Erwin Smith bolted through the line of saplings, eyes wild.
He was lost. Very lost. And lost was as good as dead in Titan country.
But how had he gotten lost to begin with?
As he picked through the fallen branches and itchy foliage, he began to reflect on his series of mistakes. He had been rearing the left flank in the formation, holding a position behind the new recruits, whom he hoped hadn’t come to rely on him unnecessarily. This was his first mistake. As they galloped through the forest, the sky darkened, and the sounds of wildlife quieted. Erwin noted that the air held a twinge of uncertainty and that a gamble would have to be made soon, but at the back, he had the advantage. He could turn around and head back to the wall with little to no issue. But if someone was coming from behind, he would be the first to engage the enemy. The odds of this possibility were slim, he knew, so he took the back. It would appear to be a coward's position to the untrained Scout, but to him, it remained the best place. That was his second mistake. The original plan was to re-emerge from the forest and cut down the Titan horde from both sides. It was a simple flank, nothing too complicated, and finding himself at the back, Erwin relaxed into his saddle.
In the split second between his relaxation into the saddle and the hooves of his horse hitting the ground, lightning struck. The flash blinded both man and horse, who proceeded to throw Erwin off the saddle and onto the barely-there grass. Pain shot up his spine and rested at the base of his skull, causing another flash of white to disrupt his vision. Groaning as he stood slowly with stars dancing in his line of sight, he thought about running to retrieve his horse. But the utter silence of the forest startled him enough to cause him to forget about the horse altogether. No sounds reached him, not even the sound of falling Titans or battles ensuing just beyond the tree line. The still air and unmistakable sound of silence enveloped him and he looked about, panicked. Breaking off into the forest in a mad dash, Erwin knew sooner or later a Titan would appear and he, a simple Scout, would find himself in the mouth of the hungry fellow. "This can't be happening, this can't be happening..." He repeated, breath ragged. But it was. Fear clutched his legs, and each step pushed at the wall-like block that never moved. Slowly, his pace decreased as tiredness settled into his shins, as well as his coordination. He found himself on the ground again, this time on his front. He could just hear Levi in his ears, chastising him on his clumsiness and inability to "get it together". Everything in him screamed to just give up as he laid there, his eyes slowly closing. It was then that he heard it. A voice. It was soft, but it was voice nonetheless. Opening one eye, he scanned the perimeter and noticed nothing. Opening the other eye provided him with the vision he sought.
Leaning against a tall cedar, someone in a black velvet cloak spoke softly, gently crossing and recrossing themselves like the church-goers. Erwin laid on the ground for a second more before calmly rising to his feet. Abruptly, the cloaked person turned their head in his direction and met his gaze with deep hazel eyes. Long eyelashes batted twice before their gaze hardened, and Erwin's throat seized up in fear. He didn't know what to say to the person, whether they were friend or foe, or if he had chanced upon a person innocently going about their lives in the forest. Two umber hands slipped up to remove the hood from their face, and Erwin's already-stuck breath caught again, this time from astonishment. Chestnut curls tumbled down to frame the woman's face, revealing a much softer expression, almost as if she were the goddess of eternal maidenhood. "Don't come any closer." Erwin had no plans to approach the dark-skinned foreigner, amazed and fearful of this person's very existence.
"W-what are you doing here?" He hated that his voice quaked as he spoke to the woman, eyes never leaving her face. Why did he sound weak in front of her? Was it because she entirely a different being altogether? Or was it because her pose reminded her of a painting of another eternal maiden looking to the sky? Remembering the name of the painting now seemed foolish, so he attempted to repeat his question, only to have her speak over his own thoughts.
"What are you doing here?" She echoed, drawing herself up out of her kneeling position and to her full height. She stood a head shorter than he, but made up for the height in regal stature. She stood proudly, shoulders tossed back, eyes focused solely on him and unwavering, but calm. His mouth dried up, and he forgot her question. The Eternal Maiden put her hands on her hips as she fully faced him, a wholly unmaiden-ly position to assume. "Answer me, Erwin of the Smith family. What are you doing in the Garden of my people." Gaping, Erwin prattled,
"I... my horse - I was riding my horse - it threw me off - Titans - I..." The more he babbled, the deeper her frown grew. Finally, he managed a full sentence.
"A light blinded my horse and I." Three blinks in succession brought Erwin realise to two conclusions: One, whatever she was going to say next would be the absolute truth. Two, he wasn't meant to see the light or even be in the place where she was. The reason why she was here had nothing to do with Titans or even the Scouts.
"I am truly sorry." She whispered, ears turning a deep pink. She dipped her head low in a half-bow, but he waved it away.
"No, it's fine, I- wait, you caused that light?" Bewilderment danced across his features but there was no answer from the maiden as she pulled her hood back on. Instead, she put her fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly, exposing her plain indigo dress.
Indigo...the color of royal breeds. His thoughts wandered to the mystery of this woman, touching upon the fact that she was in the middle of nowhere , looking to be of royal birth, with no guard, no weapons, nothing. They waited for what seemed like an eternity in silence before his horse reappeared from the left side of the forest, stopping and resting at his side. With this final deed done, the woman turned to leave Erwin and disappear into the forest.
"Wait, what's your name?" He shouted after her, and at this, she turned slightly to face him, yet again.
"Alita." She murmured and faced the other way again before taking off in a dead sprint. Another burst of light appeared, and Erwin shielded his eyes. When he looked back, she was long gone.
That evening, as he rolled his sheets back, Erwin looked at the dark, empty sky. No stars. Not even a faint twinkling dared to expose itself as he thought of Alita, the Eternal Maiden.