Her vision was framed by fluttering eyelids, batting against the daggers of sunlight thrust into her eyes. She didn’t remember it being so bright out; it must be noon.

As her eyes began to adjust to the new light, her mind started to take in the sounds and smells about her. Rybirds chirruped in the trees, scuttling from branch to branch on both tiny claws and wings. The thick scents of moss and humus and bark perfumed the cool air, punctuated by short bursts of a colder breeze.

Suddenly, she saw a face loom above her, pale green and matching the tree leaves. It was only then that she realised she had been laying down. 

“Hello?” she ventured, though her voice sounded like a frail cough.

The face recoiled at her words, retreating past the edge of her vision. She sat up, bringing black dots spinning through her vision as blood rushed from her head.

“Whoa,” she breathed, blind a moment.

“Are you… alright?” The voice came from behind her, obviously belonging to the face from only seconds earlier.

“Yah,” she answered, turning as she did. “At least I think so.”

The person now in front of her looked to be only a boy, younger than her for sure. His skin, though, appeared to be dyed a pale green, making his rosy cheeks looks almost comical. His clothes were even more of a surprise, consisting of leaves and grasses and vines tied about his body, with strips of bark accentuating.

“Where am I?” she asked, and then added, “And who are you?”

“I’ll answer your questions only if you answer mine,” the strange boy said. His voice was deeper than she expected, making him sound like someone of her age. Her mind, confused as it was, opted to ignore the inconsistency.

As an answer, she simply nodded.

“You’re in the Old Grove of the Ulu forest, just north of the Spine and surrounded on all sides by the Wild and Calm Blues.”

The names tugged at something in the girl’s mind, but she couldn’t dredge anything up to identify them with. Surely the Spine would be a mountain range, while both Blues were oceans or seas of some sort.

“And I am Amanemus, one of the Guardians in this Grove,” he spoke these last words with some importance, tiliting his forehead up into the sunlight.

“Oh,” she sighed, her questions only half answered. “Can I call you Nemu?”

He smiled, nodding.

 “Well, I’m Maru, from Evergreen’s Village.”

Nemu’s eyes widened at the mentioning of Evergreen, and he took a step towards Maru. “Eve? You know her?”

Maru shook her head. “I know who she is, but I don’t actually know her. You’re the first Guardian I have ever seen.”

Her new friend looked worried, his wide eyes unblinking and fixed on the ground before him. “No-one has seen or heard from Eve in months,” he whispered.

Looking up into Maru’s eyes, he added, “I think your village is in danger.”

The End

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