Your day began early.
Waking up, you quietly slipped out of bed and stripped off your nightclothes. The fireplace was close, and you didn’t feel as cold as the soles of your feet. Pulling out a pair of trousers and a shirt from your drawer while unable to see in the darkness, you fidgeted around until you found all the holes to stick your limbs through, quietly as to not wake someone else in the room. Wool socks and a pullover on your body, you felt like you could even resist the worst cold there was in winter. Without bothering to look into the mirror, you braided and tugged your hair into place, making it suitable for the adventure that you were about to partake.
Quietly you went over to your mom who was peacefully sleeping in her bed and kissed her cheek. She sighed in her dreams, patting your arm before turning around to catch up on some more minutes before your siblings would wake up too, an event you wouldn’t be attending today. What she would think about what you were about to do? Would she scold you, or would she be proud? Well, you weren’t going to linger to find out, so much was sure.
Excited, you fastened your belt, slung your old, leather bag over your shoulders and reached for the warm cloak that hung on a hook. You were hoping it would keep you alive in the mist and sunless country around your village later. Hoping, it would help to defend you if something were to go wrong.
As quietly as you could, you went down the stairs, the wood creaking mercilessly under your feet, into the kitchen. Filling a glass with water from the day prior, you quickly downed it before opening up the clay vessel that kept the bread soft in it. One bite for now, a quarter loaf for later. You checked that there was still enough bread inside for the others when they woke up, but luck was yours on that day, so you put your portion of bread into your bag and coated yourself in the warm cloak, by pulling it around your shoulders.
The wooden door let out a squeak when you opened it, so you only managed a gap, hurriedly squeezing through as you feared to wake someone up, and closing it behind you. Almost immediately you were hit by the shivering cold that seemed to envelop you, downright capturing you in its windy palm. But you were used to it, and though you shivered at first, pulling up the cloak to your chin and tightening it helped with the gusts of wind that seemed to pick up now that you had left your save and warm home.
Under you, the still cold and hard ground made thumping sounds, when you stepped on it, but you doubted that anyone would hear. And even if, you would be gone long before they would get out of their comfortable beds anyway. You knew your ways around the village as good as the back of your hand. Which, in hindsight, wasn’t that big of an achievement as you had spent all your life in it after all.
Every house was as familiar as your own, and you still remembered all those times in your childhood that you village-children had spent running around in- and outside of them. Even if you remembered those times fondly, after thinking them over and over for years, they weren’t the best for you after all. You had always been the odd one out of the bunch and to say that hadn’t left an impression on you by now was a blunt lie.
But at least, it gave you the advantage of knowing your way around. You knew which dog owner to avoid so you’d not have to face a yapping snout that very morning, and you knew which garden you could cross to skip taking the long walk around someone’s home. It had no effect aside from making it a little easier to get out of the village.
To go out of the village… you had never.
Thought about it, sure. But from the moment you were born, you had been told to not stray away. To not leave. To not enter the forest. No, you didn’t even know what laid beyond the tall, green trees that surrounded the valley where your village was located. Should you have been mad or frustrated? Who knew, but it was too normal for you to complain. Yet, here you were, sneaking by the guard at the village gates, who was snoring lightly with his eyes closed. You weren’t going to wake him for sure.
Wasn’t sneaking out and doing something forbidden typically done in the early stages of life? When the children were still naive and challenging rules? The thought lingered in your mind for a while as you followed the mud path that slowly, but surely lead you up the hill towards the forest. Maybe, if you had had friends to do that with, you would have explored it much sooner. Then your heart would have had no reason to jump so loudly in your chest.
Or maybe it was just the fear of breaking the rules. Excitement and adrenaline aside, you had always obeyed to what the elders told you. ‘Do not question our words’ was as holy of a sentence to your people as was wine to the guards. And for so long, you had followed this religiously. Who were you to disobey anyway? Just a youngster on the run to find some meaning in your life after all.
But there were times in life when you had come to realize that enough was enough. There were other things bothering you more than that you had no partner in marriage yet. Or that you weren’t as popular in the village as many others who excelled in things like farming horseradish. Or sewing. Or making firewood. You believed there were more important things out there than that or the fact that your father had left your family behind to find his luck in the world.
Standing outside the forest, you took a few deep breaths, looking back down at the sleepy village. The usual misty gray fog hung heavy over the houses, though you made out the first few lights in the windows as the town seemed to awake. Who would have thought that it was so hard to climb a hill? And who would have known that the old, rustical village could actually look nice from so high up? No matter how much you despised some parts of your life in the town, it almost looked pretty. If not secluded and lonely at the same time.
Slowly, you felt yourself come back to breath, lungs filling with air as well as determination.
You couldn’t have known what awaited you in the depths of the forest. And even if you had a goal in mind that you wanted to achieve, you could not know about if you’d succeed or not. But instead of pretending like everything was alright, and the village would surely be okay like some of your elders, you felt the need to do something. To actually act, even if it was on the whim of a feeling in your stomach.
There was a threat looming over the misty town you called your home, and if no one was willing to take it seriously, then you had to take that burden.
No matter what lured behind the gray fog.