|Lara & Aylen
Author: Imagine Nation PM
In the depths of the forest, Lara and Aylen meet under awful circumstances. As they trek through a world ravaged by war and danger, their trust in each other may become something neither of them ever expected... F/F Rated M for violence and mature themes.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Chapters: 17 - Words: 75,280 - Reviews: 49 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 07-04-12 - Published: 06-15-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2818252
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: First chapter is pretty long, but I wanted to introduce enough of the story to give everyone a taste of what the story will be like. So this is my second story on here and I would greatly appreciate any feedback you all give. This is my first attempt at fantasy, though I'm sticking with the F/F romance. The rating is mainly due to violence and adult themes.
I owe the historical content of this story to my brilliant European History teacher. This story is loosely based on WWII.
Here we go everybody!
A vast expanse of blue light illuminated the forest in its late afternoon. The rays of the sun were just barely able to seep through the canopy of trees that towered over the earth, creating a dim glow near the moss-covered forest floor. Bristled vines stretched over yards of ground and wound themselves up the trees. The humid air baked the rich soil, creating an earthy, musky smell. The air was still and was swarmed with insects lower to the ground, and birds up higher into the trees. There was a low, continuous hum from the busy animal life, with a solo cry every now and then. The light that that was able to enter the forest reflected off of the dense blue-green plant life, helping to create the alluring blue hue that encompassed the forest.
Its density and sweltering heat made it more of a jungle of sorts. Yet, it was known to all magical creatures as silvio blé, or more commonly, Blue Forest. It was home to elvish tribes mostly, though various other races and creatures inhabited it as well. It was also home to unicorns, rare and docile animals. However, Blue Forest was most famous for its Night Walkers; monumental creatures that only appeared when night descended upon the land, and were feared so greatly that they scared all other life into hiding during the night. The inhabitants of the forest referred to this time as Blue Night. Few people had actually seen the Night Walkers. And lived. They were described as ghostly creatures that stood so tall they could touch the tops of the trees.
Yet even these terrifying creatures were not what had the entire forest raked with terror. The Mongor were closing in all over, and they would attack no matter what time of day. Mongor were also more frightening because their attacks were built upon mountains of hate and a lust for blood. At least the Night Walkers would only kill to eat. Mongor were beasts that stood about seven or eight feet tall, with scaled black skin, much like a reptile's. They had several layers of short, but devastatingly sharp teeth in their wide jaws and at the ends of their long fingers were a set of long, equally sharp nails. The most dangerous thing about them was their ability to use the heat within them to spark fire and set any opponent up in flames within seconds.
The Mongor were from a continent south of Blue Forest, which was known as Black Forest. However, over the past few decades, they had begun invading Blue Forest, as well as several other magical continents, such as The Arctic and the Elder Mountains. Humans feared that the Mongor might set their sights on nonmagical continents next and had been snapping into action to stop Mongor in their tracks. It did not appear to be working.
As a large bird flew lower in the trees overhead, a shadow was cast over Lara, crouching behind a massive log. Her dark, russet colored eyes were trained on the little grey-tailed deer in front of her. With strong, toned arms, she raised her crossbow and aimed it at the deer's chest. Quietly, she blew a strand of golden-brown hair from her face and slowly widened her stance, preparing to move quickly if the deer suddenly became aware of her presence or worse, another predator came to claim her prey. Her muscles flexed in anticipation and she finally moved two fingers to the trigger.
The bird overhead suddenly screeched, startling the deer. Its small, stubby antlers swung about and its beady eyes abruptly caught sight of Lara's bow. Lara immediately squeezed the trigger, but the deer's smoky fur was already disappearing into the brush. Lara was quick to action, her legs pushing off the ground with all their might and her feet landing cleanly on the other side of the log she had been hiding behind. She began chasing after it as it pranced away, its skinny legs scrambling to find footing.
Young elvish men with thick, auburn hair jogged triumphantly toward their tribe's village. Their even breaths and pronounced muscles made clear to anyone their athletic physiques were fantastic. Longbows slung over their shoulders, they finally marched back into the village and were greeted with cheers. The tribe welcomed back their hunting crew, who victoriously ushered their kills toward a fire at the center of the village.
Aylen smiled excitedly when she heard the chants and cheers from her hut. She stepped out of the hut, which had been expertly built with logs, twigs, and mud, and had canvas made from animal skin draped over it. The hut belonged to her parents and she still resided with them. As the youngest of her three sisters, she had not yet started a family of her own. She walked past several huts that resembled her own and looked out at the crowd that had gathered to welcome the crew of men hunters. There were women hunters in the village too, but they alternated their hunting time with the men.
Her mother, standing among the crowd looked back and smiled at Aylen, waving her over. Aylen grinned in return and hurried over to her. When Aylen and her mother were standing side by side, it was easy to tell the two were related; not solely because of their physical similarities, but also because there was an obvious personal and emotional connection between the two that could only be described as unconditional. Of course, the physical similarities were accounted for; the freckled green eyes, the deep red hair, the high cheek bones, and the soft curve of their lips. Yet Aylen had a sharpness to her eyes that could be best explained as the wit she inherited from her father.
"How wonderful to see you finally out of bed," Aylen's mother, Moema, said. "One can only wonder what makes you so tired. Could it be those long hours you spend awake late at night?"
Aylen's mouth fell open and she stared at her mother incredulously. "You knew I was up? I thought you were asleep."
"A mother cannot sleep when her child insists on staying outside during Blue Night."
"Oh, I am so sorry. If I had known I was keeping you awake, I would have just come back inside. Why did you not tell me to come in?"
"Would it have done any good?" Moema asked teasingly, a good natured smile playing her lips.
Aylen smiled in return, albeit a little guiltily. "Probably not."
Her mother sighed and shook her head. "I do not understand why you find Blue Night so interesting that you would risk running into a Night Walker."
Aylen rolled her eyes and grinned, "Because I believe the Night Walkers are a myth, you know that."
"Yes, but I have yet to understand why you believe that."
"Has anyone ever actually seen one?"
"Well, sure, my father-"
"Have you? Besides, Blue Night is a beautiful spectacle; something not to be wasted by irrational fear."
Moema shook her head and smiled. "My wonderful Aylen, so full of such wild ideas." Aylen grinned just as her father approached the two women.
"Ah, two of my favorite elves," he beamed. "Ready for a hearty supper?"
"Definitely," Aylen replied, placing a hand over her growling stomach.
"Excellent, but first, Aylen dear, would you join us for amora ritus?"
"Ugh," Aylen muttered. "Not this again." Amora ritus was a sort of love ritual, orchestrated to couple off single elves. Aylen had decidedly refrained from joining in these ritual dances, but her father occasionally managed to coax her into it.
"Oh, come now, how about it?" he urged. Aylen turned back to her mother for support, but her three sisters abruptly took her arms and ushered her forward.
"Come on, Aylen," her oldest sister, Itzel, said. "I hear Quidel is looking to be your dance partner."
Her other sisters, Nina and Naira giggled furiously. "Yes, and he seems quite anxious," Nina said.
"Best not to keep him waiting," Naira added.
Aylen rolled her eyes at meeting Quidel, a hunter that had his sights set on settling down with Aylen. "I would rather go back inside."
"Oh, nonsense, Aylen," Itzel quipped. "You would be lucky to have him. He is a handsome young elf, I must say."
"Then you take him," Aylen groaned.
Itzel tsked. "I have already settled down with my own handsome elf."
A booming voice cut through their chatter, "Do we have all our elves taking part in amora ritus?"
"All but one!" Nina called, and pushed Aylen into the crowd of giddy women elves.
Quidel, in a crowd of men, smiled over to Aylen.
Aylen offered a reluctant and unconvincing smile as the booming voice continued, "Alright, you all know how this goes. Before the dance, the men are to find their partners in the forest, following nothing but their heart. Ready ladies? At the sound of the horn…" A deep horn sounded and the women burst into excited laughter as they raced off into the forest. Sighing, Aylen followed after them, taking her time. She leisurely walked among the shrubs surrounding her, letting her fingers brush over the tips of them.
Looking up to the sky, she whispered, "I hope do your work on me soon," speaking to the elvish spirits she prayed to. "One can only wonder when my sisters will leave me alone about this. Not to mention my father." Aylen was several yards away from the village when a dark shape flew across her field of vision. When she watched after it as it scurried away, she realized it was a grey-tailed deer. She let out a breath that she had been holding when the deer nearly scared the life out of her. Then her breath caught again when she heard footsteps fast approaching behind her. Aylen did not have time to move before a woman appeared from the brush and an arrow whizzed past her shoulder.
Lara let out a gasp of surprise at seeing Aylen, then a sigh of disappointment when she realized she had lost her deer; and her dinner. She was about to lower her crossbow and apologize to the clearly startled elf, when the elf suddenly cried, "Could you lose the bow, you lunatic?"
Lara raised a brow and kept her aim steady. "I'm the lunatic? What are you doing out here alone, elf?"
"Well, that really is not any of your business."
"Oh, no? You might want to consider your own situation before calling names."
"Hurt your feelings, did I?"
Lara snorted. "Sorry, takes more than that to hurt my feelings."
"I guess I will just have to try harder next time," Aylen smirked, though she felt uneasy under the aim of Lara's crossbow.
Lara cocked a grin at the brazenness of the young woman. "So, elf, you're from the Pachi tribe I take it?"
"Oh, how smart you are," Aylen mocked. "What gave it away, the red hair or the green eyes?"
"Both," Lara retorted. "And the fact that I nicked you with my arrow and it's already healed."
Aylen frowned and craned her neck around to get a look at her arm. There was indeed a spot of blood, though the laceration made by the arrow had healed up. Healing abilities were customary among Pachi elves. "Interesting, I did not notice."
"I guess you didn't feel it."
"I can still feel," Aylen snapped indignantly. "It does not work that way. Maybe I was preoccupied with the crossbow aimed at my chest. What is with that, anyway? I thought you humans were partial to your firearms now."
Lara frowned. "I'm not a human. I'm a magical creature. So guns won't work in my hands."
"Then what are you?" Aylen asked, and Lara thought she heard genuine interest.
Raising a brow, Lara said, "I was born in the arctic."
"… An Eskimo?"
"They're only half magic," Lara chided. "What do you take me for? I'm a fully certified magical creature, through and through."
"So you're an iceman. Well, an icewoman that is."
"Bingo," Lara grinned.
Aylen cocked her head to the side before asking, "Then what are you doing all the way out here where your powers are no good?"
"My powers work well enough out here for other things, mind you," Lara stated. "And how is it your business as to why I'm here."
"Well, seeing as you have not lowered your arrow from my chest, I think I have a right to ask you whatever I want." Lara stared a moment longer before chuckling to herself and lowering her arm. Aylen was visibly relieved and she let out a sigh. Lara studied her curiously.
"You didn't actually think I would shoot you, did you?"
"Well, you had me wondering, seeing as you already hit me with one."
The corner of Lara's lip twitched in a grin. "That was an accident and I'm sorry. Fortunately, there was no real harm done."
Aylen's brows inched up her forehead and she inclined her head. "Fortunately? Do I take that to mean you actually care whether or not I am hurt?"
"Of course." Feeling that she would never meet the young woman again, Lara decided on a bold move. "Besides, you're too cute for me not to care."
This unexpected comment cut through Aylen's tough confidence and her eyes grew wide. She opened her mouth to reply, but all that came out were baffled, sputtered sounds. Lara simply kept on grinning. When rustling bushes and footsteps sounded behind them, her grin fell, however. Aylen saw her grip tighten on her crossbow in anticipation.
Quidel suddenly appeared from behind a tree and beamed when he spotted Aylen. "I have found you, at last," he said, approaching her. He stopped in his tracks when he caught Lara out of the corner of his eye and then noticed the left over blood still smeared on Aylen's arm. They all shared a tense moment of uncertainty and Lara shifted uneasily. Aylen found her sudden change in demeanor fascinating, but quickly decided this was no time to observe behavior.
"It was an accident," she said quickly to Quidel. "And lucky us, silly wounds like that heal within seconds." Lara breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Quidel relax and his shoulders go slack.
He turned to Lara hesitantly. "You are a friend of elves, yes?"
"Yes, absolutely" Lara replied, raising her right hand as if in allegiance.
Quidel nodded and smiled, satisfied. "Well, no harm has been done then, my friend."
"I'll just leave you to take her back to your village then." A playful smile tickled Lara's lips when she looked back at Aylen. "So long, little elf."
Unwilling to let Lara have the last word, and certainly not like that, Aylen called back, "So long, macho icewoman." She grinned inwardly when the smile on Lara's face faltered. She then let Quidel lead her back to the village. When they finally returned, her mind was still rolling over her interesting encounter with the icewoman.
"Are you alright, Aylen?" Quidel suddenly prompted. "You seem a little adrift. Did that woman frighten you?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Aylen said quickly, pulling herself away from her thoughts. Their tribe began cheering when they arrived in the village center. There were couples already dancing to the rhythmic beat of drums and chanting.
Quidel turned to Aylen with a wide grin. "Well, this is when we share a dance." He extended his hand to Aylen and waited for her to take it in her own.
Aylen stared at the outstretched hand and then flicked her eyes back to Quidel's expectant face. "I would very much like to dance with you, Quidel. Yet, I feel we should clear something up before we do."
Quidel seemed puzzled. "Of course. What is it?"
"I would like to dance with you. But I would prefer if we would dance as friends and that you keep in that in mind."
Quidel's grin faded to a confused frown. He seemed unable to comprehend what Aylen was saying. "Of course… as the very best of friends, yes?"
Aylen sighed, not sure Quidel fully understood what she was saying. "Yes, Quidel, very good friends," she said. "But that is all."
Quidel stood there mulling over the words. "Yes, that is all for now. But in the future-"
"That is exactly what I am trying to tell you, Quidel. We will always be just friends. Even in the future."
Quidel flinched as if he had been slapped in the face. Aylen felt a little guilty because of his sullen look, but she did not want to give Quidel the wrong idea that they had an intimate future together. She liked the man, she truly did. However, just as she said, it was only friendship. She had not felt the sensational attraction or the longing that her sisters and mother often spoke of.
"I am truly sorry, Quidel."
Quidel looked her in the eyes. "Is it something I have done wrong?"
"No! No, absolutely not, Quidel. I simply do not share those feelings with you." Quidel looked around at the other couples dancing and Aylen realized he was trying to gather his strong face again and trying to hide is embarrassment at being rejected. "But like I said, Quidel, I would love to dance with you now. And there is no need to tell the others about any of this."
Quidel offered a small, but genuine smile. "Alright."
After the dance was over, the tribe gathered to celebrate with a night of more dancing, singing, and drinking elvish wine. Aylen joined them for a short while before returning to her mother. "Aylen, dear," her Moema called. "How did things go with Quidel?" At the exasperated look on Aylen's face, Moema had to laugh. "So I take it no one will see him trying to woo you any longer."
Sighing, Aylen took a seat next to her mother and said, "I let him know that I did not share his same feelings. He seemed to take it well enough. Though I think I am beginning to make a name for myself around here as a prude."
Her mother laughed and patted her thigh. "No one thinks that of you, dear."
"I am the youngest of my sisters, yet the oldest of them to settle down with a man," Aylen replied. "What does that say about me?"
"It only says that you are waiting for someone extra special," Moema assured her.
The corner of Aylen's mouth curved upward in a half grin. "So that is all it says, hm?" Aylen looked out at the elves around her and a strange feeling gripped her gut. "I feel different, mother. I feel like I am different from everyone here. Do not mistake me, I love this tribe and everyone in it." The kinship between her and her tribe's people ran strong. "Yet sometimes, I feel so different from all of them."
"You are different, Aylen," Moema said with clear pride in her voice. "You are different in so many ways and that is what makes you so unique."
"Alright, unique, but do you think I am strange?"
Moema laughed, a light and tickled sound. "Well, I must admit, the other mothers never had to drag their children back inside during Blue Night. But you must know, Aylen, that I am so proud of you and that I love you. So what, if you have not settled with a man yet. I want whatever makes you happy, Aylen." Moema turned to send an adoring glance toward Aylen's father, who was talking amongst some high ranking elves. "And perhaps one day you will feel as wonderful about someone as I do with your father."
Aylen smiled at her mother. She admired her parents' faithfulness to each other and, like her mother, hoped that one day she would have such luck. Itzel, her oldest sister, suddenly approached from the dancing crowd. There was a slight flush to her skin and Aylen grinned.
"Had a little too much wine, Itzel?"
"I am enjoying the party, mind you. Something you should be doing."
"I was, but I decided to sit for a minute. Must I run everything by you, before I do it?"
Ignoring her comment, Itzel said, "I noticed Quidel is off socializing with other women. Why is that?"
"Not that it is any of your business, Itzel, but we had a mutual splitting of ways."
Itzel let out an exasperated groan and threw her hands in the air. "Will I ever find someone good enough for you, Aylen?"
"Strange, I remember nothing about appointing you as my matchmaker."
"Someone has to do it," Itzel retorted. "Seeing as you are not doing anything to help your situation, I have no choice, but to step in."
"How about I steal your man away, since you claim to have such impeccable taste."
Itzel gave a disgusted grunt. "Mother, would you please talk sense into your daughter?"
"I would like for both of my daughters to stop with the bickering and leave each other alone," Moema stated, giving them both stern looks. Aylen was able to throw Itzel a smirk before their father approached the three women. She turned to smile at him, but the smile was never able to reach her face; not after the look she saw on her father's. Her father seemed uncharacteristically sullen.
"What is it, Nuka?" Moema asked, her eyes full of concern. Nuka seemed to attempt a reassuring smile, but it never came through. He cleared his throat.
"Moema, my dear, I need you to put together all of your belongings tonight. Find something to pack them in to carry with you. And you too, Itzel and Aylen. Be sure to tell your other sisters as well."
"What is happening, Nuka?" Moema whispered cautiously. "Why are we packing our things?"
Nuka seemed reluctant to answer. "We will be relocating in the morning. The whole tribe. Hopefully not for too long, though."
"But why, Nuka?"
Nuka breathed a heavy sigh as he looked into the worried eyes of his wife. Aylen watched and waited for a tense minute before her father finally replied. "There is word that Mongor are nearby. We do not expect to be a target, but we have decided on relocating for the time being, just in case."
Icy fear instantly struck the heart of everyone within in earshot. Aylen's heart pounded painfully against her ribcage. She had never seen the Mongor with her own eyes, but the stories were enough to make her pray she would never have to. Anxious glances were exchanged between her and her sister. "Should we not leave now, then?" Moema asked Nuka. "Why wait until morning?"
"The sun is setting," Nuka replied, looking dismally up into the darkening sky. "It would be far too risky to go out unprotected during Blue Night."
"This is no time to allow this silly fear of Blue Night," Aylen suddenly interjected. "There is no such thing as Night Walkers! We should leave at this instant."
Nuka grew frustrated for a second, but then relaxed and smiled adoringly at his daughter. "Unfortunately, my brave child, there are Night Walkers. It is just one night. We are not truly expecting an attack anyway. This relocation is just a precaution. Do not fret, my dears. Besides, if the Mongor try anything it will not be during Blue Night. No, Blue Night will be here and gone before you know it."
Aylen had a sinking feeling in the pit of her gut, though she tried to ignore it. Nina, who was closest in age to Aylen, approached from behind and rested her hand on Aylen's shoulder. Aylen turned to face her and met the uncertainty in Nina's eyes with her own. "My husband just told me everything," Nina said. As Aylen looked around, she noticed many of the elves were returning to their huts.
"Everyone knows now?"
Nina nodded. "Yes, they just told everyone. But do not worry, Aylen. What would the Mongor want with a simple elvish tribe?"
"They are Mongor, Nina; cold-blooded killers. They need no reason to attack us other than the fact that they can."
Nina took a shaky breath. "Please, Aylen, do not scare me like this."
"I am only trying to-"
"Please, Aylen, I should not be stressed right now. It could cause complications."
"Complications?" Aylen repeated quizzically. Nina nodded and with sparkling eyes she gently placed a hand over her belly. Aylen's eyes grew wide when the realization hit her. "You are pregnant?"
"Shh," Nina shushed quickly. "Not so loud."
"Oh, Nina," Aylen whispered, though she could hardly contain her excitement. She quickly hugged her sister before taking a step back again. "Congratulations! This is wonderful."
"It is," Nina nodded. "Which is why I want you to keep quiet about it for now. I refuse to announce this good fortune during such awful circumstances."
"I understand. I promise not to say anything. Oh, Nina, this is just wonderful!"
Nina smiled and the two women giggled. "You know, Aylen, you too could enjoy this wonderful feeling if you would just pick a man." Aylen's smile fell and Nina was quick to add, "But you can live at your own pace. If you have not met your match yet, then no rush."
"That is not what you say when you are around Itzel and Naira."
"Well, like them, I am just looking out for you. I just tend to be pushier when I am around them." Nina and Aylen shared a grin. They then wished each other a good night's rest and then retreated to their huts. When Aylen reached her own, her mother and father were frantically gathering all of their belongings and wrapping them in a large woven blanket.
"Aylen, I was just about to go looking for you," Moema said.
"I was just speaking with Nina."
"Well, we have packed most of your things. You just need to pack all of your smaller belongings in here." Moema handed Aylen a small bag. Aylen looked to her father, who was looking out the door to their hut with a worried gaze.
"Do you think they would come tonight?" she asked him quietly.
He turned to her with a sigh. "They would not set their sights on such a small village, Aylen."
"Yet they have destroyed many villages similar to ours south of here."
"Listen to me, Aylen. Even if they would attack us, they would never do so during Blue Night."
"For all our sakes, I pray you are right."
Moema set her things down and sat herself on the edge of her bed. She gestured for Aylen to sit beside her and wrapped her arms around her. "We will be alright, Aylen," she murmured as Aylen looked out the window at the darkening forest. "Just one night and then we go as far from the Mongor as we can. Just one night."
Aylen awoke to the acrid smell of burning wood and flesh. The smoke burned her eyes and she could hardly see past the water the flooded them. She blinked several times, her heart pounding with a rising sense of dread. The smoke filled air made her cough and gag and she struggled to breath. She crawled off her bed and onto the floor. As she tried to regain control of her breathing, she became acutely aware of the screams and muted cries from outside of her hut. Her skin began to perspire because of the abnormally hot air surrounding her. The air was so hot that she nearly felt she was burning.
She jumped when an ungodly sound of someone moaning in pain passed her hut. Aylen struggled to open her eyes against the smoke and when she was finally able to get a look around her, her heart began to pound impossibly faster. Her parents were no longer in the hut and the side of the wall where their bed had been was torn apart with lingering flames eating away at the wood.
Immediately, Aylen stood and rushed out of the burning hut, only to wish she could go back inside the second she was outside. Elves were running and screaming as dark figures tore at their flesh. As one of the dark figures neared her, Aylen found her skin becoming unbearably hot. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of her face and her heart thundered against her chest as she whirled around, looking for her parents. She turned in the direction of a heart-wrenching cry that stirred a nauseous feeling in her gut. She numbly pushed herself to move toward it, but stopped short when she caught sight of Nina's burning hut.
Rushing in the direction of it, she screamed Nina's name, ignoring the horrors around her as if in tunnel-vision. Before she could reach it, a voice called her back. Whirling around, she spotted Naira kneeling on the ground.
"Nina is already dead, Aylen," she wheezed as Aylen neared her.
"Dead?" Aylen repeated the words as though it were foreign to her. "But s-she… she was-"
"She is dead, Aylen. I saw the Mongor set the hut ablaze and no one has come out since."
"But why has no one tried to put it out? Why has no one gone in after her?"
"Does it look like anyone was able to? Now go, Aylen. Find mother and father and get out of this damned village while you still can."
"What of Itzel?" Aylen questioned. Naira gave Aylen a look of pain and for the first time, Aylen noticed a motionless figure behind Naira. Dread filled her heart. "Is that-?"
"Do not look at her," Naira demanded. Tears spilled from her eyes and her voice began to crack. "They burned her to death. The way she looks now is not how she should be remembered. Now leave!" Naira was beginning to panic as a few Mongor began to notice them.
"Come with me then," Aylen cried, taking Naira's hand and fighting back tears. But as she urged Naira to get up, she became aware of the blood circling her and traced it back to one of Naira's legs, which was missing. Aylen screamed in horror just as one of the Mongor approached them.
Naira began to scream to. "Run, Aylen!"
Aylen closed her eyes as a gust of flames surrounded her. She scrambled backwards and ran for her life as tears poured from her eyes. As she ran, smoke filled her lungs and she nearly fell to the ground in a coughing fit. The same heartbreaking cry echoed through the burning village and Aylen immediately went searching to find the cause of it.
She followed the cry toward a row of destroyed huts and, when she heard sobbing, finally found the source. The agonizing sight before her, along with her mother's painful sobs, terrified Aylen and made her heart feel like it was being ripped apart. Her father lied on the ground, a dark substance spreading on the ground beneath him. His skin was scorched from his waist all the way up to his face and Aylen was only able to recognize him because of the look of anguish on her mother's face.
Unable to deal with the loss of yet another family member, Aylen focused on the only one she had left. She pulled up on her mother's arm as Moema continued to mourn. "Oh, Nuka," she sobbed. "Please, do not leave me." The broken state of her mother alone was enough to shatter Aylen's psyche, but she persisted in trying to lead Moema away. Finally, Moema was able to focus on her daughter. "Aylen… Aylen, my dear." She cupped Aylen's face in her hands.
"Mother, we have to go. We have to get away from here."
Moema looked around them as the Mongor continued to destroy the only home they had ever known. "You were right, Aylen. We should have left despite Blue Night."
"There is still time, momma," Aylen pleaded, using her childhood name for her mother. "We have to leave, now." She managed to get Moema to her feet for a brief second before she dropped back to the ground, clutching her stomach. Moema let out a gasp of pain and withdrew her hand from her belly. The blood on her fingers glistened in the light of the roaring fire around them. Defeated eyes looked back up toward Aylen.
"Go, my child."
"No," Aylen moaned. "Not you, too. I cannot lose you."
"You must go, Aylen." For a few moments, the defeat in Moema's eyes was replaced with pride. "I refuse to watch any harm come to you. Go out into the forest, Aylen, as far as you can go."
There were tears cascading down Aylen's cheeks. "But I am afraid."
Moema smiled sadly and rested a hand on the side of Aylen's face. "But my child, you have never been afraid of Blue Night."
"No, momma, I am afraid for you." Aylen was crying now, her chest heaving with sobs.
"Listen to me, Aylen. You are the most special person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And someone as special as you deserves a long, long life."
Aylen shook her head. "I will not leave you."
"You must!" Moema cried, losing her calm. "Get out of here, Aylen!"
Just as a wall beside them collapsed, one of the Mongor rounded on the two women. Moema was screaming for Aylen to run, but all Aylen could hear was the roar of the fire and the snarls of the Mongor. All of a sudden, Aylen felt as if her back was ablaze and she whirled around, coming face to face with a Mongor. It's rough, black skin seemed to be emitting tremendous heat and little flames erupted from its slit nostrils. Blood dripped from the yellow teeth of its horrendous, growling mouth. Yet what rendered Aylen utterly terrified were its glowing red eyes that bore into her like a knife. It was like looking into the heart of fire itself.
Abruptly there was a screen of flames in front of her face and she screamed helplessly until a hand yanked her down. She scrambled backwards and once she was free of the hand's grasp, she kept on running. She ran out of the village and into the dense, dark forest. She hardly knew where she was going, but she never stopped to look back. Aylen refused to acknowledge the horrors of the night and ran as if she could run from reality itself. With only the moonlight to guide her way, she weaved through thickets and trees, jumping over roots and rocks. Eventually, she was so exhausted that she missed a root and tripped. Her head hit the ground hard and just like that, Aylen was out cold. Curious eyes throughout the forest looked upon the young elf, bathed in moonlight and misery.