There were a million ways to die in the Kingdom of Blackwood.
Plague. Starvation. Violence. Natural disasters. To name just a few.
I never imagined I’d die of fucking stupidity.
Standing at the edge of the woods, an ominous wind ruffled the tattered hem of my dress. A storm was looming on the horizon. The telling breeze would soon turn into a howling gale, rain would pour in buckets from the clouds, and thunder and lightning would flash brightly and boom deafeningly.
No one in their right mind would risk going out in a Blackwood storm. They say the violence in the sky was a product of Zeus and his descendants. They say the entirety of Blackwood was once ruled by the original six Olympian gods and that residual power still flowed through the veins of a few unlucky people.
Unlucky, because they also say that if you’re found to be with power, King Zacharias Storm would either kill you on sight or claim you as a slave.
But I’d never once laid eyes on a person with powers, nor the Storm King, nor the castle of Blackwood. If it weren’t for the brutal taxes we were forced to pay, I might believe the whole thing was a fairy tale. As it stood, I feared death just a little more than I feared poverty. After all, I’d been poor all my life and had somehow managed to survive. Pretty sure I couldn’t survive death.
And neither could Speedy, my pet sloth. At least, not on his own.
I loved him dearly, but he was a suicidal maniac. Every time I turned around, he was in one precarious situation or another. I didn’t know how many times I’d saved him from inevitable death, but it was almost never enough. I mean, he was a sloth for fuck’s sake. If there were a million ways for me to die, then there were a hundred-million ways he could die.
I was about 99 percent sure he’d wandered into the forest. Probably, he’d gone in for a snack and had gotten lost. Either way, I couldn’t leave him alone in there—especially during a sky storm.
So, there I was, about to die of stupidity because of a sloth.
With a growl and a string of curse words, I hiked up my dress and marched into the forest.
"Speedy!" I called out, over and over until my voice was harsh and the winds were harsher. Until raindrops tore like knives from the sky, slashing branches straight from the trees. Until I came to my damn senses and realized I needed to get the hell back home. Reluctantly, I turned to leave, but just as I did, a soft bleating sound came to my ears.
I spun around and charged even further into the forest. It wasn’t the farthest I'd gone into the wood, but it was farther than I ever intended to trek during a sky storm.
"Speedy!" I shouted again, then listened as closely as I could above the wind and thunder and the crashing of tree limbs. The bleating grew a bit louder. So, at least I knew I was headed in the right direction.