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Runaway Children

By Jessica Godfrey

  1. Verdant
    By Sydney Eyerly
                  It had been a week since Farren escaped her inimical father and his wretched town. She had left with only the moonlight to lead her through the secluded shadows, while her father had laid soundly asleep in his chamber, not knowing that his labor child would be gone the following morning.
                 She could endure his relentless insults and abuse, but on the day he had told her that she was to marry one of the most valuable clients in his blacksmith business to ensure that they would always remain partners—that she could not handle and would not accept. 
                 Somewhere along her path, she had also whispered a quiet prayer to the bright, twinkling stars that drew wide-reaching constellations in the pitch-black sky. It was a devotion to her mother who had underwent the deadly plague that passed through the continent years before. She still remembered the agony and sadness on her mother's face as her breathing ceased, her eyes wide and still. They never closed. Not until Farren brushed her shaking fingers over her eyelids.
                 It was an image she would not soon forget.
So, for her mother and for herself, she left the man that had failed to shed a single tear while her mother had laid silent. Had failed to raise her the way a father should. Had failed to love her or care for her at all.
At last, she was free.

''...quiet prayer to the bright, twinkling stars that drew wide-reaching constellations in the pitch-black sky.''

                 Dawn rose.
                 Beautiful, light colors were painted across the morning sky; a pastel pink, a soft blue, and beyond the skyline—a burnt orange from the staggering sunrise. Farren breathed in the balmy summer air; dew-dropped petunias and crisp, green grass filling her nostrils. Her dark skin radiated in the sunlight as she rode the unnamed horse along a stone path, passing cottages that lined to the left, and a riverbank to the right.
From the time since she fled, she had established two steps to complete before she could travel to a haven that was far, far away from her father.
                 1.    Find a town that was too distant for her father to locate
                 2.    Get a secure job that would help her save enough money to voyage
                 The first one she had just settled upon in this little village expanse. And the second one…Well, she’d do it when opportunity struck.
                 The villagers were already up, performing their usual forenoon tasks. She gently smiled to everyone who she encountered. The last thing she needed was hate from townsfolk who had revenge up their sleeves.
                 An old woman slapped a young boy across the face outside a near cottage. It left a horrifying red imprint on his left cheek. The old woman continued to yell right in his face, spewing and spitting horrible, degrading insults that made the boy shed tears.Overwhelming rage electrified her body.
                 Farren knew from both instinct and understanding that this was not the first time something like this has happened to him. She saw it in his eyes. In the way, he flinched whenever the woman moved, and never made direct eye-contact.  She couldn’t move forward. She heeled back the horse.
                 She swooped off the back and landed with a thud on the old stone. Then, she grabbed the reins and guided the stallion to the side of the cottage. Both the woman and the boy stared at her as she strode over, but while one looked agitated, the other looked…scared. She knew the feeling.
                 “What do you want?” The old woman barked.
                 “Him,” she said while eyeing the boy.
                 The old woman scoffed. “People aren’t just up for sale.”
                 Farren lifted an eyebrow. “No, I suppose not. But what if I could offer you a trade?”
                 The old woman put her hands on her hips. “I’d say you must be rather foolish.”
The boy kept his head down, silently listening. “You see that stallion over there?” Farren pointed.
The old woman gazed her eyes on the muscular beast. “I sure do.”
                 “The horse for the boy.”
                 The old woman clicked her tongue. “Now why would you want to trade such a valuable animal for this,” she did a once over on the boy, “worthless laborer?”
                 “Actually, never mind that. I wouldn’t want you to change your mind,” a wide, wicked grin spread across her face. “I’ll take the stallion.”
That was far too simple than she thought it would be. Just like trading cattle.

"Overwhelming rage electrified her body."

                 Farren knew that not having a mount was incautious when traveling. Not only would she have to walk on foot, but now had nothing left to sell if need be.
                 Yet, even considering all the risks, she felt no regret in trading the horse. She had to free that boy somehow, and the stallion was the only thing of value that she could offer.
                 Beside her, he walked, not making a sound. When she took him away from the woman, he seemed indecisive, and understandably so. She was going to explain but didn’t want the woman to hear, so she waited until they were a good distance away from lingering eyes.
                 “You’re free,” Farren said to the boy.
He kept her pace as he met her eyes. She had a feeling that he didn’t do that often. “I—I don’t understand.”
                 “I saw the way that woman was treating you,” she paused. “And I…I know what it’s like to be hurt.”
                 “Thank you," he exhaled. "Thank you for saving me from her." He spoke with such tiredness and drain. It made her heart ache.
                 After walking for a few more minutes, they had come across a glorious, raging waterfall.
Farren remembered the last time she had visited one. It was with her mother when she was still alive and well. During that visit, she had found peace in the emerging water that fell upon sets of gleaming rocks, and hopefully, he would, too.
                 They stood near the edge of the cobblestoned border, overlooking the fall and sky beyond.
                 “You know I’m not holding you captive, right?” Farren spoke.
A stifled, short-lived laugh came from the boy. It was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. “I guess not, since you traded an expensive horse for…me.” A question.
                 “Stop that,” she commanded.
His brows furrowed.
                 “Stop speaking of yourself so poorly. You deserve better than that,” she explained.
                 A sigh. “I’m sorry…I just don’t know how to.”
                 Farren put a hand on his shoulder. He flinched but eased when nothing bad followed. “I can help you.”
                 His eyes were so brilliantly green and full of sorrow. She would have done anything to see them light up out of happiness. “How?”
                 “I’m guessing you’ve nowhere else to go?”
                 A nod.
                 “Then let us find peace together. Seek a haven away from all those who’ve hurt us.”
                 “Why me? Why choose me as your companion?”
                 Farren smiled. “Because I’ve no one else, either.”
                 For a long while, no one spoke as they admired the falling water. The mist was roaming above and as if in unison, they both looked towards the Heavens. A new beginning. That’s what this was.

"His eyes were so brilliantly green and full of sorrow."

                 “If we’re going to be together for some time, I should at least know what to call you,” Farren murmured.
                 “I was never named. She just called me boy.”
                 Farren clicked her tongue. “Then, I suppose I shall give you a name. Unless, of course, you have one in mind.”
                 He shook his head. “Never thought of it.”
                 She contemplated a series of names until she found one that was a perfect fit. “Ander. It means, “lion man” in the old language. A strong name for a brave person.”
For a moment, she could have sworn a glimpse of pride danced in his eyes. “I love it. And what might I call you?”
                 His hand grazed over hers. “Farren,” he mused. “What a lovely name.”
                 She smiled. “Thank you, Ander.”
                 She wasn’t sure where that wondrous haven would be, but even if it took them until the end of their days, they would find it. No matter what uphills they would be forced to climb, they would gladly endure it if it meant for a better future. Because now they had each other; they weren’t alone with the weights of the world anymore.
                 Their paths had crossed for a purpose. That much she knew.
                 A purpose for identity, revival, and fellowship. Even if they were just two runaway children with broken pasts.
                 Every plan and every selfish motive she had disappeared as they strolled back up the stone path, heading south. And for once, not knowing what was to come, didn't frighten her.
                 “Together?” He asked as if for reassurance.

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