The rain clattered in the trees. The once peaceful sound only added to the somber mood. The blood pounded in my ears as I walked past the houses of my childhood. At the edge of the forest surrounding the village was a path. I had to be strong, because from that point, there was no turning back. Quietly, I worked my way towards that menacing darkness that waited at the village entrance. On edge, my heart was beating of my chest. Everything was working as well as it could when you consider what I was about to do.
“Persephone?” said a quavering voice from behind me as I reached my only set destination. Jumping a mile into the air, I turned around to see my mother standing in the downpour.
My racing heart hurt with the thought of what I was doing to my family, but I had to do it. I quickly tried to push my sword further behind my pack. The movement would barely be visible to anyone else, but not to my mother. It was part of the way we were. Jeeze. Did you really think you could just sneak out unnoticed? I mean come on. You’re gonna have to be smarter than that or you’re just going to get yourself killed! I scolded myself. “Mom…” my voice cracked when I said it and I nearly flinched. So much for strong…
“Persephone…what…what is this about?”
“You can’t stop me. This is something I have to do.”
I saw the pain that flashed across her face at my flat tone.
“You always were determined. Just like your brother.”
I looked away, trying to focus on the woods instead of the sudden stinging in my eyes. Cyrus was my older brother. He went off to the war and one day, well…one day this guy came into our village and told us that he was missing and probably dead. It nearly destroyed us. Destroyed me. He was my best friend.
“Just stop.” It was hard to keep myself from screaming it. “It’s too much for me to take; all of these memories here. I can’t just stay here and do nothing. You can’t say that all of my training was just for fun.”
For a couple minutes she said nothing. I thought I was free and clear and began to turn to leave. “No it wasn’t for nothing, but even if you wanted to do something, you wouldn’t be ready!” She was acting like I had never been able to do anything. My skills had manifested at an early age, like Cyrus’.
“So you’re just going to do this? To me? To your father? You know what Cyrus’ death did to him-don’t betray us like that! The choice is as foolish as his was.”
She knew that would get to me; an eye for an eye I guess, but that didn’t lessen the ache. It was almost more than I could take. Angry tears threatened to come and ruin my emotionless façade. I turned around and started for the tree line. “I’m not going to do this. Not now. I’ve made my choice, and it seems you’ve made yours.” By now I was whispering. “Goodbye…”
“Persephone…please.” she pleaded with an uncharacteristic desperation. “ She whispered something and I barely caught it, but I still felt yet another painful thud of my heart. I couldn’t let her get to me. I was too close. I took one look back, and then stepped towards my fate. The still of the forest amplified the pattering of the rain and I tried to drown my thoughts in it so I didn’t think about everything that had just happened. I followed my gut. After all, there wasn’t much I had to go on other than the little knowledge I had of the camp location. I knew once I got there things could get complicated. There was no doubt that I would be welcomed. They were, after all, accepting everyday people to their ranks, and I was far more-an Aella. As long as one passed a rudimentary physical and the mental examination, they were in. I guessed they figured alive and a little unfit was better than the deficit of soldiers they were constantly dealing with.
As the weather cleared I took a glance at the sky. What time had I left? I figured I had been walking for at least four hours. It would be dawn soon, and I had at least another twelve hours of travel ahead. Time to set up camp. It took no longer than twenty minutes to find a suitable place, but every step was becoming a chore. My arms and legs were filled with lead and my eyelids were concrete in a pond. I was barely able to concentrate on my small fire when I was building it and sliced open my ring finger. Well that’s always a good sign when you can’t even make it a day on your own without injury. The hints of a smile traced my lips at my own internal sarcasm as I bandaged my injured hand. My head barely hit the pack before my eyes were closed and I fell into an exhausted slumber.