Summary: A dispassionate young man, plagued by a childhood accident, spends his days hiding away from a village that largely pretends he does not exist. One day, while running an errand for his mother, he is dragged out of Valwick, beaten, and left forgotten in the Valkyrie Wood. There, he is found and hunted by a dark fae, a fallen god of the lost world. He escapes pursuit by the skin of his teeth but, beyond the brink of exhaustion, falls unconscious in the woods. He awakes to find himself in the home of a golem who, despite being an imitation of human life, appears to have no real human emotions. Can the two remind each other of what it means to live?
Exactly three days had passed since Allen last feared for his life. Three whole days of cowering in his bedroom at home before his mother forced him out of the house by the ear to run an errand. It didn't take long for Bert and his cronies to corner him by the old well, and it took even less time for them to throw an old, woven bag that smelled of dust and earth over his head.
He'd tried to put up a fight, had kicked and wrestled and screamed at the top of his lungs, hoping someone would hear him before it was too late. Unfortunately, Allen's desperate pleas for mercy went unanswered. A frustrating revelation, considering one needed to be dragged straight through the town square in order to get outside its fences.
The adult villagers had obviously dismissed his panic as, 'another one of Bert's games', ignoring Allen's anxiety completely.
He was not surprised to see nothing but trees, grass, and oddly shaped mushrooms when the bag was finally ripped from his head. The woods had been one of Bert's favorite dumping grounds since the day he learned Allen was terrified of them.
Allen was no stranger to the folklore surrounding the thick expanse of trees bordering his village, had grown up listening to stories of the dark fae and Crys said to inhabit the forest since he was a babe. There were grown men in the village who refused to explore the wood completely, on grounds that their souls could be whisked away by the fae, and bodies devoured by the wild evils that lurked amidst the trees. Although Allen feared a great many things, his fear of the Valkyrie Wood was well warranted.
There were three spots in the forest that Bert favored above others, but today was apparently a special occasion. He'd taken Allen so deep into the trees that he wouldn't be able to find his way out easily, not this time.
With the sky completely blocked out by thick branches, there was slim to no chance that he'd make it home before nightfall. Worse, without food or water, there was no guarantee that he'd return home at all, not without a guide. Perhaps Bert really did intend to kill him this time.
"Is this about Jesse?" Allen asked hesitantly, looking between the boys gathered around him. His inquiry was met with a hard punch to the jaw that sent his head reeling backwards. He kept his face lowered after the blow, fighting not to roll his eyes.
Why was it always about a girl? Surely there were more creative motivations Bert could use as an excuse to persistently beating on him.
Unfortunately, aside from being Valwick's most pathetic inhabitant, only Allen's friendship with Jesse could be penalized. Something that had started out as an innocent camaraderie between five-year-olds had somehow transformed into the bane of Allen's existence over time.
Why Jesse had to grow up to be so beautiful, he would never know. Perhaps it was a girl thing, but whatever the reason, her golden hair, and clear, brown eyes were the talk of the village, and anybody who wasn't Allen wanted to claim the country beauty for their own.
However, a lack of romantic feelings did not pardon him from being near Jesse, and Bert and his gang seemed to relish in reminding him of that fact on a constant basis. If he ever got back home, that girl was baking him a giant blueberry pie for his troubles.
A blow to the stomach knocked him out of his grousing as he gasped for air. The punch was shortly followed by another, and then another, until he was spilling the contents of his stomach onto the forest floor.
It wasn't until Allen was barely standing on his own two legs, face bloodied and body bruised, that Bert finally grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him forward.
"Stay away from Jesse." Bert said evenly, speaking in a tone of voice that would forever stump Allen. It wasn't particularly cruel or aggressive, more like Bert was making a helpful suggestion, and couldn't understand why Allen would undergo the same brutal beating day in and day out for a mere friendship.
Frankly, Allen didn't understand it either, but he replied, "No." just the same. Apparently this was the wrong answer, because seconds later he felt something hard collide with the back of his head before he was dropped to the ground.
"Shit!" Well, whatever struck him apparently hadn't been planned, to catch Bert off guard. "What the hell did you do that for, Julian?"
Julian gave some sort of feeble, muffled reply that Allen couldn't make out between the throbbing pain in his ears and blurred vision. His hands shot out in front of him before he could make a lovely face imprint in the dirt.
One of his hands shakily found a fist sized rock that was damp with blood, probably his own. He fought to stay awake while Bert and his crew argued over his head, but sleep was just looking more and more appealing the longer he stayed upright.
Eventually, the dizzying pain in his head forced Allen to pass out, and when he reawakened it was clearly nightfall, and he was alone.