and one your kind quickly forgot in its arrogance. Our Queen did not forget, nor did she forgive. And when she did strike in the end, she only had to strike once.

Rossa shook her head. This was not the kind of conversation she had hoped to have.

“I see. That’s more than enough for now. Goodbye!” She put her hands over her ears as she picked up pace, trying to reach her grandma’s house. She knew she would be safe there.

The voice could not belong to the Heart of the Forest, to the Queen of Thorns. It sounded male. But the mere mention of the Queen was enough to drive a nameless fear like a spoke in her heart.

The one who had killed the world of Man. Rossa did not-

Ah, but you wanted to know something else. Of what it may still be useful to you. Of the things that linger. Know then that every hope is in vain. That the strength of your kind is spent and now you barely linger like stains of a wicked weed on a field of clean grass.

“No, I don’t want to, I really don’t. This conversation is over,” she shouted behind her, starting to run towards the far-off shape of Grandma’s house.

Is it thought? Your mind keeps upturning every stone. Perhaps beneath this one you will find what you need to upturn your situation also. But there is no dawn for you, young one. Your time has passed, and it shall not come again ere the Earth start spinning upside down.

“Grandma,” she called, breathless, the basket heavy in her tired hands. So much remained of her brashness, after the encounter with the grating voice and its words like knives.

She was getting there.

Ah, but what manners do I have?

She perceived a cruel mirth in those words even as she was getting closer.


I should thank you for the conversation. Keeping me entertained.

“Grandma! Open up!” She reached the door, giving it a big knock.

And what matters the most, showing me the way.

Author’s Notes: This was the chapter of the Chariot: the energy and exuberance and arrogance that comes before the fall. Fast times ahead for sure.

Thanks for reading.


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