The dirt of the forest floor stuck to the bottom of her feet as she ran. Trees rushed past her with outstretched branches, clawing at her torn dress like the hands of those who were after her. She could hear their shouting, could almost smell the fire. The people pursuing her wouldn’t give up their search until they found her and had her punished for the crime she was wrongfully accused of. There was nothing left for her in that town, only death. She had been running for what felt like hours, trying to escape. There was a break in the trees ahead, and she rushed to it eagerly. As she burst from the cover of the trees into the small clearing she could hear the yelling diminish slightly. They had run in another direction.
Rey’s ragged breath suddenly sounded too loud, too high. She covered her mouth with a shaky hand in an attempt to slow her harsh breathing, as if the very trees would betray her and whisper her position to those who chased her. She wouldn’t be surprised if they did. But as she glanced around to take a look at her surroundings she saw the fires from the torches dimming, the shadows within the trees finally calming. She removed the hand from her face and allowed her breathing to slow. A sigh of relief escaped her and she swallowed nervously, the exhaustion finally catching up to her.
And then a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, muffling the sudden scream that escaped her as she was dragged backwards into the treeline.
“Rey, you know that makes no sense!” Finn shouted, brown eyes shining with mirth. “You know as well as I do that there are no faeries in the forest!” They had been talking about the strange occurrences in the woods surrounding their small village as they walked to the well in the center of town. Clothes were going missing then turning up later with tiny holes riddling the edges. Rey jokingly insisted that faeries were the source of the missing socks and half-chewed tunic hems.
“That sounds like something a faery spy would say,” she whispered conspiratorially, holding a hand over the side of her mouth and leaning close to her friend’s dark cheek. She eyed the townspeople with mock suspicion, but they paid her no mind. They all knew she was a bit strange. “If you were a faery, I wouldn't tell. I’d even pay you in dewdrops and pretty golden things to find my parents.” Finn’s light hearted attitude immediately sobered at her words. Her voice shook at the word ‘parents’ and he went on damage control, grabbing her arms and stopping them where they stood.
“Rey…” He saw the telltale darkening of her eyes, the shadowed brow and pursed lips that meant she was on the verge of another episode. These weren’t like panic attacks or hysterical outbreaks. She would shut herself off during them, only maintaining the bare essential functions for survival. But Rey wouldn’t speak to anyone during said episodes. She was silent and watchful at the edge of the village, waiting for the day that would never come. The day that her parents would return.
Everyone knew of her as the village charity case. She was found as a small toddler wandering the roads, crying and screaming for her mother with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small bit of gold clasped in her tiny fist. After she was brought back to the town by a kindly trader the shining thing she held onto so tightly was revealed to be a ring. Said ring was clearly valuable with an amethyst set into its face. One of the town elders attempted to take it from her as some form of payment to allow her to live there, but the small child kicked and fought so ferociously that no one could even get near the thing. A family decided to take her in, the matronly mother finding something that needed protection in little Rey. Maz already had two children of her own, but with no one else willing to take the babe she took it upon herself to raise her.
As she grew from a child into a young woman, Maz saw that there was something in her. Something that made her strong and unbendable. That something kept her alive during the rough times, made her perform tasks to help the village and stand vigilantly at the edge of town. The others didn’t like it, thought it was a sign of her being a changeling and therefore dangerous to their way of life. But Maz claimed that the only way a changeling would ever get into their little community was by the faeries stealing an already healthy baby and exchanging it with one of their children. Rey was much too old by this point to be disputed as an actual fae child.
But this was the present, not the far-off past.
“It’s alright, Finn. You don’t need to worry so much,” she murmured, eyes far away and misty. “They’re coming back. I know they are. All I need to do is stay here and wait for them,” her hand trailed to the front of her bodice where the chain to her necklace rested. The chain was threaded through the ring from her childhood, with the amethyst resting between her collarbones. “They will come back for me.”
“Of course they will, Rey.” Finn had learned at this point to agree with her whenever she got like this, knowing that disagreement would lead to an angry Rey. And he didn’t want to see an angry Rey. Not again. “Did you need help with the water?” he asked as they approached the well; Rey lowered the bucket and shook her head.
“No. I can do it on my own,” she said as the splash of the bucket hitting the water resounded. Thus began the process of pulling up the bucket from the depths of the well. She planted her feet and strained her arms against the weight. “I’m going to make stew later for Maz and the family, you’re welcome to come over if you’d like.” She gave the rope a mighty tug and lifted the bucket out of the well, holding it by the handle and soaking the front of her dress as it toppled to the side slightly.
“I’d love to,” he replied, smiling lopsidedly and looking off into the distance in the direction of his home. “I’d better get going and tell Poe that I’m coming over. You know how he gets when I’m not home on time.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. Rey began walking with the bucket, it severely slowing her progress down the road. “You sure you don’t need help? I can at least get it home for you.” He knew she would refuse help; that’s just how Rey was. But that didn’t stop him from offering. She shot a glare over her shoulder at him before freezing in her tracks. Her gaze flicked to the side, just over his shoulder. Her eyes widened and her brow furrowed at the sight before her. Finn turned around to look at whatever had caught her attention.
A man was approaching on a horse. The mount was enormous, hooves pounding the ground with every slow step forward. He was cloaked in black from head to toe and had a hood over his shadowed eyes. His body swayed in time with the steps of the horse below him, leisurely but with a quiet strength that was nearly overpowering. The man was a vision of death itself; he moved ever onwards and ignored the incredulous stares of the townsfolk. Rey stood ram-rock straight as his gaze shifted over to her. It felt as if ice was shooting down her back.
Something was wrong about him. Something was terribly dangerous. He looked away from her and the feeling vanished as he stopped in front of a modest fence, dismounting and tying the reins of the great beast to a post. The horse dwarfed the fence in comparison, as did the man next to it.
He turned with a short glare to those who stared, stalking into the small shop. Once he disappeared into the building was when the whispers started. The people began murmuring amongst themselves at who this stranger was, who could he be to intrude on their private way of life. Words like ‘death’ and ‘demon’ were bandied about like sweets between the superstitious folk. They were scared of the man, but not scared enough to avoid talking about him in hushed whispers.
Finn looked back to see Rey’s grip tightening on the bucket. Her lips pursed and she took a deep breath through her nose. Her left eyebrow was twitching, and Finn scrambled to get over to her before she shouted out:
“Watch it!” She set the bucket on the ground and whirled to face her fellow villagers. “This is how you treat a traveler? He’s a wanderer, obviously. This man won’t even be here for long and already you’re whispering amongst yourselves that he might be a demon.” She huffed and crossed her arms at their indignant expressions. Finn flinched at the looks they were getting. Armitage in particular was glaring quite venomously from behind his bright red hair. He had never liked Rey, ever since they were all children. “I don’t like the look of him, either. But I’m at least respectful enough to not gossip about someone without their knowing!” She grabbed the bucket and hefted it back up, walking off to her house in order to start on the stew. “I’ll see you at dinner, Finn.” She wouldn’t waste her time anymore with the people here. While they had treated her kindly enough, she knew that she would never truly be welcome. Which is exactly why my parents need to come back and take me away from here.
She’d still visit, of course. The family that had taken her in had been infinitely kind to her, and Finn was a treasured friend. But they weren’t her family. Her family had to be off in some far-off land, trying to reach her with the help of their riches. The ring that had been left to her, doubtless by her mother, was clear evidence to their wealth. They would come back.
The stew was going great, Maz was delighted at Rey cooking with her and volunteered to help out with some of the finer things. Rey wasn’t very good at the preparation and needed the touch of someone experienced. Everything was going well, until it was revealed that one of Maz’s children had taken the herb stash and attempted to feed it to the chickens. After the child was given a stern talking-to, a disgruntled Rey ventured outside into the forest to gather more herbs. She had just went to get some, too.
As she left the comfort of her home, she saw that the sun was setting quickly and that she would have to hurry if she was to be in time for supper. So she rushed off into the forest near the village, remembering where all of the patches of edible plants were and flitting from section to section. She had tied up her dress to above her knees to afford better movement in the underbrush; it wasn’t as if anyone would see her out in the middle of the forest anyways. Not many of the villagers went out into the woods, just her and a few of the hunters or lumberjacks.
Under the cover of the trees, it was dark and cool despite the late spring heat. Rey relished that little bit of chill before summer could come in it’s full swing. Even though she was a hardy young woman, there were still times that the heat would get to her. It’s still nice out, good weather.
She gathered the herbs up from where she had found them last, making sure to leave a few still to grow again. The bundle of thyme and rosemary (among others) was secured safely in the front pocket of the apron that she had taken with her, and she began heading off back in the direction of home. If it already wasn’t so dark, she would have noticed him long before he spoke.
“Odd to be out in the forest this late.”
Rey nearly jumped out of her skin at the voice as she whirled around to locate the source. Her hand clenched around the simple cutting knife she brought with her for the herbs once she caught sight of the abnormally dark spot in the trees. “Relax, girl. I’m not here to harm you. Simply enjoying an evening stroll.” He stepped out of the shadows and her mouth ran dry.
It was the traveler. He looked even more impossibly tall in person, towering over her as he strode forward in her direction. This time as he looked at her, the cold feeling was much more subdued and subtle. The hood he wore was down across his shoulders, and his dark hair shone in the sparse light of the moon. His features stood out almost unnaturally on his pale face, with his large nose and expressive eyes. He was unlike anyone in her village. No matter what he said with that almost effeminate mouth, she still kept a tight grip on the knife. Rey was ready to attempt to defend herself from this man if need be. He noticed her movement, brown eyes flicking down to the blade before he tilted his head. “Quite odd indeed. You are… Different.”
“What do you want?” She asked, keeping her knife slightly hidden by her skirts. Her skin flamed as his gaze drifted to her bare legs for a moment. It was indecent of her to expose herself like that in front of a man, especially a strange man who she’d never even seen before. “Why are you here?”
“I just said why. I’m out on a late night stroll. It does one good to stretch their legs before a journey. I’m leaving within two days and it’s a long ride.” He said, tilting his head down to her and clasping his hands behind his back. “It is good indeed to meet the girl who so valiantly defended my honor yesterday, though I scarcely needed it.” Rey pursed her lips.
He heard that?
“You heard that?”
“Of course I did. I’m sure that half of the village could, with how you were carrying on. I’m surprised you were so loud, for such a small body,” his accent was odd, nothing familiar to her in all of the travelers she had seen pass through before. She was almost tempted to ask where he hailed, but thought better of it in the last minute. There was something in his voice as well, like he knew something. Something he was keeping hidden. “So, could I know your name then?” He asked, holding out a gloved hand. Rey looked at it as if it were a snake about to bite her. He closed his hand and nodded his head sharply, clicking his teeth as if embarrassed.
Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.
Rey shot a look behind her, thinking that the voice came from over her shoulder. The man tilted his head and leaned to the side as well, following her line of sight.
“I’m Rey.” She murmured, turning her head to the side but still looking at him. “Who are you?”
“Kylo Ren.” The semblance of a smile crossed his lips, as if he wanted to but couldn’t quite get there. “It was good to meet you, Rey.”
He said no more, stalking off past her and deeper into the forest. Rey shook herself in an attempt to rid her body of the chill that had set in.
She should’ve known that one day someone would be out in the forest with her. Should have been more careful with her actions.
But Rey was a young woman with a thirst for something that she couldn’t quite place; a something that always drove her back to the vast forest next to their small village. The next night she went out into the woods, in order to shake the nightmares from her head. As she passed by the general store, she saw the massive horse standing tall and unmoving. It snorted and looked up at her as she walked by, eyes looking almost fathomless in the light of the full moon. A shiver ran down her spine at the sight. The beast could easily crush her head with a single stop of one of its enormous hooves. It was as dangerous as its rider.
Exiting the borders of her small town, Rey thought back to her most recent dreams. Visions of burning fire racing up her limbs were imprinted into her very skull as the thick constriction of something wrapped around her throat cut off her oxygen. She was suffocating. The pain felt real; she saw grey faces swimming in and out of her vision marked by flames. There were dreams before these, disturbing ones that almost seemed real. Like that time she dreamt of an unnamed man sustaining a serious injury by wagon, only for the next day to make her question herself and her own sanity almost. She was walking with Finn when she suddenly had an urge to push him to the side, helping him narrowly escape being trampled by a horse and wagon. These dreams disconcerted her, woke her from fitful sleeps and forced her to leave the house in order to smell the sweet outside air of the forest.
Rey was always more comfortable in the forest than in town. Here, there was no one to judge her; no one to worry about acting towards. Armitage couldn’t bother her here with his harsh words and condescending demeanor. Here she could dance and sing and scream to the very heavens if she wanted. She ran a hand over the rough bark of one of the older trees, feeling the surface crumble and peel away in heavy chunks. One such piece of bark broke off entirely, almost the size of her hand. She hefted it for a moment before snarling and throwing it as far as she could. The piece bounced off another tree and hit the ground with a rustle of leaves.
“I wish I could leave all of this behind. My nightmares, my fears. This damned town in general,” she murmured, thinking back to all of the things that were wrong in her life. The accusations. The disdain. The only things worth saving in the village were Maz with her family, and Finn. Poe was tolerable as well, kind to Rey whenever she visited. “The winding road,” she whispered, taking uneven steps through the bumpy forest floor. “Stretches ever on,” A little louder than before, steps more confident and sure footed. “Through the dark,” A breeze flew through her hair, whipping it across her face and pulling at her skirt. “And into the dawn.”
It was a song that only she knew. Something that surfaced from her memory when she was a child. Rey was certain her mother had sang it to her before they were separated. When times were tough or when she was about to lose all hope, she would sing it to herself in order to be reminded of her parents. What kept her here regardless of her treatment. What little memories she could scrounge up; her mother’s soft hair that smelled of lavender, or her father’s linen shirts. Whenever the nightmares woke Rey from her slumber she would sing softly under her breath to calm herself.
Her song grew louder as her feet quickened upon the dirt. She was running faster, her breath escaping her in rapid pants as her throat struggled to form words. Trees flew past in blurs of brown and green, illuminated by the moonlight. The entire forest seemed to glow before her as soft whorls threaded through the leaves and branches. It was beautiful. A shaky smile crossed her face as she finally stopped in front of the largest tree in the forest, a grand oak tree that stretched impossibly tall. Rey always thought that this tree in particular had a spirit or fae protecting it. No matter what happened to the woods around it, this tree in particular always stood tall, unaffected by humans or any other animals.
“The sun will shine…” she whispered the final part of her song as she gazed up into the vast branches. A warm feeling enveloped her, something that had never happened before. She held up a hand and pressed it to the trunk of the tree, and an emotion passed through her that she had never experienced. Rey couldn’t find a name for it, couldn’t even describe it. But there was a connection with this part of the forest that she felt on a visceral level.
The wind rushed and snapped at her, stinging her skin and blowing too strong for how close it was for summer. It was unnatural.
Branches rustled and leaves shook once she held her hand to the tree, twigs snapping and the very ground seeming to thrum. Her head was alight with the sound of an unknown song that pulsed through her very being. It was in a language that she couldn’t understand, and waves of something crashed over her, like she was being pulled underwater.
A gasp escaped her throat as she tore herself from the tree, cradling her hand close to her chest as if it were burned. If she had turned around in that moment, she would have seen the set of eyes that looked on in fury. If she had simply focused on the world around her in that moment, she would have heard the unknown person creeping his way through the underbrush back to town.
He was going to tell everyone what he saw.
The next night as she slept, quiet footsteps crept into the house. It was a team of three people, led by the young redhead who saw her in the woods the night before. He turned to look at the two behind him, a blonde woman who sternly looked forward, and a man who couldn’t sit still due to the fear caused by the current situation. Armitage sneered at the cowering man. He held up a hand and pointed down to the end of the short hallway.
They followed silently, eager to get this over with as soon as possible. They were to capture the girl, throw her in a cell and prepare the town for an execution. Armitage had told the townsfolk what he had seen in the woods, adding embellishments as he saw fit. Rey had been running through the woods naked, smearing herself with the blood of a dead faun. Rey was prostrate against a tree in what looked like a lover’s embrace; it was an unholy act in order to bring misery upon their small village.
Armitage had told everyone that she had been waiting, biding her time until the moment came to finally destroy them and curse their bloodlines. They all agreed; Rey had always been an odd girl, and what Armitage said only affirmed their belief that she was truly a danger to their homes. As they snuck through the house they could hear the soft breaths of the other members of the family. No doubt the chance of discovery was high. The girl would kick and scream in attempts to break free.
They made it to her humble room, the door creaking as Armitage pushed it open. He winced and tried opening it as slowly and quietly as he could. She was there, asleep in her bed. Her brown hair was down and splayed across her pillow in soft waves, framing her tanned skin. His eyes widened and a crazed smile crossed his lips. Finally, he could oust her and get rid of the girl he so hated.
No matter what he did, she just kept getting back up and snarling at him. He had everyone in the town wrapped around his finger, even that snivelling Finn and the other one who he couldn’t be bothered to remember the name of. Everyone parted ways for Armitage; they knew he was a force to be reckoned with and stayed out of his way. All except for Rey. At first it angered him. How dare she show such defiance to his will! Then it intrigued him. He made frivolous attempts at conversation, pathetic advances upon the girl that he couldn’t break.
But she refused. And so he loathed her.
Now, there was nothing she could do as he clamped a hand over her mouth, his fellows restraining her limbs. Rey’s eyes shot open immediately in surprise as she awoke, and they focused on him in anger. While still weak from sleep, she put up a fierce fight. A sharp pain erupted in his hand as she bit down harshly, breaking the skin and drawing blood. She shook her head from side to side and writhed wildly in their grasp. A well placed kick nearly broke the other man’s nose; he covered his mouth in an attempt to stifle his cry so as to not wake up the rest of the house. Armitage sneered and wrapped a hand around her throat as well, making sure to not accidentally strangle her but instead to restrict her breathing enough to weaken her.
The girl was no match for their combined strength as they wrestled her into submission, then unconsciousness.
Rey blearily opened her eyes to gaze forwards at thick wooden poles. Her hip was pressing into something hard and flat, her face against the scratchy hay. A headache was pounding its way through her skull in the timing of her heartbeat. She groaned and sat up, clutching a hand to the side of her head as a new wave of pain shot through her.
A glance around told her that she was on the edge of town, the vast forest in sight. Rey looked at the ground before her and saw that she was in a wooden box of sorts, with bars encircling her in place. She drew her hand away from her head and grasped the bars before her, feeling the smoothed wood under her grasp. She could see the townsfolk bustling about in her view. Every now and then one would glance over at her and immediately shoot their gaze back to the ground.
Most of them were holding large shafts and boards, carrying them off and out of Rey’s view. She saw Finn walk by solemnly and called out to him:
“Finn! What’s going on? Why am I in here?” He stopped in his tracks for only a moment and put a finger to his lips, looking adamant. She pulled away in surprise. He pointed at the sun discretely before turning and walking off again. Rey sat down with a huff and crossed her arms, looking around the cage.
There has to be a way out of this.
Finn came by later that night, after the rest of the town fell asleep. Rey crawled to the edge of the cage and stuck her hands through the bars, holding his own in a tight grasp. “Finn. What’s happening?” His anguished expression didn’t comfort her one bit.
“Armitage spoke of it today.” Her face darkened at the mention of that horrid man. She remembered what had happened last night and could still almost taste the blood in her mouth. “You’re to be punished… For the crime of witchcraft.” His voice shook on the last word, wavering with emotion.
“What?” Her throat leapt. “Witchcraft? No, that’s impossible. I’ve never–” she stopped abruptly and her face blanched.
The tree. Someone saw what happened with the tree.
Finn watched as realization dawned on her and groaned.
“Please tell me it isn’t true, Rey! I don’t know what I’d do if you were a witch.” She looked down at him and fisted her hands in his tunic. She bit her lip and shook her head.
“No, Finn. I’m not a witch.” A look of relief crossed his face at that, like a burden had been lifted. “You have to help me. How can I get out of here? You won’t let them kill me, I’m innocent!” His eyes widened.
“Of course not! Never!” He nearly shouted, making her jump in surprise. He had always been adamant in his care for her, as they grew up together as the closest of friends. Finn, Poe, and Rey. The three of them always stuck together. But now that would have to change if she were to survive. “Your execution is to be three days from now. I’ll figure something out to help you before then. Poe and I will get you out of here, but you can’t stay. You have to leave.” Her face fell at his explanation. She couldn’t leave! Her parents were still out there, and the only way they could find her would be if she stayed near where they were separated.
“Rey, listen to me. I know exactly what’s going through that mind of yours right now. You don’t want to leave because of your parents,” he muttered, pulling her closer through the bars. “You have to understand, they aren’t looking for a corpse, if they’re looking at all.” She about to shout at him for the insinuation that they weren’t but her shushed her quickly. “Look, they might be looking for you. But it’s been 19 years and there hasn’t even been a sign of them yet. If anything, going out there into the world and looking for them is the best thing you can do at this point.” He extricated his shirt from her clenched hands and took a step back. “I’ll figure something out with Poe.” He turned to leave before leaving her with one last piece of information. “And that traveler still hasn’t left yet. He’s putting everyone on edge with his lurking so it’ll be hard to stay discrete.” Finn began walking off.
Rey almost made mention of her conversation with Kylo about how he said he would have been leaving within the past two days. She decided against it, however. That would just open up an entire can of worms about why he was still here and those odd things he said to her. And Rey wasn’t ready to deal with that on top of her current situation. So she kept her mouth shut as Finn stalked off in the dead of night.
I’m going to get out of here.
Finn was extremely pressed for time to set up for Rey’s escape. He only had two full days to prepare, and while Poe did his best to help out, it was still an awful situation to begin with. He believed Finn when he told him Rey wasn’t a witch, and they were probably the only two in the town who truly believed she was innocent. Even Maz had suspicions of the young woman, though she didn’t believe she should have been accused and sentenced for the crime. Maz believed in the power of rehabilitation; killing the girl would never solve any problems. But no one would listen.
The day before her execution came and went, and Finn snuck out of his house through the village as the sun began to set. The townspeople would be transporting Rey to the lone tree next to the village that night for her hanging and subsequent burning. They were out of time. Finn could even see the crowd of people with their torches making their way to Rey’s cell. He hurried as fast as he could, cutting through pathways and making sure he got to her before the others did.
Rey shot up in notice of him and he held a finger to his lips. She could see the light of the flames drawing ever closer as he pulled out two thin pieces of metal in order to pick the lock. She kept watch of the approaching hoard as he struggled to get the door open.
“Finn, hurry!” she whisper-shouted, fear coloring her words as the sounds of the people chanting and yelling grew louder. He shot back a quiet command to shut up as one of the metal pieces broke. A muffled curse escaped him as he began throwing more weight onto the padlock, hoping to force the weak latch open. Rey looked down at the metal in a panic and time seemed to slow for a moment.
There was a weak point in the metal. She tilted her head to the side and focused her attention on that one piece, about to tell Finn where to put his weight.
Break the lock.
It snapped, the crack in the metal breaking open in a shower of sparks. Finn jumped back in surprise as the door to the cell swung open, Rey jumping out as the world spun around her. He sputtered and pointed at the broken shank, white hot as if immersed in fire. She ignored his incredulous noises and motioned for him to come. She grabbed Finn’s hand and ran with him, narrowly escaping the view of the villagers as they passed around the corner of the buildings.
Their enraged shouts fueled the two people’s escape as they rushed over to Finn’s cottage, eager to get out of there as soon as possible. Houses passed by in a blur, the raising cacophony of angry men and women thrusting them into a panic. His house made it into their view and they ran to it, relieved with the success of the first leg of their journey. Finn opened the door for her and ushered her in before slamming it shut behind him, Poe shoving a cloak and a small pack of rations into her hands.
“Hey, girl.” He smirked, opening his arms for one last hug. She gave him a watery smile and pulled him close, shaking in his embrace as Finn came up and joined them. It was a hug of goodbyes, of the uncertainty of possibly never seeing one another again. Finn and Poe couldn’t leave now, not without much more intensive planning. Maybe they would indeed leave as well one day; but not today. “Stay safe, okay?” He murmured into her hair, pulling away and grinning. Classic Poe.
“I will,” she said as heavy knocks sounded on the door. Her head whipped around to look as Finn rushed over, motioning towards the small window. “Finn, Poe.” They looked back at her as she stood there, cloak enveloping her and brown hair framing her face. The knocks got louder and more urgent. “Don’t forget about me. I’ll see you again.” They smiled and nodded as she clambered out of the window and ran around the back of the house, escaping from her death and sprinting towards the one place that would accept her for a time until she got away.
Rey let out a muffled shriek and scrambled against the hand that was held over her mouth, kicking behind her blindly. Her foot connected with something and a low groan escaped the person behind her as his grip loosened. She fell to the ground and crawled away on her hands and knees, further dirtying the fabric of her dress and scraping her palms. She shot a hasty glance over her shoulder to look at her assailant.
It was Kylo Ren, doubled over and breathing heavy in pain. Rey inhaled sharply and stumbled to her feet, ready to get away from him as well. Why else would he have grabbed her if he wasn’t after her too? She nearly made it away from him in order to escape when she heard it.
Please don’t leave.
Rey froze in place, holding her skirts so tightly that her knuckles bled white. Her breathing was silenced for a moment.
“You heard me just now, didn’t you?” He whispered, finally seeming to get over his predicament. He stood back to his full height and stared at her from behind as she stiffened. Rey whirled around to face him, opening her mouth to yell at him. But the anger quickly fizzled out at the look on Ren’s face. It was a look of absolute wonderment, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“What are you talking about?” Rey asked, turning her torso away from him. He held out a hand for her to stay, to not run away. “What do you mean?” Ren shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment.
You can hear me.
Rey’s green eyes widened in surprise and something else almost akin to terror. Ren’s mouth didn’t move, but that was clearly his voice. “What the hell!” Her voice was shrill with fear. “What did you do to me? Was it you that made the tree call to me? Nothing like this ever happened until you showed up!” She marched right up to him and poked a finger into his chest, pushing him back with each point of contact. “Why did you stay for so long? What have you done to me? This is all your fault!” Her voice shook and finally broke with small sobs. Rey turned away as tears of frustration dripped down her cheeks.
“Rey…” He murmured, holding out a hand but thinking better of it and letting it fall to his side. “I didn’t do anything to you. This is a part of you, as it is of me. You are different, like me.” He paused for a moment as she composed herself. “You’ve had dreams? Nightmares so tangible they feel almost real?” Her head shot up to look at him. His face was twisted into a grimace of remorse. She nodded.
“I stayed because I sensed the difference in you. You’re similar to me, you have that connection to the world around you that they can never understand.” His eyes darkened at the mention of the others and a shiver ran down her back. “I can show you how to control it, how to harness it for your protection. Those nightmares will get worse if you don’t, can even drive you insane. You don’t want to live in fear of your powers forever, do you?” She shook her head, but was still hesitant.
“How can I trust you? I don’t even know you!” Her voice wavered. Ren sighed and clicked his teeth, pulling off a glove and holding out a hand towards her. His face was schooled into something that resembled resignation and almost pleading. Rey’s fingers twitched before she walked over towards him and hesitantly reached a hand out to him. He grasped her tightly and interlocked their fingers, Rey’s mind reeling at the sudden connection.
She was in a vast ocean, dark and frothing around her. She was drowning in waves, kicking at the water that seemed determined to drag her under. I can’t believe I trusted him! Rey attempted to breathe but only succeeded in swallowing the blackened, salty water. Her arms flailed and attempted to break the surface, but she was caught in a current that kept dragging her farther and farther down. She was dying, drowning in an ocean she couldn’t even remember traveling to.
Rey! Listen to me! This isn’t real! You are within my mind, don’t fight the currents of my power. Let them take you where they must, accept them.
I can’t! I’m dying! I’m gonna drown!
You aren’t! Breathe deeply and understand that this is all in our minds. Trust that I can lead you, guide you.
And so she did. Rey took a deep breath through her mouth and was astonished to find that it didn’t cause a fit of coughing. She opened her eyes to see that the water cleared around her, revealing a vast expanse of bubbles and varied plant life. Swirling seaweed and other vegetation dotted the sandy ground below her, twirling in the suddenly gentle waves. Her hair floated around her face in weightless tendrils. She relaxed herself in the current and drifted through the water, watching the underwater landscape fly by her.
This is your mind?
At times, yes. It looks like this to you, because it’s what you desire most at this time. All the water in the world, with the green of plants normal people shall never see.
A sudden jerk from behind her navel sent Rey reeling back into her own body, clutching a hand to her head and stumbling away from Kylo. His hand was still held out towards her, as if to offer support if she fell. She waved him off and sat down on an overturned log, head in her hands. “I can’t believe this.” She moaned, shivering and rubbing her upper arms.
“It’s not a matter of belief, Rey. It’s a matter of what’s true and what’s real.” Kylo moved to stand in front of her. “And this is real.” He murmured. His head quickly jerked to his right, eyes following a line of motion that she couldn’t see. “We can’t stay here. They’ll find us soon. The townsfolk have had their suspicions about me as well.” His hand was regloved and extended out to help her up from where she sat. “Come with me. I can teach you how to control your own mind and keep it from destroying you.” He whistled lowly and the horse came sauntering out into the clearing, stopping next to him. It stood a couple heads taller than him, and Rey immediately felt very small, sitting down on that log below them.
“Do I even have a choice in the matter?” She asked, a small huff of deprecating laughter escaping her lips.
Kylo only gave her a sad smile as his reply.
And so she took his hand, letting him help her up off of the log. He got onto the massive horse and pulled her up as well, sitting her in front of him. His arms held onto the reins on either side of her waist. Rey’s face heated up at being in such close proximity to another man, but she ignored it and kept her head held high as Kylo set off his horse into a light trot.
They disappeared off into the forest, off to start a new life that Rey never even thought could be possible.