I awoke, dazed. The sun was hot on my face but the air was cool on my arms except for searing bands around my wrists. I looked down at them and saw what looked like rope marks, I had been bound. The back of my head had a searing pain and I feet nauseous.
I was propped against a large tree and I soon realised that the bark dug deep into my back. I stiffly adjusted myself and landed on a mossy forest floor, it was soft and of great comfort. I lay on my back here whilst my sight adjusted and took in what was around me.
Above me, a beautiful emerald canopy of leaves, I was in a forest or woodland. My ear caught the sound of a stream trickling gently. I saw the wind throwing the leaves into the air and they danced before the fell to where the began.
I finally shook myself out of the daze and stood up, bowing my back and stretching my legs, but something was missing. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know why I was here. I didn't know where i was going and...I didn't know who I was.
I panicked. I looked at what I had with me to try and jolt a memory. I was wearing a green tunic , green leggings and boots. No other clothes, nothing to keep me warm, no bags or weapons. I felt around my neck, there was a necklace, it bore a feather, or leaf, I couldn't tell. And another necklace, this one bore a key.. With a strange symbol upon it. It looked very old and something deep inside me felt it was something to fear. I tucked it back into my tunic quickly.
I grasped at my throat. ‘urgh So thirsty’. I looked around to see if I could find the stream I had heard but nothing seemed close, but no sooner had I said this an apple dropped at my feet. I quizically stared at it for a while, stooped and picked it up, and looked around to see where it came from. I was standing under an oak tree, there were no apple trees around me?
A rustle in the branches above me caught my attention and a squirrel sat staring at me. I raised the apply and thanked him but I was startled when he replied to me.
‘ That’s ok……Fae? This will quench your thirst and stave your hunger. I squirmed. An animal was responding to me. I wondered whether it was due to the apparent hit to the head, however I felt it only polite to reply.
‘ Im sorry, did you just speak to me?
‘ Yes! Im surprised you can understand me. There are few who have travelled through here who can speak to animalkind’.
‘ Do I know you Squirrel? You used a name…..Fae?’
The squirrel climbed further down the tree and was eye level with me now. He pulled my ears and retorted.
‘ The only creature I have ever seen with ears like this are …..The Fae, but shhhh….’ He looked around himself fearfully… ‘we should not speak of them here, they are mischievous and I don't wish to have them in my forest. Walk with me to the stream, you can drink there’.
‘ Do you think I am one of these creatures squirrel?’
‘ No, I can feel that you are of this world, I’m sorry if the name offends you’.
‘ No not at all.What is your name squirrel?’
‘ I am known as Greytail, I am the oldest of my tribe that resides here’.
He stopped and watched my feet as I walked upon the forest floor, with him stopping suddenly so did I.
‘ why do you watch me walk Greytail?’
‘ You step so quietly! Despite the twigs and leaves, so quiet and gentle like a foal! This should be your second name - Foalstride! Fae Foalstride, foundling of the woods’. I laughed with the squirrel I liked the name and it gave me comfort to speak with another. Deep down I was still scared, I didn't know where I came from and didn't know where I was heading. I drank from the stream and bathed my swollen wrists.
‘ I don't know where to go from here Greytail. I don't know what to do, I don't know who I am’
He sighed and looked forlorn
‘ Alas Fae Foalstride, I do not know much outside the boundaries of my own wood. However! I know someone who hunts on the outskirts’. He lifted his hands to his mouth and did what seemed to be a silent call. Another squirrel came to the trees, nodded, and ran off.
‘ He will send word. Come, meet my friends. You can stay with us a while, perhaps your memory will return?’
Greytail led me to a wall of trees and knotted bushes and skipped through. I shouted after him.
‘ Greytail there is no way through for me? I am 10 times the size of you!’
He skipped back through the wall and to my feet.
‘ Fae, something you will learn about the forest is it is not always as it seems. Keep your eyes and mind open and follow the feelings that stir within you. These feelings are most powerful, they will help you survive. Now the wall, you see a wall but do you feel a wall ahead of you?’.
I closed my eyes and breathed in. I stepped closer and then felt a cool shaft of air rush past my ears.
‘ There is a large gap? I can, I can feel it! I can sense it?’
I took a large breath in and walked forward, soon after I opened my eyes to see I was in a clearing surrounded by other animals. I looked back from where I had been and a dark wall of thick trees and bushes stood behind me.
‘ is this magic Greytail?’
‘ It is not what you would know as magic. Its a lore among animals. The forest has always been as it is, whether it be magic or not, however we have listened to its knowledge and learned to adapt and use the forest as our Allie. You have learned something great today. Use it to protect yourself. Use your instincts’.
Many hours passed as I sat with the other animals, who to my surprise I could also understand and speak to. I foraged for berries and nuts with Greytail and spoke to the other animals to see if they had seen how I had arrived in the forest. None of them could help, none had seen how I came ot be there.
It was dark before I heard a rustle in the trees. Two glowing eyes were staring back at me. I was frightened by this sight but Greytail assured me I was safe. As the eyes grew closer I could see the auburn face of a fox. But despite Greytail’s assurance, as he approached the fox growled and bore his teeth.
‘ Now now Passus…..Fae shows you know harm’. At the sound of my name he retracted, he looked fearful. ‘ Passus, she is not of the Fae, nor of man’
‘ Fae Foalstride. A foundling? You search for answers…others like you? I often wander the treadways of man ..I see them, they do not see me. They are like you, some shorter, some taller, some with..’ he pawed at my ears.. ‘.. Different ears. They wander the treadway, a long stony path, with horses laden with items. The poor creatures sometimes pull carriages with men IN them’. He shook his head. ‘ Man. I do not like them I am afraid. They forced dogs to hunt my family. I fought hard for them but my wife and child were killed by their jaws.’.
I looked at his sad face, and then the many scars he had. His story saddened me greatly, so I held out my hand to comfort him. He retracted but I assured him I would not hurt him and he placed his head in my hands.
‘From this day forth Passus, I will not let people intentionally maim the forests or their dwellers. It hurts me that this has happened to you. If I have any purpose in life I will make this mine’.
Passus stood and nodded as if in appreciation and beckoned me to walk with him.
‘ We must go now foundling, it is a long walk to the treadway and you should be there for when man is upon it to find your answers’.
I stood and looked back to Greytail, he and I were saddened that we had to take leave of one another. He passed me an acorn. ‘ Its not much to give Fae, but it is enough for you to remember your time here with us’. I took it and placed it into my pocket and bowed. I was humbled by Greytail’s generosity over the last few hours, I considered him a friend. My only friend it seemed.
Passus and I walked in awkward silence for a good few miles.
‘ Again, I am sorry for what has happened to you Passus’.
‘ I am also sorry, I am cursed with an eternal torment, however I am also sorry for you Fae. I am sorry you cannot recall who you are or what your purpose may be’.
The mood lightened and Passus spent the rest of his journey telling me of all the places he had seen, all the horrors and wonders with it. I marvelled at his tales of giant creatures with green skin and others with tusks or horns. In the darkness of the night I felt wary and kept swift on my feet.
Dawn approached and I could see the tree line thinning and I could hear the sound of people talking and cart wheels cracking onto the rocks beneath them. It seemed we had finally reached the treadways Passus had promised.
‘Here I will leave you Fae Foalstride. I cannot go further, my hatred of man is too great, I must retreat back into the wood, I will venture out when they leave’.
I stooped down and wrapped my arms around him.
‘ Thankyou Passus, you have been a good friend, even if it has only been a few hours. What you have done for me means alot, I will never forget you’.
He bowed his head in acknowledgment, turned and ran back into the thick woods, ‘ goodbye Fae, good luck! I may see you again on my travels!’.
The treadway was busy with people, and at first I found it hard to even step out onto it. When I finally did I shouted ito the crowd ‘ can anyone help me? I have no knowledge of where I am from?’
A fearsome looking man growled at me from ontop of a cart ‘ Get back to the woods knife ears! Thats where you belong, gerrof wiv yer!’.
I looked around, and again shouted ‘ Please can someone help me?!’ yet people sneered or just ignored me. By this time tears were rolling down my face. The contrast of being with animals who were so kind to me, to man who were so vicious and unfriendly was an insight into how Passus felt.
With the bustle of the treadway I forced my way through the crowds, still asking for help but no one would respond to me, and when they did they threw insults, I was looking behind me to see how far I had walked from the forest, I felt that I should go back. As I turned to face the direction I was walking in again I came face to face with a giant horse walking towards me. With one last cry I shouted.
‘ PLEASE can someone help me?’
The horse stopped in its tracks and with a soft voice he replied.
‘ My master will help you. He is a kind man, you wait and see’.
The horse stopped the cart he was pulling in front of me and I looked up to the driver. Tears pouring down my face. ‘ Please, please help me?’.
A man looked down at me, he had a kind face with soft blue eyes and a gentle smile, he wore a moustache and had short cut hair.
‘ What is wrong my lady? You look lost, and scared?’ He jumped from his cart and held my hands. He turned them in his and saw the dark stains the rope had left behind.
His face turned stoney
‘ Why, you have escaped from somewhere? You have been bound? Who had done this to you?’. He demanded.
I broke down and buried myself in his chest, I sobbed ‘ I don’t know, all memory of where I am from and where I was going is lost, I don’t even know my name’.
He wrapped his arms around me and asked ‘ what would you like to be called?’
I replied ‘ The forest dwellers called me Fae, Fae Foalstride’.
‘ Well then Fae, I am going back to my mansion in Dareham. You will stay with me until you find your answers. Let us get you there soon, you are freezing cold and hungry I bet’.
I smiled, I again was overwhelmed, but this time by this mans kindness.
‘ What is your name good Sir? How do I address this gentle man who has helped me today?
‘ Me? My name Is Bann Fea, Pleasure to meet you Fae'.
I stopped and whispered to the horse. ' Thankyou kind Horse, what is your name?
' My name is Amicus, please let me take you to warmth and food'.
With that I climbed upon the cart. Bann wrapped me in a fur he was sitting on and we began to travel along the road to Mannerbund mansion.