Wildflower Crown was a long time in the making. I was fascinated by the thought of someone growing up in the wild and then trying to adapt to normal life. It’d been done before, but typically with men. When someone on an old writing site I used to use gave the prompt, “Someone must defend their home,” Wild was born.
Here is that piece. Literally nothing you read from this will be in the actual book, but I think it’s a nice standalone piece and it’s interesting (to me, at least) how this came to be Wildflower Crown.
As an infant, I was left in a field to die. It was a justified decision of behalf of the farmer who left me there for he was no kin of mine; he had no ties to me. I was a halfing, part forest folk and part human. My parents must have each come from another world, my existence stemming from their union. As I was not fully Other, I could not live among the creatures of the forest, the eldritch presences that lurk and lure travelers to their doom. Nor, as not fully human, could I live among the people, in a small farm or in the poorer districts of a crowded city.
I was caught between the worlds, never to live comfortably in either. My parents, not caring about my fate, left me on the old farmer’s doorstep. He heard my cries, took a look at my glistening hair and unnaturally colored eyes, and left me in the barren hills for the wolves to devour.
Any human child would have died from either the elements or the predators in the area. Being half Other, I survived. The wolves did not make a meal of me. They talked to me. Animals lived between the human world and the world of the Others; that made us one of the same. Therefore, they took me in, fed me in their den, raised me until I was fit to live on my own. I could talk to them, of course, not in words, but through our minds, using a power bestowed upon us by something greater than ourselves. I made friends with the wolves, as much as one can befriend wild beasts, but as all pups are pushed from the den and into the wild, I left them behind for a life of my own.
I wandered, for a time, until I found the perfect home for myself. A vast field that stretched as far as the eye could see. Flowers in the spring time, little bugs of light in the summer. In the fall the grass would turn yellow and the animals I lived with deserted me, and in the winter I was alone with the snow, moving around frequently to keep myself warm and find food.
I sometimes missed the gray-furred companions of my youth, but as I grew to maturity I learned to live alone and be content. I took enjoyment from weaving flowers into my hair, from watching the sun sink below the horizon. My favorite thing to do was to lay in my bed of grass and look up at the stars, to mark their place and find strange symbols and shapes in the vast sky. Many times I tried counting the stars, but never could I stay awake long enough to manage it.
One day, humans came.
They weren’t the solitary traveler on horseback, nor the small groups that sometimes traveled along the trail at the very edge of my domain. For it was my domain. The animals respected that, we shared, but I had claims to the territory. The humans did not know this. They came and set up camps, little white bumps scattered across the edge of the field. Fires were made, scorching the grass and the newly bloomed flowers of the spring.
They were not like the humans who had left me to my death, the ones who barely remained as a glimmer in my memory. These were not farmers, or traders, or any such men. They were warriors in full amour, the metal reflecting the glare of the sun. A large red flag, one that bore a strange symbol that I couldn’t understand, was tied to a pole and stuck into the ground so that it could fly above the camp. The men all carried weapons with them, swords on their hips and knives in their boots. The largest men had axes and hammers, and those of slighter frame carried bows and arrows.
At first, I let them be. I assumed that, like the others, they would soon move on. This was not the case. The sun rose and fell several times and still they were there. As I had been very careful to keep my distance, I hadn’t noticed the occasional small parties of men scouting around the field, around the center of my territory, where the grass rose up in a gentle hill. From there, the entire field could be seen– if you had very keen eyes– from the forest border on three of the sides, barely smudges of gray against the line between the sky and the earth, to the vast lake that bordered the meadow on the forth side, the side where the humans were camping, where their trail passed by.
After these first few journeys to the hill, the men stuck to their camp for some time. Half the men rode away on horses, and the other half stayed in their little camp. The moon grew to full size and started shrinking again. I did not know what the men planned, but I let them have their corner of my field for the time being. They hunted and fished, but there was enough for both of us to share. They continued their fires and their strange behavior– they fought amongst each other by day but laughed together by night, singing slurring songs in a language that I could not understand– so I simply avoided them in the hopes that they would go away in their own time.
It was not to be.
While spring was threatening to turn to summer– the great rains abating some and air staying warm at night– more men came. They could have been the men who’d left, or new men, it mattered not, for with them they brought oxen dragging carts filled with great blocks of stone. Men who were not warriors came, men who all wielded saws and axes and bulging muscles along their arms. Not a day had passed before these men began attacking the forest savagely, falling trees for no discernable purpose. It confused me, but the forest was not mine to defend. So long as their fires did not sweep away the grass that made my bed at night, made my clothes in the summer, made my shade in the sun, I had no quarrel with them.
However, the next few days brought the men’s intention to light. They started visiting the hill again, in larger groups now, and while I was looking the other way they broke ground with large spades, tearing the grass out and digging deep into the earth. The goal of these men– or so the animals told me, for some of them had seen such things before, the birds especially, and all were more knowledgeable of the humans than myself– was to build a dwelling place. By the look of them, an old eagle informed me, they were making a fort, a center for war. The men were not of this place, but of a different kingdom, and they were here to claim the territory as their own.
This, of course, was not to be done. This was my territory; no human could lay claim to it. It was then that I started planning my attack, thinking of a way to drive these intruders from my land.
It was during the night that I started. I had learned to hunt from the wolves, and had honed the act to my particular skills. I had not the teeth nor the claws of a predator, so I had to make my own weapons. These were not the gleaming metal things of the strange men, but simple things. I had a sharpened spear I’d worked with a rock to make it so that it could easily be driven through the flesh of an animal. I had a row of reeds tied together with small vines from the forest that small darts could be shot from– tipped with the poison of a fatal mushroom that would fall a stag and see him to the next world in but a few minutes. Lastly, I had my traps– the little holes that I could dig, the bottom covered with spikes and the top covered with a superficial layer of long grass, and the clever snares that could catch a rabbit by it’s foot and trap it until I came by to slit its throat– that I slowly, carefully started placing in areas where the men went frequently, from the lakeside where they swam to the putrid pit in the ground that was visited often.
I stuck around the camp the first night, closer than I’d ever been before. I’d been watching them, taking note of their patterns. A man, carrying on loudly and swaying on his feet, left a circle of song around a fire to swagger into the tall grass. It seemed that the men didn’t always need their special hole in the ground, and as the man started to relieve himself I fired two darts into his neck. He slapped at them, confused, but within a few moments he was gasping for air, his face turning blue. He fell to the ground, convulsing, and his mouth began to foam.
The noise of his death attracted attention, and two more men came over to check on him, laughing and talking in the strange tongue that eluded me. I shot three more darts, two that missed and one that hit a man in the arm. He dropped to the ground much like the first, and the third man yelled something to the other men before rushing in my direction with a knife.
He hadn’t seen me, of course, but he’d seen the movement of the grass when I’d taken a shot. I’d already moved by the time he’d reached the place where I’d been, but I was within range to run him through with my spear. When I tried to remove it, it became stuck between his ribs. I had to leave it behind as a much larger group of men rushed in with their weapons, but I was gone before they reached their fallen comrades.
The attack was a success. They’d tried hunting me, after that, but I was a master of my home. I could swiftly run through the grass without being seen or heard. I knew every hiding place in the entirety of the vast meadow, from every burrow to every briar bush. I ensured that my clothes blended in with my surroundings, though I seldom hunted other than at night.
The men became wary, but not enough to avoid my traps. In the first few days, many fell to them, to the snares set by the forest and the pit falls by the lake. I myself took out many more men, for they moved in groups of three and four. I took as many as I could out with my darts, then I crept in and struck with my spear– sometimes having to leave it behind, sometimes taking it stained with the blood of my enemy. It wasn’t long before a third of the men were gone. After that, hunting was much harder.
I did not understand a single word the men said, but I could tell that they were getting frantic. They continued building their fort– though they kept a much bigger guard than before– until the night when I killed six men and put them in a pile in the center of the site, with my spear run through all of them. They stopped their digging, then, and at odds with how to avoid my snares, they stopped the falling of the trees. They did not leave their now heavily guarded camp, and when they did, it was with groups of ten men or more. Two dozen or more men fled away on horseback the next day.
It seemed, for a period, that I had won.
Then, as the summer reached its peak, it was apparent that the battle had just begun.
The men on horseback returned. With them they brought more warriors, and new men as well. These men were not the men with axes, or any such type, but a strange man wearing a robe and holding a wooden staff. This strange man was young, with curly red hair that made me think of a fox. He was tall yet so slight of frame that the smallest of the archers looked huge in comparison. He, particularly, intrigued me, because while the other men prepared for a hunt and worked on their defenses, he simply stood and watched. Not in a lazy sort of way, but as if he was waiting for something. He looked over the plains, at the sky, in the forest, and into the deep waters of the lake. It was like he was waiting for a sign. I was always careful not to let his assessing eyes catch me, but nevertheless I felt, somehow, that he knew I was there. Of course, all the men knew I was there, for they had lost men to my hunting, but the fox-haired man in particular seemed aware of me. As if he knew what I was, who I was, and was just waiting for me to show myself.
The next full moon after the arrival of the strange men brought a new surprise. The small army of men lined up in a great line, all armed with new weapons– a strange staff with a strip of metal on the end that had been shaped like a crescent moon– and blazing torches. A few men were spaced further apart behind the larger line, and they were armed with swords and the other weapon’s I’d grow used to. They also had dogs– dogs that I’d never taken note of before, who were not destined to be my friend as the wolves had been– and they slowly spanned across the width of the plains. I watched them in confusion, waiting for an explanation, and I received one when the men started advancing forward.
It was horrid. With their strange new weapons, they were cutting down the grass, killing the beauty of it, destroying my home. I didn’t realize it at first, for I was a distance away, but as they advanced I saw their purpose. I let a cry forth that was filled with such anguish that I had never felt before. The men looked up in fear, and the dogs howled in response. Quickly, I rushed forward, aiming for the end of the line. I came from behind– they weren’t cutting all the grass, just patches of it to ensure that I could never hunt as I once did– and took six men out with my darts in the blink of an eye. Two men I took out with my spear.
They quickly noticed me, for there was no hiding now. There were too many men to battle, and though they were not my best weapon, I was soon fighting with my hands, my claws, my teeth, kicking out and fighting the best I could. An arrow found its way into my leg. Crying out in pain, I was distracted, and they managed to bind me. As a torch came near my face, the men let out a surprised oath. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but their purpose had been achieved. I expected my death to come quickly, whether they let me die instantly or made me suffer was yet to be seen, but it seemed as if my appearance had startled the men.
The fox-haired man approached. He had no weapons save his staff. I hissed and growled at him, like an animal, but his face– cast dramatically in the moonlight– showed nothing but a grave expression. He said something I couldn’t understand, and the grip of the men holding me loosened for a brief moment. Ignoring the pain in my leg, I lashed out furiously at the fox-haired man, hoping still to be able to escape.
In less time than it took me to blink, the man brought his staff around the hit me across the back of my head. I felt my knees buckle, then everything went black.
So, yeah, I don’t really write like that anymore. I like the style but it’s harder to do when it’s more than narration and it would come off as very purple prose if I wrote like that for a whole novel. I got to 17k of this story before it went into my “unfinished” pile. I actually hadn’t realized that I wrote that much, so I’ll be reading the rest now. I recall a certain mention of “prophecies” and all of the girls could turn into whatever animals most reflected their element. Should be amusing. :p
Like I said, literally none of this will be in the actual book, but if you enjoyed that I should be posting a sneak peek of Wildflower Crown in a week or two.