If you do not, she will die.
The words, too heavy for an 11-year old girl, still had to be borne by somebody. And there was no one else.
So she went into the forest.
The blighted lands were less pleasant than their name, but the forest was worse. One died in the blighted lands, but one died quickly in the forest, a crucial distinction. The blighted lands were hard, for a hard people. But hard men and women weathered danger when they had to, they did not survive it any better than anyone else.
The world never asks what you need. When you need, you do what is necessary. If you can.
She pulled her cloak tighter around her, hoping the green would mask her from the watchers. The woods whispered. There were things in the woods nobody knew about, the deadly and the devastating. But there was, they said, a hut at the far fringe, and in that hut, medicine. And her mother was going to die, and there was no one else.
Soft sounds came from all around her, and Isabel shivered. There were things in the wood. They were not happy she was there. The wind sung a song of menace. It was not the wind of the plains. Even in the blighted lands, the wind was cool, gentle, when it came. Here it was a blade, a skittering banshee's laugh. Was this wind the last sound she'd ever hear?
She would never, in years after, be able to speak of what it cost her to come to the cave, to sneak past the guardian, to come bleeding and battered to the hidden chamber. Where there was a hut, just as the stories said.
But then, the last impossibility. The hut was empty. And the promised medicine, unbelievably, sat on a shelf, 8 foot above the ground. An 11-year old girl could never have done what she already did. But even she could not do what remained to be done. To be defeated by something so simple, so structural struck her as exactly the kind of despair the blighted lands specialized in. She should have guessed. And the girl who had walked through the forest alone summarily sat down to cry.
"What's the matter, little girl?" a voice said. Isabel jumped up, drawing the little dagger she had with her, knowing instantly it would be no use against the giant in front of her. He was 7 foot tall at least, with blonde hair. "Is that a butter knife?" he said. "Man, some bread would be delicious right now."
"Are you going to kill me?" Isabel asked.
"What? Of course not. Just doing some travelling. You know, it's the offseason. Now tell me, why are you crying? I have a little girl myself, you know."
Isabel knew she was going to die, however kind the giant seemed, but what choice did she have? "My mother is sick," she said at last, "and I need that medicine. But I'm too short."
The giant grinned. "You sure are." He handed it down to her, and watched in confusion as she immediately scurried away.
"You'd think a professional basketball player could wander through enchanted parallel universes in his down time without meeting a bunch of weirdos," Dirk said, to himself. Then, whistling, he took off again, into the unknown.