The Riding Hoods 1: Purple
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
By: Tina Chen
Last Updated on: November 28, 2021
Photo by: Anastasiia Malai / Unsplash
When I thought I had it all, the forest was warm and inviting. I could scramble up every oak, birch, or pine tree, pick fruits from whatever plant I wished and eat them while basking in the warm sunlight.
Tonight the forest is cold and uninviting as the branches that used to support my weight scratched and tore at my dark cloak. I trip over tree stumps and loose branches I would have easily hopped over without a second thought in the day.
I hear the footsteps behind me grow louder, but I start to feel my legs shake and give in, allowing me to be grabbed from behind. “Thought you could escape? You’re heading back now!” I thrash around wildly, but I’m too weak to resist. The hunter drags me into a cage on a cart harnessed to two horses and slams the door shut. He’s just about ready to lock the door when out of the bushes, a small figure leaps out and knocks my captor out cold with a crude club as two others dash forward to fling the cage door open.
“Hurry up now! Let’s go while Pinky does his thing.” The two figures lift me up and escort me through the woods at a frighteningly fast pace before finally depositing me in front of a large oak tree. Confused, I look up at my saviors, but the dark cloak of night covers their facial features.
“You saved me,” I blurt out. “Of course. We can’t just let our siblings get mistreated like that,” one of them replies.
“Siblings?” I ask confusedly.
“Red will explain when she gets back,” replies the voice. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
I shake my head no. “That’s good. Ah, there they are.”
From the bushes I make out two more people heading our way just as the moon peers over the treetops, lighting the whole grove as I finally make out my rescuers.
To my left are the people who whisked me through the forest, looking nearly identical with the only difference being their hair: one had curly red hair while the other’s was straight. Approaching us from the bushes are a short chubby girl with a bob cut, club slung over her shoulder and a taller, muscular boy. Both are wearing cloaks of different colors, one red and one pink.
The girl with the red cloak stares at me with a look of ferocity. “This is her?”
“Them,” I meekly correct.
“Ah, sorry about that. Are you hurt?”
“No. Thank you for saving me. You’re my...sibling?” I ask.
“Not biological, as far as I know.” the girl puts down her club. “I’m Red. These are Emerald and Fern-” Red points at the curly haired girl and the straight haired one respectively. “-and that’s Pinkie.” The boy gives me a small wave. “You are…?”
“I’m Axel,” I reply. “Are you all...part of a group?”
“We’re the Riding Hoods,” Red explains.
“Wait-does that mean you’re-”
Red nods. “Yep. Little Red Riding Hood. Emerald and Fern are the Swift Green Riding Hoods, and Pinkie is the Loving Pink Riding Hood.”
My mouth drops. Little Red Riding Hood, one of the most infamous heroes of all time, is standing right in front of me. Little Red, who valiantly fought off a wolf to save her grandmother with nothing but her basket, who was my idol when I was younger. I’d told Miss Miranda I wanted to be strong like her one day, and yet all she did was scoff at the notion and told me to get back to knitting.
“I can see that you’ve heard of me,” Red rolls her eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry-I didn’t mean to stare, it’s just that you’re...one of my idols.”
Red snickers. “That’s what Emerald said to me too. And now you’re my sibling, like her. We’re all a Riding Hood. Emerald and Fern’s green hoods grant them speed. Pinkie’s pink hood grants him diplomatic abilities unlike anyone else’s.”
“And Red’s makes her short,” Pinky butts in, laughing. Red smacks him in the hand. “Mine lets me hide better than anyone else!”
“And me?” I ask. Red looks at my purple cloak.
“I can’t tell what your ability is just by looking. Azu probably can. Now come on, we’ve got to go. Pinky’s charm is gonna wear off soon on that mustachioed freak.” Red turns around and grabs her club.
We quickly head out of the grove and into the forest once again. This time, the branches seem to shirk away, and the branches swept clean off the ground. We made our way through the forest silently at first until I broke the silence. “How...did you know I was here?”
“Emerald and I were heading back from the marketplace when we saw you with whom I think was your mother,” Fern began. My face turns bright red. That was a day I had hoped I could forget. My ‘mother’ was Miss Miranda, the cruel dorm supervisor at the boarding school. We were going into town that day, which was a chance for the students to buy snacks or relax. I’d gone into a bakery with some classmates and picked out a small pastry before realizing I didn’t have enough money in my pocket. Of course, that was the funniest thing in the entire world to everyone as they kept teasing and poking fun of me. It didn’t help that I had started trembling right then and there, and when I tried to run back to Miss Miranda for comfort...
“I saw her smack you clear across the face. ‘Get up and stop cowering’, she said. We knew we had to keep an eye out for you,” Fern finishes. “Sibling or not, we knew we had to help in some way. So we began to take notice of you, and lo and behold, we were right.”
“Why were you out at night anyways?” Pinkie asks. I grip my cloak tightly. “I was running away.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable-”
“No, it’s alright. I just kept getting picked on. Nobody reached out to me, wanted to be my friend. I was just the weird kid who chopped their hair short and refused to follow the silly rules Miss Miranda enforced.”
I feel a hand reach around me and gently rub my shoulders. “I know what that’s like, and I’m so sorry to hear that, Axel. You’ll be safe with us.” Pinky reassures me, and I feel a strange yet comfortable silence wash upon the group as we make it out of the forest and down a beaten dirt road. “I promise they won’t find you here. Just a little further.”
After a few more minutes, we make it to a little cottage, tucked away at the base of a hill and covered with vines. Red opens the door and a tall, dark skinned boy wearing a bright blue cloak welcomes us in. “Azu, we’re here! This is Axel, he’s the latest Riding Hood.
“Ah, it’s good to meet you! I’m Azu, the Smart Blue Riding Hood. I’m in charge of everything behind the scenes.” The rest of the Riding Hoods spend the rest of the night letting me adjust to my new home while Azu retreats to his study room to find out what properties my cloak gives me. An hour later, we’re interrupted for the second time tonight. The door flies open and the hunter reappears, cudgel in hand. “You will not make a fool of me again, you spineless coward!”
As he charges forward, I feel a sudden rush of energy flow through me, and my legs remain steady. Maybe it was the fact that my idol was standing in front of me, club in hand. Perhaps it was the feeling that I had finally found friends. Whatever it was, I tackled him straight on, knocking him back into the cage and slamming the door shut firmly behind him. As he’s lying on the floor, dazed, I reach in and snatch his key ring.
“I am not a coward, and you will not hurt my friends.”
While I lock the cage shut, Azu returns from his study holding a segment of my purple cloak. “Well, I have the results-oh, what happened here?”
“My charm wore off,” Pinkie sheepishly replied. “But it’s all under control now. And Azu, I really don’t think we need to consult the books to find out what their power is.”
I look at Pinkie, puzzled. “My power?”
Red saunters up to me, club in hand. “You’re Axel, the Brave Purple Riding Hood.”