Prologue

"Run!"

Her mother whispered with a sense of urgency, smeared with panic.

Forest clung to her mother's hip and shivered.

"Mama...it's so cold"

"Hush chile!"

The barking dogs and angry shouts could be heard, fast approaching. Forest's heart thundered in her small frame and tears welled up in her eyes...

"Forest...please..." her mother begged.

"Please..."

She reluctantly let go of her mother and wiggled her way into the bunch of ferns; damped from the late night or early morning dew, she couldn't tell.

Her mother threw the thin, mouldy blanket around her before bolting in the opposite direction, in the dark. Forest stayed perfectly still and held her breath. The heel of her left foot aching from being pressed into the stump, jutting from a root...The cold air bit into her skin and she fought against shivering.

Someone landed lightly on the ground from above, nearby and she almost yelp from the fright she got. She pressed her hand to her mouth and stifled the scream that was about to escape.

How had the hunters found her so fast?

She listened intently but realized the dogs' barking were going off in a distant. The person's silhouette sniffed the air like one of the grey hounds descending upon her mother; then he vanished before her very eyes.

Forest rubbed her eyes for fear of the person returning to take her back...but thought better that it was the shadows just before daybreak that were playing tricks on her.

She no longer heard the dogs' barking, but rather screams that pierced the night. Ongoing for some time until a shot rang out.

The screams ended as abruptly as they began...

The single shot disturbed some black birds nesting nearby, that fluttered away.

Tears streamed down Forest's face with the breaking of dawn...as she mourned the passing of her mother...