The Woods

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm

The Woods are protected by special guardians that keep out trespassers.

Submitted: December 08, 2017

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Submitted: December 08, 2017



Most people avoided The Woods. At night, strange lights and sounds flitter and flow through the woods. During the day, a mist envelopes the forest. People are afraid of The Woods. I have never been able to understand people’s irrational fear of the unknown. I learned long ago what the lights and sounds really were. They were a symphony of magic.

The lights came in a myriad of colors. They mingled with each other dancing around the underbrush and up to the tops of the trees. From the outside, it looked like giant multicolored fireflies. They were beautiful. The sounds were a different story.

Different people heard different sounds. I remember hearing children laughing when I was little. Others have heard a pack of wolves growling or wind whistling. There is the talk of a woman singing an eerie melody that pulls you near while pushing you away. Some have heard cackling which sparked the rumor that a coven of witches lives in the forest. The list goes on but no matter what people hear it always manages to send chills. It was a wonder that a village even exists near the forest.

One hundred years ago, I embraced the magic that came alive in The Woods. In return for the long life I’ve been given, I became a guardian of The Woods. I protect them from trespassers or those that wish to destroy or harm The Woods. There were several guardians that wander The Woods. As far as I could tell, we had different gifts to do our job. We all live long lives, but we protect differently.

The last time I had run into another guardian was a few years ago. She led trespassers around in circles for hours and then dropped them off a cliff. They didn’t always die, but they never returned. Another guardian commands an army of animals. He terrorizes and frightens any trespasser he finds. My trick was shadows. I bent them into terrifying shapes that haunted and tormented trespassers.

Tonight, I hoped I wouldn’t see a trespasser. It was a full moon and the magic lights flitted about excitedly. Full moon nights always made the magic burst in excitement. There was a clearing nearby that the lights would dance around like starlight scattering across rippling water. It was mesmerizing. The last few full moons I’d run into trespassers and missed it. However, this night the lights were pulling me to the clearing. Several of them had twisted themselves into my hair like how I would twist flowers in when I was little.

A large orb of light appeared to my right as I reached the clearing. Instinctively I reached out and poked at the light. It rippled at my touch then burst into millions of pieces frantically racing into the clearing. I smiled watching them. That is when I saw him.

Standing in the middle of my clearing was a young man. He was smiling and playing with the lights poking them when they got close. His dark hair hung in his brown eyes. Surprisingly, he looked familiar. It was strange for someone to look familiar. So much time had passed since I left for the woods that the people from my past life have all but disappeared from my memory. For him to look familiar, it would mean that I’ve seen him recently. Did that make him a trespasser? The lights weren’t acting like he was one though.

The light he had been playing with flew straight to me. It wrapped around my wrist and pulled. The lights were essentially my boss, so how could I refuse. The man’s smile widened when he saw me. A memory flashed through my mind.

There was a small boy crouching next to a fallen tree. Blood had been gushing from his nose recently, but now it was smeared and caked over his face. A small light sat next to him as he shook. It had been a warm night, he wasn’t shaking from cold. A man roared in the distance. The boy quickly pressed his hands over his mouth after a frightened yelp escaped. He was trying to keep any other sound from escaping.

Fury raged inside me. The little boy hadn’t seen me. If he had I would have added to his terror. My Shadows whipped around me. They pulled my clothes and hair. It was like a dozen of beggar’s hands pulling at me begging me to give them what they wanted. With a flick of my wrist, I sent them off to chase the roaring man. Suddenly, the roar switched to a terrified scream. The murderous glower on my face slid into a malicious smirk.

The shadows had morphed into a towering man like a beast. It was a favorite of mine. The shadows rose over everything but the trees. The rows of protruding fangs always captured my target’s focus. If they failed to elicit fear, then the three-inch claws would. My beastly man inspired true fear. The moment you saw it breathing became hard and your heart tried to burst from your chest. The color drained from the face while a cold sweat gushed from every pour. The man was shaking hard enough to rattle his brains as he sprinted out of the forest, stumbling every few steps. It was a sprint filled with blind panic. My smile widened at the sound of splashing screaming and splashing until there was only the sound of silence.

A stream ran next to me. I soaked my handkerchief in it and carefully approached the boy. I forced myself into a neutral expression. Slowly, I lowered myself to the little boy’s level. He still hadn’t noticed me. HIs breathing was erratic as his eyes darted back and forth without seeing. His shaking hadn’t changed.

I softly touched the wet handkerchief to his cheek. He flinched and pressed himself against the fallen tree. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you and neither will he. Not anymore.” A small smile slipped through.

“Are you a guardian?” he asked timidly.

“Of course.” Rumors of guardians had existed when I was young. They weren’t human. They were the witches, ghost children, and wild beasts that roamed the forest and called it home. Well, the guardians were no longer human, but we weren’t anything that the rumors had called us. We were something else. Something unique.

I wiped the blood off his face. Twice, I had to rinse the handkerchief out. After cleaning his face, I walked him over to the stream to wash his hands. Once he was all cleaned up, I held my hand out to him to him. His small hand shook as he reached out, but the moment our hands touched he clenched my hand and let out a long breath.

As he walked towards the edge of the forest, the lights danced around us and lit the path before us and the little mist there was parted. The path was narrow and a more than a little difficult to navigate walking side by side. The paths in the woods were used only by the guardians and trespassers. There was no need for them to be wide. As we neared the exit, we could hear a woman frantically calling out. The little boy whispered, “Mom.” Glancing up at me, he seemed to ask for permission to leave. I had no desire to keep him from his worried mother especially now that they were safe. I smiled and nodded my consent. He released my hand and sprinted out of sight. My shadows came back and wrapped themselves around me. I sent a small rabbit shadow after the boy. For some reason, I needed to make sure that he reached his mother safely.

I snapped back to the present. The man before me bowed deeply, maintaining eye contact while he lowered himself. It was a sign of knowledge and respect for what I was. I was neither good nor evil, but I was dangerous.

“You haven’t changed since that day almost twenty years ago. I was worried I wouldn’t recognize you,” he said smiling.

“Why did you want to see me?”

“To say thank you. You stepped in and saved me when no one else could or would. You didn’t have to act on my behalf but you did.”

I thought for a minute. “No, I had to act. The forest was comforting you. Plus how could I walk past unfeeling when I possessed the power to act?”

“Many do and did,” he said sadly. He glanced up towards the sky looking at the small patch of stars in view for only a few seconds.

“What is your plan for tonight now?” I asked curious about what would happen next.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I would find you. I hoped I would find you, but I figured if I did I was going to spend all night looking. I have no plan.”

“Want to dance?” I asked. A smile spread throughout my soul as I watched the magic lights burst into a frenzy of movement.

His mouth dropped open in awe. “Yes,” he whispered.

We danced under the stars until he dropped to the ground exhausted. I have no need for sleep nor have I felt exhaustion or any kind of tiredness in the past one hundred years. It is easy to forget how fragile humans can be.

The only sound to be heard was his heavy breathing. I couldn’t help but stare at him and wonder if I had ever danced for so long or with so much energy to leave me completely spent on the ground.

“You should go back once you gain back your energy. It isn’t wise for you to stay here for long,” I suggested.

“There isn’t anywhere for me to go back to. My mother passed away a few days ago,” he answered between breaths.

“What are you going to do? Move to a new village?”

“I don’t know,” he groaned. “I don’t want to leave the woods, but I can’t stand staying in the village.”

I watched as several lights gathered around him. They were holding a conference. I remember the first time I saw them doing this. It was one hundred years ago. I was only sixteen. The only other thing I remember about that time was feeling like I had been abandoned. The woods called to me and ushered me giving me a new life and a purpose. The lights grew brighter. A decision had been made, and he had been found worthy.

“You could become a guardian,” I said as I inspected my nails. Never had I heard of another guardian being present when a new one came into being. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing or even why this was happening. Something told me it was the right thing to say.

“What do I have to do?” he asked eagerly.

I smiled, “Nothing.”

The lights grew brighter combing into one big ball of light. I watched as the giant ball of light grew to encompass the man. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling having the magic transform your body to give it power and strength beyond what you could imagine. By the time the magic was done, he was going to possess a gift from the woods. The gift was a long life, strong body, and a magical skill to defend the woods.

The light blinked out completely absorbed into him. As he exhaled smoke poured from his mouth. He almost choked on it. I tumbled into a ball in a fit of laughter. By the time I recovered myself, he had learned to control it. He was working on getting it to spill from his hands. A shadow jumped into my lap. Shaped like a rabbit it wanted to go play with the smoke. I watched as the shadow rabbit leaped from my lap and hoped from a pool of smoke to pool of smoke.

“Well welcome to the extremely exclusive club of Guardian of the Woods. Feel free to reinvent yourself. I’ve been around for so long that I don’t remember my name anymore. It doesn’t matter though; none of the other guardians remember their names either,” I informed him.

“Morgan. Your name is Morgan and you disappeared about one hundred years ago. My mom helped me research the people who have disappeared into the woods till we found you. I’m Wesley.”

The name brought back memories. They were all happy. A smile crept across my face with each memory I reviewed. I couldn’t imagine why I felt I had been abandoned.

“You disappeared in the middle of the night. Your family searched for you, but they could only assume that the forest had stolen you. Your fiancé died soon after, a bit mysteriously actually,” added Wesley.

I remembered now. He had beaten me and left me for dead in the Woods. He was the first Trespasser I had come across. My shadows tormented him by inflicting every blow he had ever given me.

My smile grew wider, “Well Wesley your sole purpose until you die is protecting the woods that once protected you and me.”

“My pleasure.”


© Copyright 2019 S.A. Batty. All rights reserved.

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