Fallyn stopped and looked around. Silence settled. At least it seemed so for a short moment. She could hear squirrels skittering around the trees, and birds chattering to each other before taking wing, and she could hear others watching her. How does one exactly hear someone watching? She did not know, but she could. She stood among the trees and the underbrush that was so tall it nearly completely engulfed her and listened. She would never find her way out of the woods if she could not find a trail of some kind. Fallyn turned in a circle. The snow crunched under her boots and her breath streamed behind her. All semblance of silence was broken. Her movement startled the creatures of the forest. Birds took flight, squirrels and other small rodents momentarily stopped and then scurried into hiding. There was nothing for it, she realized, "I must find a trail." She said to no one, and off she started once again trudging through the snow while pushing brush out of her path.
She came upon a clearing. It was not much, a patch of tall grass buried beneath the snow. Here, exposed as she was, she could feel them most intently, watching her. Would they let her out of this wood? She had only one way of finding out. She must choose a direction, and so she did. Fallyn took the longest way across the clearing and headed back into the brush and wood. Almost immediately a tree reached down and slapped her across the face for her boldness. It stung and brought a tear to her eye. She shook her head in defiance. She would not cry! But when she wiped the tear from her cheek her hand brushed across the slap and came away with blood. Fallyn tried but she could not help but feel a touch of fear. For a moment, Fallyn was enslaved by that fear, but only for a moment. Fear could only serve to stop her. It could not help her, so she pushed it aside, squared her shoulders, and pushed through some more brush.
Fallyn walked for what seemed like hours. Her legs were numb and her body ached. Then, like magic, she broke through the brush and a stream lay before her. She knelt beside it, covering her knees in frozen mud and debris. She pulled a kerchief from her pocket, a remnant from a gentler time, dipped it in the water, and cleaned the scratch on her face. She would have drunk, but somehow she knew that the water was not clear, not for drinking. There were colorful fish swimming in its depths, but they had no intention of approaching the icy layer that covered the slow-moving waters. Suddenly, she heard movement behind her. She spun and jumped at the same time. Standing before her was a tall, thin sprite. His exposed skin was the color and texture of wood, the hair that covered his head in a shaggy dome was stringy and green and his arms and face had what appeared to be moss growing on the brown wood. His clothing was made of a mottled gauze that left little to the imagination. The only thing about him that looked out of place in these woods was the long spear-like staff that he had leveled at her chest. It was a long jagged shard of ice or glass and had clearly been used to take a life before. The dark reddish stain caught in the irregular crags of the weapon was an indication of this sprite's intention and skill. He motioned with the weapon. Fallyn started walking in the intended direction.
They walked in silence. They had not walked long before they came upon the sentinel of the wood. It was a massive Sequoia, hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old, if the legends were true. In its branches lived a thousand birds and hundreds of small animals and one great Barn Owl to watch over them all. Right now, under its lowest branch, which was a dozen feet from the ground stood an Elf. Her hair was the color of straw and the sun pulsating together. She was both wondrous and difficult to look upon, not because she was not a great beauty, but because the surface of her skin continuously swirled and changed colors and textures. Lore said that Elves were true Chameleons. Their flesh became the colors that surrounded it, and if there was even the slightest of breezes, their skin would match the motion. Fallyn now knew that it was true, and she desperately hoped that the rest of the Lore regarding Elves was not true. It was said that Elves were the Judges of the wood. All citizens of the wood protected it, but truly heinous crimes were brought before an Elf. For only the Elves could pass a fair and permanent judgment.
Fallyn dropped to her dirty knees before the great Elf. "Please, I'm just lost! I didn't mean to do anything wrong." She pled. The Elf held up her hand and as she did a strange smell invaded the wood. The Elf did not seem to notice, but Fallyn did. "I will not hear excuses, human. You have been in my wood many times. You know the rules." She said. Fallyn was trying to concentrate on the Elf's voice, but that smell was so distracting. She tried to think, she had forgotten what she had said already and she had not really heard what the Elf had said, so she inadvertently repeated herself. The Elf looked at her quizically. She did not need to ask Fallyn anything. Even if she had spoken her words would have been lost behind another sound in the wood. It was unnatural. It did not belong in the wood. At first, Fallyn did not recognize the sound but as it became louder, she understood. She came to her feet and looked at the proud Elf and around at their audience of woodland creatures and Fey. They all looked a bit annoyed. "I'm sorry, my friends. We'll have to pick this up tomorrow." She said as the sound became a clear voice coming from the direction of the clearing. Above the sounds of birds, animals the cool resting silence of snow came a woman's voice, "Fallyn honey, time to come in now. It's time for dinner."
Fallyn smiled at the Elf and turned to run towards the voice. "Night!" she called over her shoulder. As she turned away, the Fey, each showing their own level of disappointment melted into the wood. They were all gone long before Fallyn reached her mother's side. Her mother listened intently as her six-year-old daughter excitedly recounted her adventures while being lost in the wood. She desperately wanted to tell her mother the judgment of the great Elf for whatever crime she had committed while being lost. But she did not know what the great Elf would say, that would be an adventure for tomorrow.