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Chapter 1: The Poem that Changed My LifeEdit

Talia stood on the hilltop, looking far into the distance, her eyes fixed on the magnificent sunset on Lassen Peak. The volcano reflected a golden brown color, making the bright and bold mountain stand out against the fading blue sky. Far off was a mountain ridge, lined with mighty redwoods at the very top. This reminded her of her good friend Tipu, who loved sitting at the top of high peaks, reaching for the sky. This made her remember that she had to meet with him tomorrow at his hut.

It was 1714, a calm year on the west coast in the Americas, when no one but the Native Americans were there. The mountains surrounding Lassen Peak was where the mountain folk lived. Talia was an odd member of the mountain folk. She was not completely human, but a mix of deer, cat, and human. She could switch between any of these forms.  However, her eyes were always like a cat, she was always fast like a deer, and always had predatory instincts. She generally stayed in her human form.
On this far off ridge, she saw a tiny reddish-brown dot, which seemed to her like a coyote or a fox. It was looking out into the distance, just like her. However, it was not staring at Lassen Peak, but at a far off land. ‘Why does the coyote want to leave?’ she thought. When she looked again, she saw a larger blob of the same color, with small eyes all looking into the distance. The coyote at the front, which seemed to be the head of the pack, appeared to be nodding his head at the landscape, as if that is exactly where he wanted to go.
‘Wait a second,’ Talia thought, mind whirring, ‘aren’t coyotes solitary?’ Coyotes are only in packs when they need to take down big prey. She looked down at the site that the coyotes were looking at. It seemed like an open space to live in, and there were absolutely no animals in sight.
‘This seems mysterious,’ she thought. ‘Why would coyotes be in a pack and want to leave this land? That place they were looking at has no prey!’ But it was already dark, and she couldn’t see anything more of the coyotes. She decided to go home for dinner.
She went home on the path she always went, which was a run-down mountain pass with sharp pine needles and sand bits on the ground, that always bit into her bare feet.
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As she ran home, she heard the sounds of her mother calling to her. “Talia! Oh Talia! Where are you?”
“I’m here, Mother! I’m here!” Talia shouted back, now racing towards home.
“Where were you Talia? I was scared!” her mother said has she hugged Talia.
“I was in the forest of the mountains!” said Talia, “I saw the beautiful sunset on Lassen peak.” Talia was in no mood to talk about the mysterious and suspicious act of the coyotes. It felt too scary and unnecessary to create fear in her mother’s heart.
“I always tell you not to go there, but you still do! There are dangerous creatures out there!” her mother responded.
“But Mother, I am one of those creatures!” Talia argued.
“Sometimes it’s just hard to explain these things to you Talia.” And with that, the conversation ended. Later, Talia’s mother served her the food she had gathered earlier. Talia, who was as hungry as a bear, wolfed down her dinner. She quickly went to sleep, waiting for the next day.
In the middle of the night however, Talia woke up, sweating hard. She was just dreaming of the coyotes fleeing to the unknown land, with a mysterious force pulling them back into the grasp of its knife-like claws and enormous jaws. The dream felt real, and it felt like it was happening before her very eyes. Overcome by the dream, she felt a sense of urgency to find this force, and without telling anyone, even her mother, she left the safety of her home, and journeyed into the deep, dark forest.
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She traveled down the path as the thorny bushes and prickly seeds bit into her. She kept going and going until she reached the point where she had watched the sunset on Lassen peak, and the oddly behaving coyotes on the mountain ridge.
Suddenly, she heard a rustle in the bushes. It was not far, but dangerously close. Instinctively, Talia immediately ducked into the bushes. She felt a cold breath on her back, and fiery eyes boring into her skin.
She asked herself, ‘Could this be the force? Is it a human?’ The fiery eyes kept boring into her, and soon, vanished. However, this time, the eyes were in front of her, but they vanished quickly. After she no longer felt the fiery eyes’ presence, She looked around her to see if the coast was clear, and then, ran home as fast as her legs could carry her.
But she did not know that she was being watched by those same, fiery eyes. The fiery eyes that changed her life. Those very ones.
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In the morning, she woke up, more bruised than ever. The thorns had really dug deep into her skin. As her eyes slowly opened up, she could see her mother applying her wounds with a paste made of herbs. It made her feel so much better.
“Where did you get all of these scratches from? I didn’t see them yesterday.” Talia’s mother asked as soon as she noticed that her eyes were open. A pang of guilt rose up in Talia as soon as she heard that question. ‘I can’t tell Mother that I had gone into the forest! She would tell me not to go again! But if I don’t go again, then I wouldn’t be able to figure out what the force is and why the coyotes were leaving. Then all of the animals would leave the forest!’  Talia thought. So instead she said,
“I just went out for a little night walk.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me?!” her mother shot back.
“I just-”
“You shouldn’t be out there Talia. Understand?!” her mother said, sternly.
“Okay, Mother,” sighed Talia. ‘I’ll just have to sneak out again,’ she thought. But just before she got to rest again, she saw Tipu running across the village, rushing to the forest. As he passed by Talia, he gave a quick look, as if she were supposed to follow him. Curious, she got up and quietly tip-toed after Tipu. Before she knew it, she heard a rustling in the bushes, just like the night before. But this time, it was accompanied by quiet voices, whispering to each other in the dim light of the forest.
Slowly, a piece of paper fell on her lap. She quickly read it, unsure of what it was. Here is what it said:
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A darkness falls over the land,
With a silver crescent as its Queen
The citizens shine in the sky as silver stars
Pinpricks in a vast empire
The horizon as a barrier, the Moon Queen protects her kingdom
But it could not last.
The silver silence slowly slips into a scorching sunlight.
The Sun King slowly rises like a fierce lion to face the challenge,
Bringing with him, armies of clouds,
Riding wind's swift stallion.
The Moon Queen, driven from the land, retreats,
But ever watchful,
she waits,
For once the sky darkens,
She strikes, chasing away the Sun King,
And reigns, victorious,
Living through the night,
For another day.
It was the poem that changed her life. Forever.