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THE UNEXPECTED PLIGHT

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Pink tinges the horizon as the pale white and blue sky above awaits sunlight. Only silhouettes can be seen as men and women drift silently through Curdle Woods and out across the Von Ruthro Estate, to well-groomed fields toward Blueberry Grove. As the sky brightens slowly, the emerald of their cloaks shows itself as they hurry toward great wooden containers filled with compost and earth. Each fills a pouch at their side with it, while others keep watch, eyes darting furtively.

At the edge of the grove, their fingers delve greedily into the ground at the foot of a particularly majestic tree and soon finds a small stone, smooth as glass. They pocket it and replace it with one of bright colour and jagged edges.

Laramy – scrappy and thin as a wire – lets out a low whistle and the figures scatter, startling a myriad of birds which had begun to welcome the dawn with their song. They duck down amidst the tidy rows of cultivated young blueberry bushes and pull their cloaks about themselves for camouflage. Soon, a flickering torch comes into view at the edge of the field. A young woman, with shoulder-length hair and a green tattoo shining on her upper arm darts furtively toward one of the mature bushes at the edge of the grove and begins stuffing her face with blueberries. Laramy creeps closer, determined to find out more about the woman. His compatriots whisper in consternation, tugging at his cloak to try and stop him. He dallies close by her, crouched to the ground and hidden amidst the green and deepening purple of the berries.

A cracking twig startles the woman and she looks about wildly, locking eyes with Laramy. She looks set to run but he holds out his hands in supplication and steps out. She takes in his apparel.

‘Children?’ she whispers.

He nods and she sighs in relief.

‘You’re very, very lucky you found us.’

Laramy leads the lone survivor to the rest of the Children of the Forest as they melt into the deep, green branches of Curldle Woods and disappear from sight.

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