The White Tower
They rode on until they came to the edge of the forest. Shadows stretched and met them. The hill seemed to have dropped suddenly and out of view down in the valley and into the horizon. They couldn’t see anything beyond the forest except for lushed trees and a thin mountain range in the distance.
An awkward silence fell over the trio and Lissa couldn’t help but wonder if she had made the right decision to go through the forest. It felt like a good one while they rested that night, but now it seemed to incinerate.
Mason stood to her right on his horse looking blankly at the mist that had started to form around them. He had often wondered what Histories the Trees held in their bark, but now he didn’t want to know. The Truth seemed far better kept in secret. He turned to look at his brother from across Lissa and he too held the same look of disapproval of the forest.
The path loomed before them and seemed to turn in awkward places as if trying to warn them not to come in, that it would be treacherous if they did.
Lissa looked up in the sky and felt the weather change from the cool breeze into stuffiness. She felt the threat of rain begin to seep through the blurry veil that the humidity caused to obscure her, Mason’s and Byron’s visions. A shiver rain down her spine and she couldn’t decipher rather it was the fact that the forest crept her out or if it was the sudden change in the weather.
“We better get a move on if we want to make it to the Mocking Meadows before sundown,” said Byron all-of-a-sudden looking deathly pale.
“You all right,” Mason asked his brother as worry about his brother’s health slipped in “you look awfully pale!”
“Masons’ right,” agreed Lissa “we can stop and rest if you want.”
“No!” argued Byron “I’m fine! Besides, we need to get to Mocking Meadows soon for I fear if we don’t we’d be wondering these woods for quite some time.”
Lissa nodded, but Mason felt worried “you sure?”
“I’m fine, brother” Byron stated “truthfully.”
The Trees groaned and creaked as they pushed their horses forward. The mist grew heavy and their clothes became wet making the trio all grumpy and depressed. To make matters worse the sun shone through the thicket and burnt their backs (because the canopy overhead wasn’t quite thick enough to block out the sun). Flies swarmed around their heads making an annoying buzzing sound and mosquitoes attacked the trio causing large red and itchy circles to form on their skin.
Soon the thicket cleared into a rough hedge and the path thinned. The trees became thicker as they went deeper into the forest. The hot sun was covered by cool shades and flies lessened, but the mosquitoes still held their ground. The shadows grew darker and the usual pines were replaced by strange trees the trio did not recognize.
A gurgle arose next to them “I bet yah that that is the Windy Creek! If we follow it we are certain to come across the Mocking Meadows,” cried Mason.
“No,” argued Lissa “we must follow this path! We do not need to get lost.”
“Lissa’s right,” agreed Byron “if we veered away from our direction we will get lost, but I don’t see if we see the creek on our path it won’t hurt to refresh.”
I think we are lost thought Mason to himself though indeed he was correct.
The path they were following grew so thin that they couldn’t decipher path from forest and the gurgling grew louder but soon they couldn’t hear any gurgling nor any sounds from the mosquitoes that were buzzing around. There weren’t any sounds at all that one would normally hear in a forest. There were no rabbits or squirrels hurrying through the forest. There were no birds tweeting or crickets chirping or frogs croaking. There wasn’t any sunlight left, though they knew there was in the world beyond the forest.
The hedge became a thicket once more and the trees became thicker. Branches scrapped against their cheeks as they filed into a line with Byron in the front, followed by Lissa and Mason in the rare. The horses stumbled over rocks and uprooted trees. The hill grew steeper and rain began to fall in a thick down pour that blurred their visions. Mud made the hill slippery and once they had to stop and lead their horses through it. Lissa’s heavy pack caused her to become waist high in the mud and other earthy debris.
Without warning the hill leveled and they fell into a small brook. Scrambling to get up, they adjusted their packs so that none of their supplies became wasted. Soaked and shivering they thought they’d never get to level ground for once more the ground shifted and they started to climb a steep cliff. Breathing hard, the trio went on though wet and weary they were. Finally, the cliff leveled and the ground dried. The rain slowed and the sun broke through the canopy of trees for the forest had thinned considerably.
Out of nowhere they found themselves in a small clearing with a rather large river to their right. They tied their horses to a nearby oak and went to refresh themselves.
Lissa went down the river quite a ways from the boys for she wanted a deep clean. She looked in the river and the reflection that she saw startled her. She barely recognized herself for the mud had dried to her skin and started to itch. Her brown hair was matted and tangled in leaves and twigs. She stripped off her cloak and clothes; she dropped her pack to the ground and plunged into the river.
The water felt cool against her skin. She detangled the leaves and twigs from her hair and allowed her curls to go back to their normal places as she waded in the water of the river which was clear as crystal and tasted sweet.
After a while Lissa climbed out, dried herself and got dressed. She adjusted her pack so that the weight was even on her back. She went to where she and the boys tied their horses and was surprised to see that she was the first to have arrived. She leaned against the oak to wait for the boys but soon sleep overcame her and she fell into a blissful dream.
Lissa dreamt that she lay in a bed of cool grass, the warm sun blared down on her not too harsh but harsh enough to warm the lawyers of her skin. Her eyes fluttered open as a breeze picked up. It was autumn. Leaves scattered about on the ground and flocks of geese flew overhead. She felt a peace wash over her like she never felt before since entering this new world. She propped herself upon her elbows and looked beyond. The forest was replaced by rolling hills in which a river cut its way through. Suddenly the blue sky overhead grew dark with crimson stains across the horizon. Birds and deer ran north in a manner of flight. Orange sparks flew in the air as flames raced towards her bringing Death with them. She got up to run but remembered Mason and Daniel and went to look for them. Seeing no one she panicked and ran about screaming their names. Stricken with fear she ran towards the river to whence they went but they weren’t there. Suddenly, she heard her name whispered in the wind that replaced the breeze. It rose across the hills and towards a white tower. She went off towards that direction, but she stopped as she realized what she was doing. What if that was the enemy’s tower and she was running into a trap? What if the enemy got Mason and Byron and were torching them? What if? What if?
She felt something grab her and she tried to shake it off. Familiar voices called out her name in fear. She shut her eyes and felt something cool wash over her face. When she opened up her eyes and saw Mason and Byron looking down at her, worry spreading across their faces.
She started to panic and gasping for air, as the fire swarmed around her like the flies earlier. She tried to tell Mason and Byron to run but no sound came out.
“Mason lie her down on her back!” she heard Byron order “we need to get her chest open so that she can breathe easier! Hurry Mason, there is little time!” Lissa felt her body being gently laid down from the oak she rested upon and onto the rough hedge next to the horses. Her body jerked as Byron pressed his hands down on her chest. She felt Mason’s cool skin brush against her lips as he breathed in air.
Didn’t they realize that fire was upon them? She wanted them to run but they didn’t. She peered over Mason’s shoulder and saw the white tower in the distance. She screamed and thrashed her hands in the air as a dragon came into view and flew straight towards them blowing hot fire and burning the hills and what was left of the forest.
Water splashed her face. She gasped and air filled her lungs. Soon the fire died and the images of the dragon and the white tower slowly disappeared into the haze of the mist that was surrounding them. She blinked and gasped some more. Suddenly, it was as if she was returning from the dead and Life entered her lungs. Lissa heard Mason and Byron sigh in relief and collapsed on the ground next to her in exhaustion.
She looked at both of them in worry and them at her.
When she thought she could talk she asked them what happened to the forest. They looked puzzled as if they didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know what you mean?” Mason said shaking his head “nothing ever happened to the forest!”
“There was no fire? No dragon?” she asked curiosity rising. They shook their heads “not even a white tower?”
“I think we may have made a mistake of stopping to refresh,” stated Byron sitting up and crossing his legs. Lissa looked at him confused.
“What do you mean?”
“This forest is old and queer, and what happened to you was weird! We were just on the river bank when we heard you scream-” Byron started.
“That is when we saw you thrashing about as if you were having a seizer like Ol’ Pike,” put in Mason. He was holding Lissa’s hand and unwilling to release it when she tried to get free.
“It was scary,” Byron said getting up from the ground. Mason followed and helped Lissa up “you looked like a ghost!”
“And you had scary eyes,” added Mason.
“What do you mean?” asked Lissa.
“They were all right and—and glowing—a bright blue.”
“Glowing?” Mason and Byron nodded “but-but what could have caused that I wonder?”
“Who knows,” replied Byron “perhaps this forest has curses within it.”
“Curses within it,” Lissa repeated “that makes sense!”
“What do you mean?” both Mason and Byron asked.
Lissa told them about her bathing in the river and drinking its sweet liquid “it seemed unnatural,” she told them “too sweet—like ice tea almost it wasn’t, it was water.” She then told them everything she saw from the moment she fell asleep on the old oak til the point she awoke. She told them about the dragon burning everything in its path. She didn’t mention anything about the tower, for she felt that it was important and left it to herself for the moment, but she made a mental note to tell Emsley when they reached Grey Haven.