A heavy breeze washed over the meadow, ruffling the head of chestnut hair that rested atop it. The pollen it kicked up tickled at his sensitive nose, causing him to awaken with a sudden sneeze. Bright emerald eyes blinked open to be greeted by a twilight sky, the rich oranges and purples seeping into the scarce cover of clouds.
He sat up abruptly, a stray leaf fragment falling from his matted hair and delicately floating down to the grass. Laying in the warmth of the sun was one of his favourite pastimes, but too often did he end up falling asleep. Eren would likely be scolded for it by his mother for it, and anyone else who cared to voice their opinion.
Eren fluttered his wings to work out any kinks that may have formed during his sleep. The sheer appendages were decorated with an intricate pattern of vibrant viridian green and weathered gold, the shape similar to that of a butterfly.
Everything seemed to be in working order. The brunet got to his feet, kicking off the ground as he took flight. It would be best that his mother wasn’t told the location of his nap, she was wary of the ground and the dangers it held. Eren, however, found it too tempting to resist. It was very different to place they lived, filled with previously unseen beauties that he longed to discover.
Eren’s wings flapped with urgency, it would not bode well if he returned after last light.
Soon he passed over the cascading waterfall that marked the edge of their territory. Eren approached a large tree trunk, creating a small gust of wind as he propelled himself upwards. Ascending over a branch, the brunet landed gracefully on the mossy bark and quietly approached the opening to his home. He and his mother lived in a small hollow in the trunk, nothing overly extravagant, but it protected them from the elements. Carving away at the wood was a long and strenuous task, so forest fairies generally only made it large enough to sleep in and built other structures atop the branches. Peeking inside, Eren watched his mother buzz around with a small feather in her hand.
When Carla was stressed, she took to dusting. Her wings were much duller than Eren’s, but still lovely. The colour of faded bronze, their most remarkable feature would be the more golden highlights of her spiralling pattern. They were smaller, also.
Eren wasn’t sure why his wings were so bold in comparison. As they recently found out, Eren shared the same dynamic as his mother. Omegas usually had more radiant colours and detailed patterns, so it was odd that hers were rather plain. There was elegance in it, though. A simple beauty.
Carla smelt her son’s presence and she turned to him with a weary smile. “Oh, Eren. I was so worried, you know it’s not safe to stay out this late.”
“I’m sorry, mom,” Eren said, lowering his head in apology.
“I hope you weren’t on the ground again.” Her brown eyes scanned over Eren’s body, letting out a quite gasp as she spotted a slither of green caught in his hair. Carla flapped her wings and zipped over in an instant, plucking out the grass fragment and holding it in front of her son’s face. “You were!”
“I know.” Eren blinked several times, forcing away the tears that were starting to form in his eyes. It felt awful to disappoint his mother, he just couldn’t keep his curiosity at bay. “I haven’t seen anything dangerous down there…”
“Danger doesn’t like to make itself known,” Carla reminded him. She had tried her best to deter him from visiting the ground, but the boy never listened. There are many stories that tell of what lives down there, terrifying tales of ferocious monsters that lurk in the shadows. It was even more worrisome now that Eren had presented as an omega. While she did not want to impose stereotypes on her son, it was a simple fact that their bodies weren’t as strong or fast. “There are predators on the ground, Eren. That’s why we live up in the trees. Just think of that poor lady that was eaten by a cat recently, how could I carry on if one of those horrible beasts took you away?”
Turquoise wings drooped in shame. It would’ve been effortless for a cat to snatch him up while he was sleeping out in the open. Ground beasts weren’t common in the area, a reason why the colony lived there to begin with, but they were evidently present. Eren worried his lip as he stared down at weaved flax mat that lined their hollow.
Carla let out a huff of air. She did not enjoy scolding her precious son, but the mother fairy didn’t know what else she could do to keep him safe. “And so late, too! Aren’t I always telling you to keep track of the light?”
Eren sniffled, nodding his head in agreement. Fairies had excellent senses of hearing and smell, but their vision was of standard quality. In the dark, it is difficult to see and easy to get lost. It also prevented the detection of flying predators that silently cut through the air, owls were the greatest concern. They can sneak up in the cover of night, grabbing an unsuspecting fairy straight out of the air without warning. It was much safer within their territory, the dense canopy of trees either preventing birds from entering or made them audible as they brushed past the foliage.
“Be sure to remember,” Carla said, the boy’s silence was taken as recognition of his mistakes. Raising Eren on her own had not been easy, his antics and carelessness always kept Carla on her toes. The remorse in Eren’s watery teal eyes seemed sincere, and she had no reason to doubt it. “I’m not angry at you, Eren, only concerned. You must be more careful while exploring. Now, then… why don’t you go see your friends? Armin came looking for you while you were gone.”
Eren perked up at that, wings twitching with excitement. Armin was born in the same Spring as him, they had grown up together and were now traveling into maturity together. Eren gave his mother a happy trill, expressing his thanks and intent to return shortly.
Hurrying out of the hollow, he took to the air and begun the short flight to Armin’s home tree. It was darker now, especially in the shade of the forest, but the lanterns dangling from the branches allowed him to see. They were convenient light sources and looked quite aesthetic hanging between the leaves. The lanterns were usually made with glowing insects, but some of the older fairies were able to illuminate them with magic.
As he swerved between the trees, Eren spotted many fairies returning to their hollows or resting on the branches. They had a particularly large population, mostly because outsiders seek safety within the forest and ask to join their colony. Their commander, Erwin, was very generous and regularly welcomed newcomers. Erwin was an alpha, as most leaders are. He had a natural talent for planning and leadership, and he deeply inspired all the other fairies.
Betas were much more common than the other two dynamics, which was the case in all fairy colonies. If you care for analogies, they were similar to worker bees in a hive. The number of alphas and omegas was relatively even, which was fortunate, although it did seem that more fairies were presenting as omegas this year. Two of Eren’s friends presented as omegas this season, Armin and Marco, and then it was discovered that he was one also. In terms of proportions, they generally had six or seven maturing fairies each year, and only one or two of those would become either an omega or an alpha. Having three this year was certainly strange. It was labelled as a blessing of luck from the forest.
Eren caught the familiar scent of his best friend’s home tree, his hair blowing up as he landed on one of the branches. Looking around, he spotted Armin close-by, hovering around in the air as he lit the tree’s lanterns. As an omega, Armin also had beautifully ornate wings. They were iridescent, icy blue with pale green details, slenderer than Eren’s own pair. In the light of the setting sun they reflected an almost pink hue and took on some transparency, giving them a glass-like appearance.
Armin’s slightly pointed ear twitched, keen senses picking up on the presence of a visitor. He turned around to greet them, smiling sweetly when he discovered it was Eren. Their personal scents had changed dramatically after presentation, it would take some adjustment before they could become familiar and recognise each other by it. Armin hovered down to the branch, landing gently on his toes in front of the brunet. “Good to see you, Eren. Your mother said you were out late again,” He said, eyes shining with concern.
“Don’t worry, we’ve already talked about it,” Eren replied with a comforting smile. He didn’t need to be told off a second time, especially by his friend. “I heard you came looking for me?”
“I did.” Armin smiled back. The whole colony knew that Eren was fond of exploring and often got into mischief. Armin worried about his friend, but he always came back safety. Pale blue eyes shifted to inspect the freshly hung decorations, giving off a pleasant glow against the leaves. “I was going to ask if you wanted to help me hang the new lanterns.”
Following his gaze, Eren took in the warm lights dangling from the higher branches. Armin was very invested in decorating, as most fairies were, but omegas seemed to particularly enjoy it. It wasn’t an activity that appealed to Eren, but he supposed that he may come to like it as he gets older. Armin’s dynamic traits were more prominent than his own, others likely thought Eren strange for enjoying exploration and adventure. The brunet sighed happily, he was still capable of recognising a job well done. “It’s beautiful, Armin. The pattern looks great, and they’re the perfect height as well.”
“Thank you,” Armin giggled, the sound high and bubbly, while blue wings behind him flapped a few times as he preened over the compliment. Eventually settling down, his tone changed to something more serious. “I have some news as well. I think that, um…” Armin fidgeted nervously, unsure of how he should word it. “I think that Erwin is trying to court me.”
“You mean Erwin-Erwin, as in the Erwin?” Eren was baffled when the blonde nodded in response. Erwin is their leader, not to mention one of their strongest alphas. It was unbelievable, although Eren had to admit that Armin was an incredibly beautiful omega, his fragile glass wings were enough to awe any observer. They would make a very attractive couple. Eren was still cautious, though. “Are you sure, Armin? How do you know?”
The blonde twiddled his thumbs, humming thoughtfully to himself. “I just do, it’s hard to explain... Erwin has been going out of his way to see me more. He stays around just to talk to me, and he’s even brought me a few gifts.” Armin glanced back up to the lanterns, pointing to a sapphire charm that dangled among them, the gem catching the light and glistening brightly. “He gave me that yesterday. It’s so beautiful, I don’t know why else he would give it to me besides courting. There have also been some less valuable items. Petals, honey… things like that.”
“Wow…” Eren gaped up at the deep blue jewel hanging from Armin’s tree. It was beautiful… but precious stone or no, there were still some concerns. “Is that okay? You only presented a few weeks ago. Are you sure you want to court so young?”
“Yes,” Armin replied, voice sure and determined. “I like him a lot, and I feel a strong bond already.”
It wasn’t unusual for fairies to start courting straight after presenting, and Armin had settled into his dynamic fairly fast. Eren was still surprised though, this news had come out of nowhere. He hadn’t even thought about courting himself, let alone his best friend being involved in such activities. However, this wasn’t by any means a bad thing, Erwin was well known for his strength and intelligence, a natural born leader. He was a kind fairy as well, generous and gentle despite his power. Even Eren could tell that he would be an excellent mate, Armin couldn’t have done better. “Then I’m happy for you. I hope it works out,” Eren said.
“Me too.” Armin blushed and looked up at the sparkling charm once more, softly smiling to himself. He was relieved to have his best friend’s approval. It was quite dark now, the last rays of light sinking over the horizon. Blue eyes went back to Eren. “Will you be joining us tomorrow?”
Eren tilted his head, a curious chirp resounding in his throat. “What is tomorrow?”
“A group of omegas are going to collect pollen from the meadow,” Armin explained. It was understandable if the brunet didn’t find these activities interesting, a fairy’s likes and dislikes are determined by more than just their dynamic. He believed that Eren should at least try it, though. “I’ve never done it before, it’ll be good skill to learn.”
Indeed. Flower pollen was very versatile resource, mostly used for medicinal purposes, the healers could do many wonderful things with it. It was also used to colour the tree bark and as a general-use powder. Knowing how to gather it would be very helpful, and Eren enjoyed visiting the meadow. “Sure, I’ll come. What time are we going?”
Armin smiled brightly, he was thrilled that Eren so readily agreed to participate. “We’re going when the sun is highest in the sky, apparently the flowers are more cooperative after a few hours of light.”
“Can I meet you here?” Eren asked. They were likely expected to gather at a specified location, but he would prefer to go with the blonde. The thought of approaching a group of omegas made him nervous. He was supposed to belong with them, be one of them, but Eren didn’t feel that way. Mostly, he was worried that they might tease him for his unconventional hobbies.
“That’s fine. I’ll wait for you and we can go together,” Armin said, knowing what was bothering the brunet. Armin had no difficulties fitting in with the other fairies of their dynamic and he didn’t find them judgemental at all. His friend was worrying over nothing, but Armin was happy to support him until he felt comfortable.
Eren flapped his wings and trilled happily, he really appreciated Armin’s efforts to help him settle into their new world. Bouncing forward, Eren went closer to engulf him in a thankful embrace. The blonde returned with a pleased sound of his own, touching their foreheads together in a friendly gesture. They bid each other farewell, Armin disappearing into his hollow as Eren leaped off the branch and set off home.
Since Armin would be by his side, Eren allowed himself to bubble with excitement for the following day. He didn’t intentionally exclude himself from the other omegas, it was just that he wasn’t sure how to behave. Would they expect him to be like them? Eren hadn’t gotten to know many other omegas, the younger fairies generally spent time with those their own year. That opened the possibility that Eren had been imagining something unrealistic, and the other omegas wouldn’t be the dainty snobs he had envisioned.
Only time would tell.
Eren was unable to stop fretting and spent the majority of the morning helping his mother around the home as a distraction. The chores began with sweeping the entrance to the hollow, doing away with all the dirt and dust. It was taking a long time with the broom, so Eren decided to create a gust with his wings and blow it away instead. After the second lantern was lost to the forest floor, he was assigned to a new task. Weaving was far less entertaining.
As the sun moved higher the young fairy grew more and more anxious. When the chores were completed, Eren found himself obsessing over his appearance.
The unruly chestnut mop on his head was combed into something that just barely passed for tidy, he had run sunflower oil through it to make it more manageable and add some shine. He put on his best clothes. A dark green shirt that his mother had made from preserved clover (supposedly good-luck), a newly crafted pair of black cotton pants, and brown-flax boots that stopped half way up his calves.
It’s true that fairies usually wore brighter colours, but there was method to Eren’s madness. The outfit was topped off with his favourite necklace, a choker of woven grass with gold coloured beads.
Eren’s attention turned to his wings. The delicate appendages were his most striking feature. All omegas had beautiful wings but Eren’s were a particularly unique colour, lost somewhere between ocean-blue and forest-green. Pale or pastel colours were most common, and his were also more opaque than usual. A sparse amount of oil was rubbed over his wings to amplify the colour and give them more sheen. It was important not to use too much, else it could make flying difficult.
He didn’t usually pay his appearance much mind. This was a special occasion. Eren hadn’t been outside his home much since presenting, so this could be interpreted as his official reveal to the rest of the colony. The wings of an omega only became so magnificent during presentation, which is why it was difficult to judge the dynamic of a fairy beforehand. Most of the others hadn’t yet seen the impressive pair he’d ended up with. It’s not that he wanted to make the other omegas jealous, Eren just wanted to make a good first impression and hopefully it would help them accept him.
Finally, Eren put a thin dusting of pollen over the golden structural parts of his wings. The result was a subtle shimmer, as if they were supported by real ore.
Checking his appearance in their pool of water, Eren was pleased to see that his little scheme had worked. The dark clothes he wore made his colours look even brighter, drawing attention to his emerald eyes, necklace and wings.
Eren flew towards his best friend’s tree once again, gliding gracefully through the air and waving at fairies that passed by. They looked impressed. The beads resting against his neck felt cold, but his skin would warm them soon enough. Approaching his destination, Eren was surprised to see two pairs of wings instead of one. The first was Armin, of course, and the other… well, there was no mistaking that large pair of rich blueberry wings, adorned with spirals of shining silver. Erwin was visiting.
Eren touched down on the bark, drawing attention from both sets of pale eyes. “Hey Armin.” He turned to the alpha fairy and bowed his head respectfully. “Commander Erwin, it’s a pleasure to see you today.”
“Wow, Eren!” Armin marvelled, his gaze slowly dragging down the brunet’s figure. “You look incredible…” A quiet gasp left his mouth, the sounds coming close to a whimper. He had just drawn his potential mate’s attention to another omega’s beauty.
Erwin was not by any means oblivious to the situation, mostly due to the self-conscious scent the blonde omega had suddenly put out. “I find you the most radiant, Armin.” He said with a charming smile.
Eren thought the alpha was laying it on a bit thick. Perhaps it had something to do with Armin’s change in smell. It had turned sour, the unpleasant scent reminiscent of an overripe orange. In addition to making Eren’s nose scrunch up, it also stirred a strange feeling in his chest. He received a peculiar look from Erwin, no doubt attempting to tell the other omega that his comment hadn’t meant to offend. Eren smiled back, not offended in the slightest. The alpha was certainly very attractive, but he wasn’t interested.
With his courter’s interest reaffirmed, Armin’s scent returned to its uplifting fruity baseline. “Are you ready to go, Eren?” Armin asked sweetly, as if he hadn’t just imagined using his small fangs to tear his best friend’s wings off. It was wrong, he knew, Eren posed no threat to him. Instincts were most likely responsible, wanting to hold the alpha's recently gained attention. The thought left Armin feeling guilty nonetheless. He should do better to control himself.
“Sure,” Eren replied. The two blondes stepped closer to each other, and he turned around to give the pair some privacy to say their farewells. Several seconds passed before Eren’s ears picked up on a quiet purring. He almost blushed just imagining what they might be doing.
Once the alpha managed to tear himself away, Eren and Armin took to the air with a flutter of wings. They were to meet the group in the meadow. The journey took longer than usual due to the lack of wind, forcing them to work harder as they couldn’t catch a current.
Being forced to fly at a low altitude didn’t bother Eren, it meant that he could get a closer look at the world outside their forest. Teal eyes lit up with wonder as they passed over a trickling stream, the crystal-clear water filled with jumping insects and interesting types of plants. Eren hadn’t seen it before, they must be going to a different meadow than the one he frequents.
The landscape eventually changed into fields of glossy green grass, speckled with dots of white and yellow. Eren begun to feel nervous again as he realised they were getting close, but the refreshing dampness in the air and Armin’s presence calmed him. Both sets of ears pricked up at the sound of joyful chatter below, and Eren followed his friend into a swooping descent.
They flapped to hover above the grass, gradually lowering to ensure a smooth touchdown. With both feet planted on solid ground, Eren inspected the patches of daisies and buttercups surrounding him, spotting a group of fairies to his right. It was relieving to see a familiar freckled face among them. Emerald eyes moved to look at the fairy that was calling out to them and flying over, a strawberry blonde with sheer wings of cotton-candy pink.
The newcomer landed in front of them, flittering her pastel wings and smiling brightly. “Hi there! My name is Petra, I’m the omega leading this little outing. It’s great to meet you.” Her nose flared as she scented the air, taking a step closer with a radiant smile on her face. “Two new omegas, how wonderful! And you’re both so beautiful!” Once she had finished gushing over them, Petra tilted her head to the side. “Come with me, I’ll introduce you to the others.”
Following behind her, Eren recognised yet another face among the group.
“This is Marco, and this lovely little lady is Historia,” Petra said.
This was certainly a surprise, Eren hadn’t known that Historia was an omega as well. “We already know them,” He explained. “We’re all from the same year.” Blue-green wings twitched with excitement, it seemed that Eren already knew several of the other omegas, and Petra was lovely as well. The concerns that the brunet had about fitting in were quickly forgotten, pleased that none of his friends had changed too much after presenting.
A fairy suddenly torpedoed into the meadow, crash-landing straight into a buttercup and writhing around on its limp corpse. They popped up again, completely unscathed but covered in bright yellow pollen. A hand rose to wipe off their pair of shabbily built goggles. “Woo-wee!” They stood up with a squeal, their fluttering orange wings creating a sandstorm of pollen. “We have four new omegas this year? Amazing!”
Armin took a step back and held his arm out to prevent a face-full of flower dust. “Yes… we must’ve been given extra blessings,” He said, cautious of the reckless newcomer.
“Oh sweetie, I don’t think so!” The orange-winged fairy held up a finger, planning to educate the young omega. “It’s all down to random chance and family history. Got lucky, is all.”
The statement made Armin frown. Eren wasn’t sure about all that, but he respected his friend’s right to believe whatever he wanted to. Shifting closer to the blonde, Eren whispered near his ear. “Don’t listen to them, we were totally blessed by the forest.”
Now that the air was no longer polluted with pollen, Eren could detect a smell that he hadn’t expected to encounter here. It made sense, that strange fairy had rather plain wings, a dull burnt orange colour with no notable features besides the odd spot of brown. Eren tilted his head and enquired. “You’re a beta?”
“They are,” Petra said and gestured to the individual in question, who was still dusting the yellow from their clothes. “This is Hange.”
“Correct!” Hange spoke a bit too loudly. The harsh squeal startled a nearby grasshopper, causing it to spring into the air behind them. “I know this is supposed to be an activity for the new omegas, but I just so happen to find it fun. So, I tagged along. And I brought the newest addition to my squad!” They gestured behind them to a fairy sitting in the grass, wings a faded chocolate brown colour. She appeared to be eating something. “This is Sasha. She’s your age too, so I’m sure you already know each other.” Hange hummed thoughtfully as they adjusted the goggles on their face. “She’s the only new beta this year, surprisingly… I usually get three or four.”
“So…” Eren began as his brain reached a shocking conclusion. Sasha’s the only beta from their year, and all the omegas are currently present, which mean… “Jean’s an alpha.”
A huff came from Historia as she folded her arms, lacey beige wings twitching with annoyance. “He certainly has the massive ego of one.”
“Shut up!” Armin shouted and produced that sour stench again, the outburst taking the entire group by surprise. His frosted-glass wings laid flat against his back in aggression, making them look as large as possible with hopes of intimidating. “Not all alphas are like that!”
Petra was quick on her feet, positioning herself between the stroppy blondes and releasing a calming scent. “How about we get started now, hm?”
The routine was fairly simple; taking a twig to a flower and scooping out the pollen within. Hange was adamant that they be careful not to damage the fragile structures, even though they all but crushed a buttercup during their dramatic arrival. It was easier to coax the yellow dust out of the buttercups, as the daisies were flatter on top and had a greater number of petals. Eren still did both in the name of variety.
The sun was much lower when Eren was disturbed from his current flower, a sudden gust of wind blowing away some of the pollen he had collected. The culprit was revealed to be Macro, his reflective silver wings kicking up breeze as he landed nearby. Eren paused to admire him. The colour was really quite stunning, elegant silver shining in the sun. The details were a lighter shade, a metallic grey that was almost white. While Eren appreciated how it looked, he much preferred his bolder viridian and gold. Marco quickly finished with the daisy and took off again, leaving the brunet to continue working on his own flower.
Taking his twig, Eren gently scrapped it against the pollen inside the buttercup, bending the petal to let it slide down into his basket. A scuttering noise caught his attention. Eren turned towards it and found the source to be bumblebee caught on a dead leaf. They were friendly creatures, so long as fairies didn’t hog all the pollen for themselves. Bumblebees were one of Eren’s favourite insects, the sharp contrast of their black strips always fascinated him. He decided to help the poor thing, it only needed a little nudge to make it off the dastardly leaf.
Not wanting to leave his basket unguarded, Eren picked up and started walking towards the ensnared bee. There was nothing to fear from the creature, they were familiar with fairies and never attacked. They are also recognised as important pollinators. This large meadow needed all the bumblebees it could get; their work benefitted everyone.
Getting close to the insect, Eren squeaked in alarm as he started falling, wings going into a panic with the sudden loss of ground. The frantic fluttering wasn’t effective due to the dirt raining down on him, and Eren quickly found himself making impact with a solid surface.
A faint rustling made Eren’s ear twitch as he tuned in to his surroundings. Green eyes opened, then squinted and blinked rapidly as dust attempted to fall into them. Sitting up, he realised that he was in a hole. It was unclear who might’ve created such a dangerous pitfall in the middle of a field, but it was very inconvenient. Eren reached for the basket, but his hand stopped short when he saw that the vessel was destroyed, his hard-earned pollen scattered over the dirt. That’s probably what was floating around in the air.
He climbed to his feet, sneezing twice along the way, and fluttered his wings to shake off the dirt. Thankfully there hadn’t been much on him, just the odd speck here and there. His extensive beauty routine hadn’t been a complete waste and his favourite clothes weren’t ruined.
Using the heel of his boot to push off the dry soil, Eren flapped until he ascended out of the hole and landed on the grass. Another rustling drew his attention; the bumblebee was still trapped in the crisp leaf. Eren made the executive decision to fly over this time, giving the fuzzy creature a firm push on the backside and freeing it from the wilted foliage. With the insect on it’s way home, Eren assessed his surroundings, finding that the sun was getting dangerously low considering the length of the return journey. It was quiet.
Too quiet. The brunet buzzed around in circles as he surveyed the area, confirming his suspicion that everyone else had already gone. Eren felt a whimper trying to claw its way up his throat, feeling rejected and uncared for. They left him behind?
An explanation besides intentional desertion popped into Eren’s head. They must’ve seen that his basket was gone and assumed that he had headed back on his own. The omega huffed in annoyance, even though it was partially his own fault.
No matter. Eren visited the meadow almost every day, and as a result he had the way back memorised perfectly. From the meadow, he always got home by flying east. Turquoise eyes raised skyward, using the sun’s location to figure out the direction. It took a several minutes and he needed to recite his acronym a few times (Never Eat Silly Worms), but eventually he figured it out and took off with a powerful wingbeat.
Warm pinks and reds spread over the clouds and cast a soft glow upon the world. The journey felt longer on the back, Eren was sure that he would’ve reached the forest by now… but he was definitely going east, that much was certain. Perhaps he was flying slower than usual due to exhaustion, he had taken quite the tumble.
Eren’s worry grew as time went on, the rich colours in the sky being steadily replaced by an ominously dark shade of blue. It shouldn’t be taking this long. Even if he was moving slowly, it felt as though he’d been flying for twice as long as it should’ve taken. His wings were aching from the constant effort. Fairies weren’t built for long-distance travel, at least not without regular breaks. What had he done wrong? He was going east, the same as always.
Relief washed over him as he saw tall trees appear in the distance, the promise of home beckoning him closer. The brunet must’ve been flying awfully slow. Peculiar… but it was no longer a concern. He was focused solely on the fact that he was safe now, out of the open before nightfall. Viridian wings flapped faster, propelling him towards the forest as fast as they could manage.
At the treeline, Eren came to a sudden stop.
Wasn’t there a stream?
Yes. There was definitely a stream… but he couldn’t recall going past it again. Eren glanced behind him, eyes studying the darkening landscape for any features he recognised. There was nothing, how can that be?
In theory, it was easy enough to explain. Either he simply wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see the stream, or he had veered off-course and ended up following a slightly different path.
But thinking that didn’t do anything to ease the dreadful feeling prickling at his skin. Regardless, flying anywhere was impossible now that the sun had vanished. The only option is the keep going forward.
Diving into the shadowy forest, Eren struggled to navigate without lanterns lighting the way. With his vision rendered useless, the brunet fell back onto his other senses and begun scenting the air. If this were the correct forest he’d be able to smell his colony by now, but he could not. There wasn’t a single thing about this place that he recognised.
The omega let out a high-pitched chirp, distressed and confused, and took to flying in slow circles as he investigated further. The trees were wrong, he realised. Even with minimal light it was obvious that they were of a different variety, the leaf shape unfamiliar to him. They didn’t seem very healthy either, many branches were bare of greenery and the stale scent of decaying plants lingered in the air.
This is not where Eren was supposed to be.
Night was fully upon him now and being in a forest that blocked out the sky didn’t help the situation. Eren flapped around blindly, eventually managing an awkward landing on what he presumed to be a branch. With panic surging through his body, it took a tremendous amount of willpower to stop himself from collapsing onto the bark and crying.
It smelt him.
It would be okay, he thought. When the sun came up Eren would fly west until he reached the meadow again, and he’d find the way back from there. Hands reaching out into the darkness, he found the tree trunk and settling down against it. It seemed he would be spending the night here.
The colony would be searching for him… Armin would’ve gone to check on him when they arrived home, they would all know that Eren was missing by now. His mother would be crying now, too.
Warm tears escaped and rolled down Eren’s cheek, his body shaking as a string of frightened whimpers and lonely hums started up in the back of his throat. He pulled his knees to his chest, arms wrapping around them, tucking himself into a tight little ball to preserve warmth.
It heard him.
Eren lowered his head to rest it on his knees, closing his eyes and trying to block out the unsettling environment. He usually loved the forest, but now the biome felt far less safe and friendly. With nothing to see, Eren was picking up on every odd smell and rustling leaf, fear of the unknown slowly but surely creeping into his mind.
Sleep would be difficult to achieve, but the brunet was determined to try as it would help time pass. The young fairy had never spent a night alone before, always snuggled up in his hollow with the comforting warmth of family. Eren sniffled and wiped the salty droplets from his face, comforting himself by taking deep breaths of his mother’s scent that still clung to his clothing.
It was watching him.
Still inhaling through his nose, Eren’s blood ran cold at what he detected. There was a repugnant odour in the air; rotting berries and decaying flower petals. It wasn’t the smell itself that was alarming, Eren had picked up on it a while ago and attributed it to decomposing plants. What was frightening, however, is that the source of the sickening stench had moved… closer.
Silencing his whimpers, the brunet froze in place and contemplated whether he should open his eyes. If something was about to jump out of the darkness and chew him up, Eren would prefer not to know about it. On the other hand, his instincts were screaming that he should fight to survive, attempt an escape despite not being able to see properly.
Eren swallowed in trepidation, raising his head up to scan the foliage. With eyes now adjusted from being closed for so long, he could make out the shadowy outlines of nearby trees. That was all he could see with no moonlight breaking through the dense canopy. Full concentration was put into listening, ears focused and alert to detect the faintest of sounds.
A crunch. Eren’s head automatically snapped to the side, it was much closer than he had anticipated. What he found lurking on the branch next to him was enough to make the young omega quiver with fear. A pair of giant blood-red eyes glowing in the darkness, each one nearly the size of his head, staring back at him.
There was no telling what this monster could be. His first thought was a small cat, but there wouldn’t be one up in the tree tops. It must be a bird of some description… a demonic owl?
Eren didn’t want to find out.
The brunet carefully got to his feet, never looking away from the massive pair of eyes that watched him, creepy in the way they were unblinking. How the monster managed to get so close without Eren noticing was a mystery, but it’s proximity would make escape incredibly difficult. Especially if this creature wasn’t blinded by the darkness.
The rotting smell grew more potent. The creature knew it had been spotted.
With his options severely limited, Eren decided that he would jump of the branch and fly for his life until he found somewhere to hide… assuming he doesn’t smack into a tree trunk. Taking a cautious step back, Eren found the edge of the branch. Viridian wings flapped a few times in preparation, silently praying that he was faster than whatever was about to chase him through the perilous forest.
The haunting red eyes edged closer, swaying in the foliage as they shifted towards him. That was the cue to flee.
Eren spread his wings wide, poised to jump, but his body froze when an eerie whisper came from among the leaves.
“Aren’t you just the prettiest thing…”