Chapter Two: The Winter Forest
It didn’t go as plan. In fact, everything went wrong.
The next morning I woke up and put on some clothes. I was wearing brown trousers and a white shirt with long sleeves. I grabbed my black coat and as many warm clothes as I could since I was going into the Winter Forest.
I was careful not to wake Violet as I left the letter on her bed.
I started packing my bag, which I on the one side had no idea what to put in? Therefore, I packed a few sets of extra clothes and some blankets that my mom had crochet when she was still alive. I didn’t know how long this was going to take or if I would come back. Trying to pack for something like this alone was difficult.
I walked to the kitchen finding Katherine coming in the door. She wore brown pants and boots with a black coat pulled over it so I couldn’t see what shirt she was wearing. It was perfect for winter weather.
“What are you doing here?” I questioned her.
“I’m coming with you.”
Her black hair was hanging loose, but there were two pieces braided backwards from the front and formed one braid at the back over her loose hair. She really looked very pretty.
“No you’re not,” I said walking to the kitchen table placing my bag on it.
“You can’t tell me what to do? I’m coming with you.”
“How did you even know I was going to go?”
“I’m your best friend Leo. Did you really think I believed that you weren’t going to do anything when I left last night?” she said.
“What are you going to do? Go fight an entire army alone?”
There was no use fighting it. I didn’t even return a word to her. I was in reality relieved to see her because I knew she had the support I needed. I didn’t really know what I was going to do so having her with me might just give me some idea.
“Alright,” I filled her in on my plan and she nodded.
“I’ll just go get my sword,” I went to our house’s basement.
I was a pretty good swordsman. My dad always used to teach me when we were down in the grain fields and he would take a break from working. He used to be a soldier in a kingdom near the sea a long time ago. I could always see that strong side of him when he would teach me.
There wasn’t a lot of stuff in the basement, a few wooden sticks, an old wooden wheel for a carriage, my sword, Pride, my father’s sword and a bow with a few arrows that hung against the wall. I walked over to the sword and took it off the wall. The sword was in a pitching black sheath. I took it out, revealing a blade made out of silver with a black leather handle. Just above its handle stood the swords name, Pride, engraved in the silver. I stood there for a moment admiring the craftsmanship. I always wondered who made the sword because whoever it was, he or she had serious skills. My dad said that my mother told him it was a gift from an old friend of hers to give to her son someday. He also told me that he never met this mystery friend of my mom’s with a laugh.
It made me sad suddenly because I didn’t know if any of this we were about to do would help.
“Are you ready?” Violet asked.
“I guess so,” I said unconvincingly.
Wait, how did she now?
I turned just in time to see her running through the doorway. She was wearing a black dress with a dark green sweater over it. Her blond hair was hanging loosely over her shoulders and I could easily see she hasn’t combed her hair yet.
She wasn’t supposed to find out. She was smart and I was too naive to see it. It must have been the fact that she was so little. Like a woven doll that could so easily be hurt.
I followed her upstairs reluctantly because she would definitely not answer if I called her. I think in my dazed state I just took too long to respond.
“I already backed a bag of some food for the trip,” she said as she pointed at the bag that lay on the table.
I looked at Katherine who held up her shoulders.
“Um... you know you aren’t going with us right?” I told her.
“I’m not going to stay with Mrs Morley like you said in your letter. You can’t stop me from not going.”
“You sound like Katherine,” I rolled my eyes and Katherine gave me a deadly look.
Why couldn’t she have slept a little longer? I looked her in the eyes seeing how much she wanted to help with this. I tried to figure out the best way to go forward. If she was with me, I would be able to know if she was safe. But then again if she was with me, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep her safe.
“Well, I guess I can’t leave you here alone.”
My mom would have rolled over in her grave if she knew what I just said. Violet’s face brightened up with joy, but I ignored it. This wasn’t essentially something to be happy about. I went to my room to get the rest of the stuff I had packed but got stuck staring at a mirror in my room. I looked a little tired. There were bags under my eyes and I could see why Katherine might not have wanted me to go alone. There just wasn’t time to think about my needs at this point.
I took all the bags outside and tied it to my horse. I saw that Violet already helped herself to the stable to get a horse and was busy saddling up. Katherine joined us outside carrying a few bags and helped me tie it to Violet’s horse.
“I thought you wouldn’t let your sister come?” she whispered softly to me when Violet was back in the stables.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” I said.
I climbed onto Abrus and looked back at Katherine and Violet as they climbed onto their horses. They rode up next to me and we looked at each other. All of us seemed unsure of what this adventure would bring but we knew that it was something we had to do. We started riding to the edge of the Winter Forest since there was no reason to postpone.
I pulled on my winter coat as at any moment, when we would enter, ice-cold snow would cover us and it would be freezing. I wasn’t going to re-experience yesterday, no matter how much I enjoyed it before everything bad happened.
I looked the forest up and down and somehow today, it seemed dangerous. Like there was a reason, the soldiers didn’t want to be in here. If they feared the king of this land, shouldn’t I? I looked at Katherine and Violet. We simply had to do this, for our parents.
“Ready?” I asked not knowing myself.
“I guess so,” Katherine said and she started riding in. Violet and I followed after her. In an instant, I could feel the coldness around me trying to get through the coat every time it had the chance. I could just imagine the site of us. A seventeen-year-old boy heading on a quest to figure out whom the people were who attacked his village, alongside his ten-year-old sister and his eighteen-year-old friend. I wanted to laugh at that thought.
We were totally new to the quest thing and didn’t know what to do? We didn’t even look for tracks since they would have been long gone and underneath the snow. We rode along the ice-covered pine trees, deeper into winter, snowflakes falling all around us. The first place we rode to was where we saw the fairies.
I started to think what I would’ve done when I was alone and I might have done the same. I wasn’t just going to ride off in the forest until I saw someone? Then again, I might not be the smartest person in the world. Having the two of them with me might just give me the calm I need to focus well.
When we got there, we saw that the fairies were all dancing again and creating snowflakes. It must have been their job to bring winter as my mother told me because I have never seen anything so excited about winter.
“It’s almost like in the stories you used to tell me,” Violet gasped.
I remembered that when she was little I used to tell her the stories that my mom once told me. I tried my best in telling her but I wasn’t nearly as good as my mom was. She could make me believe anything. I never thought that Violet would remember them as good as I would but she must’ve remembered some of it.
When they saw us coming, they flew excitedly towards us. I couldn’t believe that they remembered us from before.
I wanted to laugh at Violet for the look on her face. I think this might have overstepped her imagination to the point where she just stared with an open mouth, and for Violet to be quiet took a lot. I imagined I looked the same yesterday.
They were truly something special. Their petite little white features and wings with the faintest little glow about them. I might have even had the same look on my face as Violet again today.
I didn’t think they liked Violet that much because they wouldn’t go near her. Although Violet seemed extraordinary curious about them. She tried to reach her hands out towards them but they flattered themselves away from her.
The horses didn’t seem bothered with the little creatures. They only sniffed them occasionally as some of the fairies flew past their nostrils.
“I guess you wouldn’t know something about a king that ruled this land, would you?” Katherine asked them with a sigh.
From my experience yesterday, I knew fairies probably couldn’t talk so I didn’t expect an answer. We started riding forward when one fairy started pulling Katherine’s hair as to show her that she should follow her. Then a bunch of them started flying in a direction and we decided that we should follow. I mean what did we have to lose?
For little fairies, they sure moved swiftly and it was hard to keep up with them. I could tell that Abrus was getting tired but he kept following the fairies, even when I couldn’t see them. I didn’t know if they smelled differently or something but he could follow them.
We were moving so fast that I couldn’t really keep track of where we were going or where we were. I don’t even think I would be able to make my way back if the fairies left us. Which was maybe not a smart move from our part; we should’ve left some sort of trail or marks in the trees. However, it was too late for that now. And just as I was thinking that the fairies would help us we didn’t have to worry, they proved me wrong.
At that point, they all just stopped in front of a river and flew away. I jinxed myself with this I thought immediately as I starred at the river. We looked at each other not knowing what to do next because they just abandoned us in the middle of nowhere. The horses didn’t seem like they wanted to find out where they were going anymore.
“What now?” Violet asked us with an expression on her face as if we were the ’fairy experts’.
“Let’s just get some water and then we can travel upstream,” I told them and I climbed off Abrus to drink some water.
The river was really wide as what I measured to be twenty meters and the water was ice cold. It was a wonder it wasn’t frozen solid excluding the fact that every now and then there would flow a block of ice down the river.
I was amazed at how silent the river was, compared to its size. We should’ve heard the water easily, but the stream just moved slowly along with the bends of the trees in the forest. It seemed strong and confident in itself, knowing it didn’t have to show off to anyone since everyone knew it was the strongest.
I splashed my face with the water (which wasn’t such a good idea but I had to say that it felt like a brand new day) and climbed back onto Abrus. My face still feeling a little solid from the water. The horses drank a little water as I looked at the surroundings some more.
It looked like everything was untouched like no human has ever walked here. The sunlight shined on the river, just showing how cold the water was in its dark ice blue colour. I looked at Katherine but it didn’t match her eyes perfectly yet. The surrounding pine trees stood tall and proud along the river. They seemed much larger than the trees at the edge of the forest. I tried to figure out how far we travelled but it was hard to say with all the turns we made with the fairies. Still, it must have been about ten in the morning already.
The moment we were all ready to go upstream, something peculiar happened. The entire river started to freeze solid. I mean completely solid. You couldn’t even hear the flowing of water anymore. It started upstream and froze everything till as far as we could see downstream. That settled it. We had to move upstream to find out what just happened. We rode off and there wasn’t a lot to talk about except the fact that an entire river just froze over.
Katherine and I moved in and out of conversations but we didn’t say a lot because Violet was here. It was hard to talk about something upsetting when a small kid was around whom you were trying to keep away from everything upsetting. Katherine looked a little annoyed about Violet being here, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Violet, on the other hand, couldn’t keep quiet. She kept muttering stuff like ‘Fairies are real’ and ‘Do you think they could be my friend?’, ‘I don’t think fairies like me though’, ‘Can we capture fairies?’, ‘Maybe fairies are the reason why people are afraid of the forest?’ and ‘Are all the stories you told me real?’
Two things irritated me. Firstly, Katherine gave me that look that said she told me so. And I knew she did because at this point I was going to strangle Violet with all her questions. Then secondly, I didn’t have an answer to any of her questions except the one about capturing fairies. Because I felt that was like a big no-no and I didn’t want to start some type of fairy war against humanity all because Violet took one of their siblings.
I looked at Violet.
“What?” she asked.
“Your brother is just questioning his own judgment a little,” Katherine informed her.
“Nothing Violet,” I said staring at Katherine. “Just stop asking questions.”
“What’s that?” Violet pointed to the opposite side of the river.
I rolled my eyes and look in the directions when my heart started pounding. About a quarter of a mile upstream on the other side of the river, we saw an animal or human? We got closer and not one of my statements were wrong. The thing was half goat/ half-human in fact.
My mind rushed to a time when I was little and played near the Winter Forest. This goat was something I saw that day. I remembered describing the creature to my mother but she had me convinced it was a dream. I would never forget the look in her eyes. A look of sadness, fear, and pride as she spoke to me.
‘Forget about the dream Leo,’ my mom said. ‘Satyrs aren’t real.’
The satyr turned at us and looked very pleased to see us, unlike Violet who was almost dying. I wasn’t going to deny that I wasn’t handling the half human half goat thing well but I tried my best.
On the top of his head were two horns growing out between his curly brown hairs. The creature wasn’t beautiful with its dark hair clinging towards its upper body from the lower half. Considering it all, I had to say the more I thought about it, the more it scared me. My head didn’t want to understand. I guess little Leo didn’t dream up the satyrs in my mom’s stories. I wondered if she really knew about all of this or just got the stories somewhere. How many of the stuff my mother told me, was real?
I realised that there now wasn’t one, but four of them standing on the other side. They waved at us casually as if they normally saw visitors. I only smiled back awkwardly although Violet waved back at them in a way that would suggest she grew up with one of them.
“Leo!” she cried, “This is unbelievable. They are human goats.”
“Satyrs,” Katherine suggested.
I looked over at her.
“Your mom told me stories too,” she said, but by her face, I could tell that she was still in disbelief herself.
My gaze focused back on them, as they seemed to be in some type of conversation regarding us too. They were laughing and still waving towards us.
But suddenly their friendly faces paled and they looked stressed. They waved at us to hurry up and come over the river as if we were about to be in danger. I didn’t know if they could talk or not, but their faces alone didn’t need much explaining.
We hesitated for a second but the longer we stood there, the more it looked like they were about to pass out from fright. So I let Abrus take the first step without even looking at Katherine or Violet.
We started walking the horses over the river, which was hard because their hooves weren’t use to the ice. When we unexpectedly heard a growl from behind us, I knew they would just have to move faster. I made the mistake of turning my head around and neither my heart nor mind could handle what I saw. There behind us were three lions with wings, which landed on the ice, looking ready to jump us.
“Griffons!” a satyr yelled more anxiously towards us.
Griffons seemed like an odd name for yet another legendary creature with the body, back legs and tail of a lion with a head, wings and front talons of an eagle. Two of them had a golden colour but the one on the right was grey with black spots. I didn’t even now that they existed, I mean I maybe thought they did exist but thought they were extinct. Or was that just another story my mom told me when I was little? I started to wish that I didn’t see things from stories anymore. My head just started to hurt. Well, that didn’t matter, these were real living beasts of fury.
“Hurry over! Griffons are afraid of water!” the one satyr shouted and we started to rush the horses across.
I didn’t understand how that would help since they would be able to fly over the water but I wasn’t planning on just giving up.
“Get them. They are wanted!” the one griffon snarled as they started to move on the ice. Or no, it was a person on the griffon. A soldier dressed in the same black armour that attacked our town. I just didn’t understand what we could be wanted for?
Then out of nowhere, four white tigers jumped the griffons. They were beautiful animals. Their white fur blended in perfectly with the snow and ice. It was almost like they could just melt away and you wouldn’t see them again. There was one person on the first tiger in silver armour with a spear.
“What are you doing on the king’s land?” the tiger’s rider growled,
“We have some business to attend to,” the one griffon’s rider said as his griffon attacked one of the other tigers.
We reached the other end of the river just in time to see the battle start between the warriors.
“Follow us!” the one satyr shouted and all four of them started running deeper into the forest. I turned to Katherine and Violet not knowing if we should trust them.
I saw Violet look back.
“We have no choice,” she started riding after them. I turned to find that the tigers and griffons were now in complete combat, scratching and snarling at one another. One of the warriors riding a griffon was on the ice now fighting with a bronze axe that shined in the light. He was extremely brave considering that he was fighting a massive tiger.
He locked eyes with me and I shivered because the colour of his eyes was black.
“Get them,” the other man screamed but a tiger attacked him, breaking his eyes from my gaze. I felt dazed but I started following Violet that had a good head start on us. My first priority was to keep my sister safe.
We followed the satyrs for about a mile when they suddenly vanished. We looked around turning the horses in different directions, just seeing more and more pine trees or snow. I could still hear the growling of the tigers and the yelling of the riders.
I didn’t know where the satyrs were until one popped out his head from a nearby cave. The cave hid well with a thick layer of ice on the top and icy pine trees all around. The outside walls were black from stone and there was no trace of any life ever being there.
We climbed off our horses and headed into the cave after him.