Wind whistles through the dense forest trunks. Green ivy leaves flutter and flap, as though waving to the man walking on the traveler-worn path. The man is tall with a hooded cloak wrapped around his wind-weathered body. Even through the heavy black fabric it is obvious he is well-built and strong. He is dressed in black clothes matching his cloak. His hood obscures any facial features.
The man hurries down the road, peering to both sides as one would do when you lost something and were retracing your steps. A purplish glint captures his eye. He steps casually to the side of the road and peers into the tall dying grass. A purple-tinged orb with different faces lays haphazardly, nestled in between two tufts of the grass. The man breaths a pent-up sigh of relief and reaches a tanned, leathery hand out to grab the strange gem. He pockets the brightly colored object in his pants pocket.
He turns back down the path-the opposite way he had come from-and continued his journey through the gloomy forest.
"Aria!" Kessemir calls out. The old woman puts her dark hands on her slim waist and looks around agitatedly. "Aria! Your chores!" A whinny alerts Kessemir's attention to the side road and she lets out a harried sigh.
A young girl the age of sixteen came galloping up a young black stallion. Dainty white hands clutch the stallion's glossy black mane and her slim, petite frame hunches over the horse's neck. Her silvery blonde hair streams behind her head as she urges the horse on. Brown orbs of molten chocolate burn ahead, concentrating only on the road and-Kessemir lets out a groan-the crude obstacles she had set in her way. The stallion takes the jumps in a stride and soars over them with confident ease. Aria shouts with triumph and pumps both fists in the air as the stallion's glossy black hooves clatter back down on the dusty trail. The defiant horse uses the moment to rear, tossing Aria off its back and bolting back to the stables.
Kessemir sighs and gathers her apron and skirts up in her fists to leap down the stairs. She hurries to Aria's side. "Oh, honey. Are you alright?"
Aria laughs, but the woman sees the pain cutting through her eyes. "Never better, why do you ask?" She takes Kessemir's dark hand and pulls herself painfully to her feet. The black woman muffles a laugh through the back of her hand as she watches Aria dust herself off and walk stiffly to the cottage. Kessemir hurries after her and finds the sixteen year old sitting on a kitchen stool, massaging the small of her back.
Kessemir laughs openly now and kisses Aria on the top of her wild, moon-spun hair.
"Oh really, Mah-ma!" Aria says, exasperated. "It was only a little spill."
Kessimer gives an indignant snort. "Please. You fall was no more than 'only a little spill' than the King is fair."
"Hush, Mah-ma!" Aria shushes, looking nervously out the window. "I've heard people in town talking. They say that even the trees are spies for the King."
"Oh and I'm sure the stallion that knocked you off was a member of the Resistance, too." Aria sighs. Kessimer is stubborn and witty, but means well. "Anyway. You have chores to finish. And after your done with your chores, I need you to go to town and pick up meat from the butchers."
Aria smiles impishly. "Or I could go now and do the chores later."
"No, I don't think-" Kessimer never gets to finish her sentence. Aria is already out the door by the time the woman turns around. Kessimer steps out the door and sighs at the sight of Aria disapearing into the horizon. "Sooner or later, that girl's going to get in trouble and I won't be there to help her." She turns back into the house and prepares herself to do the now-vanished sixteen year-old's chores.