Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Outside ( Chapter 5 )
Stepping out into the lush landscape of Eversong Forest, her boots crunching on the leafy path beneath her as she continues to run, Phoenix’s fear is merged with a sense of optimism. A solitary bird sings overhead as a breeze catches the luscious red-leaved trees.
Phoenix considers hiding. The guards will probably expect her to go west or south, away from Silvermoon, and will no doubt inform the guard posts and villages in the surrounding area of her crime and appearance. What if she tries to lose them here instead?
She thinks this over for a few minutes and ultimately decides: hiding is too risky. No, she will continue running and perhaps take on a new identity. She feels utterly exhausted. But presses on.
After ten minutes of running deeper into the forest away from the main paths towards the south-west, Phoenix’s pace slows to a brisk jog as her body reaches its limit and refuses to run at pace any longer. She reaches a clearing beside a river and four paths meeting at a crossroads. The grass is longer here and a few weeping willow trees overlook the river. She turns her head, waits and listens for any guards. The trees respond with a sigh as a breeze passes through them.
Phoenix had a head-start on the guards, but mustn’t get complacent. She’s sure it won’t be long until they catch up. She scans her surroundings quickly. There are a few early morning fishermen and women on the riverbank, some of whom are dozing with hats over their faces, having congregated from nearby villages. Phoenix looks around and behind her to check she’s being followed, then kneels at the water’s edge. The trickle of the river, the gentle breeze in the trees and the birds chirping overhead are the only sounds in the area. Phoenix tries to block them out to stop herself from lulling into a false sense of security.
Phoenix realises she may have blood on her face, so she checks her blurry reflection in the calm water and notices a few smears. She’s not sure who that girl is looking back at her anymore.
She splashes water onto her face and uses some grass and leaves to try and scrub any dried blood away, washing her brow, her soft cheeks and long ears rigorously. She passes her ginger hair through her fingers, feeling for specks of dried blood and doing her best to remove them, wringing her wet hair clean.
With her two flasks full, she begins to take a long drink from the river directly, using cupped palms to gulp water into her mouth, in between heavy breaths. After a few more minutes, Phoenix stops to inspect her sleeves and her clothes for any blood. she attempts to clean her bloodied palms, sleeves and knees by scrubbing them frantically using her fingernails and large leaves.
Her sleeves are the worst culprit, the blood having seeped deeply into the grey fabric as light pink blotches. No amount of scrubbing will remove them entirely, though they are largely faded and unobvious to passers by.
Phoenix, having caught her breath and feeling somewhat calmer, is suddenly conscious of being watched. She looks up slowly and sees a fisherman in the distance staring back at her from the far side of the riverbank. He's too far away to see the grass-stains on her face, her messy wet hair or the pink blotches on her sleeves.
She sits up, leans back from the river’s edge and does her best to look like a normal girl taking a normal visit through the woods on a normal morning, when she hears a type of chirping harsher than a normal bird cutting through the air.
Phoenix looks towards the sound of the noise to see a couple of flightless purple-feathered hawkstriders (two-legged chicken-like birds almost the size of horses) behind her. They are leading an open wagon which contains some farming equipment, shovels and other goods on the back, coming from the southern path and heading west. It trundles past Phoenix on the path nearby at surprising pace as the hawkstriders chirp sharply, much to the frustration of those fishing.
In a split-second she decides it would be a good idea to jump on board with half-washed-away bloodstains than to stick around and spend however long trying to remove them entirely and risk being caught. Plus, she desperately wants a place to rest. The cart is heading towards Fairbreeze Village after all, and who knows, maybe it will go through the village itself. She starts to sprint towards it.
Phoenix jumps and rolls onto the back of the wagon, bumping as she does so but barely making a sound. The lone driver turns his head but doesn’t see Phoenix, who is sitting up against a stack of boxes, blocking part of his view.
As they move away from the river and the crossroads, there is a break in the trees, the bright sunlight of morning beaming down on them. The cart shifts to the left and creates an opening; Phoenix can see part of Silvermoon City in the distance, in between the gaps of the thick trees, its grand buildings and spires standing tall. She wonders if she will ever see them up close again.
Phoenix wants to smile at her freedom and daring escape, but ends up mulling over Chrim’s death and the uncertainty and danger that may lie ahead for her. She thinks for the first time in this calmer situation about being a murderer and stares at the leaves and the rocks in the path below her as the cart moves. She does her best to ignore the bumpy ride and the noise of the bickering birds, taking an apple out of the bag to stop her mind from wandering too deep. She bites into it, admiring the clear waters of the river, the trees around her and the view of Silvermoon in all its glory as they all fade into the distance.
After finishing the apple, Phoenix can do nothing but watch the world go by. She has no errands to complete for the first time in her life; she feels free but cannot enjoy the moment. Worry simmers within, but her tiredness overwhelms it. Another wave of mental exhaustion passes over her again, and this time she does not resist. She leans and curls back up against the boxes in the back of the cart, the mildly bumpy ride making her feel at ease. She decides to jump off the cart whenever - and wherever - she wakes, leaving her life in fate’s hands.
Phoenix closes her eyes and dozes.
The noise of a crowd wakes her. Phoenix yawns, stretches and suddenly jolts upward, wondering where she is. She fumbles for her bag and feels nothing but the wood of her cart to her left. She panics. Her hands fumble around to her right and catch the rough texture of old leather. Phoenix sighs with relief, swings the bag around her shoulder and stands up. She swears under her breath for not holding the bag more closely and looks around.
She’s not exactly sure where she is, but her intuition says she’s probably not far from Fairbreeze Village. It feels like she napped for an hour or two. Intrigued by the nearby crowds, Phoenix skips off the back of the moving cart and crouches down low to avoid being spotted by the driver.
She is in a large open field full of temporary stalls and other amusements, with a line of buildings to one side.
By this time it’s mid morning and some sort of festival is going on. There are stalls selling fresh produce, garments and trinkets, children running around playing and a band performing traditional elven music in a nearby marquee. The smells of freshly baked honey bread, mixed berries and roasted meat fill the air.
Phoenix smiles inside at the prospect of enjoying the festivities and finding some work, or perhaps a passing trader who can take her on as an apprentice, but feels that mild pang of fear again at the thought of being caught. She puts her hands in her pockets to hide the faded bloodstains and looks at the floor.
Feeling a little peckish, Phoenix trots over to a nearby honey bread vendor. She asks the man behind the stall for a few slices, and as he prepares them, Phoenix turns back around to look at the festival for a place to sit. There are happy faces everywhere and plenty of benches to sit on - or trees to rest against.
“That’s one silver please,” the man asks.
Phoenix turns to face him, smiles, moves her hand into her satchel - and panics. She can’t feel any coins in the money pocket.
Phoenix frantically checks the other pockets on her and in her bag, fumbling around for her gold. Her life savings. Her chance at a future. Gone.
She turns around and looks on the floor to check if she dropped it by accident. Her heart thumps in her chest. Did she leave it back at the inn? Did it fall out while she was running out of Silvermoon?
“Hey kid, are you gonna pay for this or not?” the vendor asks, agitated.
“Sorry, I think I’ve lost my money,” Phoenix answers and the man frowns, half in frustration and half in sympathy. Phoenix immediately starts jogging back towards the road to Silvermoon, triple checking her pockets for the gold. The man shrugs and serves the next customer.
She looks around desperately for any wandering wagons but quickly accepts the money is lost. Phoenix’s frustration rises at her own carelessness, combined with a growing anxiety over being alone and hunger in the pit of her stomach.
Phoenix mills about the festival for most of the day, feeding off scraps of discarded bread, beef and berries bought by other elves at the festival and dropped or thrown away. She watches other happy families smile and laugh with one another, friends in good spirits, lovers kissing one another on the grass. Phoenix finds herself in the tricky situation of wanting to find something, someone, anyone, to offer her a new start. But her shy demeanour prevents her from reaching out.
Phoenix spends most of the time by a nearby stream at the edge of the festival, looking at the face in the water again and wondering who is looking back at her. Who does she want to be? What is she supposed to be? The elf with pink-ish skin, blue eyes and ginger hair just stares back, no longer a little girl but not yet an adult. Longing for something.
Deep in thought, Phoenix makes herself get up and stops her mind from wandering further. She reads a nearby sign and begins walking towards the direction of Fairbreeze Village. After an hour or so, she finds herself alone on a dusty road in the middle of Eversong Forest, sandwiched by bushes, the sounds of the festival long gone as evening starts to descend.
After another half an hour of brisk walking, she slows to catch her breath and feels her freckled cheeks flushed from the heat of the dawning sun. All she can hear is her breath and her footsteps. She thinks she can smell a faint, familiar scent. Looking up, Phoenix sees a small bridge passing over the shallow stream up ahead.
It’s late afternoon and the sky is flush with amber swirls as the sun begins to set. Phoenix decides she will have a break once she reaches the stream to cool off and have a drink from her bag. She looks down at the floor as she walks towards the embankment, following the red and green leaves beneath her boots.
Phoenix doesn’t notice the figures rising from the ditch by the stream.
She decides to gently jog in order to close the distance to the bridge, and find a place to rest before night falls. She keeps her eyes focused on the floor, and stumbles into something.
Phoenix looks up and comes face-to-face with the elf in black.