Thunder crashed, lightning lit the dark night sky with a blinding flash and rain bucketed down from the heavens. A castle burned, surrounded by rallying men yelling over the loud crackling of the fire. A lone woman carrying a baby galloped away in a frantic rush from the fallen castle, trying desperately to evade the men on foot attempting to block the way. Swords were brandished menacingly at her, often scraping painfully at her skin, but her baby remained wrapped tightly in her arms away from harm.
‘Take her down!’ a man commanded from behind her.
More men appeared in front of the charging horse only to be run down or made to dive to save themselves. So it was with immense relief that the towering gate appeared ahead of the woman, signalling that she was almost there. More shouts from behind her and more men appeared ahead of the horse, only metres from the freedom of the gate. More swords flashed, some finding the vulnerable flesh of the woman, some finding naught but air before they were run down and crushed beneath the heavy weight of the horse. And a second later the horse emerged from the gate into the open plain, leaving behind the burning castle. But, the woman had paid dearly for the protection and subsequent safety of her son. She had sustained deep cuts from the many swords she had fended off, allowing crimson blood to ooze forth and stream down the body of the woman.
Her death was now all but certain, for she could already feel the dizzy, sickening effects of loss of blood, which was not helped by the steady fall of rain and frequent clap of thunder. Her son was crying fiercely in his mother’s arms, making her squeeze him closer and cover him even more with the blankets and cloth already wrapped around the babe. And in her mind her destination screamed out, her husband’s words ringing over and over in her head. Get to the forest! The forest, although already looming ahead, was far, maybe too far to ask her already tired horse to go. Her son’s life was her motivator, adding even more to her iron will.
The horse at least managed most of the journey, but only a few hundred metres from the forest it stopped in complete exhaustion and collapsed in soggy mud, forcing the woman to go ahead on foot, braving the dark, wind and rain, all in an attempt to save her son’s life before it had really even begun.
It was now that she doubted herself. The forest would surely defeat her with its never ending avenues of trees and its massive landmass. Upon entering in the forest and plunging into an even deeper darkness, she encountered fairies. These balls of light with wings fluttered around her whispering comfort and reassurance that sanctuary was not far. With her vision now so blurry as to almost see nothing, she stumbled into a glade, home to a towering tree with its bark arranged to show something of a face. Here, with her last breath, she sighed her relief, collapsing onto the damp but strangely comfortable growth at the foot of the tree and letting her baby boy roll free from her arms, now not crying.