I should warn you that I don't usually post as I go. I'm terrible about finishing stories and the last time I tried to post as I went it took me almost two years to finish the stupid thing. But this is what's been in my head this week and I want to play with it, and I'm hoping that having an audience will give me the incentive I need to finish it. (And this should be a much shorter story than In Dreams was, so I'm hoping it won't take me nearly as long!)
This is unbetaed. I could use a beta-reader or two for future chapters. If you're interested in the job, let me know :)
Fiyero was beginning to feel the slightest bit foolish.
Some prince of the Arjikis you turned out to be. You're lost. If his father were here he'd surely die of shame. Although, in fairness, he'd been trained to survive in the Vinkus, in the grasslands and craggy mountains that his homeland was known for. He hadn't been taught to navigate the Great Gillikin Forest.
He was also, though he hated to admit it, beginning to feel a little worried. He'd been wandering for over an hour now without encountering a familiar landmark. It was getting dark, and a storm was blowing in from the north, glowering fiercely on the horizon. The wind was picking up speed. It was not the sort of storm he wanted to be caught in, especially in the middle of a forest full of massive, ancient trees. He needed to find shelter. There were small caves scattered through this part of the wood; perhaps he could find one.
For just a moment he let himself silently curse at Elphaba. It was her fault he was out here, after all. He'd spent the last year and a half searching for her, to no avail. Didn't she know he was looking for her? Why was she making it so difficult? Did she think he would turn her in, when he found her? He sighed. Of course he wouldn't turn her in. Didn't she know he lo--
Fiyero shook his head sharply and turned his attention back to the more pressing search at hand-- that for shelter from the coming storm. There was a darkened smudge among the trees ahead of him, perhaps ten minutes' walk away. It might be a cavern large enough to hide in until the worst of the storm blew over. He started toward it, stubbornly determined not to think of Elphaba.
But it was so hard not to think of her. Not to wonder where she was, what she was doing. Was she out in this same storm? He remembered what the Ozians said of her-- I hear her soul is so unclean, pure water can melt her-- and although Fiyero didn't believe that for a second, he didn't like to think of her huddled cold and wet and alone in the darkness. Did she have someplace safe and warm to go?
He grimaced. Enough of that. He focused instead on placing one foot in front of the other. It really was getting dark now, and the wind was picking up sharply. Why had he chosen to perform this scouting mission alone? The forest could be dangerous, and as a rule he never let his men go out on missions alone. Why hadn't he brought any them along with him?
Ah, because if he had found her, he wouldn't have wanted any of his men around. That was why his solitary scouting missions had become more and more frequent over the last year. And now he was thinking about her again. He scowled.
As if in response to his mood, thunder growled angrily overhead, and the rain at last began to fall. It was heavy and cold, and he was drenched almost immediately. He shivered, wrapping his arms around himself for warmth. The forest floor quickly became a sea of mud, and simply walking without slipping and falling soon took all his attention, finally driving thoughts of Elphaba out of his mind. He squinted through the water dripping over his brow, searching for anything that might offer him some protection. Lightning cracked in the distance, and with the thunder came the distant roar of a tree crashing down.
He continued to stumble forward toward the dark place on the horizon he'd seen earlier, hoping it was a cavern or some other rock formation that would provide him some shelter. Even huddling at the bottom of a cliff would be better than nothing; at least he'd be protected from the wind and falling trees.
As he got closer, however, he realized he'd been too optimistic. It was a cliff, all right, but he was at the top of it. The forest floor split roughly and dropped away into a deep ravine perhaps fifty feet across, a jagged line cut into the earth. He glanced up and down its length, wondering if there was a gentler slope farther along that he could try to climb down, but the walls remained sharp and uneven for as far as he could see.
Great. What now? Not only would the ravine fail to provide him any protection from the elements, it would prevent him from traveling any farther in this direction. He could turn back, but there hadn't been a place to hide from the storm in that direction, either. He crept a bit closer to the ravine's edge, resting his hand on a tree to steady himself, and peered down. It was definitely too steep to climb. Fiyero turned back and surveyed the trees. Maybe if he crouched beside one of them, put his back to the trunk?
Lightning struck the next tree in front of him, and the thunder was almost instantaneous. He jumped, surprised, and slipped a little. He caught himself, shuddering a little at the close call. He needed to be more careful; if he'd slipped any farther... And then the tree was falling, filling up his vision, its trunk scarred with black where the lightning had scorched it and ruined it. He took a reflexive step backward, his feet struggling for purchase in the mud, and then he was falling, too.
Well, he thought, with a strange clarity beneath the panic, this is what I get for going after her alone.