A gentle wind blew away red hair from her face, she moaned a little at the movement and opened her eyes groggily to assess the nature of the disturbance.
The sun was shinning and its warmth made her feel comforted, slowly stretching her arms she sat trying to adjust her eyes to the piercing light ...way too piercing for my taste right now... getting her bearings she realized that she was at the exact point where she fell asleep last night or was it really?
I remember I had to sleep in that cave because of the storm, but then I had this strange dream... I woke up... the drawings, my hand, this light......I'm so lost... she frowned, painfully trying to make some sense of all this ...I don't remember what happened next ...I must have come back to my sleeping bag then...well I did for I'm here so...
She was really confused; she didn't like to be unaware, so to forget what happened to her last night was extremely frustrating to say the least.
The fire was dead but the ashes were still hot due to the light wind that kept them partly burning, the redhead stood on her feet a little wobbly but she was not surprised after all the events of the day before. Everything was coming back to her, Oz betrayal, the pain and the rage she felt, her walk through the storm and finally the eventful night, no surprise that she was feeling a little weak on her legs.
She shook her sleeping bag into the air to get rid of the dust and folded it back to tie it to her backpack. She gathered all her belongings and covered up the fire place with earth.
It was time for her to go back home, she would think about all this after a good shower and a decent meal. The redhead walked cautiously very aware of her tiredness and of the many rocks spread along her path. She walked for an hour following the road she knew by heart but with a nagging feeling that something was off. Everything around her was familiar but at the same time it felt different ...this is only an impression, I'm too exhausted to think clearly, when one is tired they can perceive everything askew...no worries...no...everything is fine, finey mcfine even! ... so with some hardly convincing attempts at persuading herself that everything was normal she went on her way, knowing her car should be 3 miles from her current position.
"Alexander Patrick Harris stop fooling around and start helping your brother with the horses" a very irritated middle age woman shouted in the direction of a dark haired young man that was swirling a wooden sword in front of a group of non-pulsed chicken in the back yard.
"Alright mom" answered the dejected knight wannabe. His mother didn't understand him, he was sure of that. Why should he go on doing stupid farmer stuff when all he wanted was to become a great warrior. She always brought him back to that pitiful life accusing him to have a "dreamer" attitude, but one day he would show her, and she would be proud.
Alexander better known as Xander was the youngest of a brotherhood of four. His father was a farmer and all the family lived with the gains they made out of their productions, essentially vegetables and fruits but also milk and eggs that where sold everyday to the local markets.
They were not miserable, they had a correct income and were living in a house big enough for the six of them with more well-being that one might think.
Of course nothing was perfect and quarrels were sometimes brewing specially between the parents that seemed to be in frequent opposition. But all in all they were happy and as much as he tried Xander could not denied this fact.
He was frustrated, he would have preferred to choose is life direction, to enter the knights preparation and to fight among the braves to protect his land. But his parents didn't want to hear any of their son's caprices, they needed help to run the farm and he had to fulfill his family duty. Not because they couldn't manage without him but more because they were afraid to see him hurt or even killed during a battle. Xander had always been a passionate boy with a tendency to think with his heart more than with his head and to his father the only way to correct this "flaw" was to direct him into a serious activity like the management of the farm.
Of course the strong headed boy was not ready to surrender so easily and was secretly preparing his departure for the royal castle were a friend of his was already enrolled in the young guards training. He would need his help to enter the knights preparation group.
And before this day came he went on his normal activities like nothing had changed for he didn't want his perceptive mother to notice any abnormal behavior.
So after finishing his morning chores Xander went for a gallop with his favorite steed, Starlight, named after his black hair coat covered in hundreds of white spots.
This was a morning ritual between the two, they followed the road to the forest where they stopped to quench their thirst at the stream that went down to the valley.
As usual they went for a long gallop before reaching the entrance of the woods where Xander always un-mounted to follow the stony path to the river.
"What the...." exclaimed the redhead. She just had reached the parking location a few minutes ago and was still turning around the place trying to understand why her car wasn't there. But the thing that unnerved her most was that the little information point cabin had also disappeared as well as the direction panels that showed the different roads and their technical difficulty.
How on earth could that be happening!... even if she was not happy at the thought her car could have very well been stolen, but what happened to the rest? ...well it was probably the forest trolls that took them away during the night... she concluded sarcastically in her mind, trying to lighten up her own mood and quell the feeling of panic that was starting to rise in her.
There is no way I could have taken the wrong path, I know this road and I've been doing the same walks a hundred times, plus the clearing is still there, the trees are the same, just everything is empty...I really don't get it...something...someone is trying to drive me crazy...god! What the hell is happening...since I entered this woods everything went havoc!!! I need to find a way to go back, or maybe someone...I surely need help, and I swear that if I get out alive of this nightmare I'll go on a therapy...surely till the end of my life...oh god!!!!
She was on the verge of crying, totally loosing the control of the situation and this frightened her to no end. After a few calming breath and a bit of thinking she took her decision, and with a resolve nod went down to the end of the clearing to reach the path usually leading to the highway bringing her back to San Francisco. The road was going down with an big slope and was covered with broken branches and numerous heavy stones. It wasn't at all like it should have been, taken care of and marked. ...Another strange thing to add to my dangerously growing list of oddities.... Upset but determined to find her way back she went on with a steady rhythm in spite of her growing tiredness. After two hours she decided that she should take a pause in a little clearing by a quiet stream, she would drink and rest and only then she could go back on her way. She put her backpack down and went to freshen up by the flow and after some very needed gulps of water she sat under a huge oak tree where she had settled her equipment.
"Hey, quiet, oh oh, good boy" exclaimed the young farmer "what is up with you today Starlight, I swear you are on a conspiracy to drive me insane" the steed had acted weird since they had entered the woods, as if sensing something.
His master had been struggling with his reins an unusual amount of times and was now concerned that such an attitude might have been induced by some kind of magical force that could be hidden near them. Indeed the horse's behavior had gotten more and more agitated by minutes as if the source of his " trouble" was getting nearer.
"What is it old boy, what's bothering you" asked the dark haired man with a frown, something was off and he was strangely starting to feel it too. Strangely because he for one had never been very good in mastering this aspect of his magical education, sensing auras, forces and other manifestations had always been one of his weakest point but right now he was feeling something ...something very powerful at that...
So he stopped, pondering for a minute what his next move would be, somehow he didn't sense anything evil, it was most probably a mage that went for a retreat and that decided to take a little walk around to meditate.
Such a surge of power that even he was able to sense could only come from a mage but usually mages kept their energy blocked from the outside not to submerge the world with their power, the only explanation could be that it was a young mage still unable to control their magical abilities. Plus it would totally explain the staying in the woods part not to disturb anyone with their current "inability" to shield. ...Everybody knows that in here the forces going awry are restrained by the trees to lessen their effects...a lot of sorceresses even came here to disappear during the last war...their essence was undetectable even by the most powerful warlocks.... His decision was made, it wasn't a threat so he would go on, at least till he reached the river and then he would go back ... even if there's no apparent danger, no need to push my luck....
Five minutes later the two companions arrived at a small clearing crossed by a curvaceous brook. Xander let go his mount which went directly for a refreshing drink and as he was himself ready to do the same a form caught his eyes by the ancient oak tree in the middle of the grassy field.
It was a human form for sure ...maybe the mage, I can feel the power emanating from them... but this person whoever they were kept immobile and as he approached cautiously he saw that they were asleep. The farmer wasn't sure though if he was in the presence of a woman or a man, sure they looked very delicate and lithe but at the same time they had short hair and an attire that he didn't recognize but that seemed to suit more to a man than to a woman ...they must surely be from an other land, these clothes are so colorful... strange fabrics as well, really odd.... He knew a lot of female knights that wore trousers, a more practical clothing for the warriors, as well as some mages and sorceresses. But short hair, he didn't think he ever saw a woman with such a length, barely going under their ears.
Suddenly the stranger stretched a little and batted heavy eyelashes as they struggled to open their eyes. Xander took a few steps back not wanting to frighten the "mage" and waited expectantly for the waking form to rise.
After some difficult attempts the redhead finally came back to consciousness and a cry escaped her mouth as she took in the boy that was intently watching her from above.
This startled the young man a little but he quickly regained his composure to sport his usual goofy grin.
"Hello my name is Xander, well Alexander to be more accurate but everyone calls me Xander so...." he trailed of as the "mage" looked at him with a mixture of confusion and amazement "are you alright?" he asked.
Wow I think I fell asleep and now what!...who's that guy? He seems nice, but look at his clothes, like he's going out of a medieval movie or something...and he's looking at me with expectation, what?...oh! alright he talked so I suppose I should answer...yeah right Rosenberg, I'm sure you've got a brain damage...of course you should answer that's the normal procedure when someone asks something... she was so lost in her internal babble that she didn't hear the boy's callings who was currently trying different languages for it seemed this redhead "mage" didn't understand him.
When he started to frown at the apparent mutism of the person in front of him, the redhead went for a try of her vocal chords.
"Hi" was all she could muster so shaken she was by everything that came her way lately.
"Hey! you are talking" exclaimed the farmer a little too enthusiastically relieved by the redhead's response.
Finally smiling at the man's reaction she presented herself "I'm Willow, Willow Rosenberg, uh...I think I'm a little lost" she admitted blushing slightly "nice to meet you uh....."
"Xander, my name is Xander Harris" he reminded her gently.