A. Raven stood beneath the hawthorn tree, dispassionately flipping the pages of a brand-new copy of that infamous work of Oscar Wilde's. Suddenly, a girlish voice interrupted the monotony.
"Still watching after the Erptwitches, I see." Dahlia Eames trudged up the hill, shading her eyes with a single delicate hand. "And how are they?"
"Extinct," Alistair replied curtly, pretending to be suddenly interested in the exploits of a Mr. Dorian Gray.
"What are you reading?" the girl asked curiously, trying to get a glimpse of the title. Alistair slammed the book shut and tossed it into the branches above him. Flinching, Dahlia waited for it to fall back down. When it didn't, she stepped under the canopy of the leafy branches, glancing up in surprise. Grumbling something, A. Raven climbed dexterously up the trunk of the old hawthorn and vanished into the middle of the thick branches. Dahlia waited a long while before deciding enough was enough. Ladylike or not, she was going to climb the tree.
When I heard the crashing and the snapping and then, that shriek, I was hoping the nuisance had fallen down the hill and broken something vital. Then I peered down through the branches and there was no heiress in sight.
"Miss Eames?" I called, searching the base of the tree. Suddenly, with a sinking feeling, I looked down at the portal. Caught on a broken branch above it was a scrap of blue fabric. "Oh no." I stared into the darkness, terrified beyond comparison. "The damned thing fell in."
Finding she'd fallen through the trunk of the apparently hollow tree and into a hole in the ground, Dahlia looked around, seeing that she had somehow ended up in an unfamiliar forest.
"Hello?" she called out, standing and brushing the dried grass and dirt off her skirts. "Could I have fallen through the center of the planet and come out the other side in such a short amount of time?" she wondered, knowing that such an idea was most definitely ridiculous.
"Who are you?" a voice asked, and a young girl dressed in colorful rags appeared from behind a tree.
"I'm Dahlia Eames," Dahlia replied, blushing at the stranger's garb. "I fell through the hole in the tree."
"No one does that," the little girl explained with an air of superiority. "Not ever. Once it happened, but it won't again. Not ever. A big bird keeps watch over us."
"Do you mean A. Raven?" Dahlia asked, looking over her shoulder at the tree.
"A raven. That's right. It's a big, giant raven that lives far away, and he keeps us in and the other ones out." The little girl smiled. "I'm Gen. I live in the Wilds." She pointed towards what looked like a town made of brightly decorated caravans, far in the distance. "We don't go places much."
"That's…nice," Dahlia replied, peering at the faraway town. "You're a long way from home."
"Yeah, but as long as I can see it, I'm good," the girl replied proudly. "I never get lost ever."
"Would you mind taking me to see your parents?" Dahlia asked politely. "I'd like to find out where I am."
"Sure thing," Gen replied, taking Dahlia's hand. They began the long trek through the forest.