The Gwyllion were sleeping, but the forest they slept in was awake, awake, awake. Quiet noises, a hundred voices, sang a chorus in the dark.
Furry creatures on four paws moved among the leaves, sniffing and snuffling and huffing, noses to the ground, ears pricked to the sky. All the smaller woodland animals slept soundly in their dens and nests as crickets chirped their midnight lament. A round silver moon hung up among twinkling stars shone down upon the tall trees and the deep, dark soil. The winding creeks and the babbling brooks called softly to each other, water cascading like silk over river rocks smooth as glass. Branches fluttered gently as owls and crows and ravens made their perches in the pines, and a soft breeze made tree trunks creak and sway, and leaves flutter in the night.
The breeze carried along with it the scent of sickly sweet flowers and the faint, coppery odor of fresh blood.
At the edge of the forest, where the white-flowered field met the trees, a mist was rising, and an army was gathering.
Deep in the middle of the forest, where the trees were thickest, the kingdom called Foraois was fast asleep. But as the cloying scent of flowers and blood drifted through the woods and seeped through the kingdom’s borders, Gwyllion Queen Sorcha woke up with her heart pounding in her chest and sweat beading on her forehead.
“What is it, my lady?” Her guards burst into her chambers, having heard her cry out in her sleep. “Are you injured?”
When Sorcha had the breath to speak, she said gravely, “Gather the warriors. We must prepare for what is coming.”
The guards looked at each other, trepidation in their eyes. “What is coming, my lady?”
Sorcha closed her eyes.