Presenting the edited version of Raina! I finished my first edits on these today and wanted to put them up. Please, please, please critique! I want this to be the best it can be and I can’t do that without critique! I realize that it’s a lot of writing, but anything you can give me would be great…thanks!
When he entered the forest, he did not immediately notice the silence. He walked briskly, head down, mind on other matters. He knew his path well, dodging trees and bushes without looking up. As he jumped over the little creek, his head came up and he saw the wood for the first time. Nothing moved. Not a limb or leaf. No breeze stirred the ancient trees, no chipmunk chattered from a branch. The only sound was the water trickling by, but even that seemed muted.
“Eila?” He called out. Hearing no reply he picked up his pace. “Eila!” He called again. He started running, feet pounding the forest floor, breaking the silence.
“Eila…” he trailed off as he reached the clearing where a large oak stood. He sensed that something was wrong and tentatively walked up to the tree. He reached out, laying his hand gently on the trunk.
“What’s wron-” he gasped and pulled his hand back. His breath became choppy and shortly he fell to the ground, fighting for air. The trees all around bent in toward him and began whispering.
“We tried to call for you…”
“Too far away…”
“Where were you, princeling?”
“The mage…the Council…you must stop them…”
Soon he sat up, taking deep breaths, regaining the color that had fled his cheeks.
“What happened to her?” he whispered, tears in his eyes.
“Petrifaction.” The musical lilt came from behind him and he turned to see a young dryad standing there. She was somber and her skin was unusually gray. “They turned her to stone.”
“Your skin…” he trailed off, unable to continue.
“Yes.” She replied. “We are dying. Without the Great One to support our life, we cannot continue here. My family is moving to the next Tree, the Elm. We will live under his branches for now.”
The boy nodded, a bit mercenary, and turned back to Eila. “You said she was petrified?”
“By the Council.” The trees began whispering to him.
“You can’t know that.”
“It was their mage, and their guards. They killed her because they feared her. Now, they must fear you.”
“I am nothing to be feared.” He stated quietly. “I never completed the training. I never will. I am not a leader.” The last sentence was said forcefully, as though reminding himself, as well as those around him.
“Yes, you are.” The dryad responded. “And I pray that one day you see it, or all my kind is doomed.” With that, she drifted away.
“I can’t do anything.”
“You are the only one who can.”
“No.” He whispered. “I…I…have to get out of here.” He backed away from the stone tree. “Goodbye Eila.” A single tear dripped down his cheek. Then he turned and began to run.
As he ran he heard the trees cry out to him.
“You leave us to our deaths!”
Ignoring them, he fled.
Raina sighed as she walked along. She had been walking since sun up and she was already growing weary. The main road traffic was lighter than usual, for which she was grateful. There were no crowds to fight through and probably no one to fight with over her regular spot in the market. She plodded along, her trusty horse behind her, towing her cart, which carried most of her valuable goods. She glanced back at the cart and fondly patted the horse’s nose.
“Nearly there, Carrots.”
She stopped briefly before entering the market, as was her custom. She liked to check on her goods and make sure that she looked nice. She knew she wasn’t much to look at, kind of average. She had wavy dark brown hair that hit her shoulders. Usually, she pulled it back into a pony tail, so it didn’t get in her eyes. She was too skinny, she knew, to be truly attractive. And her clothes weren’t the best quality. All she had were a pair of leggings and a large tunic, at least one size too large. But she had shoes, and that was good. She rarely complained about her lot; she was glad to have clothes at all. Some of the children from her village didn’t have as much.
She was checking on the items in the cart, when she noticed the difference. She strained her ears, but the bustle of the market was not to be heard. Carrots shifted nervously, catching on to his mistress’s anxiety.
“Shh…” she murmured. “It’s all right. I think.” Warily, she continued her journey and entered the Great Square, right outside the palace doors. The brick area was completely empty. The buildings that framed it were shut up, as were the palace gates. She looked around, wary.
“Where is everyone, boy?”
She felt eyes watching her from the houses surrounding, but when she looked up all the shutters were closed. She spun around, looking for any sign of life. And there, at the base of the statue of the first Mage, was a man.
“Excuse me.” She called to him. He didn’t reply, didn’t even look at her. “Excuse me.” She repeated, louder. He continued to ignore her.
“I know he heard me.” She muttered to Carrots. “What an incredibly rude-” she stopped as he abruptly looked over at her. She was unnerved by his stare at first, then realized that he was staring past her, at Carrots.
Horse thief. The alarmed thought circled in her mind. She stood warily, ready to fight if necessary. He stood and sauntered toward her. He was a handsome man, with brown hair that was cut short and facial hair neatly trimmed. He looked noble, but his clothes were of the same poor quality that hers were. He wore trousers that were patched in more than one place and a green shirt, left open at the neck. The only thing that stood out in his apparel was the brown jacket that he wore over all of it. It was high quality leather. His green eyes locked on to her cart for a moment.
Raina was put off by his strange clothes and intent glare. She wasn’t sure what to do, then he spoke.
“Your plants are very protective of you.”
“What?” She asked, taken aback.
“Your plants. They tell me not to harm you.” He sounded amused.
“They don’t talk.” She responded confused. “They’re plants.”
A small smile appeared on his face. “I can hear them.”
“You can hear plants.” Her tone was incredulous. She placed one hand on her hip, and shoved her bangs out of her face.
“Yes.” He’d been moving slowly around her, so that he was now at the back of her cart. Before she could stop him, he pulled the tarp off in one swift motion.
“No!” she cried, rushing back. “You’ll…”
She stopped dead in her tracks. For there were her glorious plants, alive and well.
“How…they die in sunlight before being firmly rooted.” She whispered.
“They’ll be fine.” He responded absently, looking them over. “I’ve never seen ivy in these colors.” He murmured, motioning toward the bright blue, yellow, orange, and pink leaves before him. She hadn’t either. When she had found the plants it had seemed to her an impossibility, but there they had been. After much time and patience, learning about them, nurturing them, she had begun to sell them in the capitol for quite a bit of money. The rich always wanted unusual things and usually they all wanted what their neighbor already had. She had already made her yearly trip to the capitol and sold all her plants and, upon returning home to her delighted mother, sisters, and brother, she had decided to come again to make just a little extra cash before the winter.
“They grow flowers?” he asked abruptly. “They’re all trying to talk at once, and not making much sense.” He looked at her. She was gaping at him.
“Are they really talking to you?” she managed.
“Not many people can talk to plants.”
“I’m not normal.” He muttered under his breath. Something caught his eye and he glanced over to the steps of the palace. He nodded to her and walked over to an elderly gentleman standing there.
Raina thought the man must have been on the Council, the ruling authority in Damaar. He had the same noble bearing that the plant man did although he was much older.
“We are sorry, Elon.” The old man intoned loudly. “There is nothing we can do for them.”
“What? How can that be?”
“We have come to the unanimous decision that Eila and the others are things best left in the past.”
“No!” Elon cried. “She can be brought back.”
“But nobody wants her back, dear boy. No one but you. I’m sorry, but that’s our decision.” The Councilman walked back up the steps into the palace.
Elon turned, anger in his eyes. When he saw Raina again, he looked surprised. Then a look of guilt crossed his face.
“Who was that?” she asked.
“I could see that.” She replied sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, but you need to come with me, little girl.”
“I am not little! And I can’t go with you, I have to sell my plants. Do you think I’m stupid? I know better than to walk off with some stranger.”
“You don’t understand.” He sighed, running his band through his hair. “The reason no one is out here is me. If the Council thinks anyone helping me they will kill him. It’s a decree now. They’ll come for you.”
“I don’t believe you.” But her eyes widened in fear. “I’m going home!” she threw the tarp back on her plants, jumped on Carrots, and rode quickly out of the Square.
“You’re not safe!” he yelled after her. But she was already gone.
Raina camped out in a small clearing. She had pushed Carrots hard, out of fear, and he was worn out. But she had made good time; instead of the four day journey, it would only be three. She was at the half-way point. She had reviewed the afternoon’s incident in her mind over and over again. She was disgusted with herself for running. She should have stayed and proven him wrong. But she had reacted and run on instinct.
“Should have faced him and all of them down. I woulda shown him what I was made of. Not some little girl…” she trailed off, staring into the little fire she had made. She set her jaw in stubborn determination.
“I’m not gonna be scared. They can’t do anything to me.” Behind her she heard the snap and crack of footsteps in the forest. She twisted searching behind her.
“Who’s there?” Silence answered her. She returned her gaze to the fire, puzzled. Just then, a hand clamped over her mouth. Raina screamed and tried to struggle, but found herself bound tightly.
“Quiet!” a deep voice whispered in her ear. “They’ll hear you.”
She recognized the voice of the plant man and fell silent.
“Come on.” He removed his hand and she was free. She glanced down and saw vines slithering away. He dragged her into some bushes.
“Lie down, stay very still and very quiet.”
“What about Carrots?” she hissed as he disappeared. She fumed silently, no longer able to see or hear the strange man. But she could hear the tromping boots of soldiers. Any protest she might have made was immediately swallowed. They came in to the camp like cockroaches, swarming about the fire, looking through her things. She couldn’t see what they were doing, but she felt the life of an ivy slip away.
“No!” she whispered violently. Another died and she winced with pain. “What are they doing?” She wanted desperately to get up and see what they had done to her precious plants, but she restrained herself.
“She’s not here! Spread out! She can’t have gone too far.”
The men all ran in different directions. Many went right past her. She held her breath, unable to think a single thought lest they find her, but none did. A couple minutes after the camp had been deserted, the plant man came back for her.
“You can come out now.” He said in a hushed tone. She immediately jumped from the bush and stumbled to the cart.
“My plants!” She looked them over and found that they were as they had been, except two were missing. “Oh no! How could they?” She looked around for them. “Where are the two that died?”
“How do you know they died?” he asked quickly. “The soldiers probably just took them with them, as loot.”
“I felt them die! Where are they?”
He looked at her sharply. “You felt them die?”
She glared at him, arms crossed, toe tapping. “Where. Are. My. Plants.”
He sighed and pointed to a small mound of dirt at the base of a tree. “Over there.”
“You buried them? What’s wrong with you?” she frantically dug into the earth, uncovering her vines.
“They were dead.”
“But I could have-“
“No. Come on, they’ll be returning soon.”
She glanced at him as he climbed on to the small cart.
“I’m not going anywhere with you!” she hissed. “Get out of my cart!”
“You don’t really have a choice. Unless you want them to catch you.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “In which case, you’re much more foolish than I thought.”
The snap of branches and rustling of bushes signaled the return of the soldiers. She looked quickly at the woods and back at the man.
“Fine.” She said sharply and climbed up next to him. “Where are we going?”