“Auria picked a slender rose and twirled it between her lily white fingers. She breathed its fragrance as the gentle sound of human footsteps echoed behind her. Turning, she saw the boyish face of Fray and ran to greet him, wrapping her arms around his neck. They had met last summer when he had saved her from being eaten by a Roc. This was before the world fell apart. This was before the war……”
Nika got off the school bus that evening without a care in the world. It had been the last day of school and she looked forward to an entire summer of reading and swimming.
She could almost feel the water swirling around her legs right now.
But something was wrong.
Nika sensed it the minute her tennis shoes had hit the pavement upon exiting the bus. There was an electricity in the air, a stillness, like nothing she’d ever felt before.
Her heart caught in her throat as she made her way to the front door of her quaint white house. The door was unhinged and lying flat inside.
Nika stepped over its splintered remains, eyes wide in fear.
“Mom?” She called out into the deadly silent house.
There was no reply.
The house had been ransacked, torn apart and crushed as though something huge had gone through the house.
Pieces of dishes lay in heaps by the walls and pieces of ceiling hung down, tickling Nika’s face. The floorboards had been cracked and splintered like something very heavy had walked through.
Nika crept into the living room to see that most of the stuffing had been torn out of the couch and the piano looked like an anvil had fallen on top of it…….an anvil that was no longer there.
As she crossed the living room floor, she stepped into something sticky and warm.
She hardly dared lift her foot. Instead of blood, she found that she had stepped into a steamy pile of sap.
Hot breath struck the back of her neck.
Nika witnessed a holy terror fallen to Earth.
A woman stood behind her….like no woman she had ever seen.
Her legs were of roots that had ripped the floor up to dive deep beneath the ground.
Her fingers were long and claw like and her skin was of mahogany bark. Needle sharp teeth glinted in her open jowls, sap dripping from them like sticky saliva.
Green vines hung from her head like dread locks.
Her roar shook the very fabric of reality.
The tree woman waded through the floor boards like water to wrench Nika skyward, dangling by her shirt collar caught on the creature’s long claw.
“Are you the child of the prophecy?!” The tree woman spat, sap splattering Nika’s face.
Nika’s legs waggled to and fro manically as she scrabbled her nails against the hard bark of the monster’s arm.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Nika screeched as the monster shook her wildly before letting her fall sharply to the floor.
The next few moments seemed to occur in slow motion. The tree woman raised a claw to strike and Nika winced, preparing for the blow.
Something shot through the air, barely visible and as slender as….
Green feathers bloomed on the monster’s shoulder and the result was her howl of agony.
Nika peeked around the tangled legs of the giant tree woman to see a strange figure in the doorway. From her twisted position on the floor, Nika wondered if perhaps she was delusional and that she was in a mental hospital even now.
But she concluded that this had to be real. The pain was far too real.
The figure in the doorway had splendid green wings that shimmered in the afternoon light. He wore an old fashioned costume of tunic and trousers colored like the dappled forest floor.
Nika hardly dared breathe as he entered the household, shooting arrow after arrow into the monstrous woman, sap dripping onto the floor from her open wounds.
“Hello, little faery.” She snarled, whirling round to bare her teeth at the faery.
He didn’t even bat an eyelash. He lowered his bow and stared hard at the tree woman.
“Get out.” His voice was barely above a whisper; he hissed those two words.
The tree woman slunk around him, her massive form suddenly lithe as a cat.
“You haven’t seen the last of me.” She murmured before abruptly vanishing in a shimmer of golden light.
Nika’s jaw had long since dropped open and she now clamped it shut to rivet her eyes on her savior – the green faery. He let out a long breath as though he had held it the whole time he had been there before walking forward to offer Nika his hand. She took it, slightly slack jawed; Nika rose to stand face to face with the faery.
Before she could speak, he butted in with a hurried excuse, “I know you are probably wondering what that was and what I am but the time is not now, Nika,” At the time, Nika didn’t question how he knew her name, “All you need to know is that there are forces far beyond what you can ever imagine. You must be very wary and cautious from now on. Take care.”
He turned to leave but Nika gripped his shoulder, “Can I at least know my hero’s name?”
The faery turned; Nika saw his face had become a deep crimson……
“Dorr. You can call me Dorr.”
Nika Roberts buried her face in her hands. She was sitting in the police department waiting room. They didn’t know what to do with the young thirteen year old girl. Her mother had gone missing at the same time as her attack by the tree woman.
Of course, they hadn’t believed her when she described the woman. Nor did they believe her when she told them she’d been saved by a green winged faery that had vanished into thin air.
Nika was wondering if she would go straight to foster care or a psych ward when a strange man entered the waiting room from off the street.
He had long blonde hair that fell to his shoulders and a ten gallon hat jammed tight on top of his head. Sunglasses the size of Texas graced his pale face and a long black trench coat shadowed his figure.
Eyes that Nika couldn’t see fixated themselves on her.
“Are you Nika Roberts?” Nika hardly dared breathe but managed to nod at the strange black clad man.
The sheriff’s office door opened suddenly, breaking the awkward moment, and the burly officer strode out, a large grin pressed on his face.
“Inspector! A delight to have you! Step right this way!” The sheriff slapped the tall man on the back and guided him into his office.
Nika’s world returned to the droll wait it had become until the door opened once more and the secretary ushered her in.
The office wasn’t much to look at. A simple plain room with grey walls and a grey floor, no plants or decorations save the framed photo of the sheriff’s family on the wooden desk.
The Inspector sat behind the desk, the sheriff nowhere to be seen.
“Have a seat.”
The Inspector shuffled some papers around on the desk which Nika tried to read upside-down.
One said something about herself, a mental condition printed on it. Nika winced and her eyes drifted to the next: ‘Stonehenge – special case.’ Nothing made sense to her anymore.
The Inspector leaned close to Nika and removed his sunglasses. She knew now why he wore them. His eyes were a strange golden color.
“Nika. What I am about to tell you must never leave this room.”
Nika’s heart caught in her throat.
“There are things that exist beyond our understanding. There are other worlds. I have been sent to protect you. You have to do exactly as I say. Do you understand?”
Nika blinked and nodded numbly.
“Take these,” He handed her a plane ticket bound for Wiltshire, England, “Go to the nearest airport and go. I will have an accomplice waiting for you in Wiltshire. Go!”
Nika bolted for the door, ticket clamped in her sweaty palm.
The cool night air blasted her full in the face as she ran at break neck speed towards the main road.
In her small home town of Elmsburg, there was little hope she could get to an airport, but she had to trust the stranger – he was her only hope. Houses whipped past her as her feet drummed the smooth black road. The highway was just around the bend….It felt as though it were a million miles away. Cars honked as they passed the fleeing girl as though telling her to go back. Nika steeled herself and continued to run until the junction of this road and the highway appeared over the hill.
Cornstalks swayed on either side of her in this country suburb like a golden ocean parting just for her. Cars sped by on the dark highway, their headlights casting an eerie glow across the blacktop. Nika screamed at the top of her lungs and swung her arms above her head, trying to catch the attention of one of the cars.
An old blue VW Bug slowed to a halt, clanking and rattling all the while. Nika chewed her cheek with nervousness as the driver door squeaked open. A dark skinned woman that was smartly dressed with a big smile on her face was sitting inside.
“Now what’s a pretty young lady like you doing out here on a night like this?”
Nika couldn’t help but smile. The woman didn’t appear threatening or, to her relief, tree like in anyway. She deduced the woman was safe.
“Running away. Can you take me to the nearest airport?”
The woman blinked a couple of times at her blunt statement as though she could hardly believe her ears.
“Free country, I s’pose. Hop in.”
Nika gladly took the offer and soon the old blue VW was rattling down the road towards the highway….and on to Columbus – the nearest major airport was there.
“Now you better be able to pay me back for all this gas, you hear?” The woman told Nika, shaking her head in bewilderment.
Nika nodded and clutched tight to her sweat soaked ticket and prayed to God that she would be safe….that her mother was safe.
She couldn’t help but wonder if her dear mother was even alive.
“Flight 217, now boarding.”
Nika moved along the queue line, her heart beating a quickened rhythm in her chest. She had been praying feverishly during the long wait at the airport.
After the kindly woman had dropped her off, she had been stopped five times by guards, seeing she was an unattended child. Fortunately, whatever the ticket said, (She didn’t read it, afraid it might say something unsettling), made them turn the other way.
Nika was jolted back to the present as she handed her ticket to the man who was taking them and hurried along the line of people to the plane that would take her to Wiltshire, England.
She was usually a timid shy girl who rarely spoke and stayed away from excitement and adventure. Now she had found herself being thrust into a wild journey far from home. She felt extremely ill.
The plane was a large jumbo jet taking native Englanders and excited tourists to Wiltshire. Most were there to see the famous Stonehenge. Nika was last to board the plane and got a window seat, which was bad for her. She was deathly afraid of heights.
This plane had six seats in each row, three on either side. A strange man with a concave face and a bow-tie had chosen to sit next to her with his wife, or perhaps daughter, a red haired young lady.
Their conversation was of the oddest.
“You had to go and crash the darned thing.” Muttered the woman.
The man put on an innocent face and nudged Nika suddenly.
“Oi. You think that it was my fault I crashed it?”
Nika blinked and screwed up her face, unsure what the man meant.
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.” Nika told him politely.
He threw his hands into the air with a cry of, “Stupid humans!”
The woman slapped his arm and shushed him as the plane’s engines began to start.
Nika ignored the odd couple most of the way, and found her eyes slowly shutting……