A note if anyone is keeping tabs on the story-- I changed Matthew's name to Everest--- for now. Still figuring things out, slowly.
IN THE FOREST—Everest’s Story
“Well, the forest once told me a story, though I didn’t know it at the time. A story of the rest of my life. I walked down a path in the woods, weaving my way through the trees, breathing in the clean, fresh, earthy air you find only in a forest nowadays. Birds darted among the trees around me, singing their song and hoping to find a mate, critters shuffled in the underbrush, scampering around as I made my way deeper into the forest, slowly working my way home.
Oberon was making his way behind me. Now, had we been anywhere else the bear would have been right at my side, even in front of me, checking constantly for threats. But we were home, in the deep forest, where the trees are ancient, towering, their trunks creaking, as if they were whispering, they swayed, pushed by the wind coming off the great sea. The goof had lagged behind, off chasing butterflies and had to run to catch up when I shouted for him . . . .”
Elisesofia sat, transfixed by Everest’s story—she knew the old man had some magic in him, and could feel it pulling her in—suddenly she was standing in the forest, and a GRIZZLY BEAR was running towards her. Barely stifling a scream she stepped out of the bear’s way, seeing a much younger version of Everest standing a few feet away she shakes her head – did that bear just wink at her?—and steps closer to Everest and his bear, listening to--is the bear talking?--No, thinking. Listening to the bear think to Everest.
Now what’s all the fuss about? I was just about to catch this giant --oh. Is that what I think it is?
On the ground, pooling at Everest’s feet, is a dark green liquid. Everest picks a twig from the nearest tree and drops it, carefully, into the liquid. As the twig lands on the liquid it sprouts, leaves leaping out, roots digging into the earth and branches reaching higher and higher--- In a matter of seconds the pool is replaced with a massive tree.
“Something killed a wood nymph.”
Everest reached his arms around the new tree, measuring its growth—the trunk continuing to expand even as he shouts numbers to Oberon, who scratches them into the dirt.
“It must be one meter—no, two—no, three”
The tree shakes and Everest is knocked backward into Oberon—and then, somehow, it turns, twisting its trunk around, and stops--- the tree is. . .looking? Looking at Everest. Slowly a knot forms under what must be eyes. It opens. . . it. . speaks:
“Thank you, son of Kitra.” It waits a moment, nods at Oberon, who is lying flat on his stomach, terrified. Everest glances over at his companion—some protector—and looks up at the tree.
“What happened to you, spirit?”
“I was killed. Surely that much is clear? Oh. How was I killed, you mean? Horrid men, with weapons I have never seen. They got into the deep forest, invaded my home, killed my sisters--- I fought. I killed eight of them, but there were too many and I was injured. I ran, calling on the forest to protect me, but somehow they found me, hurt me….I landed here. They tried to take my body but the forest wouldn’t allow them—the trees reached out and lifted me high above, where THEY could not reach. When you found me the forest used your magic to transfigure my spirit, so I could warn you.”
“Warn me? Warn me of what?”
Everest was now keenly aware of how close to his home they were—sure, it was protected by ancient magic, but if these humans could kill a wood nymph surely they were working with some other ancient race. The tree spirit ignored him, instead reaching up with its branches, retrieving its body from the forest. Elisesofia gasped—the nymph looked strikingly similar to her. Except that its skin was a light green and its hair had somehow sprouted flowers. The tree spirit cradled its body for a moment before opening a knot on yet another side. It deposited the body into the knot, which sealed up and disappeared.
“The humans are working with an ancient evil. I do not yet know what evil this is, but it is growing strong. It was able to walk through the ancient seal surrounding my home, bringing its men with it. It was looking for something. It picked up each child, examined them, destroyed them…
Here the spirit paused, its leaves seemed to shiver, the forest silent and the wind still.
“In my new form I have a message for you. There are two humans and a child running from this evil. You will encounter them before you reach your home. They will ask your help. You must help them. The child must be protected. Humans, before they became the greedy, slovenly beings they are now, once walked the forest with the ancients, and some possessed different skills in magic. This child, it seems, holds the key to that magic. She is a remarkable little thing. You MUST help them.”
Everest looked at the tree spirit. He had heard the story of the humans before. He had even seen and worked with humans in his travels. But why him? His magic was only minor, healing, vanishing, his ability to understand and speak with Oberon. . . how could he help this child? Still, here he was, standing before the spirit of a wood nymph, one of the more powerful forest creatures, and it was asking for his help.
“I will do all I can.” He offered.