In the dense, shadowed embrace of Ravenwood Forest, my brother and I found ourselves alone, the comforting presence of our parents swallowed by the thick foliage. Panic set in as we called out, our voices lost amongst the ancient trees. We had stopped for a rest on our way to Port Haven, our family’s caravan laden with goods for trade, when a sudden rustle in the underbrush had drawn our curiosity, leading us astray.

I could feel the fear of never seeing our parents again seeping slowly into my heart as the last of the light dimmed through the forest canopy. Evin gripped my hand firmly as we carefully made our teary way through brush and leaf, searching for sign of open road or family. That’s when they appeared—men with cruel eyes and harsh whispers, brigands who saw in us an opportunity for ransom. We were helpless to their force, our cries muffled, our spirits lost.