There were some lovely juicy golden berries growing on the verge of the road. Asadel's mouth watered at the thought of their sweetness.
He looked around him, nervous about gathering food where people could possibly catch him, but the berries looked too good to resist.
The little boy dashed out from the trees, and plucked as many berries he could as quickly as he could, dropping them into a makeshift satchel, as well as stuffing as much as he could in his mouth. He dashed back into relative safety in the shadows of the trees, his mouth overstuffed, juice dribbling down his chin, and he plonked himself down, and ate in bliss. Liquid sunshine ran down the back of his throat as He savoured the rare treat. He didn't come this close to the road usually, but he was glad he risked it today.
He pondered whether he should risk picking some more, but the rumble of carriage wheels drowned out the bird song above him.
He crawled a little closer, hoping to catch a glimpse of the horses. He touched a small wooden carving of a horse he kept in his pocket. He'd made it himself, dreaming about what it would be like to ride one. His Ada had told him so many stories about horses, and had promised one day he would have one of his own, but he was gone now, and so was his mada. He sniffed as a twinge of sadness squeezed his heart. He missed them so much, and his baby sister too who had cried like a little lamb and always smiled for him. His stomach grew heavy as loneliness gripped his heart tighter and tears pricked in his eyes. It had been so long since another human spoke to him. He desperately wanted to see another dark face like his, but he was in milk face country and they'd sooner kill him.
He'd crawled a little closer to the verge, and immediately regretted it as the carriage slowed to a stop.
Terror and panic filled him. He didn't want to get caught. The milk faces would murder him just like the rest of his family. He considered dashing back to the safety of shadows, but maybe If he lay still enough, he wouldn't be seen over the verge. His heart hammered in his throat, and he gripped clumps of grass in his hands.
A man jumped down from on top of the carriage, and Asadel cringed into the verge. The man opened the carriage door revealing a woman with wild curly blond hair with a small toddler in her arms.
Asadel wouldn't allow himself to breathe, as he struggled to control his panic.
The man held his hand out to guide the woman down. Behind her was a small girl about Asadel's age. She had the same wild curly mane of hair the woman had, except it was dark. It was almost as dark as Asadel's hair. She looked like one of those porcelain dolls he'd seen once, if that doll was pitching a temper tantrum. Her heavy brows nearly met in an angry scowl as she stomped her feet shouting at the woman and toddler. The woman looked exhausted and ignored the little girl to concentrate on the cherubic toddler who bounced in her arms trying to get down and back to her sister. The woman spoke cross words without looking at the girl. Asadel didn't understand. It was a different language. The darker haired girl slammed the carriage door and the woman sighed murmuring to the child in her arms, as she knelt down on the blanket laid out for her by the man and changed the wee toddler's nappies.
The man murmured something to the woman and she replied.
Asadel very slowly edged himself away from the verge, crawling backwards, and staying close to the ground, smell of the pungent earth filling his nostrils. Each heart beat seeming to last forever. Finally he was safe in the shadows again, but rather than bolt for home, something anchored him to the spot. He wondered why the dark haired girl was so upset. Was the golden haired lady her mother? The man, her father?
He peered out from in between the trees, and the dark haired girl reappeared, arguing with the adults again in a verbal explosion, but this time she climbed out of the carriage. She stomped her foot again in pure frustration, screaming and bolted head long toward him. Asadel froze on the spot, eyes wide, but she stormed past him not seeing him in her rage.
Asadel's stomach tightened as the girl took a deep breath plunging into the forest, her mother calling out after her. He followed her. The woods were dangerous for someone who didn't know them. He watched her as she picked up a stick and started beating at the bushes venting her frustrations. Eventually the little girl stopped, and she started overturning boulders and rotting logs She stood there, giggling in delighted disgust as she observed the beetles and wood lice scurrying away in search of a new home.
Anger bubbled in Asadel's chest, as she poked at some mushrooms, a potential food source, growing out from a tree stump.
Singing quietly to herself the little girl spotted a rabbit behind a bush. She attempted to coax it to her. It startled and dashed off. Asadel shook his head as she attempted to follow it. She was just a stupid milk faced Dorian Arthru. The sun was lower now and the golden light of mid afternoon filtered through the trees. Maybe he should lead the stupid girl back to the adults he thought. Selfish impulse took over. He was very young, but he had been by himself for a long time. He was lonely, and though he never knew it, he desperately wanted company. So despite his anger over her idiotic behaviour he followed the little girl making sure she didn't destroy anything else edible as she went deeper and deeper into the forest.
Tegwin was lost. Pulses of crushing cold panic moved up from her stomach, threatening to crush her wind pipe, as she hyperventilated. Whirling round like a spinning top, she went from tree to bush, not recognising landmarks. She whimpered, and coughed as she fell to her knees. Her panic drowned out any sensible thought she held in her head and sobs of terror shook her little body.