The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with winter came shadows. Long nights. Endless journeys through the long, dark halls of my mind. I stared out of my solitary window facing the barren orchard. The few leaves left on the trees whispered and crackled in the wind before they were freed from the boughs and sent spiraling into the unknown. Only God knows where they go to decay and return to the earthy death from which they were born. I followed the leaves’ journeys in my mind. I imaged their sense of liberation. I wondered if they were happy to escape.
Shall I follow the leaves to see where they go?
A whoosh of wind affirmed my question. I tipped out of bed to my chair and grabbed my long flannel robe and tall boots. I slipped out of my room, and quietly shuffled down the hall to the stairs.
The other wards were fast asleep, or so I assumed. Devon Manor wasn’t the most secure, so no one was up waiting to catch a ward escaping. Wards escaped all of the time, only to be found lifeless on the cold forest floor.
My body tensed and shivered.
I took care to move down the stairs gingerly as not to make them creak. I silently glided down the east wing of the house and reached the back door of the servant’s kitchen. Bucky was laying cozily under the wooden table. Not really keeping watch. Just wearily enjoying the peace of midnight. His eyes peeked up at me as I approached him. I knelt down and rubbed his head for a few seconds. His brown eyes round as saucers looked like pools of chocolate. “I’ll be back a little later, Bucky,” I reassured him.
I slipped out of the kitchen door into the small courtyard and into the night. The air was crisp. Tiny snowflakes drifted through the air and settled onto my robe, hair, and face. My body tensed and shivered. Leaves crumbled underfoot. The wind picked up energy and swirled up my robe. The ground was gently lit by the half moon.
Wards escaped all of the time, only to be found lifeless on the cold forest floor.
There was a worn footpath headed towards the woods. why was it always the woods? On the other side was a clearing, a field of tall dry grass and stubborn boulders. I had to pass through the woods, but that was no problem for me. The woods were always kind to me. They kept me and protected me in my most trying times. But they were also temperamental. As I reached the edge of the woods to the clearing, my heart lifted and my thoughts began to drift.
I saw the field, shining like gold as I reached my hand towards it.
Was the warmth calling me? My fingers pierced a shower of golden light, and they warmed instantly. As I moved forward, I felt pressure on my left shoulder.
A large hand spun me around, and my mind snapped back into my body.
“Clara, what are you doing?”
My eyes met his, and I let out a gasp. He grabbed my waist and pulled me toward him.