Grace shoved her way through the briars scratching at her arms. The sounds of the forest surrounded her, making her push faster. How foolish. She shouldn’t have thought she could go into the forest alone after dark no matter the circumstances. She wished one of her sisters had come with her, or that she hadn’t shattered her lantern at the sound of a wolf’s howl.
“Father!” she called, breaking through the briars. She looked around, paling. He was nowhere in sight. She gathered her cloak close around her and went over her options. She could push on, or head back home, and hope her father was home in the morning.
With dread coiling in her stomach, she continued walking. “Father!”
What would Dreslot do without its most prestigious citizen?
As she passed a stand of oaks, a most peculiar feeling washed over her. She yawned. Perhaps she should rest. The trees looked safe enough. She could climb one and nap in a branch. Nobody would see the unladylike act.
Feeling heavier by the second she found a toehold in the first oak, and began to climb, her tunic rubbing against her leggings. At last she reached a high enough branch, eyes drooping, and settled herself against the trunk.
Swaying like the rocking of a baby’s cradle. Grace cracked her eyelids. Was the tree… moving?
“Is it dead?” The gruff voice came from below her.
“Naw. Just sleeping.”
“Well, wake it up!” Came the impatient command.
Grace closed her eyes tighter. She didn’t know the intentions of these men, and it was always best to pretend unconsciousness in strange situations.
Her body lurched in protest when icy liquid assaulted her. She screeched, sitting up and banging her head against a higher limb.