It was pouring rain. Even under the thick foliage of the canopy overhead, Richia and I were
soaked. Richia's lop-like ears drooped down, her ear-length hair plastered to her face. Her legs and
tail were caked in mud, as were mine, for the bog we were trudging through was almost
knee-deep. One had to be careful not to get sucked under because once it got above your waist
you were most certainly a goner. Luckily, we had not been through any deep parts of the mud and
had stayed close to the tree trunks because the ground was more solid there.

Just then, Richia collapsed and fell to the ground shivering. Her face, usually bright green,
was a pasty, sickly white with only a hint of color.

"I..." she gasped for air, "I'm tho hungwy. I can'd walk no morwe," she spoke in her usual
lisp.

As if in answer my stomach growled. Richia whimpered as a Nightling gave out its shrill
call, telling us it was almost sunset. I glanced back at to my sister, her eyes glazed over from
hunger and fatigue. We had been slowly making our way through this dark, enchanted forest for
the last two days, ever since we had left the remainder of our tribe behind.

I knew it was quite possible that we could die out here. I had seen no edible fruits or
vegetables and I definitely wasn't going to try to hunt animals, especially since most of them were
twice my size and I didn't feel like trying my luck with them. Obviously being worried about my
sister, I forbade Richia to sleep for fear she would be sucked under or devoured by a creature.
Still, we had hope, for I could feel a strong magic that must've marked the edge of the forest. Since
we were already lost, for I could not see the sun for directions because of the giant trees overhead
that were blocking it out, I decided to head in the direction of the magic.

I handed Richia my paw to help her up quickly because I had noticed that even in the short
time she had laid down, a good part of her was submerged. 'Its almost as if this swamp is magic
and alive. As though it wants to devour us, swallow us up, and suffocate us' I thought anxiously.
An unreasonable panic sprung up in me. I had never gone very far into any forest before because I
had a great fear of closed-in spaces. 'Great, what a time for a panic attack' I thought. The forest
seemed tight and stuffy, as though it were humid, it was all around me like something was closing
in on me. I breathed in ragged gasps, my heartbeat raced wildly. I felt dizzy, the blood draining
from my head. Richia looked up at me curiously and took my paw. The sudden weight pulling at
me set me off balance. I tumbled to the ground, falling face first in the wet mud. It felt so good on
my hot, sweaty face. In a seriously delayed reaction, I began to panic and struggle as it pulled me
under and no matter how loud Richia screamed for help, those screams could not penetrate the
smothering forest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I awoke in a small hut that seemed to be made out of a soft, emerald moss. Even the bed I
was laying on was made out of it. I looked up to see a large hole in the center of what I guess you
could call a ceiling. I could see the stars through it, sparkling and distant, somehow floating in the
night's sky. I assumed the hole was probably for the smoke to rise through it when it came off the
fire when whoever lived in this house cooked. 'We must be in some kind of clearing if I can see the
stars. Usually those giant trees blot out the entire sky' I mused to myself. Suddenly I heard some
rustling from a shadowy corner of the hut.

"Mmmmm...You children nowadays...Curiosity will always get you killed," Whoever was
in the corner clucked her tongue, her voice cracking and moaning as though she was of an ancient
age. She stepped forward, partly into the starlight so I could see some of her. But she made sure to
keep her face hidden, dark shadows covering it where the light did not reach. Even though I
couldn't see her properly, I knew she was scolding me as though she were my mother.

I began to laugh madly, maybe even hysterically, at the thought of her being my mother.
All the pain and grief at being reminded of my mother's gruesome death was too overwhelming,
just too great. As my laughter subsided, I felt several tears make their way down my face. I tried to
keep my sadness all bottled up inside, gasping from the effort, but eventually I gave in and began
to bawl.

"What did she ever do to them!? Why did they kill her!?," I screamed shrilly, barely able to
say it because of my throat clenching up. All I felt was the blind anger of revenge as I shouted at
her, "You! Why didn't they kill you!? You should've died! ITS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!"

I was about to hop upright and lunge at her when I suddenly felt an immense pressure on
my chest. It was like I couldn't breath. Like I was going to vomit. I gagged and sputtered and then
heaved mud straight out of my mouth. 'Ewwwww...It must've been coating my lungs. And when I
started talking and screaming, that must've made it...' The mental picture forming in my mind
wasn't very pretty. 'Ewwwww' I thought all over again.

Even after coughing most of the mud up, I could still feel that grainy, sandy sensation in
my throat, as though it would never all be out. I could barely breath now and though the immense
pressure had lessened.

"Here. Drink it," The old woman handed me a clay bowl and smiled a toothless grin,
causing her weathered face to become even more crinkled, the lines around her mouth deepening.

I took the bowl cautiously with trembling paws and peered into it. It contained a sort of
cloudy blue liquid. 'Why is she being so nice to me? I mean, come on, I was about ready to rip her
head off there' That little voice in my head warned me, alarm bells going off in my head.
Nevertheless, I took a sip, sampling it. I spit it out immediately. It was the bitterest substance I had
ever tasted.

"Ugh-" I managed to croak before my dehydrated voice gave out.

The old woman's smile was now replaced by a scowl, her beady black eyes glittering
dangerously, "Drink it. Now!" she snapped.

I drank that crap like my life depended on it, for it very well could have.

She smiled smugly, "Good. That should help soothe your throat. Now, its time for you to
rest. You need it badly," Even as she was saying that I felt myself growing dizzy and disoriented,
horror and confusion mixed together on my face. Betrayed! That stupid voice in my head that now
wasn't so little now kept saying 'I told you so!'. 'Damn, how could I let her pressure me into
drinking that! I'm such a coward' I thought, ashamed and enraged. I saw that wrinkled old prune
reach her hand down to my face and lay her palm over my eyes. I couldn't fight it. My eyelids felt
too heavy to keep open. There was powerful magic at work. 'She must be some sort of mage' The
quite obvious fact finally beginning to dawn on my dimming mind.

"I've got...got to stay...awake," I said, yawning frequently as my already only
half-conscious mind slipped away into a deep sleep.