Art logo

Through Briar Thorns

Inspired by Lunaea Wearherstone and Meraylah Allwood

By Shelby R PerezPublished 11 months ago 10 min read

I looked at the card in my hand and new this may be my worst journey, yet. Still, I placed the card on the floor and gathered up my satchel, hoping I had the provisions to get me through this. The rest of the deck sat neatly in two piles. The cards I had already traveled through and the cards I still have to face. This was a challenge card and one of the more difficult ones.

I had already gone through five, two and three, in that order! Thank the gods I had chosen my obstacles well in Five of Challenges. Two had nearly drained me of my sanity and three, though cathartic, was emotionally exhausting. I should have known I would trample though those thorns soon after but I did not think it would be this soon. Fortunately I had some respite in my last two cards as well as some much needed spells and medallions to keep me safe, for a little while.

Meraylah Allwood had truly outdone herself with this tarot deck and the challenges were some of her best work. It depicted a woman covering her face from the unslought of vines and thorns, her hair and dress torn and tangled within the branches with scratched arms and hands. It is a frightening sight to instil fear and hopelessness, yet the background is still a lush green, showing a glimps of the bright world she left and may still see again. I can only hope I will be so lucky.

I was almost sad I had already dressed for the trip before drawing that damned card. I may as well have manifested it with my choice but I looked over myself to be sure I was ready. Leather satchel full of dried food, a canteen of water, the books and scrolls I had collected in previous journeys, along with two medallions, and a change of clothes similar to the ensemble I was wearing. I chose tight fitting athlete cloths rather than the comfortable sweat or harem pants and skirts I preferred, a pair of leather gloves that I knew wouldn’t last long against the magic thorns but it was better than nothing, and the best hiking boots I had. I only realized I didn’t have mask or bandanna to cover my face and hair, but I had already drawn the card. Once that was done I had to take the journey no matter what, and I couldn’t put it off for long.

Finally, I placed the card on the floor, took a deep breath to calm my nerves, breathed again, held it, then I stepped into the tarot card like one steps off a large rock or even a cliff, and sighed as I fell into The Enchanted Forest.

I landed in a clearing beside a road. Though perhaps road was a generous word to use. Technically it was a trail of crushed grass, weeds, and even some flowers, trampled by pervious travelers heading for the tree line. I looked around myself. Oak, ash, and yew surrounded me on all sides. The sun appeared to be reaching the center of the sky, forcing light through the leaves and branches so I could see some of the earth and foliage under the canopy, but not much further. No stones or ruins lay anywhere. The clearing showed me no sign of animals, though I could hear birds behind me. I looked in the direction of the trail seemed to be leading. Nothing on the ground of use or amiss, then I looked up and saw something hanging on an beach straight ahead. As I got closer to the tree line I saw that it was a blue ribbon, torn and covered in something red at the end. More importantly, it wasn’t hanging limp like it was caught but tied in a simple knot. Upon closer inspection I saw the red stuff was dried blood and the path continued on word in to the dark trees. This was the direction I had to go.

I glanced around once more for any sign of help or danger but could find non. Already my mouth was dry from the heat of the sun and the nerves all but freezing me in place. I considered my canteen of water but chose to save it for later. I didn’t know how long I would be walking or what exactly I would be facing. I remembered the card was meant to show that it is best to use my wits and to let go of feelings of helplessness. It wasn’t just the sharp thorns and leering shadows I had to fear.

I had not walked very far but the dark of the forest was already taking me in. I had to look back to make sure the clearing was in sight. It was my only light now that the sun had been blocked. Every step I took seemed to lead me deeper into the shadows but it wasn’t the shade of the trees and leaves that concerned me and made me itch to turn around. I had no fear of shadows, even as a child. No. What had sweat pouring down my neck and into my clothes was the silence and sheer loneliness of it all. The kind of loneliness I knew all too well. The feeling of being seen, of being watched, with no escape and no place to hide and even if I managed to get away it wouldn’t be for long. I could feel those eyes on me still, feel those hands pull at my arms and hair, and nails scratch at my skin. Wiat! No! Those weren’t nails. I brought myself back to focus on my surroundings. The thorns had already appeared. They coiled from the earth and around every tree like poison ivy, clumped together like a bush yet somehow open like a fence. I turned around for the clearing but it was already gone. The only light was the weak rays that shone through the canopy that now was all but covered in those black briars. What was worse, the path I thought I was on was gone. Not even my foot prints could be seen in the now sparse grass. Oh, gods! Already, I had fallen into the trap! I cursed myself and my foolishness for allowing me to wonder aimlessly and right into the thicket.

Stealing myself, I quickly took out some of my dried fruits and swallowed a handful before gulping down some water. I was going to need all my energy for this one. I rummaged around in my satchel and took out a gold chain with a clear quartz. It hung delicately from my neck so I tucked it under my shirt. I felt it’s cool jagged edges agains my skin but felt little comfort. For what I was about to face was not just sharp thorns and a dark roadless expedition, but the very things that hide within such places.

I am not sure how long I just stood there. The grim flora all but surrounded me. No doubt sensing my fear, I saw one of the vines creep about me as a snake does it’s prey. Even if I tried to turn back they would follow and grab at me and even if I made it back to the clearing I couldn’t leave the card until the journey was complete. I knew what I was getting into when I started the whole thing with the deck, but that didn’t mean I had to like all of it. I actually considered if regular therapy would have been better, even if it emptied my wallet. However, I was here now, with nowhere else to go and some idea of what I was about to face, I took a breath to calm my nerves and stepped through the briar thorns.

I had not taken more than four steps until the whole briar shifted and the branches closed up behind me. I forced myself not to shudder. I wasn’t claustrophobic but that did little to help when all around was an endless patch of thorns and prickly leaves eager to poke and cut. Holding up one gloved hand in front of my face, I pressed forward until I touched one of the branches and slowly pushed it aside. The leather kept my fingers safe from the clawed stems desperate to prick. I felt them graze against my clothes arms and legs as I used my other hand to hold my satchel to protect my torso. Each step was like walking a mile and still not getting anywhere. The further into the briars I went the the thicker the stems and the sharper the thorns became. As expected, my clothes soon bore the damage but so far they had protected my flesh, until I nearly stumbled over something. There was a sudden pain in my left forearm that quickly faded, yet I felt cold. Though I told myself not to do it, I screamed in my head not to look down, my neck tilted of it’s own accord and my wide eyes saw what I had almost tripped over. Laying at my boots was a pile of bones. Their size alone told me it did not come from any rabbit or wolf and as I unwittingly looked closer I saw the tattered remains of cloth and the unmistakable shape of a skull. Suddenly, a piercing laugh echoed around me followed by wails that reached into my gut and turned my insides into ice.

I forced my hands to push aside more branches and maneuver myself so as not to be cut agains. This time, I dragged and shuffled my feet against the ground, sometimes kicking rocks and crushing dead leaves and branches. I felt a little a satisfaction in the sounds they made under my boots. Despite this, more cuts appeared on my skin and more discomfort chilled me as past losses and grievances battered my mind. The disappointment on adult faces when I failed to do or say something. The confused or hurt expressions of friends and strangers. The laughter of bullies and even my own voice taunted me. The emotional pain of regret, anger, and self loathing. Every cut from those damned thorns brought up even the smallest wrong. A scratch to my right arm made me see childhood bullies. The cut to my knee and I could hear younger self, cutting my own hair in protest to the demands of my family. My side was now bleeding and with it I heard my own voice crying out.

“Why am I not good enough?”

“What else could I have done?”


“Idiot child!”

“Why did I do this?”

“Why did I let this happen?”

“Why… How could you have done this to me?!”

Every little mistake. Every fear. Every time somebody, be it myself or someone else, shot me down, or made me question what was right. The thorns drew out what I hid in the dark recesses of my heart and slammed it back in like poison.

Drums beat a frantic rhythm as I hastily grabbed a branch, only for pain to shoot through my palm. I recoiled only for the the branch to swing back at me, hitting my face and marring my cheek. But it wasnt the clear sting of a shallow cut but the numbing slap of another hand, hot and more viscious than any monster a child could make up. Terror seized me and I froze on the spot until another cut touched my skin, in between my sleeve and my glove. I looked down at my wrist and saw my own two hands and in one of them was a knife, covered in my own blood.


I no longer cared about the pain or the fear of the laughter or the cruel hands. I just wanted get away from that one sight! Covering my face and neck, I ran through the thicket. All I cared about was getting away. All I cared about was making it out. All I wanted was to live and not die and sad and lonely deaths by my own hand! No matter all I had felt before that fear of the knife and the blood gushing out of wrist, was the worst thing I had done. I knew that if I allowed myself to go through with it then all my tormentors would win and I couldn’t let that happen. No matter how many mistakes I made, or friends I lost or jobs I failed at least I was alive and could continue to improve and make something of myself! At least I could live! I wanted to live!

My frantic running made me dizzy and I fell to the earth. I braced myself for more cuts and more pain and fear and disparity but non came. There was only the solid ground beneath me and I realized the drumming I heard was my own heartbeat. Slowly I gazed up and saw that I had made out of the briars and shadows. I had made it through to the end and I was still in pain but still very much alive. The forest was calm and showed that it was just past noon. What felt like a century was but a few hours and I had made it out of one of the darkest places. And I knew I would be alright. I rolled onto my back and breathed a sigh of relief. I am still here. I will go on living.


About the Creator

Shelby R Perez

I am a college student and lover/writer of fiction and poetry, especially Fairytails and mythology. I am working to become a published author, using my love for myths and legends to reintroduce gods, spirits, demons and heroes.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.