The Unchosen One
Irving Skinner gazed on with a mix of wonder and dread as his spit descended into the long stretch of the canyon. From the looks of it, it was a long drop to the abyss, he thought. A fall from that height would kill even the mightiest of warriors.
Every day, he would come with his pa to hunt for elk in the woods. As descendants of a clan of professional huntsmen, Irving and his pa found quick work in their meat-starved village. Growing up for most of his life in this dainty little hamlet, Irving knew very little of life outside the territory. At the tender age of 12-years-old, the farthest he was allowed to go without adult supervision was the village's borders. Only when taken onto hunting expeditions was he allowed to explore more of the territory.
So one had to wonder about the events that led him to this chasm—his father entirely out of sight.
It was a simple miscalculation on his end. His first kill-shot missed a vital organ by just a few centimeters. The animal definitely was dead by now, but it didn't go down instantly. It left a blood trail as it ran off, and his dad and he chased after it. To both of their faults, they ended up losing each other along the way. Irving let his curiosity get the better of him. He followed the light at the end of the forest like a moth to the flame, altogether abandoning the blood trail. Meanwhile, his father, obsessed with the hunt, made the mistake of losing sight of his only child.
Now, here Irving stood. No matter how vast this chasm was, its depths could not possibly compete with the rage his father would undoubtedly bestow upon him should they reunite. As he gazed further and further towards the depths, attempting to make out something in the distance, his anxiety grew proportionally to the narrowing of his eyes.
A noise broke him out of his stupor. It was shrill and sudden and had a hint of meekness (like the sound that elk made when he first shot it). If he had he been standing closer to the edge, he might've fallen to his doom. Thankfully, he jumped backward rather than forward.
The noise seemed like it came from the forest. Though Irving feared an encounter with his father, curiosity inevitably got the better of him. Using what he learned as a hunter, he tracked it down to its source. Upon finally reaching where he believed the wounded animal was located, he could hear crying emanating from beyond the shrubbery. To his surprise, the sobbing was unmistakably human. It sounded like it belonged to a kid (perhaps around his age). Peering through the dense flora, Irving was even more shocked to see a little girl in the woods of all places. But what was more shocking (and profoundly challenging to take in) was the sight of her dainty leg being mashed and bloodied by a large, steel bear trap. The pain had to have been immensely unbearable.
The girl continued to sob. No longer able to watch from the sidelines, Irving emerged from the bushes and approached the poor lass.
"Are you okay?" was a question an idiot would ask in this situation. But Irving was no idiot. Though he had never been caught in a bear trap himself, he had seen firsthand the kind of destruction those things could do to one's limb. Instead, he replaced the instinctual question with a more reassuring, "Everything is going to be alright."
That didn't seem to stop her sobbing altogether, but he could understand. Using all the strength he had in his 12-year-old body, he tried to separate the teeth from one another—to no avail. Even if he managed to separate them, he wouldn't be able to reset the trap. That leg would have to be moved entirely out of the way before the teeth could not snap back together (otherwise, it would only make matters worse). When he thought how difficult it would be to move the trap and the leg at the same time, he hesitated. Was it possible that getting involved—as a weak, young child—would only make this situation worse?
As much as he hated asking for help, this seemed like a job for an adult. Begrudgingly, he put his two hands vertically adjacent to his mouth and started yelling for help.
"Irving!?" yelled back one voice. Emerging from the bushes was none other than Skinner senior: Irving's father. "What in the abyss is going on here?"
Bartholomew Skinner scanned the scenery before him. Here was his son, alive and well (thank the divines). On the other hand, there sat a little girl, leg broken and bloodied by a damned bear trap.
Neither of the two had to exchange any more words. The senior knew exactly why his son had called out to him and what needed to be done. Kneeling down, he used his immense adult strength to force open the teeth of the bear trap. "Move her leg out, son," he shouted, holding the trap open.
Immediately, Irving complied. Carefully lifting the young lass' leg out, as if holding a newborn child, he moved it out of the way. In that instant, the trap shut back closed.
Bartholomew, breathing raggedly, looked to his son and said, "Keep her leg out of the dirt. That wound needs to be cleaned and cauterized." He stood up. "Damned poachers. I'm going to need to have a word with the governor about this." Looking to his son, he extended his arms. "Give 'er here."
Irving complied and handed the girl over.
"C'mon lassie. Everything will be okay. Do you have a name?"
The girl, who was being carried princess-style by the older man, did not utter a single word. Her tears seemed to have stopped, but it was not known if the pain did so either.
"You're a strong lass. We're going to go back to the village. Find your parents."
Irving followed his father out of the woods. As soon as they reached the village, everyone around them gazed with mixed expressions of worry and bemusement. The doctor took one look at the girl's leg and mused, "What's wrong, Bartholomew? Mistook a child for an elk?"
"Cut the jokes, doctor. This is serious."
"I know, I know." He took her into a room for a few minutes then emerged out of it. "Well, it looks like we won't have to amputate. Wound isn't that severe. However, she won't be leaving this clinic completely unscarred."
"Just do what you have to do. I promise I'll make it up to you."
"I know you will."
Looking to his son, Bartholomew said, "Come. We're going to try to find this young girl's parents."
Complying, Irving and his father spent the rest of the day asking every person in the village if they knew of a petite young girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. Unfortunately, no one knew of such a child.
"Don't even have a name," the senior mused. "Or an age. Though, I'd wager somewhere around 9-ish. 3 years younger than you."
They returned to the clinic. Thankfully, the young lass seemed to be alright. She was sitting upwards, a dull, listless gaze lining her features as she stared at the quilt covering her legs.
"Well, the bad news is we couldn't find hide or hair of your parents, missy," Bartholomew said bluntly. "But the good news is we'll be willing to take care of you until then. 'int that right, son?"
"Yes, pa," Irving answered with a direct nod.
"Now, I have many questions. How are you feeling? How old are you? What kind of food do you like? Etcetera, etcetera. But that's kind of hard to find out if you stay quiet."
The girl did not answer nor turn her gaze.
Bartholomew shrugged. "The most pressing one, in my opinion, is the question involving your name. And since you don't seem raring to give us an answer, I guess me an' Irving here will just have to come up with one on our own. Won't we, son?"
"Yes, da- wait, WHAT!?"
"Hm, I'm thinkin' Bethany. Or maybe Laura. Man, coming up with names' a lot harder than I thought. I wish your mother was still here. Maybe she could help us."
As the old man continued with his spiel, Irving scanned the room for anything that could give him a good idea for a name to give. His eyes pointed towards a flower sitting on the desk next to her bed. It was a single flower sitting within a vase. Though it was beautiful, it looked lonely all by itself. It was also gazing downward, similar to the girl sitting before them. He wasn't as big of a herbology maniac as his dad, but even he knew his necessary plants. From his days of studying and discerning different species, this particular flower had to be…
Without thought or consideration, he let out that word.
"'Camellia'?" repeated his father.
"What? No, I-"
"That's a wonderful name! Ca-mel-lia. Looks like you got some of your mother's taste for names in you. Go ahead and lift your head up. See what the lass thinks of it."
Against his better judgment, the boy lifted his head and stared right back at the girl. To his surprise, the girl was no longer staring down. She was now smiling warmly (if ever so slightly) at the two—at Irving in particular. Looking away, the boy blushed.
"I think she likes it," said Irving's father, who was wearing a huge grin.
Camellia continued smiling and staring at the other, much to his embarrassment.
"Now then," continued Bartholomew. "There is the matter of your punishment."
"You didn't think I forgot about you abandoning me in the woods, did you?"
For the young man whose name was, at some point, Irving, he would remember this as both the best and worst day of his life. Or perhaps just his best day with a few minor pitfalls. That was a better way to put it. Because, after all…
If there was anything he could give to relive that day, he would do so without hesitation.