"Teva! Why in Kylam's good name are you still in bed?" my brother, Trevant, yelled. I just stared at him for a moment before turning my eyes back to my bedroom window. The light wasn't sunlight, it was fire. The entire village must have been engulfed in flames for it to be so bright. I had finally started to get out of bed when something crashed outside, sending the normally solid wall flying inwards in pieces.
I screamed feeling the heat of burning debris on my back and curled up as best I could under the rumble. They'd always complained that I slept too heavy and was too slow in the morning, but I never thought that I'd wake up to the village being under attack. I cried out again as the debris above me shifted, moving the fire closer to where I was pinned. The pants I wore to sleep were starting to smolder, sending pain radiating up my leg and fear coursing through me. Suddenly, everything moved upwards, freeing me from the parts of the destroyed house and moving the fire away from me.
"Hurry it up, I ain't fire proof," a voice said and I quickly scrambled in that direction. I slipped out into the street, my eyes going wide at the chaos and destruction going on.
"What is happening?" I breathed and jumped as the debris behind me crashed to the ground again.
"What does it look like? We're under attack," he said quickly. "You should get the hell outta here before you get skewered, Flower Power," Iolaus said. I turned a glare at him only to duck as he hurled a burning timber at several men in the courtyard behind me.
"I can help!" I insisted, not wanting to be treating like one of the women of the village. "I'm not so weak I can't help!" He growled some in agitation and turned to face me.
"This is hardly the time for one of your little 'I'm a man' speeches, Teva. Get outta here! I don't have time to babysit you." I frowned at him before stomping past him to head for the woods.
"I hate you," I hissed before running at full tilt for the safety of the dense forest that surrounded our village. It wasn't until I reached the treeline did I stop and look at the village below, tears coming to my eyes at the sight of the flames. Everything was on fire. The screams of the dying were rising into the sky in as thick a blanket as the smoke was. Another fireball slammed into a house in the valley and I turned my eyes to find where it had come from. I could barely make out the line of catapults, but it was enough.
I laid my hand on the nearest tree and closed my eyes, searching for the connection that I knew I had with the forest. Once found I asked the plants for help. I pictured the catapults being turned over and suddenly men were shouting. Opening my eyes, I saw the catapults falling to their sides one by one as new trees suddenly grew where the death machines had just been. I smiled a little. I had been helpful, just like I said I could be.
I jumped as two arrows suddenly embedded themselves into the tree I was standing next to, before quickly turning and bolting deeper into the forest. Stopping at another tree, I brought up the image of a curtain of leaves falling from the trees to obscure us as we tried to find safety. As soon as the leaves started to fall, I started running again, having no idea where I was going except away from where the violence was.
"Hurry it up, Teva. There's probably more soldiers coming after us than we really want to fight," Iolaus said as he and his sister caught up to me.
"Then go on! I'll make it harder for them to follow us," I said, stopping again. He had a point. They would follow us or at least try to. I could help protect the survivors though. This was my playground and few others could rival me here. He came to a quick stop.
"Are you out of your mind?" Iolaus demanded as Miriella came to a stop a few feet passed him. "I know plants are your thing an' all but here's something you might not realize. They have fire and swords and plants go bye bye against that." I scowled darkly at him.
"So do we," I replied. "The least I can do is slow them down so we can put more space between us and them! So go! I'll catch up." I turned away from him again, slamming both hands against a tree as I closed my eyes. I heard them leave and began bringing up the picture in my head. Soon the sound of creaking tree trunks filled the air at the massive, ancient trees began to lean toward each other, branches twisting together and vines weaving to create solid curtains. I had to wipe my brown when I was finally done, the effort having stolen most of my energy. I turned and started walking away from the wall of trees and vines that I hoped would slow the soldiers down, remembering that I said I would catch up. Might have been easier to have told them to leave me behind, as all I wanted to do now was lay down and sleep.
I staggered in the direction I thought Iolaus had gone, barely noticing the undergrowth cover the footpath behind me to mask the escape route we'd used. I wasn't even fully aware that I had asked the plants to do that for me even if my birthmark was burning from the sheer amount of power I'd used so far. I should have thought a little more about what I was doing before I rendered myself nearly useless. I blinked in surprise when I saw Iolaus on the path in front of me.
"I thought I told you to leave me?" I asked in confusion.
"You did. And I did. But you didn't say anything about coming back for your stupid butt," he pointed out. "And it's a good thing I did 'cause you look like you're about to pass out. Come on, we don't have time for you to catch your breath," he said, reaching forward and grabbing my wrist. Without hesitation he hauled me up and draped me across his shoulder like a sack of potatoes before running back in the direction he'd come from. I tried to keep my focus on the forest behind us, coaxing the plants to grow bigger and broader, even as new plants grew. Things became denser and darker and I was soon satisfied that they'd quickly give up trying to hunt us through that jungle.
A few minutes later we met up with Miriella at a waterfall and crossed the river. I gave up fighting my fatigue at that point and let the darkness consume me. I'd done everything I could to help, even managed to convince those old souls to help us out. I thought I had done well for not being a fighter like the rest of the boys. I just hoped someone appreciated it.
I groaned as someone tried to pull me out of my slumber. I didn't want to be pulled from it. I wanted to sleep longer! "Go 'way..." I muttered, blindly shoving at whoever was bothering me.
"Teva, get up before I throw you in a river. And get these blasted plants off me!" Iolaus growled. I whined, so not happy that I had Iolaus waking me up. He had absolutely no patience for a slow morning person. He was worse than my own family about that. Slowly, I sat up, the feel of vines and leaves sliding across my bare torso comforting even if I was having to wake up.
"Fine," I muttered and closed my eyes for a moment to will the foliage to back off some. He brushed himself off as I rolled my eyes.
"Wonderful, thank you," Iolaus said and started looking around for something. I stood up and stretched before walking a short ways away. I frowned deeply at the slight tugging feeling in my chest. The forest was on fire. It wasn't near where we were which was the only saving grace I had.
"They're trying to burn us out," I called back to Miriella and Iolaus. He stood and walked up behind me.
"Then let's get out of here," Iolause said. "I really don't want to experience burning." I frowned, agreeing with him, but still feeling horrible for my forest.
"What about the others?" I asked softly, turning my eyes up at him. "And where are we going?"
"We just have to hope the others are smart enough to keep moving," he replied as he fastened the button on the vest that covered his birthmark. Lucky bastard and getting both a cool birthmark and cool birthright. "And, we'll go wherever we have to so that we don't get slaughtered." I sighed deeply and turned in the opposite direction of where the fire currently was.
"We should head that way," I said, pointing northwest. "I think there was another village about a week's walk that way too. We usually trade with them in the spring for new seeds and elk meat."
"Then that's where we'll head," he said, still looking around. "It's a place to start at least." I nodded a bit, looking between the two siblings. They both had their birthmarks covered. I frowned a bit and rubbed my hand over my forearm as we started in the direction of another village like ours. Outside of our villages, we covered our birthmarks because others feared the gifts the marks represented.
We rarely stopped on our way to the to the village. All week we pushed to the limit to try and reach the village faster. By the time we got there though, all that was left was burned out skeletons of buildings and utter devastation. It was eerie, walking through the destroyed town. Almost surreal but entirely too real at the same time.
"This can't be true!" I cried, stopping dead in my tracks and staring at the ruins around me. "They were better prepared for battle! They had more fighters, more hunters! This can't be happening!" I dropped into a crouch, threading my fingers through my hair as I tried to sort it all out in my head. I just couldn't fathom why our villages were suddenly attacked when we'd been left alone for so long!
"Miriella," Iolaus said, drawing his sister's attention. "See if you can find any supplies that have survived. Teva, pull yourself together... We have to move on. They might be coming back this way," he ordered and I scowled up at him as I hugged my knees.
"So damn easy for you to say!" I snapped. "We haven't seen hide nor hair of another person from our village in the last few days! Plus, we haven't seen survivors from this village either! And do you know how to get to the next village? Hrm? 'Cause I don't! I was considered too young to go beyong this one." I was grumbling I knew, but I couldn't help it. I hadn't seen my siblings or my parents since we'd escaped, the forest was constantly telling me of where the fires were, and despite it all, I was really not comfortable wearing only my pajama bottoms still.
"We don't have time to worry about that! The reason we haven't seen anyone is because people are trying to kill us! There's another village two miles from the eastern border of the forest. We'll head there next. Getting emotional isn't going to help anything right now!" he snapped back. "Now, help try and salvage some supplies. We need to save what we can." I stood up abruptly, biting back my tears as I turned and walked away, muttering to myself.
"Stupid muscle bound blockhead," I mumbled. "Got rocks in his head and his heart if he thinks I ain't going to be emotional. Jerk! Should have just left me behind. The trees and I would have gotten on just fine without meat heads." I wandered through the rubble, trying to find anything salvagable. I rounded a corner and jumped back with a yelp of surprise, wide eyes focused on the body of a girl around my age who hadn't made it to safety.
I couldn't stop the tears from falling as I did as Iolaus instructed and scavenged from the dead and the ruins. I'd found a ruined cloth that I wrapped around my forearm, hiding the vine like birthmark that wound it's way over my skin. I hated what I was doing, but I'd found a sack that I couldn't overfill and at a shirt that hadn't been destroyed to cover my chest. When I had done all that I could stomach, I made my way back to the center of the village and sat down. I looked up as Iolaus cleared his throat and frowned a bit at just how well he and his sister had scavenged this village.
"Come on. There's no reason to stay here any longer. And we have a long way to go yet." I nodded a little, but I didn't get up.
"I... wish to do something before we leave here," I said softly, wiping the tears from my face. He was silent for a minute before sighing.
"Alright, try and hurry up though," he said as his sister braided her hair. I turned my head away closing my eyes. The people here didn't deserve to be picked apart by scavengers, human or animal. I placed my hands flat on the dirt as I called out to the forest who's roots I knew extended under the village. I swallowed hard as the roots came up to wrap around the bodies of the dead, pulling them beneath the soil. Once they were gone, I coaxed new life to spring forth, hiding the burnt out ruins of what had once been a prosperous village.
"Let's go," Iolaus muttered after the trees had stopped growing. He turned and started back into the forest. I slowly got up to follow, not as drained as I had been when I'd convinced the trees to create a wall for us, but still drained, physically and emotionally. It was so hard to deal with all of this. I was trained to get plants to grow and do as I asked them to. I hadn't been trained to deal with violence or death, even though I'd always objected to my role in the village. It wasn't until we reached the edge of the forest that I hesitated in following Iolaus.
"What's the matter?" Miriella asked as she and her brother turned to look at me.
"We don't have a sister village out there," I muttered. "Wouldn't that make them the same people who attacked us then?" As I hesitated, I felt the creep of the forest floor as it drew closer again. The forest was trying to comfort me.
"What choice do we have?" he replied and I looked down at my bare feet.
"Be nice, Iolaus," she scolded. "Don't worry, Teva. As long as we keep to ourselves and keep our powers hidden, there shouldn't be any reason to worry." I frowned, but reluctantly left the safety of the forest. I stayed by Miriella's side, afraid that I'd gotten on Iolaus's nerves. I was good at doing that with just about all the boys in the village. They all found me annoying, it just took some of them longer than others. After awhile, Miriella spoke up again to kill the silence. "What people were in this village again, Iolaus?" she asked.
"Horse traders. They shouldn't be too much of a problem. Pretty peaceful place. Still, keep your marks hidden," he replied absently. I frowned, beginning to fidget with the strip of cloth I'd wrapped around my arm. I cast a wary glance back over my shoulder at the forest again.
"Beasts... Beast traders..." I mumbled to myself, having to force my feet to keep moving forward. I wanted to pinch myself and wake up from this nightmare already.
"Miriella, when we get to town, start looking to supplement our supples. Me and Flower Power will get a couple rooms at the inn before I go see the blacksmith," he said. The shadows of the town were starting to become recognizable and again, I wanted to run back to my beloved woods.
"Don't call me that," I grumbled. "I won't need to show my birthmark if you make stupid jokes like that." Iolaus sighed in annoyance.
"What do you take me for? An idiot? I won't say stuff like that where people can hear, but until then I'll call you whatever fits," he replied in his own grumble. I huffed and kicked at him.
"Jerk!" I grumbled, crossing my arms over my chest and looking anywhere but at him.
"Kid, my kick would send your head flying off your shoulders. Don't. Push. Me," he grit out between clenched teeth. "And I may be a jerk, but at least we're alive, aren't we? Be grateful." I scowled more. I was thankful, thankful that he'd gotten me out of my collapsed house. But that was truly all he had done to save me. I'd hidden myself in the woods. I'd created the living wall to slow down our pursuers. My gift hid us at night from anyone who might have otherwise stumbled upon us. I'd done just as much to keep us alive and safe as he had. Stupid meat head.
We finally reached the village and Miriella split off to do her tasks as Iolaus led the way to the nearest inn. He got two room and quickly went upstairs, towing me behind him. He ducked into the first of the two rooms before letting my arm go and dropping his pack by the door. "Try and stay in the room as much as possible," he said, bending down and looking through his pack.
"Whatever, not like I want to wander around a beast trader town," I muttered, going over to the window. I could have tolerated sleeping outside still. "Maybe I'll just catch up on the sleep I keep losing," I added, more to myself than to him.
"Or you could make yourself useful and make sure all the supplies we managed to get are usable," he replied. I frowned at the window. "If I run into Miriella, I'll tell her where we are. I'll be back before dinner."
"Have fun," I muttered, not turning around as a raised a hand in a small farewell gesture. Once the door closed behind him, I moved away from the window, dumping the contents of both of our packs on the bed. I separated everything into groups, clothing, food, miscellanious. There wasn't much I could do with the miscellanious things or the food, but the clothes I could repair.
I had noticed Iolaus pulling at the collar of his vest more often than usual. His birthmark was rather large, running from both shoulders down across his chest. It made it much more difficult to hide and still be comfortable. Sitting down next to the window for the light, I started mending holes and tears in the fabric. After that, I took some scraps that I had picked up for covering my own birthmark and began adding to the shirts that Iolaus could wear if they covered his chest completely.
By the time I finished, I could see the sun was getting low in the sky, the light fully illuminating the room in orange. I sighed, leaning my head against the window as my eyes looked out over the people moving around the market place below. The was a small gnawing at my chest, knowing that I had said such childish things to the person I had admired most for as long as I had known him. In my mind, he had been the perfect epitome of masculinity. Born with unnatural strength, a quick learner when it came to fighting, tall, muscular, popular with all the girls in the village. The complete opposite of me who had been born with a gift typically found in girls and forced to learn as the girls of the village did. I was small and skinny and they had all always picked on me because of it.
I groaned a bit, realizing that I truly didn't have a shred manliness in me. There was no hope for me. I'd never measure up to Isolaus or hell, even Miriella at this point. Leaning my head against my knees, my shoulders sagged and I stopped fighting against the annoyance I had heard in Iolaus's voice. I let my exhaustion take over, content that I had at least done something to 'make myself useful'. If I hadn't done enough, well, he could go fuck himself for all I cared.