"Damn..." I rolled over on top of a twig which had found its way into my path as I muttered. The twig stuck into my back in an uncomfortable fashion, so I sat up, becoming vaguely aware of the fact that I had fallen asleep. My hand fumbled about in the brush for my ragdoll.

I wanted her next to me. I needed the comfort which I had always sought from her in the past. She hadn't a name, but was always there for me. Or rather, her name was long forgotten. I'm positive I gave her one when I was much younger, but it fled me long ago. Not wishing to accidentally give her a completely new name, and not finding one terribly essential, I had conceded to calling her simply Dolly since. Just as a person wouldn't want their name changed halfway through life, neither would a doll, I should think.

I muttered something-though I'm not quite sure what-under my breath and shook my head groggily, still trying to clear it. As my gaze downcast upon my hands, I dropped Dolly once more, frantically trying to scrape the dried blood out from beneath my nails. I was so sick of it.

I had a vague recollection of skies that were blue and the song of the nightingale that would lure one either to wake or to sleep, but that was only because I had lain protected, both by my home and my own babe naivete. The war had truly begun long before I was born, and was fated not to end until years after I-and anybody who could remember my name-had left our earthly bonds. The Kundreil claimed that it was Aslinn of the Cantred who started it all, long ago when he took and abused the fair Sarannha who had always been the center, the pillar of our world. But they were a nearly dead people, and none headed them. Most didn't even care how it had begun.

I'm not sure if any knew for what they fought anymore.

It wasn't a holy war. Not because our society had advanced along with our technology over the centuries to the point where we realized nothing was accomplished by two men killing each other both in the name of the same loving deity, but rather because we'd all lost faith. The last unicorn had been slain more than one hundred generations ago, and no god had been seen since even before the unicorns still ran the great beasts of the land. Technology ruled over our minds and limbs and our world had become a place of clockwork. Even our souls, it seemed, had gone to steel, and our hearts-like the Tin Man's-were nonexistent.

As I wiped the crust of my dried tears out from the corners of my eyes, they began to fill anew, the superfluous liquid overflowing once more.

"Silver sparrows fly through the frigid dark,

"Singing sparrows land on midnight's mark," the quiet words came out of my mouth as habit. I choked, only half-singing the tune my babe ears had heard so many times over. Not my mother, but my nursemaid, a dark skinned girl named Chloe, had sung them, as I'd sit and stare at the wild bushes of roses my father had so cared for. The glistening sun had only seemed to make their amorous scent stronger, brighter, and more true. The yellow ones were my favorites, I think. Miniature suns.

"Where have they all gone to?" I found my voice rising to a screech, and I shouted to the dying trees around me. At that moment I suddenly felt more drunken than I ever would in my life, for even as I grew up, I never indulged in drinking. A piece of my mind has always been just slightly out of place, I believe, but rather than mental retardedness, it has only led to a more acute viewing of the world. The side effects of this...were strange at times. I think only someone of similar mind could understand exactly how I felt at that moment.

"Tell me!" I hollered, the words tearing at my already inflamed throat. "Where have they gone to? Where are the tulips! Where are the crocuses! The lilies, the daffodils, the poppies, and the pansies! Where are the roses?"

The skies denied me my answer.

"Where are the little buds of beginning, and where are the signs of life?" my voice became a harsh whisper. I turned to kick at the tree beside me, but found myself drooped next to it, my thin arms reaching around the peeling trunk in a weak embrace.

"Where are the roses?" I quietly breathed to it. "There must be at least one...you'll tell me, right?" I wasn't insane. But my best friend was a doll without a name, and for that brief moment, I truly thought the poor tree might respond.

"At least one rose must have survived. How could the entire race be wiped out? In all the stories... There was always a last twinkling in the tunnel, right when all else seemed lost. No hero ever died without finding hope first..." Weariness would not get the better of me this time. I gave the tree a small squeeze as if to say, "Thank you, dear friend, I'll pray for you too," and softly picked Dolly up from where she lay in the brush.

"Always in a straight path does the raven fly, though around obstacles he may diverge. Always, always... continuously north." As I spoke the words, I thought a prayer to Chloe as well, for the wonderful girl had given me hope through her stories and songs.

There was a rose out there somewhere. Maybe where the world ran flat or maybe locked away in a fairy tale tower. Quite possibly it was only visible during a certain stroke of the clock after reciting the proper incantation, or maybe it was simply lying in a cuckoo's nest...but it was out there. And I was going to find it.

I was going to prove that there was still hope left for our world.

A/N: I really hope that you are enjoying my attempt at something new. I have many plot twists in store for this one (something which I, previous to this, have not been very good at writing), and pray that you stick with me, Gentle Readers. (Dah! Too much...Jane Eyre... I'm obsessed!)