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Jennifer Killby Jennifer Killby
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Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey Chapter 5


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Willow fell silent. For all she knew, all that has transpired could be her fault. Ryuu’s words stung. What did he mean? What did I do? I wish I could remember. This is driving me crazy. She sat down on an old stump and stared at the trees. A cool breeze bore a strong earth smell. Examining her arms reminded her of a deeper sorrow. She wondered if the scars would ever go away and touched her fingers to her face, still tender. It was done and she couldn’t change it. How must I seem to others? Hideous, I bet. A lump of disgust festered in her stomach. Tears filled her eyes.


“Hello,” a young woman said, standing in front of Willow.


The voice startled her. She looked up to see the young girl, wearing a white, flowing sundress and sandals made of woven leather. Willow guessed the strange woman to be around her age, the late years of childhood, right before an adult.


“Hello.” Willow glanced down at her pendant, no blue glow. I’m safe.


“I didn’t mean to frighten you.” The young woman said, smiling. “I was just walking and saw you.” She held a hand out. “I’m Élan. Do you remember me?”  


Willow hesitated before she shook her hand. A chill ran up her arm from Elan’s touch.  “I’m Willow. No, I don’t. I’m sorry.”


“So, it is true. You have no memory.” Elan motioned to the log Willow sat on. “Do you mind?”


“No, go ahead.” Sadness crept into Willow’s heart. Elan placed her hand on Willow’s. A chill crept through her and the sorrow left. Willow retracted her hand and wrapped it in the hem of her shirt. “Where did you come from? I didn’t see you approach.”


“The meadow.” Élan’s long chestnut hair shadowed her soft face and clear blue eyes.


“Do you live around here?”


“No.” Her gaze fell on Willow’s necklace. “I see that you are wearing the Pool of Tears,” she said and pointed to the pendant.


“What?” Willow’s hand flew to her neck. “How do you know about it?”


“Everyone knows about it, but no one knew where it went. I see you’ve come to possess it.”


“Oh, Caer said it would help me feel safe, but she didn’t say what it’s called.”


“It is said to have been formed from the tears of those who were lost through a tragedy.”


“How do you know so much about it? Willow asked, wary of Élan.


“Oh, I heard some things about it here and there.” Élan lowered her eyes. “I do need to confess. I wasn’t honest with you.”


Willow raised her brow.


“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be untruthful, truly I don’t. It’s just sort of a habit. I do stay around here.”


“It’s a bad habit,” Willow said.


“Yes . . . you’re right.” Élan held out her hand as a butterfly flitted near it and landed on her outstretched fingers. “Can we start over?”


“Why?” Willow asked guarded.


Élan shrugged and the butterfly fluttered off. “For good measure, I guess.”


Willow didn’t know what to say, so didn’t say anything.


Clouds billowed and rolled above. Their white faces turned to soft grays then black. The wind’s gentle whisper became a roar. The trees revolted with every gust, their moans relentless. What’s happening? Willow cowered as lightning flashed across the darkened sky. The pattering of rain filtered down through the heavy canopy. Willow rose from the stump and darted away from the trees onto the path. The wind tugged on her clothing. Too afraid to move in any direction, she turned her attention to Élan.


Élan raised her face to the sky and lifted her hand to the storm. “Peace,” she said and somehow the quiet word carried over the wind.


The rain stopped.  The clouds separated; changed from black, to grey, to white. The sun warmed the air.  


Willow’s heart pounded as she backed away. “How did you do that?”


Élan cocked her head and regarded Willow for a brief moment. “Do what?”


“The storm stopped.”


Élan stood up. “It stopped because we have something to do. I have something to show you.”


She stared in the direction of the house, hesitant. “I don’t know. Maybe, I should be getting back. They might be worried.”


“It won’t take long. I promise.” Élan’s countenance changed. “I’m not here to harm you. I want to help you. What is in the meadow might help with your memory.”


Willow felt something strange emanate from her, but couldn’t describe it, even to herself. “Can’t you tell me?”


“It’s better I show you. Shall we go?”


“Okay.” Willow wasn’t sure why she’d agreed and had a feeling she was about to make a terrible error in judgment.


“Good.”  Élan pushed her hair off her shoulder and began to walk. “Do you remember leaving yourself after the attack and visiting another place?”


“Yes. A meadow with a large tree.” Willow’s intrigue outweighed her nervousness and she followed. She peeped down at the sapphire; no blue glow. I wonder what she really wants.


“I believe that’s where your answers will be.”


Willow thought about Elan’s words. Will I remember my mother? Find out who attacked me?


“Are you back there?” Élan called over her shoulder.


Willow quickened her pace. “Yes, I’m here.”


“Good.” Élan strode down the path with ease, avoiding low limbs and bare roots as if intimately familiar with the forest. “Tell me something,” Élan said as she stepped around a boulder. “Why do you hide your face?”


Heat rose to Willow’s cheeks. She placed her hand over her scars. What is there to say? I’m a hideous beast.


Élan stopped and turned to face her. “You’re hiding something that’s a part of you.” She pinched the skin on her arm.“Beauty isn’t this.”


“This is not a part of me.” Willow gestured at her scars. “This is not who I am.” How could she say that? I never wanted this.


“You’re right. It’s not who you are.” Élan raised an eyebrow. “So tell me. Why do you hide your face?”


“Are you trying to cheer me up? I really don’t need that right now.” Willow leaned against a tree.


“No.”  Élan glanced up at the trees. “I want to help, that’s all.” She turned and continued down the path. “You’re different from anyone else.”  


Willow followed. “I never claimed to be.”


“Yes, you’re right.” Élan stopped with her back to Willow. “You’ve hidden a lot from those around you.”


Élan twirled her finger toward the ground. A small funnel formed from the dust, only inches in height. After a few seconds, she flattened her palm. The cyclone cloud dissipated and the wind swept it away.


“Even the most devastating thing can be controlled, if that’s what you want.”


“Who are you?”


“I believe I told you.” Élan glanced at Willow.


“Yes, you told me your name, but who are you?”


“I’m an old friend of your mother’s and Caer.”


“You knew my mother?”


“Yes, I do. I’m the one who found you after the attack. I’m surprised they didn’t tell you.”


“Caer said a friend found me.” Willow hesitated. “Do you know where my mother is?”


“No, I haven’t seen her for some time now.”


“Do you know what happened to me? Who did do this?” She moved a hand to her face.


Élan lowered her eyes. “No, I’m sorry. No one was around when I found you.” She took a deep breath. “Did Caer say anything else about that night?”


“No,” Willow answered. “Why?”


“No reason . . . just curious . . . grasping at the air, I guess.” Élan smiled. “Let’s continue before it gets too late.”


Willow followed Elan further down the trail. After a short time, she realized they stood at the meadow’s edge, still hidden by a heavy fog.


“Why are we here?”


“The key to your memories and possibly what happened is in there.”


“Something grabbed me when I got close to it earlier. I don’t know about this.”


“Do you trust me?” Élan asked with a trace of sarcasm.


“Do you want me to answer that?”


“Maybe not.” Élan said. “This next part gets tricky. You need to keep me in sight when we cross the meadow. Don’t stop. Don’t move into the fog.” She looked directly into Willow’s eyes. “Most important, don’t listen to any other voice but mine.” She stopped. “Do you understand?”


“What’s in there I have to worry about?”


“I believe when you came back souls from the Shadow Land followed you. This mist wasn’t here until after your attack. As far as what’s in there, it’s never good to walk amongst the dead. They yearn for life.”


Willow stared at her for a moment, wavering between fear and curiosity, while her heart thumped hard against her chest. “I’m probably going to regret this, but okay. I’ll follow.”


A cloud of malice covered Élan’s face as she glanced back to the meadow. She lifted her right hand and the fog separated to reveal the green meadow. “Come closer.” Élan said.


Élan entered the meadow and motioned Willow to follow. As Élan moved further, the curtain of mist opened in front of her.


Willow took a step, afraid.


The mist clouded more than Willow’s sight. It tore at her soul and made her feel as if she arrived at her own funeral. Every one of her senses was acutely aware, suspecting some unknown danger. She couldn’t shake the feeling she shouldn’t be there as if she stepped into a different world. Her heart pounded in her ears. As if daring to touch her, the mist closed in, but obeyed some unknown rule by backing away when it came too close. She strained to see Élan ahead of her. The tall grass brushed against her legs.


Willow felt pressure on her back, like a hand. She squeezed her eyes shut, afraid to see what pursued her. Another shove. She stumbled. A blue haze glistened back at her from the fog. Oh no, the stone. She grabbed it with her hand. Its glow pulsated. Her skin crawled. Stopping, she turned slowly, but the soupy mess hid whatever demon haunted her. She pivoted around. No Élan. What should I do? The silence was deafening. She took a step. The mist wrapped its cloudy fingers around her. The tall grass appeared as shadows pawing at her legs and the sky disappeared. Fear heightened with every passing second.


“Élan.” Willow trembled. A shadowed presence drew close to her. “Élan, is that you?”  


Willow moved forward and hoped she walked in a straight line. The sapphire broadcast its bluish gleam against the vapors, almost like a beacon. A stench rose into the air and she heard heavy breathing – in – out – in – out. The hot breath singed her hand. She brought it up to her chest. Another bump. Tumbling forward, she landed on her hands and knees. As she lifted her head, two crimson orbs glowered at her. The thing snarled and its eyes narrowed to fiery slits. A cool liquid splattered her face.


Too afraid to move, to blink, she filled her lungs. She carefully brought her legs underneath her body. The creature snorted again. Willow froze. The beast didn’t move.


“Élan,” she whispered, “help me.” She rose on wobbling legs to face what threatened her.


The hairs on the back of her neck rose as another presence approached. She slowly scanned the area. More eyes stared back at her. Willow took another step. A low growl halted her where she stood. She backed up – more snarling. Seconds grew to minutes. Minutes seemed an eternity. She stood motionless and waited.


“Élan?” she whimpered.


“Shhh,” Élan answered, the fog thinning out around her.


Matted hair, white fangs, and four blood-red eyes were connected to two ferocious bodies, their outlines menacing. As Élan came closer, the wolves backed away. She smiled and held out her hand.


Willow took it and icy needles shot up her arm from Élan’s touch. Repulsed by it, she jerked free.


“You make it an effort, don’t you?” Élan said.


“I only turned away for a second.”


“That’s all it takes to lose your way,” Élan answered.


“The fog is so thick.”


“It has its reasons.” Élan motioned Willow to follow.


“What about the wolves? They were the wolves in my dreams. How? Where did they go?”


“Where wolves go, I guess.”


Willow held her eyes on Élan’s back. “Will they come back?”


“Probably,” Élan answered.


“Shouldn’t we get out of here?” More fear built deep in the pit of Willow’s stomach.


“Those scars on your face . . . did you look away then?”


“What?”


Élan pointed at Willow’s face. “Do you know how you got the scars?”


“No, I don’t remember anything about that night or before.”


“That’s because you don’t want to see or maybe you’re afraid to see. Your choices give birth to your consequences.” Elan took her fingers and placed them under Willow’s chin. “The choice that’s rising in your stomach should be what you fear most.” Élan lowered her hand. “Everyone has scars. Some are just more visible than others. The scars are a remnant of a great pain we have felt. How they heal depends on how we feel about the pain. The more you ignore this pain growing inside of you, getting stronger day by day, the uglier those scars will appear.” Élan held Willow’s gaze. “I’m someone’s scar. Until they heal, I can’t rest.”


Willow’s eyes were full of tears and she barely heard Élan’s last comment. “I lost my mother. At least . . . I don’t know . . . where she is . . . or if,” she hesitated, “she’s alive.”


“She’s very close.”


“What do you mean?” Fear and sadness were replaced by joy.


Élan took Willow’s hand and pulled her further into the mist.


Willow jerked her hand away. “Are you going to answer me?”


Élan stopped. “No, you need to worry more about yourself than her.”


Willow stood silently as she studied her.


Élan bent over and picked something up off the ground. She opened her fingers so Willow could see what she had. A shiny black stone covered her palm. “A long time ago, travelers followed stone markers left by earlier travelers as a way of knowing they were on the right path.” Élan turned her hand over and let the stone fall to the ground. “This stone marks the beginning of your journey. It’s up to you to choose the direction that will lead to the next marker.” Élan closed her eyes as the fog engulfed her.


“Where are you going?”


A low gurgling noise rose behind Willow. Her heart grew faint as she turned around. Nothing there. The sound rose again. It grew into a ferocious growl. Crimson eyes stared at her. She closed her eyes, pivoted, and opened them, glancing down at the necklace’s blue glow. Her heart sank. Not again. Inhaling, she took a step – nothing. Another – nothing. A few more. She twisted around. The same dangerous spheres blazed at her. Willow ran. The light thumping of paws behind her drove her further.


She pushed harder until she finally broke through the fog’s edge and glanced back. The wolves didn’t follow. Alone and unaware of her surroundings, she scanned the area. Well, I’m on a path. I can’t be too far away.


The trail twisted and turned for what seemed like miles and she grew worried as the sun lowered in the sky. Lilies lined the trail. Willow bent over and picked one. Bringing it to her nose, she took a deep breath. No scent. She twirled the flower in her fingers as she walked. Off in the distance, she heard humming. She quickened her pace until she reached the woods edge. Where am I? Oh no!


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