chapter one

Xylia was raised a simple farm girl, helping her father with the many animals that inhabited the private farm land. Her mother baked for a living, producing warm, delicous smelling breads and desserts twice a week. She often accompanied her mother on the long walk to the closest city to sell.

Her mother, Lauri, was a beautiful woman. Her hair was jet black, with streaks of silver, adding no age to her wrinkle free face. Her skin was nearly flawless, save for a few scars from hardships that accompanied everyday life. Her body was ample and curvy, eyes almond shaped and framed in dark lashes. Xylia was often jealous of her mothers warm auburn colored eyes. She was the woman every man hunted for back when she was younger, and her humble father was lucky enough to have her.

Her father, Harold, was a very hardworking man and very simple in life. He raised pig, sheep, cow, and horse, and had an acre or two for corn and wheat. He traded supplies with traveling merchants and would set off to sell a plump pig or to slaughter a cow during season. He was tan and muscled, hands calloused from a hard days work, but at the end of the night, were as gentle as a feather.

The farm was 10 miles away from three different towns they sold supplies to, and in a whole, rested upon 10 acres of lush land. Behind the farm was a large stretch of dense forest; so large that rumors say it stretches all the way around the world. No one has actually traversed the forest, and it has so many names that everyone just calls it The Forest. Once when she was a little girl, she had woke during a storm and when she looked outside her window towards the forest, she saw black shaped things standing on the edge, watching the farm. Watching her home. She had whimpered and crawled under the sheets, unable to sleep, crying silently until her father had come to wake her to start her chores.

Xylia loved her home and loved being normal, never wishing for more than a boy to take notice of her. Her life changed on a night so dark not even the moons rays cast light upon the ground. They sat in their living room around the fire, her mother brushing her daughters long red hair. Her father sat in his chair, smoking on his pipe, hand stroking their dog Mora's light brown back. The wind picked up and their heard the pound of rain upon the roof. Mora raised her head off the ground and looked towards the back of the house, a slight whimper sounded in her chest. Harold patted her reassuringly and murmured, "good dog."

Mora sat up nervously and watched the door for a couple minutes. Xylia tried getting her to play with her favorite toy, but the dog would have none of it. There was a whinny of a horse, Mora barked and ran out the doggy door in the back. The three of them paused and listened. Mora barked a couple minutes later, then yelped and was silent.

Lauri cast worried eyes to her husband. Harold raised one finger to his lips, grabbed the axe, and slunk out the back door. Xylia sat frozen in fear, her skin going cold. Mora had never barked like that, she thought, silently watching her mother grab a knife from the kitchen. Lauri's hand was steady upon her daughters head, and a sense of calm washed over her.

Xylia heard the slow drumming of rain begun to come down faster, and then her fathers strangled cry rang out. Her mother grabbed her hand and started for the front door when it burst open, and a bandit walked in, water dripping from his dirty clothes. Lauri gasped, throwing her daughter behind her. He merely laughed, "Your mine, and then your pretty daughter too."

Lauri lunged, trying to stab him. He caught her arm, twisted, and the blade fell usely away. He threw her to the ground, standing on her chest. Xylia stared in horror at them, her mothers face scared and in pain. Lauri looked to her daughter and mouthed, "run."

Xylia didnt even think, she just turn and fled, running down the familiar hallway, the wood floor changing to cold, wet mud as she ran for her life. She could hear their yells behind her but she only picked up speed, running into The Forest, the darkness becoming all consuming.

She didnt make it very far into the dark forest before she ran into a tree, falling unconscious.