A/N: Hello everyone! Just thought I'd come out of my shell for a while and say 'hey'. Anyway, this story is a little of an experiment for me. Just a different kind of writing style (i.e. way less description!) that I'm trying out.

Also, since this a relatively new idea, the story is still raw - straight from my head to paper. Well, kind of. I edited it enough so it can be read without people cringing in horror at what they would otherwise interpret as my lack of respect for the english language... but I won't deny that it's still rough. Therefore, this desperately needs some constructive criticism so I can improve it - for your own enjoyment of course :) Your comments and general opinions would also be much appreciated.

Plus, any reviewers will get a nice cute 'thank you' message at the end of each chapter! Isn't that worth reviewing for? lol! But even without the reviews, I'm going to keep on writing this anyway. Creation calls. Thanks in advance for reading!

Lv, Nadia (naughty little munchkin)


The Elkwood Forest lay still beneath the cloudy night sky. Not a sound was to be heard, save the forlorn hooting of the old tawny owl that lived deep in the forest. He scanned the grassy floor arrogantly for signs of a tasty supper. A mouse or perhaps even a fat juicy rabbit would make a fine meal tonight.

An abrupt snap of twigs beneath his tree made him look sharply below. From underneath the branches of the great evergreen, a large creature emerged from the shadows. It stumbled around blindly in the darkness. The owl peered down with interest at the queer-looking thing. He had never seen the likes of it before.

The animal was big and black, although it didn't seem to have any fur. It also had no face to speak of. Even so, the owl could hear it panting as if exhausted from hunting an elusive quarry. Was it a predator?

Possessed of a curious nature, the owl flew like a silent ghost between the trees as the animal-thing made its way deeper into the forest. Suddenly it came to a stop beneath a tree. The impressive bird perched on a branch above. He pretended indifference, preening his dull feathers as if to prove this fact to any who watched him. Nevertheless, his large golden eyes were trained unblinkingly on the thing below.

The ancient bird blinked. The animal-thing now carried a small, strange-looking nest, holding it not with its mouth but out in front with its paws. It had seemed to appear from nowhere. There was also something white inside. White feathers? Carefully, the creature set it down and fell back on its haunches with a loud sigh. The feathers inside the nest stirred and the black animal reached in a paw to touch them. The owl cocked his head, his own feathers forgotten in the face of the strange sight below him.

"I am sorry," the creature then whispered hoarsely. "Forgive me."

The owl heard the animal speak but could not understand.

A long low wolf howl sounded suddenly, shattering the stillness and quiet. The animal-thing was jerked to its hind legs, causing the owl to hoot in surprise. The wind rose with the animals' cries, ruffling the thing's smooth black hide. It then uttered a strange scream of terror before vanishing into the night. The nest and its contents remained at the foot of the tree.

The owl was about to fly down to it, intent on investigating, when a sudden beam of light shone brightly into the clearing. Blinded, the old bird screeched angrily and rose clumsily from the branch. He glided away; his mind once more focused on hunting for his supper. The strange black creature was forgotten.

The man who had entered the clearing was tall and lean, with dark hair just starting to grey at the temples. Hearing the owl's loud screech, he held his lantern up higher. "Hello?" he called out, brown eyes narrowed as he squinted into the forest. "Is someone there?" But the only answer was the sound of his dog barking as she bounded alongside. The howling of the wolves had ceased.

"What is it?" the man said as his dog sniffed the basket beside the tree and pawed at it, whining.

The man frowned in puzzlement and walked over, shining light over his discovery. Kneeling down beside it he peered inside. He gasped loudly, almost dropping the lantern as he stumbled to his feet.

Slowly, he knelt down again and with shaking fingers, pulled away the white blankets to reveal a baby girl. The man blinked rapidly, scarcely believe his eyes as he beheld the sleeping infant. A thought then struck him. Gently, so as not to wake her, he shifted through the linen, searching for a clue as to the baby's identity. But disappointment showed on his brown weathered face as he replaced the blankets. There was nothing. His gaze then landed on something snagged on the basket's side. He picked it up, rubbing it between his gnarled fingers. It was a scrap of heavy black material, perhaps torn from a person's cloak.

The man looked around him, but only the silhouettes of the forest trees met his gaze. Up above, thunder rumbled threateningly. He glanced back down at the tiny girl, his frown deepening. "Who on earth would leave you out here? And in this deathly chill?"

The dog whined again and rubbed her soft black body against her master's knee. The man petted her absently and sighed. When he looked back down at the infant, she stirred and her eyes- a curious mix of blue and grey, just like a cloudy autumn sky- fluttered open and then closed as she fell asleep once more.

Again sounded the thunder, louder this time, and with it came the rain. Without hesitation, the man gathered up his lantern and the basket holding the baby. He then stumbled through the storm, his dog running ahead of him, towards the village.

From somewhere further off in the distance, the shrill whinny of a horse pierced the darkness. The sound of galloping immediately followed, although it quickly faded into the rhythmic drumming of the autumn rain.