Message from the author: this new story is one I have not finished yet. I would like soemone to tell me if it is really worth finishing it.
A village on the wrong side of the forest. How many times has Sylph Xanas heard this, not just by the travellers who passed through but also the people that lived here? As only one of half dozen villages on this side of the forest, they saw more travellers from the neighbouring land than their own. She smiled lightly as she walked slowly back to her small home from the markets. Her long brown hair flying free in the gentle breeze and her bare feet feeling the soft dry dirt of the road. She is glad that the roads are kept stone free by a group of children. What they did with the stones, she didn't know, but somewhere there had to be a large pile just sitting there.
She and her dad have lived her whole life in this village. Her mother had walked away from them, the day she was born. She could easily love this life, except for a couple of things. She never felt like one of them, and most of the villagers really dislike her. She turned to look at the one place she has never been allowed to go near, the forest. Her dad and his best friend, the village mage would always tell her that death was the only thing that waited in the forest for any that tried to pass through it. She didn't believe that any more. Just standing here looking at the beautiful deep greens with the occasional yellow and red made her feel calmer. She took a deep breathe as she closed her eyes.
'Look at her, she's doing it again mummy.' A little boy whispered from down the road.
'Ignore her.' The woman said as she grabbed her son's hand and dragged him on.
Sylph Xanas sighed; they didn't know she could hear them so she let it go without even looking at them. She has always had very good hearing, sight and speed, but there was one thing she didn't do anymore. When she turned thirteen she found a way to shut out their thoughts. She had always hated hearing what they really thought of her. The best thing they thought about was freak. Well alright, she could run faster than any of them without even trying, seeing in the darkest nights; winning any fight even if it was against the largest man. Sure, there were many odd things about her, but still, it was no reason to treat her as they do.
She opened her ears towards the forest and listened to the birds. There was something else there. A humming, someone was humming a gentle song. The first was joined by a second. Their tune was like listening to a heartbeat. A third and forth voice joined in, they sounded younger than the first two, but matched perfectly. Sylph stood there on the edge of the village listening, being pulled by her heart to find out who it was that sung to her. She took a step towards the forest.
'Sylph Xanas.' A man said as he touched her arm. 'Look at me.'
'Mage Tura, you always seem to find me before I . . .' She smiled and opened her eyes and looked at the elderly man. He has been the mage of this village all his mage life and loves everything about his life. 'Dad?' She suddenly remembered why she had gone to the markets this morning.
'He is the same. Why are you standing here like this?' He watched her eyes focus on him. He glanced at the forest with a frown. Even before this young woman was born he had been made to swear an oath to her mother to keep her away from the forest at all costs. But after extracting that oath, Sylph had then told him there would come a time that her girl would have to go to the forest and find the truth.
'Sorry, just thinking.' She put her arm through his as they started back home.
'Life, the illness, what will happen if no cure can be found.'
'Time is running out.'
'I know.' Sylph Xanas opened her front door and hurried to the only other person that made her life bearable in this village. She really didn't want to think about leaving her dad at this time, she looked at him as she entered his room. Even with the windows open, there was still the smell of death that grew. Her heart became clenched again as she saw how pale and wasted he had become in mere weeks.
'Dad, can you hear me.' Sylph sat on the bed and tapped his face. 'I need you to open your eyes for me.' She tried to get him to do anything; but all he has done in days is breath. She hated seeing such a strong and active man confined to his bed, on the verge of death. It was only three weeks since he started to get sick and now three quarters of the village was down with the same illness. She used a damp cloth to wipe his face free of the oily residue that coated his entire body.
Mage Tura entered and stood watching her before laying his hand on her shoulder. 'Have you found out anything that can help at all?' She asked not looking away from her father.
'No, I have tried every kind of healing spell, remedy and nothing is changing. People are still getting sick; there is only one thing that can be done to save any of them.'
'Water.' Her father croaked out before coughing up bits of phlegm that coated his lips.
'Yes dad.' She gently held his head so she could pour some water into his mouth, even though she knew what was to come. As soon as the water hit the back of his throat he convulsed in a coughing fit. He settled down then to her delight, his eyes opened slowly and looked around. They focused on her and he frowned.
'Who are you? I want my wife, where is she?' His voice was barely an audible whisper.
'Tura, he doesn't even know me.' She at last looked up at the elderly man that sat on the other side of the bed.
'I did tell you this would happen.' He stood up and drew her from the room. 'Sylph Xanas, you are the only one that has free time. I need you to go and get the medication before it is too late for the whole village.'
'Free time? What are you talking about, my dad is lying in there close to death and you want me to traipse to the other side of the forest and back?'
'Yes, you know your father will be in the best of hands, you are the only healthy young person left.'
'Dennis and Vivian?'
'They both came down with it during the night. So if you were waiting to find out who was the last one standing, you are.'
'How dare you?' Anger and pain flared in her eyes as she looked at him.
'You never get sick; you haven't ever needed to be healed from the simplest thing.'
'You too Mage?' She refused to look away from him, the rest of the villagers refused to be her friend because she was so different. She has heard many rumours about herself over the years; one was that she was not really human. When she was younger she would often find herself surrounded by a group of kids taunting her. Most of the time she could just laugh it off, but a few times they produced sticks. With speed and dexterity she never dreamt possible she disarmed them all and after picking them up she walked to their homes. At the door of each kid she handed their stick to an adult and told them the next time she might not just disarm their children. She had stood toe to toe with a few full grown men and told them she had every right to protect herself from vicious children that were trying to harm her. She then told them she would take it to the village elders if they didn't have words with their children. It always bugged them that Sylph was close with the elders. Soon the children found they were being watched, so they took to pretending she wasn't even there. She didn't mind, she had her father and a few of the adults that didn't think her less than they were. But the mage had always treated her like a daughter; it hurt more than she could say that he now used her difference against her.
'I will use any painful lie I have to try and save some of these people.'
'I know, but I never thought you would . . .' she stopped when he pulled her into his arms and hugged her fiercely.
'I hate doing it child, if I could, I would go myself.'
'Okay I will go, but old man you had better . . .' She wiped her eyes free of the tears that started to fall.
'You have my word. Go as fast as you can, if you have to cut through the forest . . . do it.'
'The forest, I've never been allowed anywhere near it.'
'It would take you about fifteen weeks to skirt it, even with your speed. You don't have the luxury of going the long way around it this time dear.' He picked up a rucksack and helped her put it on. 'Here is a letter to the _____________, tell him to bill it to my hospital. He knows me and I have told him if we were ever in desperate need, you would be the only one I would send.'
'I'll see dad before I leave.'
'Okay, just make it quick.' He entered the room and watched her inspect her father; she stopped as she picked up his hand.
'Look at this.' She hurried around the bed and looked at his other hand before looking at both his legs. 'What is that?'
'It is a new development.' He took her arm but couldn't stop her opening his shirt and seeing the blisters that had formed on his chest.
'Oh god, don't take the only family I have. I'll never forgive you if you take him from me. He has never done any kind of wrong his whole life, why are you making him suffer like this?' she fell to her knees and wept for a short time, the mage allowed her this time but soon gathered her and sent her on her way. He had thought to cover the last signs of this illness from Sylph. She was one person he didn't have to worry about catching it or spreading it to others; she seemed to be immune to everything and was never found to be a carrier. That is the only reason he was sending her on this search for a cure. But still he entered the room and knelt next to his friend.