In the cover of the trees, but only just, Oriana looked back to Owvry village. The guards didn't seem to be following her, apparently much more interested in what was going on in the centre of the village. Whatever her mother had done, it had been a lot bigger than the lightning in the market.

Although she knew she should continue into the forest at least until she was more concealed, she couldn't help but stare at the village from the outskirts of the forest and frown. She didn't like the idea of her mother still being in there. Despite the competency she knew Naomi possessed, Oriana couldn't help but worry she would be hurt.

Her mother's earlier reassurances came back to her, but for some reason they only made her more uneasy. She pulled her now-askew eye patch down onto her neck like it was a piece of jewellery. What had her mother said?

"I'm not the one they're after—they want you."

"I overheard them saying that a little orphan boy told the guards he saw a girl with two eyes in the market."

As long as they didn't catch her mother in the act, which Oriana doubted was within their abilities, they would be more worried about catching the girl with two eyes. Naomi would be fine.

Oriana turned from the village, sure the guards would eventually come back this way in search of her. She ploughed further into the forest, running parallel to her home for a long while. Satisfied she had left a good trail, she abruptly turned straight toward her house and proceeded with caution only one born into the woods could manage, leaving no traces behind her.

But would this matter? She was worried. Worried that even if she didn't lead the guards straight to her home, they would find it. Her mind dredged up a relevant memory from dinner two years ago.

“Once one of them has seen you, they will all know. The bad ones will know. And they will stop at nothing to find you if they know you exist.”

Surely they would be able to figure out where Oriana lived. Visitors only came by very rarely but they must have been from the village, right? Even if they never went to the village again, they wouldn't be safe.

Her mother wouldn't be safe.

She came out into the clearing that housed their cottage. It was such a beautiful place to live. She didn't want them to have to run away from it. Her mother had lived here her whole life, and had a beautiful garden she loved to work on, as well as lots of priceless sentimental items. They could run, but the house and most of their things would have to be left behind.

By the time she reached the door and was entering the cottage, she had already made up her mind: the only way to ensure her mother was safe was to run away. They would undoubtedly come looking for Oriana at the cottage, but if she was gone and stayed gone, they would have no reason to bother a middle-aged blind woman.

While this might normally have been a death sentence for an twelve year old girl, Oriana was not making the decision lightly, or without thought. She knew it meant she wouldn't be able to come home for a long time, and was willing to make that sacrifice. She also knew that she was capable of finding food and shelter for herself, though it wouldn't be easy. In the past, she had always had her mother to help her skin kills and prepare meals.

Convinced her mother would be able to get away from town okay, her biggest concern was now getting away from the cottage before Naomi got back. She quickly ran to her room and grabbed a few essentials. A ruck-sack, her bow, her entire stock of arrows and her quiver, a sturdy knife, some preserved food, a length of string, and clothes, as well as a few other survival items and some sentimental ones as well. Her pack was heavy, but she could handle the weight for now, and it would only get lighter as she went.

Her room got a fond farewell, and then, in case they felt left out, every other room in the house did as well. And then the outside of the house, and the garden, and the apple tree, and her mother's flowers... She realized she was stalling, though, and gave everything one last tearful goodbye, and took off, back in the direction of the village.

It wasn't the safest way to go, but it was the best plan she could think of. That direction was the only place she knew she could find something other than endless forest and Cynics—eventually, if she kept travelling far past Owvry village, she would reach the mountains. And if she could cross them, maybe she would be safe there, with the right-eyed people.

The people with two eyes, like her, even if they weren't really like her.

The people who didn't distrust everyone they saw, and let orphaned children—even mean ones who ratted you out to the guards—live in the street and starve.

The Romantics.

The End

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