I have compiled parts one through four of the series into a single document titled Safia’s Story. I have added this story to my writing tab under short stories. Each week until the story is done I will post the newest installment on the blog, and then add it to the main document so that Safia’s story will always be available to read in its entirety. You can also search for Friday Fiction to read the individual pieces with their comments. Thanks so much for reading and for the great suggestions. Here’s part five…
A seething mass of roots erupted from the ground in front of me. Before I could take a step back the white tendrils twisted around my ankles and tightened painfully. Falling backwards I tried to scrabble away as more of the roots closed around my calves and thighs.
“Bryony, help!” I cried.
My body twisted as I tried to find Bryony. When I saw her she was standing still, her eyes were closed; she could have been sleeping.
A slow smile shifted the creases of her face, but she did not open her eyes nor move to help. The clinging roots began to drag me along the dusty ground.
My arms reached out in desperation. My fingers closed around blades of grass and came away bloody as the sharp edges sliced my skin. Clods of earth crumbled in the palm of my hand as I tried to hold on to something, anything.
A scream welled up within me, but before it found its way to my lips I remembered my Mother’s last words.
“You are the eldest Safia. You must be responsible and watch out for your sister. Bring her back safely.”
I had nodded solemnly in response to my Mother’s words, and then I had failed. My sister had fallen through the mist. I felt compelled to travel to the place where the spirits dwell. I could not fail again.
My body twisted again. Grasping the nearest root I pulled as hard as I could. My lean muscles strained until there was a sudden release. The end of the root tore from the ground and lay suddenly lifeless in my hands.
Throwing it to the side I grasped another. My heart raced as I looked up and realized that I was being pulled toward a gaping hole in the ground; a hole I was certain had not been there before.
Another root was torn from the ground and wilted in my hand. I grasped and pulled until my arms burned. My eyes blinked furiously against the sweat that ran down my face.
A hand on my shoulder made me jump and I looked up to see Bryony nodding.
“Well done,” she said. “They have retreated.”
Allowing myself to pause and take a breath, I looked back and saw that there were no more of the long white tendrils reaching out for me. White strings were strewn all around, but they remained still.
The hole was also gone.
“What were they?” I asked, rising to my feet and dusting myself off.
“A test.” Bryony replied.
I frowned when no further explanation was given.
“Take them.” Bryony said, nodding toward the scattered roots.
Bending down I took one of the long threads tentatively between two fingers. I held it out and away from my body until I felt confident that it would not try to bind me again.
Once I had gathered all of the roots, I noticed that Bryony was already several paces away.
I jogged to catch up and then slowed when I reached her side.
“Bryony, did you see the hole?” I asked.
The old woman did not respond.
We walked in silence for a few moments as I thought about all those who had set out from the forest, hoping to return a venerated member of the community. I remembered also how few actually did return.
“How many tests will there be?” I asked in a quiet voice.
For the rest of that day I remained vigilant, scanning the path ahead, the sky above. I did not stray from Bryony’s side.
Two more days passed before I learned what the next challenge would be.
What should it be? Also, she needs to take something else with her following this second test, what are your ideas for that item or items?