Alanna sat by the well, twirling the coin in her fingers idly. The small disc of copper had a greenish patina, and bore the face of some long-forgotten monarch. Her gaze drifted towards the fields beyond her village, alighting on nothing in particular until she spied movement. She stood then, meaning to call out an alarm to the patrols roaming the outskirts of Marona, but she found herself unable to make a sound.
As she stood watching the three figures draw closer to the village Alanna gripped the coin tightly. There had been warnings of an invasion, not that anyone paid them much attention. Such warnings came frequently and nothing ever came of them. Marona had been safe for decades, and anyone who remembered the troubles was either infirm or had passed away.
Stories were told, of course; terrifying tales of horrible beasts that roamed the forests beyond their farmland meant to keep children from straying too far, or boastful stories repeated by the descendants of what passed for nobility in their small village. Few were left however who knew the truth in those tales.
Alanna stood watching those three figures approach unmolested by the men who were supposed to keep a watchful eye on their borders, and found herself silently cursing their foolishness. Even as she mumbled she realized her folly, and clapped a hand over her mouth, but as she did the figures altered their path. They were now heading towards the well. They were now heading towards her.
Only then did she manage to make a sound, letting out a cry of panic as she stooped to gather her bag and her waterskin. The moments seemed at once to slow to a crawl and to quicken immeasurably. She could not move fast enough, yet those three strangers appeared to be moving faster than was humanly possible. With her arms full Alanna found the path back to Marona and tried to hurry to safety, but with every step she took it seemed the village grew further away, not closer.
Alanna shrieked as something burned her palm, and she dropped everything at her feet, thinking she must have grabbed a stinging nettle, or perhaps an insect. She forgot the three strangers as she examined the perfectly circular welt forming in her palm, just where she had been holding the coin. She looked on the path at her feet for the ancient coin, but it wasn’t there any longer. She frowned, shaking her hand as if it might alleviate the lingering pain, then bent again to gather her things.
“Let me help you, doma.” The voice was unfamiliar and yet it soothed Alanna in a way she couldn’t understand. One of the strangers bent before her and lifted her waterskin and satchel into his arms, his face hidden by the deep hood of his cloak. It was only as he stood tall again that she was able to get a glimpse beneath the dark fabric, and she gasped in amazement.
“Rafel, we cannot linger. The guard has been alerted.” One of the others, a woman, spoke then, pointing to a small group of men carrying crude weapons. They were rapidly approaching the well – though not as rapidly as the strangers had approached her, Alanna thought.
The first man smiled and bowed to the woman, and turned towards the girl again, still carrying Alanna’s things. The third, whose face she still could not see, held her arm firmly and gently prodded her to follow. “But I ..” Alanna’s protests were ignored, and she found herself unable to do anything but walk with them. The woman waited a moment, and unseen by Alanna she drew a symbol in the air. There was a faint shimmer, then a breeze stirred around them and it seemed to the young woman they were moving much faster than the villagers who at least attempted to give chase.