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The Halfling

The Arrival

The woods stood tall and proud, as they had always done since the occupants of the house had shifted into the outskirts of the city, but that was decades ago; this was now. As a child, little Marietta had always been warned about the dense cluster of trees. Odd little warnings, her grandparents had never completely barred her from the woods but taught her new tricks to survive inside, were she to ever wander towards them. Many others preferred to stay away from the woods entirely and shook their heads whenever they’d see Marietta even play near them.

“That one will get herself killed, or worse,” she’d often hear, but what was worse than being dead?

Growing up, she had one vague memory of venturing into the woods. A memory so fluid and dreamlike, it eluded her whenever she’d try to remember. The memory would always be triggered by peculiar objects. Once, a raven. Another time, honey being offered to a bird caused her mind to think back to the memory: always lingering in the back of her mind, but flitting away at the slightest hints of perusal.

She was no longer a child now, but an adolescent who had forgotten the odd little warnings given to her by her grandparents. Too immersed in scoring well to study at a reputable institution, Marietta had cast aside all the imagination one holds as a child to focus on facts and figures. It was spring break, universities all over the country would be sending out early acceptances and she couldn’t wait to share the good news with her grandparents.

Her own parents loved her, but they’d also loved her success more. Her mother, a ballerina turned lawyer, and her father was the son of a music store owner who had chosen to pursue law as well. They never stopped her from letting creativity flow but would remind her that she needed to become a professional like they did. Intriguingly enough, they never cared what profession she chose, or where she studied at. The goal was to be successful, form good connections, and make money. She often deemed her parents far off personalities, busy doing everything, figures to be admired from afar.

They weren’t a broken family, just a little distant.

Her grandparents, on the other hand, were everything she needed. They taught her all the skills a private academy never could; empathy, changing her oil and tyres, surviving in the wild, turning wild vegetables and fruits into something edible, tainted glass mosaics, and herbs. Apart from the practical lessons, they had focused on language and art. By the time she was a pre-teen, Marietta had command over several languages. She had read books from different cultures; her grandparents believe in translations. So much lost, they would say. So much indecipherable, incorrect. This had helped her enormously during high school, and whilst applying for universities abroad. When her parents had realized the influence theirs had on her, they’d whisked her back to Japan, where they had been working for a firm. It was time to mold her into their perception of success.

Back, at last, she greedily took in the sight. It was as if the very air welcomed her home, the distant melody of wind chimes, the green landscape, as if some magic had awoken and with it awoke something that had been quietened in her bones. Something was rousing from sleep, and she embraced it wholeheartedly.

Home. This was home.

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