The next morning, the group arises to the sun peaking to the distance. There is a slight bit of dew on the grass with a bit of light reflecting on it.
"If we're to travel to this forest it's best if we hurry there early in the day." says Aiden, holding a hand over his eyes looking outward.
The group quickly load up their camp back into the wagon and begin to head off toward the south. Lenard and Aiden pull the wagon, with Carac and Thea sitting on the back of it.
For a few hours, the group travels southward heading down the five mile trail to where the forest is to be located. Lief looks back to see Carac and Thea on the wagon looking on.
"You two alright?" asks Lief to them which they both reply with an up and down nod. "Hopefully we'll get there soon."
Slowly in the distance, the forest begins to reveal itself. Large pine trees begin to appear over the horizon.
"I guess this is the forest then." says Gwen. "Yeah, looks like it." replies Lenard. Lief steps up and looks into the forest, seeing that there is darkness beyond the visible trees, "Let's tread carefully, those guys back at the road stop said it's dangerous here."
They begin to walk past the trees and deeper into the forest.
The group quickly notices that the trees are much larger then what they seen before entering. The pine trees are so tall that they block out the sunlight. The forest floor is littered with pine needles. There are several fallen trees covered with moss. Sounds of smaller animals can be heard all around, such as squirrels, birds and rabbits.
"Wow, this place is pretty nice looking." says Lief, "I like this calm atmosphere."
"Yes, this is quite nice." says Arianna, walking holding her hands together.
The groups travels for a while through the dense forest, crossing ditches, a stream and a few steep hills both going down and up. Lenard walks to the side of Lief wondering if they are going in the right direction.
"So Lief, we just keep going straight, right?"
"Yeah, it's what those guys at the stop pretty much said. People who come here get lost because they're not sure if they're going the right way so they try going in all other directions looking for another way only to get lost. We just have to rely on that, hopefully we just have to keep going straight from where we entered."
"I hope your right because this forest seems to be getting denser every moment we're here."
'Yeah, so do I.' Lief thinks to himself with concern.
A few hours goes by and late afternoon appears.
"Come on now, we've been out here for hours now!" exclaims Lenard, "I just have to say it, are we there yet?"
"Just a little farther now, Lenard." says Lief, "If it's here, we'll find it, just have to be patient.""Yeah, that's right, just relax for a bit, Lenard." says Gwen, "We'll get there when we get there."
"Alright fine." says Lenard, "But do you guys think we'll get there by nightfall?"
Everyone pauses in silence. "Let's just keep moving." says Lief.
Suddenly a loud scream echoes out from close by. Every jumps out of shock of hearing the scream. Thea and Carac hold one another on the wagon out of fear.
"What was that?" exclaims Gwen.
Far away, distant voices can be heard as well, as if they're calling out to the voice of the scream.
"You don't think that was a ghost do you?" asks Lenard.
"Alright, everyone calm down." says Lief, "There's an explanation behind this I'm sure, no ghost, do ghost even live in the forest? It sounds like there are people close by, maybe they're from the village but that scream sounds like someone's in trouble." He looks outward to the left a bit to where the voice echoed from, "Hey guys, I'm going to go check on this to see if someone needs help." Everyone looks at Lief with a concerned look.
"What? Lief, are you serious?" asks Gwen, "You don't know what's out there. It's too dangerous, you could get lost out there."
"I know, Gwen." says Lief, "I can't just...listen, I'll be right back." Lief looks to Lenard, "Hey, you still got that big knife?"
"Good, let me borrow it for a second."
Lenard pulls out the knife and hands it to Lief. "Be right back." says Lief as he runs off toward the source of the scream. Everyone watches in shock as Lief runs off.
"Darn it, Lief! Come back here!" exclaims Gwen.
Lief runs through the forest and heads to the location of the scream. He reaches an open area with a single hollow tree near the center. Lief watches in surprise as a large cougar is clawing at the opening in the tree.
"Someone help, please!" a young voice echoes out from the tree. Lief hears the voice and realizes that the cougar is after whoever is inside. He flips the knife in his hand with the blade pointing down. Not knowing much else to do, he calls out.
"Hey! Hey, over here!" shouts Lief to the cougar to no avail. Lief looks down and spots a large rock. He bends down and picks it up and throws it at the cougar, hitting it on it's shoulder. The cougar turns it's attention around and sees Lief. The cougar steps away from the tree and stares a hard frown at Lief with it's yellow eyes.
'Oh my god, why did I do that.' Lief thinks to himself nervously. He holds the knife in front of him with one of his hands pressing on the back of the handle. The cougar begins to encircle around Lief. It let's out a loud roar that echoes around the area. In a fast flash, the cougar leaps right toward Lief pouncing on him and knocking him down.
Moments later, Lief opens his eyes. He looks around and notices that the cougar is on top of him but is motionless. He pushes the cougar off of him and notices that the knife is plunged into the cougar under it's left side.
'Guess I hit it in the heart.' Lief thinks to himself. He pulls the knife out of the cougar and stands up both shaken and heavily breathing catching his breath. He looks down to see the panther's body. Once he regains himself he remembers the voice coming from the hollowed tree and walks over to it. He looks inside to see a small boy with light brown long hair. He's huddled over with his legs folded and is rocking nervously.
'A kid?' Lief wonders to himself, 'What's a kid doing here?' He calls out to the boy, "Hey are you alright?" The boy slowly looks up at Lief. Lief reaches down his hand to the boy, "Come on, it's all right now. Your safe, the cougar can't hurt you now." The boy, cautious at first, reaches out to Lief's hand allowing Lief to pull him out. Lief holds the boy in his arms, noticing the boy has minor cuts on his face and arms. He also notices the boy's outfit, a brown woven shirt and tan leather pants with moccasins.
"So, what are you doing out here?" asks Lief. The boy gives a confused look at him.
Suddenly, a small group of six men all dressed in a similar fashion as the child appear. They are wielding knives and bows and arrows. They look surprised to see Lief who looks back at them.
'These guys, I wonder if these are the other voices we heard.' Lief thinks to himself.
One of the men steps forward to speak to Lief. He young, tall and muscular wearing a larger version of the outfit worn by the child. He has long brown hair tied in a long pony tail that comes past his shoulders.
"Who are you, and why are you holding the chief's son?" asks the man.
"The chief's son?" asks Lief, "No, I came after I heard someone scream and there was that cougar over there."
"Oh my god, it's the cougar!" he exclaims. He walks over to Lief, "You killed this cougar?" he asks. "Yes," responds Lief, "that wasn't a bad thing was it?"
"A bad thing? We came out here to kill it due to the trouble it caused. I'm guessing the chief's son must had been attacked by it and you saved him, didn't you?"
"Y-yes, I did kill it. But I didn't know who this kid is though."
Lief places down the child as he runs to the group of men. As he does Lief hears noises behind him and sees a surprised look on the faces of the men. He turns around to see his friends coming through. They quickly notice both the group of men in front of Lief and the dead cougar nearby.
"Lief, what in the world happened?" asks Gwen. "This cougar was apparently after that child." says Lief, "The scream we heard, it came from that child over there." pointing over to the child. Everyone is surprised that Lief killed the cougar.
"So you really did kill that big thing that quick?" asks Gwen, "Lief, my goodness are you alright?"
"Yes I'm fine, it really pounced on me and landed on the knife which is how it died, I think the knife went through it's heart." replies Lief.
"You saved the chief's son and exterminated that beast. For that we are grateful but who are you people, are you lost?" asks the young man.
"Well...my name is Lief and these are my friends. We heard about a village called Edia and wanted to go there. We heard it was in this forest and as we were traveling through we heard the child and I came to see what was going on."
"Luck shines upon you, travelers. We are from Edia. We are a hunting party who came into the forest to kill the cougar. For your courage and assistance we shall take you to the village."
The group all exclaim in excitement. "Finally, we can leave this place." says Lenard in relief.
"Please follow us." says one of the men, "We shall take you to see the chief, he will be pleased with your assistance."
The young man steps to Lief and extends his hand, "My name is Jeremiah, the leader of this party. Appreciate your assistance." Lief takes his hand and shakes Jeremiah's, "I'm Lief, no problem."
The group follow the men, heading into more of the forest. Lief hand the knife back to Lenard, "That's a good knife Lenard."
Lenard puts away the knife and looks to Lief, "Your really amazing, Lief. This quick you instantly gained the favor of a group of people, your pretty lucky you know."
"Yeah, I am." replies Lief with a slight smile.
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