Elydrie’s eyes opened slowly. She did not attempt to rise; her head was throbbing. She stared up at the canopy of green above her head. The sun was high in the sky, but the leaves filtered the light, and the wind and shade kept the forest cool. A single bird’s song echoed on the wind. The beauty of the forest made Elydrie smile, but only briefly. What drove away her peace was realizing that she didn’t know where she was or how she had gotten there. She could not remember where she had been last. In fact, she could not recall a single memory.
Elydrie carefully rose and began to stretch her stiff muscles. Her fist was clenched, and when she opened it, a single, crushed, white forget-me-not fell to the ground. She bent to pick it up. It was such a small, insignificant thing, but Elydrie was mesmerized by its simplicity and mystery. She felt as though there was a reason it was in her hand, but no memories came. The soft, bent pedals were simply there, tied to the past, but not in a way Elydrie could understand.
She put the flower in her pocket and looked around. There was no way to tell where she was; all she could see were trees. But there was no sense in staying here, so Elydrie picked a direction and started walking. Luckily the ground was covered in pine needles, so there wasn’t much undergrowth pushing through. It was a very pleasant day, and the forest was peaceful and lovely. But it was difficult for Elydrie to enjoy when she had so much on her mind—or so little. And even more pressing was the fact that she was in the middle of nowhere with no idea how far civilization was. Elydrie suddenly became aware of the intense stillness that had hushed the forest. It felt oppressive, like something was just waiting to go wrong.
Suddenly Elydrie was tackled to the ground as an arrow whizzed above her head, right where she had just been. Shouts filled the forest as men with swords and bows appeared out of nowhere. As the battle ensued, the man who had tackled Elydrie grabbed her hand and dragged her away from the center of the battle.
“What are you doing here?” he shouted over the commotion. “You shouldn’t be here unarmed! Run! Head to the village and don’t stop until you get there.” He pointed presumably in the direction of the village, and suddenly fell to the ground, and arrow protruding from his back. Elydrie turned whited. She turned and ran.
Shay pulled a loaf of bread out of the oven. It smelled perfect. It had been a fairly busy day at the bakery, but it had been enjoyable. Plenty of her favorite customers had stopped to chat, and her spirits were lifted by them. It was a gorgeous afternoon.
Suddenly Shay heard a knock on the front door of her house, which was connected to the bakery. Shay set the bread on the counter, went back into her house, and opened the front door. A young woman, no more than eighteen or so, stood before her. She was breathing heavily, and her face was red with exhaustion. She looked dehydrated and underfed. Her arms were covered in tiny cuts, and a couple of twigs were caught in her hair. She was leaned up against the frame of the door, and she managed to breathe out the word “help” before she collapsed helpless on the porch.
Elydrie slowly opened her eyes, disoriented and confused. She was laying on a couch in a cozy, cheery house that smelled strongly of fresh bread. Elydrie’s stomach growled. She sat up slowly, her head throbbing. Two small children, a boy and his younger sister, sat playing in the corner on the other side of the room. They stopped as they saw Elydrie sat up.
“Mommy, the lady woke up!” The boy shouted. After a moment, a woman walked into the room. She looked very motherly and caring, glowing like the warmth of a fire on a cold winter’s night.
“I’m glad to see you’re awake, you gave us quite the scare! You stay in bed, I’ll get you some water and some bread, you look famished.” And she left again before Elydrie had time to say thank you. She returned a moment later with food and drink, and Elydrie scarfed it down. She had no idea when she had last eaten, and the bread was fresh and warm.
“Thank you,” Elydrie said. “That was amazing.”
“Of course! I’m happy to help,” Shay replied. She ushered the kids outside and then sat down to talk.
“Now, if you don’t mind me asking now that you’re rested and fed, what happened to you?”
“I don’t really know what to say, it’s been quite the day,” Elydrie replied with a half-hearted laugh.
“I guess we should probably start with introductions,” Shay said. “I’m Shayen Locke. You can call me Shay. What’s your name?”
Elydrie stayed silent for a moment. Did she have a last name? Nothing came to mind…
“I guess just Elydrie…” she said to a confused Shay. “I truthfully can’t remember anything… I woke up in the middle of the woods with no memory at all. I’m feeling very lost.”
“Oh, that must be awful,” Shay said, looking on with concern. “How long were you out there in the woods?”
“Just a few hours, but I guess maybe I could’ve been there before I forgot everything… so I guess I don’t know. I was wandering around and I ran into the middle of some kind of battle. Or maybe I started it, I’m not sure what happened. But I don’t think I would’ve made it here if one of the men hadn’t pointed me towards the Village, before he…” Elydrie stopped, swallowing the lump in her throat.
“A troop came back last night with one dead,” Shay said quietly. “Attacked by bandits. I’m guessing that’s what you ran into.”
Elydrie nodded, trying to numb her feelings. It was her fault he was dead, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak. Had that man been one of Shay’s friends? Did he have a family here in the Village? Elydrie tried to push the thoughts from her mind as she cleared her throat.
“Anyway, he told me it wasn’t safe, told me to run, so I ran here. I was too scared to stop, I wanted to find somewhere safe to stop, but I guess I probably should’ve stopped before I did. I beat myself up pretty bad.” Elydrie examined the scrapes on her arms and hands.
“I’m glad you made it to the Village before you passed out. That could have ended pretty poorly.”
“Well, I’ve got some bread in the oven I need to take care of, but please, let me know if you need anything,” Shay said, standing up to leave.
“That’s alright, I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” Elydrie said, standing up to leave, but as she rose, black spots filled her vision and her legs gave out, dumping her back onto the couch.
“Oh no, absolutely not,” Shay said. “You’re staying right there until you’re feeling better.” Elydrie reluctantly agreed. “Actually,” Shay said, her eyes softening. “You don’t have anywhere to go, do you. Stay with me until we can find a place for you. My home is your home.”
Elydrie’s heart filled with gratitude. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you very much.”
Shay nodded and left the room to check on her bread. Elydrie took the crumpled forget-me-not out of her pocket and examined it. What an ironic name for the flower she was left with. She held it close to her heart, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. The flower smelled like something far away and distant. It made her sad. But the smell of bread felt close and warm. It felt good. It smelled like home.