Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one (except Grace)
Part of the 'Flashback' thing.
This takes place between chapters 5 and 6 of 'Anything but Normal'.
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Prologue: Tears for the Unknown
March 1996 (our time)
Somewhere near Nottingham…
The trees of Sherwood Forest rustled as a warm breeze twist and turned through the branches. The cloudless night sky revealed a brilliant display of countless stars.
Unfortunately, it was well past midnight and anyone who would have enjoyed the sight of the awe-inspiring cosmos was asleep in their homes.
Well, almost everyone…
Little John scanned the branches of the trees, searching for the one thing keeping him from a good nights sleep.
The young charge of his best friend had run of into the forest in the late hours of the night.
Earlier that day, he volunteered to look after the little bundle of energy until the next morning, leaving her guardians to enjoy a night to themselves without any…awkward…questions in the morning. Everything had gone smoothly until he went to check on her an hour ago. The rope tied to the bed told him what happened.
She was either bored or had a bad dream and had snuck out of her room and into the nearby wood.
'This is the fifth time this month,' he thought with a mixture of annoyance and concern. 'Somethin's wrong.'
A small sob broke through the outlaw's thoughts and drew his attention to a branch high above him. There, clutching a teddy bear and staring up at the night sky, was the small girl his friend treated as his own.
Grace Gallaher looked down at her caretaker with some surprise, but said nothing.
"Been lookin' all over for ya, kid," John whispered. "You shouldn't be out this late. You should be asleep."
"Sorry." She murmured softly.
The tears streaming down her scarred face halted any more scolding Little John had thought up.
"Hey, what's wrong, kido?"
"Hurts." She whimpered.
The outlaw panicked. The girl was injured not too long ago and she still had her bandages on. The wounds must have reopened or…
He blinked in confusion. "What?"
Grace shook her head. "Not me that's hurt."
Little John held back a small sigh of relief. Good, she wasn't hurt.
Then why is she crying?
On a hunch, he asked, "What's hurt, then?"
The five-year-old pointed up to a gap in the trees. The stars could be seen clearly through the opening.
"The sky's hurt?" he guessed.
Grace shook her head and pointed again.
"The stars?" he asked. It was ridiculous, but knowing the girl it was worth a shot. Still he was surprised when she nodded, shook her head, and pointed again with more urgency.
'Alright, yes and no.' John thought. Glancing from the child to the night sky, he tried again.
"Something…in the stars?"
Grace nodded before burying her face into her stuffed toy, her small figure shaking from muffled sobs. Reaching out a large hand, Little John cradled her head, gently brushing strands of her light brown hair away from her face.
"So…something…someone in the stars is hurt?" he asked quietly.
Grace sniffed and nodded, her small hand wiping away her tears as she faced her caretaker with watery green eyes.
"Hurting very bad." She whispered quietly.
This only increased the man's worry. For as long as anyone could remember, Grace could sense the people and emotions around her. If someone was happy, she felt their joy. If someone was angry, frightened, or in pain, she'd cry.
Whoever, or whatever, was up there…
They had to be in a lot of pain for Grace to be sensing them from so far away and crying like this.
"What's wrong with it?" he asked.
She pointed to her neck and heart.
"'e can't talk," she explained. "An' misses his family."
Grace nodded then reached her arms out to him. Taking the hint, Little John picked the girl up from the branch and cradled her to his chest, her head immediately burying into his shoulder while maintaining a tight grip on her toy.
"Why can't the person talk?"
He was surprised when Grace looked up at the sky with a mix of fear and hatred in her hazel green eyes.
"Metal demons with red eyes took his voice."
The tone of anger in the five-year-old's answer startled him.
"Did you dream this?"
"Uh-huh." She mumbled.
"It was probably just it, Gracie. A bad dream." Little John knew he wasn't being completely honest, but he had to say something to calm her down.
Grace looked at her friend. She knew he was just saying that, but she was getting tired. She'll worry about it tomorrow.
"C'mon, it's late. We'd better head back."
"…'kay…" she murmured. 'Maybe Jonny's right. It was just a bad dream…right?'
As she slipped back into a deep sleep, one word drifted through her tired mind for a brief moment.
The next morning…
Grace looked up from her drawing and smiled. "Oh, hi Olivia. How're you?"
Olivia Flaversham returned the smile as she sat down next to her friend. "I'm fine, thank you. You?"
"Okay. Tired, but okay."
"More like weird."
"I see. What're you drawing?"
Grace shrugged. "Dunno. Something I saw in my dream last night."
Colored on the paper was a bright yellow shape with two black stripes on what looked like shoulders. Arms and legs were easily recognizable and were yellow with black and grey in some areas. Two light blue dots were its eyes. Dark blue and black was scribbled around the figure with yellow dots scattered within it.
"What are the dots suppose to be?"
"And what's that? A person?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
Olivia squinted at the drawing and tilted her head to the side. "It kind of looks like a bee to me."
Grace looked back at her drawing. "You think so?" she asked.
"Yeah, if you squint at it. Well, only with arms and legs."
Grace squinted at the yellow and black being colored on the paper.
Her friend was right. It did look like a bee.
"Hey, yeah, you're right. What kind though?"
"A honey bee?" Olivia guessed.
The human girl shook her head with a slight scowl.
No, that didn't sound like it fit the…whatever it was.
"No," Grace answered. "It looks more li-."
"There you are!"
The two girls turned in surprise. Behind them, holding her doll as always, was Skippy's youngest sister, Tag-a-long.
"I've been looking all over for you."
"Why? What's up?"
"Skippy an' Toby said they found a secret way into the palace an' think that you might wanna come an' see it. They're looking for you, too." The small rabbit said in one breath. "So, do you?"
"Yeah. Can Olivia come with us?"
The two began to run ahead. Grace jumped up to follow when she stopped. Olivia noticed the human girl wasn't coming and turned around.
"Grace?" she asked. "Something wrong?"
"Nah, you guys go on ahead. I'll catch up."
"Are you sure?"
The two girls looked at each other, shrugged and scampered off. As soon as they left her sight, Grace flipped the paper over, grabbed a yellow crayon and quickly scribbled one word before she stood, tossed the crayon back to the ground and ran after her friends.
On the blank side of the drawing, written in the messy hand writing of a soon-to-be-six-year-old, one word stood out in bright yellow letters;
Btw, the world this chapter is set in is the Disney version of Robin Hood and Olivia Flaversham is from 'The Great Mouse Detective'
Please drop a review and let me know if I should continue