I think I’m drifting between sleep and conciousness. It’s my favourite place after getting a beating. The pain feels less here, and my mind is free to wander and dream, without the bounds of the sad reality that is my life. But this time the pain that radiates through me is worse than it’s ever been before. Even my loungs hurt. Why…?
As I rember my last concious moments, I open my eyes with a start. The Dark Lake! I try to sit up, but someone pushes me back .
“No, you need to rest. It’s too soon for you to get up.” I look at the man sitting beside me on the grass. Funny how I didn’t notice him before. I’m not usually that careless with my surroundings.
It’s dark already, and the man is illuminated by a small fire near us. He seems to be very old, and is wearing priests’ robes. His hair is almost white, and he has dark eyes. I can’t make out the colour since there isn’t enough light.
Ignoring the old man’s advice, I try to sit up again and this time succeed. The pain is receding quickly, but now that it’s almost gone, I feel something strange inside of me. Like something is stirring. I rub my chest, hoping that I’m imagining things, but the sensation increases and something whispers inside my head. Look at the man… Look… More closely… But don’t run if you want to live…
I take a shuddering breath. No sane person hears voices in their head. But I can’t help raising my eyes. The man is staring at me with a strange look in his eyes, and as our gazes meet, I see it. He has pointy ears, incredibly blue eyes, and his face looks Elfin, reminding me of the old pictures I’ve seen in my aunt’s house. I blink and the vision is gone. He looks completely human to me again.
There is a duffel bag next to him and as he reaches for it, I tense, almost expecting him to pull out a knife and butcher me on the spot. Instead he presents me with a loaf of bread.
“You should eat, girl. You look half-starved.” He holds it towards me, but when I want to raise my hand I hear IT again. DON’T! I lower my hand with a start and decline the offer.
“I am grateful for the offer, but a man that directly serves our Gods should not go hungry because of me. I apologise if I seem rude, but I ought to go now, my mother is probably already worried sick about me. I must return home immediately. Thank you for…” What, exactly? Watching me while I was out cold? Not even giving me a blanket to warm me in the chilly night while he himself was seated on at least three? But then again, it was most likely him who pulled me out of the lake so he did deserved my gratitude for saving my life. “Everything.”
As I get up, I realise that my limbs are stiff from lying on the ground for more than half a day. Provided it still was the same day that my brat of a step-brother pushed me into the lake.
As I turn my back on the man and the Dark Lake behind him, I feel his calculating gaze on my back until I’m completely shielded by the trees of the sacred forest.