Palo Alto Weekly 20th Annual Short Story
Child of the Forest
by Evelyn Wang
The white wolf, Mistdancer, ran through the forest, avoiding the precious trees that encircled her.
In Mistdancer's mouth was a baby. The infant had been found near the stream. It had been playing with the lizards when Mistdancer appeared, nudging it with her wet nose. The baby didn't scream or cry, just hugged her tightly. That was when Mistdancer knew that this little infant was to be the Child of the Forest.
A Child of the Forest was created each generation when the old Child was getting old or dying. So the old Child, Aminta, had sent Mistdancer to find the perfect Child of the Forest.
Now, as Mistdancer handed a blanket to an eagle, Aminta took the baby into her own arms. She cradled it for a second, and said, "It is a girl. I shall name her Adria. Now, my forest friends, give her gifts from each of you," and with those words, she set the girl unto a bed of soft, jade-green moss.
"I give her the voice of the nightingale," sang the nightingale, Rainvoice.
"I give her the tenderness of the doe," whispered the deer Juniperberry.
"I give her the wisdom of the owl," hooted the owl Dreamfeather.
After that was the bear, the eagle, then the swallow, and all the animals gave their gift; the last one was Mistdancer.
"I give her the courage, strength, and song of the wolf," said Mistdancer quietly.
All the forest was silent, as Aminta picked up Adria and started nursing her. Everyone started to hug and give little morsels of blueberries and trout to baby Adria.
Little did they know that the Forest People, Aminta's own people, were watching silently and furiously through the bushes.
The next day the Forest People and the animals gathered for a meeting. Mistdancer hovered over Adria and Aminta's side protectively, glaring ferociously at the angry Forest People.
"Why should an outsider be the Child of the Forest?" asked Leda Kra'an, the haughtiest Forest Woman of them all.
"Yes, why should that strange girl, Adria, isn't it? Why should she be allowed to be our leader and interpreter?" demanded Civersa Pelion, a normally jolly and plump mother, but now an angry, red, and flaming pursuer.
"Because she was chosen, and the gifts were given her already. Besides, when I came upon her by the stream, she didn't scream or cry," snarled Mistdancer, "Unlike your children!"
"Hush, love," cautioned Aminta, "My people, this girl is the right one! If you don't believe me, give her 13 years, and we shall see!"
The People trudged away; muttering furiously, for they knew that is was useless to argue with Aminta.
13 years later
"Adria, come here child!" Mistdancer said to Adria, "We must go to the Bathing Lakes today!"
"Yes, Dancer," murmured Adria. She had become a beautiful girl, with raven-colored hair and golden skin, and her eyes, those dark flashing gems.
But not everyone appreciated her looks. The Forest girls were jealous of Adria, for their hair was brown and curly, and their eyes were those of selfish magpies.
As Adria and Mistdancer arrived at the Lakes, a grumpy woman grunted, "Yer late! Go and undress behind a tree, don't forget yer swimming cloths, and wade into the middle of the Lakes."
Adria crossed behind her favorite tree, a hazel tree. She took of her tunic and sighed. Why did everyone always have to make her look bad and foolish? Was it because she looked special? Adria smiled at the thought. She could think of no other reason.
She jumped into the lake, and waded silently into the middle of it. Something glimmered underneath her feet. Adria shifted her weight and glanced down. There, between some smooth rocks, was a turquoise. She gasped, turquoises were rare, they were intended for Children of the Forest, and Aminta was the only one she could think of, so she decided to give it to her.
Adria tugged at it, and it came free. It was connected to a silver spiraled chain. She slipped it on, then floated on her back for a moment, and swam to the mini-waterfalls where all the other Forest Girls were laughing and talking.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Miss Raven-Wing, how's your hair? Did it get snagged on a branch?" they jeered.
Adria knew too much about them than to argue, instead she sat down on a tock and started to comb her hair.
"Hello, Adria," sneered Anaiil, one of the prettiest Forest girls.
"Hello Anaiil," responded Adria, hoping she would go away.
But Anaiil didn't go away, instead, she said smugly, "I heard that you were given the voice of the nightingale as a gift, why don't you sing for us?"
"A gift? A nightingale's voice?" Adria wondered. But she started singing anyway.
"In the moonlight, a little bird, came to mee..." she sang. Everyone sat still as her voice unfolded like the petals of a moonflower at night.
Suddenly, a voice rang out, "Hey girl, could you come here for a second?"
All the Forest girls screamed as they stumbled over each other in their haste to get away.
Only Adria stood frozen on the rock, her majestic hair dripping. She turned, and almost fainted. There, standing a few feet away from her was a boy. Not just a Forest boy, but... an outsider boy!
He stood there for a moment, just staring at her, then started coming toward her.
Adria stared, frantically thinking, "I'm doomed. I'll die at the hands of this outsider."
But the boy didn't kill her; he just took her hot, sweaty hand into his cool, moist one.
"Your voice is lovely!" the boy marveled.
"Th-th-thank you," she shuddered fearfully.
"My name's Adrian. What's your name?"
"My name is Adria," Adria's voice shook from fear and nervousness. She finally dared herself to look at him, and she lifted her head timidly.
Adrian was smiling. His golden-brown hair glowed in the sunset. His amethyst eyes gleaming like stars, and his head was cocked to one side as he studied her face.
"You're beautiful," he commented, still smiling.
"You're st-stunning," she whispered.
They stood there for a moment, then chatted comfortably for hours as if they were old comrades. Suddenly Adria bolted from his arms like a frightened deer, and ran off to her people.
When she arrived at the village, everyone was waiting for her.
"Adria, I have something to tell you," sighed Aminta.
"You are the Child of the Forest. See that necklace? It was meant for you, and you only. A Child of the Forest is an interpreter. She talks with outsiders, and negotiates with them about the forest. Come, my child, and we shall have a brief ceremony."
Adria walked over to Aminta's front, and knelt down. She looked down firmly as Aminta sprinkled crystal water on her head.
Suddenly, she stood up, "I know that this is a great honor, but I will not take it. I just can't take on that much responsibility!"
Adria walked to her room and lay down, but she just couldn't escape the sorrow in Aminta's eyes she had seen.
The next day Adria went to see Adrian.
"Hi, Adrian," she whispered shyly.
"Adria, listen to me, we must be very cautious. I heard that some people are coming to chop the whole forest down!"
"What?" Adria raised her head, startled, "We can't let that happen!" she screamed.
"No, you're right. We can't let that happen, but how are we going to stop them?"
Adria crumpled to her knees immediately as she replayed last night's events. She knew what she must do.
She remained there for a few moments, then stood up, her eyes streaming.
She grasped Adrian's hand, as she took her first step out of the forest...
Short story writers wanted!
The 31st Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 13, 2017. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.