At the End | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Nine

At the End | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Nine

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Nine | At The End

Three days later I limped out of the dark forest. Brilliant sunshine streamed into my eyes, making me squint as moisture rolled down my smudged cheeks. I looked like a sight to scare any creature to death or drive them mad, running in circles of surprise. Reaching up, I placed a hand on a stunted tree trunk, leaning against it for support as a new vibe raced through my veins. Glancing north and south I saw nothing but rolling green hills, with vibrant grass waving over them as if in worship. The sun reached down its rays to bless them and a captivating song murmured past my ears in the breeze.

I left my creatures behind, to run in freedom through the eerie, wild, woods, yet their spirits were close to me as I stepped into the light. The bitter aftertaste of dark and hollow memories faded as my instructions to my monsters in the dark forest. Whatever fog of gloom and despair the boundary line forest had cast over me melted away in the light like ice in the sunshine. Closing my eyes I lifted one hand, leaving the other for balance, and drank in the purity, letting it wash away my sins and the bitterness I held tight to. His dark chocolate eyes rose before mine, a final reminder of what I had lost. Hansel. I suppose it was never meant to be for very long. We were happy for a time, and although I do not forgive you, I can forget.

Cheerful birdsong drifted to my ears, and I stood up straight, sniffing the sweet air, captivated by its kindness. Hobbling forward I walked into pure light and breathed in, while the last of the dew droplets kissed my feet, cleansing me from my journey through the forest.

“Who owns this land?” I mused aloud for I could hear a voice, calling, shouting, telling me over and over, yet it was not in a language I understand. “I know this cannot be the legendary land of the immortals. Nay,”  I shook my head. “Who owns this land?”

Suddenly the wind fell to a hush, and the grass stood up straight in attendance. I shivered, but not from fear, merely from anticipation, for I felt as if my request was granted. A few moments later, over the rolling hills, with a jolly grin smacked on his face, a bearded giant walked towards me. His hair was chestnut brown and his skin tanned from what I supposed was hours in the sunlight. His bushy beard hid his thick neck, but it was his eyes that paused my breath. They twinkled at me, as good and kind as the boundary line forest had been dark and evil. He carried an ax over one shoulder and when he saw me, standing in my dirty shift with my wild hair, he threw back his head and a deep genuine laugh roared out of his belly.

“You called?” he bellowed when he finished laughing, his eyes dancing merrily at me.

I gaped in astonishment. He was brash and strong, bold and kind, and I sensed nothing but goodness in him, purity without wickedness, mischief without sin. There was something else, something that made me take another step towards him. It was the lure of power. Anticipation beat at my breast as ideas rose in my mind and words spewed out of my mouth. “This is your land?”

“Aye!” he roared, slapping his knee. “You must be new here.”

“Eh,” I pointed back at the forest. “I came through this morning. Who are you?”

“Welcome,” he nodded at me, eyes winking. “I am Novor Tur-Woodberry.”

Despite myself, I winked back at him, a sure feeling of safety gripping me. “Hello,” I held out a hand as a riot of mischievous thoughts collided in my mind. “I am Citrine.”

Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford

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Master of the Forest | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Eight

Master of the Forest | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Eight

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Eight | Master of the Forest

Morag led the way down the shining river, glowing with a green luminosity in the dim lights of night. Beasts growled in the underbrush but dared not approach us. I followed, my beasts and I leaving odd tracks in the mud which pooled with moisture and melted back into the bank, as if the river were cleaning up after us. I watched the scales of the water monster as an aura of grimness settled on my shoulders. Heated anger rose in waves combined with a deep curiosity.

We followed the bank until it closed upon a deep hedge, and there the waters dived into a steep waterfall, leaving us stranded on the shore.

“Here is where I leave you,” Morag spoke, his deep voice almost blending into the velvet wisps of night. “Follow the path up the bank. There he will wait for you.”

I took a step, my beasts following at my heels.

“They will not be welcome,” Morag arched his neck high in the air. “They must stay here with me.”

Words of protest rose on my lips, but instead of speaking I glared at the water monster. “I thought you belong to me.”

“Aye. But the Master of the Forest must speak to you alone. We await your return.”

I climbed the hill, the pitch making it difficult to see until I noticed the lights under my feet. Glow worms stood out in the mud, forming a path upward, among dead brown branches and broken bracken brush until I could no longer hear the roaring shout of the falls.

A sanctuary of interlocking branches rose before me, difficult to see with only the cast of the glow worms. I held up a hand as I entered, taking a step back as the monster on the throne stood to his feet.

He had the body of a tree, clothes in garments of black ivy and blood dusted feathers. A long white bone was held in one clawed hand, three fingers curving around it. The creature’s head was only a skull, yet not that of a mortal, but of an animal. It seemed to belong to a deer whose head was looped off and rotten to the core while antlers stuck out from the skull. Black slots for eyes turned in my direction and the head reared up, acknowledging my presence.

“Hello Enchantress.” The creature greeted me, staring in a way that made my blood run cold.

“Are you the Master of the Forest?” I focused my eyes on the creature’s snout. Looking into those dark eyes made me think it was dead.

“I am.”

“You know who I am. What do you want with me?”

“I will give you safe passage through my forest in exchange.” The creature tapped its bone against the forest floor, a hush of fear stealing the air away. I smelled something dead and rotten, a deep huskiness rising up from the buried dirt.

“Exchange for what?” I dared ask, confusion mounting.

“You must do something for me.”

“Must I?” I wanted to laugh but the oddness of the situation kept my emotions in check. “What do you want?”

“Death and destruction.” The creature turned its head, the dark eyes moving closer to me. I shivered as it continued. “The world rejoices. Peace is too much. I need riots and chaos and confusion. Wherever you go, there must be an imbalance. You must cause it.”

“Chaos happens wherever I go, regardless,” I admitted, shrugging my shoulders.

“Then you accept?” The creature leaned forward in a semblance of eagerness.

“I do,” I added hastily, since I had nothing to lose.

“Then the paths of the wood will open before you and lead you to paradise. There you shall begin.”

“What of my beasts?”

“What of them?”

“I need a home, a haven for them?”

“Then you will need to fight for it.”

“Will I win?”

“The future is not mine to see, only yours to create.”

“Is there anything else?”

“No. Go.”

“What if I need to find you again?”

“If the time comes, perhaps. Now go. Before the ghosts of the night capture your soul.”

I backed away, unwilling to turn my back on such a strange creature as I left. When it disappeared from my vision I turned and fled back to the river bank, back to my monsters.

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Wreak Havoc | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Seven

Wreak Havoc | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Seven

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Seven | Wreak Havoc

“Where have you been?” I asked them, weaving my way between them, my fingers stroking fur, sliding over scales, rubbing wet noses, and touching feathers. I checked for burns, my concerned eyes examining them one by one. “I worried the fire had captured you in its wrath while you slept. This is my fault, I will never talk about you again, I will never open my mouth, even if it is to one I think I can trust. He betrayed us all.”

I murmured and cooed as the beasts danced around me, seeking attention, staring at me with their reproachful eyes. They never said a word, just stood, letting me know they were there.

My pets were not full grown yet, which gave me reason to fear for their survival. I bent down to stroke Zaul, a lizard-like creature with green scales and a row of long teeth like a crocodile. He’d come from the river, the first beast in my collection.

I touched the thick, sharp fins of Ava, my fingertips sliding off her slick scales. She had a neck like a serpent and a face like a wyvern while the rest of her body curved into a mix of scales and feathers like an eel. She had four clawed legs and stared at me with large reproachful eyes.

Their eyes were all the same color as mine. Lemon yellow. I didn’t know what brought them to me, but our similar eyes bound us together and allowed me to ask them to serve my wishes. Never harm another was the motto I taught them, and as anger boiled through my veins, I realized that motto failed me. Do no harm, but allow yourself to be burned and broken, driven out into a nasty forest with a temper bigger than my own.

Reaching up I patted the fur of Grift who stood as tall as a horse with the body of a lion, and the face of a great eagle-like bird, the Xctas. He had great wings folded on his back. I cursed myself to restricting my pets to my garden. Perhaps with freedom and plenty of pasture, they could roam free. A fierce determination to protect almost overcame me and a lump in my throat made my eyes prick with tears which would never be shed.

Ava, who was the smallest, slunk around my legs, giving off a sweet keening sound, her grumpy thoughts filtering through mine. You could have warned us. What happened?

“Hansel,” I whispered, the red-hot anger of betrayal vibrated through my body. “Never you fear,” I told them, locking my gaze on each of them. “I have a plan. I do not forgive the villagers for what they did. You should never fear what others will do to you. From now on, you will wreak havoc in my name.”

Grift pawed the soft dirt near the riverbank, causing streaks of mud to flicker out behind him. Swishing his white tail back and forth he bent his head toward mine. “Is this forest our home now?”

“No, I will find you a home,” I whispered.

The lull of the river and the sound of splashing made me turn back to the bank.

Zaul, Ava, and Grift growled, readying themselves for combat.

“Wait,” I held up a hand, watching the waters flicker. “It might be a friend.”

Morag rose out of the water, droplets dancing around his scales as his long neck hung over the water.

“Where were you?” I demanded. “A panther attacked me, something a quarter of your size. Where is your bravery?”

“It was a test,” Morag hummed, his great voice coming from the depths of his being, like a hypnotic song on a breeze.

My anger did not recede, but I took a deep breath before I explored. “My pets came to my aid, no thanks to you!”

“Nay,” Morag slung his long neck back and forth like a lullaby rocking a child to sleep. “It was a test to help you find your beasts, which you have, and to prove who you are.”

“What do you know of who I am,” I snapped, accidentally biting my tongue and cursing as the sudden jolt of pain swept through my mouth.

“You are the one who tames the beasts, we come when we feel you are in great need.”

“We…” I trailed off as my anger receded and I examined Morag.

He leaned down, bringing his monstrous face closer to mine, and I saw the sheen of his wide eyes, bright as the Green Light in the sky.

“If you will have me, I will join your collection. I heard you call my name in your heart, I have been searching.”

“Searching for me?”

“Aye. Will you have me?”

My limbs trembled as I lifted a hand, reaching up to touch the great snout of the beast. When my hand reached his nostrils, I felt a familiar stir and click within my body, the alliance I swore to each one of my pets. My beasts. “Morag.”

My heart was thumping when I turned to my beasts. “This is my promise to you. I will find us a home, and we will add others to our number. In the meantime, go through this wicked forest, look for others, and wherever you go, wreak havoc.”

“Wait,” Morag cautioned. “I must take you to the Master of the Forest. Follow me.”

Studying his eyes, I nodded in agreement to the odd request.

A hiss. A growl. A roar. My beasts scattered into the underbrush, the forest shaking under their movement.

Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford
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Lemon Yellow | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Six

Lemon Yellow | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Six

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Six | Lemon Yellow

A bird squawked in the darkness and the sudden hoot of an owl made the hairs on my bare arms stand on end. Hungry, thirsty and sore, I limped to a stop beside a grove of crooked trees, noting the way the weeping willows hung their long hair over their wooded faces. It seemed as if they hid their faces from the nocturnal activity of the murderous creatures of the night.

“Water.” I whispered to the listening air, for it seemed as if it cared about my plight. “I need water before I perish in the dark and gloom.”

A glimmer of white light appeared, and I lifted my hands, palm up to catch them. The lights came to rest in my hands and I saw them for what they were, tiny seedlings of the willow trees, blowing off to find a new grove. Each seed looked like a glossy teardrop and the inside pulsed with a white light, the soul of the tree. They were an answer to my plight, for the seeds generally landed around water. I followed them, ignoring the constant pain in my complaining foot.

Before long I heard the soothing trickle of water and picked up speed, moving out of the thick forest into a river. My heart rose in my throat and I gasped in astonishment, surprised such a deadly forest could hold such beauty. The moonlight revealed what looked like a glass stream, pouring down a riverbank towards a tiny waterfall that trickled into a pond. I stood at the base of the pond among the rocks, staring down at the cold waters that splashed up on the bank. The white seeds floated down and settled onto the rich dark mud near the bank, disappearing with a poof into the ground. I imagined they were like squirrels, tunneling into the ground, seeking mature ground to grow upon. A new grove of weeping willows would rise and start the cycle all over again.

Threading my way through the thick bulrushes I flung myself to my knees in front of the shimmering mirror of water, unashamed of the thick mud accumulating on my bare legs. It felt cold and sucked at me, sliding me closer to the riverbank. Cupping my hands, I lapped at the cool waters like an animal, slaking my thirst. The fog of exhaustion disappeared from my mind and sitting back on my heels I thought about what I would do, where I would go. “I have no home,” I mused aloud to the waters, watching as another batch of white seeds disappeared into the mud. “They treated me like an outcast… I’m not sure where to go. I need to lie low, but I need to be safe, and more than anything, I need to find my pets.”

A roar shattered the calm surface of the lake and a beast rose from the depths. A gray head with sharp white horns appeared, and I froze as a massive head, twice my size, reared up. Vines hung out of the beast’s mouth as if it had been chewing whatever lay beneath the lake. A long graceful neck, like a swan, but thick as a tree trunk swung toward me and I saw its eyes. A blend of lemon, yellow and gold, the same color as my eyes, like dancing orbs in the moonlight. The lake shook as it walked toward me and surprise forsook my body as I stood.

Fear. That’s what one should feel when a monster rises from the lake… yet fear wasn’t something I felt, only admiration and respect. I held out a hand, a sign of reverence as the monster bent its graceful neck over me.

“I am Morag,” it whispered, and even the whisper shook the waters and a wave lapped up near my feet. “I heard your request and have come to give you counsel.”

I watched the water slide off Morag’s scales, dancing back to the waters like the seeds to the mud. “What counsel do you give me?” I leaned closer, captivated by its size and strength, like a wave of doubt through my mind as I wondered what a creature of the water could tell me. How much knowledge did it understand, there under the waves in a dark forest. My feet squelched in the mud and I took a step closer to the bank until my toes touched the cool water and I slid under the surface to be near the monster.

“You have the eye…” Morag began and then paused. In one sudden movement the beautiful monster dived, and a wall of water rose high into the air, watering the mud where the seeds planted themselves.

A sudden feeling of terror swept over me and I crouched in the mud, shaking fingers moving to grip the handle of the knife. A beast slammed into my back with a snarl, toppling me over. Despite my hard demeanor I let loose a shriek of surprise and kicked out, struggling to free myself. Sharp claws swiped near my face and the pale moonlight reflecting off the waters allowed me to see sharp fangs, a pink tongue and snarling dark eyes as the panther leaped over me, mouth wide open for a bite.

I swiped out with the knife, forcing the beast to dodge away at the last moment, although I knew it would not scare it. Snarling and snapping the panther backed away, its tail twitching as its sleek black body disappeared into the darkness. I cocked the knife, ready for its advance, standing firm even though I wished to flee. Turning my back on such an adversary would sign my death warrant. I’d been lucky to escape already today, I did not want to press my luck anymore.

The panther returned on muted feet and leaped, claws scraping my shoulder as it toppled me over on my back. I lashed out with the knife, gritting my teeth, forcing myself not to cry out in fear and egg it on. I kicked at the tough body of the panther in vain, for it was bigger and stronger than me, and if one of its teeth locked around my neck, I would be dead. The panther dodged away from my knife and pinned my arm down. I waved my wrist while griping the fur of its neck as hard as I could with my free hand, yanking the snapping teeth away from my soft flesh. The mud pulled at me, attempting to bury me as I struggled in vain, my eyes flashing in fury, I would not go down this way. I refused.

My hand cramped in agony from keeping the panther away from my face. Its spittle drooled onto my neck as it growled deep in its throat, frustrated with my resistance. Perhaps it was as hungry as I, exhausted after a day of hunting, in need of a tasty morsel to give it energy. My stomach would have growled if I hadn’t been so exhausted, and I could feel tears of distress gathering in my eyes. If I threw back my head and screamed, more of them would come. As I struggled my eyes glimpsed royal blue, a bright feather and then a hurricane of wind.

Something struck the panther from above and it gave a shriek of pain, wiggling off me as it turned to attack whatever had struck it. The same strike came again, a dark blur in the air and I sat up, brushing blood and mud off my filthy clothes as I stood, dropping the knife at my feet. The panther turned tail and dashed into the thicket while my eyes peeled towards the sky, daring to hope when I knew I should not. Please. The whispered prayer left my lips. Is it you? Another flash of blue and there they were, crawling, slithering, and trotting towards me. I opened my arms, and a sob shook my heart. My pets.

Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford

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White Beings | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Five

White Beings | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Five

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Five | White Beings

“We should use her,” a whispered voice, soft as velvet woke me.

I squinted in the dark, lifting my head from the crook of my arm. Earlier that evening I’d dragged my weary feet to a halt and crawled into a mossy, hollow log to hide. My restless wandering through the woods was not helping, and I needed to think. Now, lifting my heart-shaped face I peered out, hoping to glimpse the voices, yet they remained hidden.

“She has suffered but is she sorry, will it be enough?” a second voice asked out loud, not bothering to whisper like the first.

“Aye, if we send her to him, he will help shape her future,” the whispered voice continued in a sing-song manner, as if words of poetry were not far behind those words.

“Careful,” a third voice, thick and scratchy, added. “We decided not to meddle in the four worlds long ago. The mortals never listen to us.”

“This is not meddling,” the loud voice reassured the scratchy voice. “There is an imbalance between good and evil, her actions will help keep the balance.”

“What about him?” the scratchy voice sounded agitated. “His purpose is to keep the balance.”

“Aye,” the sing-song voice danced across the night air like a dream. “What if he diverts from the plan? All beings have free will. Nay, we will use her to keep him in check, lest the four worlds fall into folly again.”

“We are not usually in disagreement,” the loud voice seemed to frown. “I think we should set a test and leave it to the mortals.”

Holding my breath, I crawled forward, straining my neck to see who was speaking. They continued to speak, weighing their thoughts as if consulting a great scale for what choice they should make.

My right eye could see outside, a mere blur of darkness. I could faintly make out a grove of weeping willow trees in the distance, and a wave of hunger and thirst passed over me. From the blending of shadows, I assumed it was the midnight hour.

A white tentacle caught my eye. My hand flew to my mouth before I gasped aloud, afraid the movement would scare the creatures away. Three white beings, unlike any mortal, stood a few paces from the log where I slept. It seemed as if white light clothed them while the beings stood with their backs to me. Their height was impossible to tell, for they floated in the air, and I saw nothing more than their long hair which looked like the bodies of snakes, waving in an invisible breeze. So, there were monsters in the wood.

“Quiet!” the scratchy voice ordered. A white hand went up and slowly the faces turned.

A numb horror sat on my chest, making it difficult to draw breath. I ducked down, burying my head in my arms as fear made its way through every fiber of my being. My fingers locked around the handle of the knife I’d stolen, and I squeezed, as if it would protect me. A pause followed, so long and deep I wondered if the beings had gone. Just as I was relaxing, the whisper came again.

“Well… our work here is done. Let’s go.”

I heard a click as if a door had been opened and closed again. When my heart beat slowed, and I dared poke my head out, they were gone like a nightmare.

I wormed my way out of the log and stood, eyeing the woods with uncertainty, knowing I had to press on. It was not safe to stay in a place where the monsters dwelt, and a cry rose within me. Save me from the monsters. Turning my back on my temporary haven I made my way deeper into the woods, searching for sustenance.

Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford

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Save me from the Monsters | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Four

Save me from the Monsters | Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Four

Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Four | Save me from the Monsters

Save me from the monsters. Please. Save me from the monsters.

Twilight brought me to a clearing in the wood and I drew up short, recognizing my mistake. I froze, hoping no one noticed as I put one foot behind the other, slowly backing away. The thick thickets were my friend, not the wide-open spaces of the forest where enemies lurked. Save me from the monsters. The phrase danced in my head along with the dark chocolate eyes, love turning to hate, trust broken as the shock and loathing took over. My bare feet brushed over strands of sticky grass, stabbing and snatching at my heels like tiny hands.

“Not so fast pretty one!” a booming roar shot over the clearing like a fox bounding towards a rabbit desperate to escape.

Lifting my eyes, I faced a twelve-foot-tall giant with wide leering eyes and a white, fungi infested tongue lolling out of his mouth. A misshapen nose protruded from his flat face which looked as if it had been smashed in with a rock. One glassy eye was grossly larger than the other red rimmed one and his bald head dripped with what looked like bird poop. A thick club swung from one hand, large enough to smash my head in a bloody pulp with one swing. In fact, I saw the club was stained a dark maroon on one side, the blood of his victims. Without missing a beat I stepped forward, widening my eyes and pulling the torn sleeve off my shoulder to allow more tanned skin to display for his pleasure. The giant grinned, showing me every other tooth in his mouth was missing. “Please!” I shirked, gesturing wildly behind me. “Save me from the monsters. Save me!” Right on queue a howl rose, giving my heart a thrill. Wolves, coyotes or some feral beasts roamed the forest. Even as my heart rose in hope, three more giants appeared, curved hunting knives in hand as they glared from their leader to myself, the lost female. “Save me from the monsters,” I cried again in desperation, wringing my hands together and eyeing the giants with distress while making calm calculations in my mind.

“Monsters eh!” the first giant roared, slapping his club against his meaty hand. “Do you know who I am?”

My face wanted to frown and sneer at his confidence, yet I brought my hand down to pinch my thigh, trying to keep the damsel in distress look on my face. “Someone who can help me?” I kept my voice soft and high.

“I am the Olgla Man!” the giant bellowed, slapping his hand with the club again. “This is my forest. My territory! Tell me, little trespasser, why should we help you?”

“If you don’t, the monsters will eat me,” I begged, clasping my hands together and lifting them like a prayer.

“Bita. Bong. With me. Bongo. Watch her,” the Olgla Man ordered and lumbered past me, two of the shorter giants following him toward the sound of the howls.

A shiver ran through my body as the rotten stench of body odor and death touched my nostrils. I tiptoed toward the one called “Bongo,” the giant left to guard me. He was handsome in an ugly way with giant ears that stuck out from his head and a mop of unruly thick black hair. His dark eyes lit up as he examined me, a prize for him alone to exploit while his comrades fought monsters in the forest.

“Come here pretty,” he beckoned.

“You are big and strong,” I cooed at him, moving closer, pulling at the strands of my wild hair and sticking out my chest. “Will you protect me?”

“Aye,” he leered, “I’ll do more than protect you.”

Moving closer I reached for his arm, both of my hands closing around his wrist as I lifted my eyes to his. “You must be rewarded for your compassion,” I told him in a sing song voice, watching his eyes darken with lust and violence. “I will reward you.”

He grunted in approval, but before he could open his mouth, I pressed down hard on the fragile bones of his wrist. They made a sharp snapping sound under my fingers as they broke, and the giant howled in rage and pain. “You little vixen!” he shrieked, dropping his knife to cradle his broken wrist.

Dropping to a knee I snatched up the knife and leaped up. In one motion the knife sliced open the skin of his neck and a river of blood flowed out from the neat cut. Both of the giant’s hands moved to his neck as he fell, first to his knees, eyes bugging out as they glared at me, even as his life force drained out onto the ground.

“Thank you for the weapon,” I whispered, twirling the knife as the giant fell face down on the ground. “You saved me from my monsters.” I stood on his back, inspecting his death, waiting for the last breath to fade. “I give you to yours.”

Pushing his heavy body, I untied the belt from his middle and used it to tie the knife to my waist. Shaking back my ragged locks of hair I stood up straight. A sharp pang of hunger struck my belly and a wave of exhaustion passed over me. One breast fell out of my torn shift and I tucked it back inside, shaking my head. Surely the giants had a hideout.  Crossing the clearance, I searched for food or water, rushing lest the other giants return and find their comrade dead. A sigh of frustration left my lips when I found nothing, but my heart hardened. My past would not predict my future. I would survive the forest and begin again. All the same, a sob of anxiety fluttered in my heart. My pets. Where were they?

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