Blazing red hair flowed elegantly in the winds; following the dips in the earth, created by the bare feet of a young girl. Her feet were guiding the rest of her body further into the woods, which kept her family's cottage hidden, and further into the darkness.
Her kind was not fond of the darkness. And the darkness was not fond of her kind but, being a nine year-old, she did not know.
"Renn," A frantic voice shouted, undoubtedly the voice of the girl's mother. "Where are you?"
This was all a game in Renn's mind. A game of hide-and-seek. She burst into a fit of giggles - a broad smile creating a dimple in her right cheek. She brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, still smiling. She nestled her forehead in the space where her legs met and stayed as still as she could. She loved hide-and-seek.
"Renn!" Another voice shouted. This voice was not familiar to Renn; her senses snapped to attention.
It was a hard and gruff voice, so, a man's. He was tall, she could tell by the way his voice spread through the forest - like a ripple in an otherwise calm lake. He was taller than Renn's mother. And she did not know the man, neither did her mother. Yet they were next to each other. Her mother quite unwillingly, though.
"Renn," The man continued. "I know that you are out there. Somewhere. And hear me when I say this, Girl, I will find you. And when I find you, I will kill you like I am about to kill your mother."
What the man did not know was that Renn had fled her hiding place (made from a few uncomfortable stones) and was sitting in a tree, near the man and her mother. She could not make out the man's face but her mother's was covered in blood. She was tied up and the ropes around her wrists were tighter than they should have been. The man was holding a knife, of course he was, this was not going to be an easy battle. Her mother was squirming about and her salty tears were mixing with the dark blood that was forever streaming from the cut below her eye. She could have been screaming but Renn did not hear it because her ears were filled with the sound of pumping blood.
Renn shut her eyes. If the man was going to do what he said, she did not want to watch. She did not want to watch, why would she? Her mother was about to be murdered. She really did not want to watch but, she could not help it: she had to watch.
The man was sick minded. He was making a game out of a scene from a horror story. Throwing the knife in the air, catching it by the blade, making the weapon look about as dangerous as a pet rabbit. His smile was not real. He wore it for the show and, when the show was over, he would take it off and hang it up for the encore. Not that there would be one.
His voice was dropped to a hush, a whisper. "No one to save you now."
"There will always be someone to save another," Renn's mother spat back. "As long as that person is worth saving." She had a thick Scottish accent. Unlike Renn. Unlike the man.
"And that is why there is nobody to help you." The man retorted. "When someone gets here, if anyone ever does, it will be too late. You will be gone and so will your precious daughter."
Renn had to save her mother - more than she had to watch her murder. She placed one foot below the other, going down the tree. Her toes touched soil just as an agonising shriek erupted into the air. She was too late. Like he had said.
〰 〰 〰
The man left the knife embedded into Renn's mother's stomach. But he was long gone, trailing droplet after droplet of Renn's mother's blood after him. She was at her mother's side a few minutes after the man had left.
"M- Mother?" Renn stuttered. Her pale hands enclosing around her mother's ashen face.
"Yes. I am here."
"Do not be. You must run."
"Mother, I am not going anywhere without you."
"Wrong. You are going to a place called 'Madam Orav's Orphanage'."
"Why would I go there? It is an orphanage," Renn said. "Plus, I am not an orphan. You are alive. And as long as you are alive, I am most certainly not an orphan."
"Renn," Her mother breathed. "I am dying. And it is always respectful to make one's death wish come true. My death wish is for you to go to the Orphanage, you will be safer there. When you get there, ask to speak to Poppy and tell her that Vienna Tsu sent you. Tell them 'Fire Child' is active."
"I do not want to go. And even if I did, how would I get there?"
"Make sure to tell them you are my daughter. Tell them also that my funeral has to be on a Monday. Tell no one anything and trust no one. Take this," She was not listening to Renn; from her pocket she pulled out a hand-drawn map of the town, their cottage circled in red with a dotted line connecting it to another place circled in red. "Take this, also." She brought her arms from over her head, still bound tight. Thank God for her flexibility. From her stomach she pulled the knife and wiped the blood from it on her apron. She was growing weaker with every movement. She handed Renn the knife.
A single tear fell from Renn's left eye; a single tear fell from her mother's right.
She shut her eyes and they did not re-open. Renn looked back at her mother, she looked peaceful. As if she was sleeping and would wake up at any minute. She slipped herself through the back door to the house. She would respect her mother's death wish... Right after she had packed for the Orphanage.