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Chapter 2

Seven Hundred and Seventy-One Years Later

Almost eight hundred years had passed since Astrid disappeared, and Elvia still lamented of that one day so long ago; which she would exchange an eternity for, just to relive again, and stop those despicable things from happening. She was plagued with regret that she had ever picked up that red stone. Why… why did she do it…? She wished she had left it alone and took Astrid to see the Elder Forest Fairies instead. If she never had touched and carried it back to the temple, the Beast would have never learned of Astrid, and Astrid wouldn’t have gone away from the Forest. Elvia never told anyone of her encounter with Astrid, she thought it best not to.

Thus were Elvia’s thoughts, as she flew towards her Life Stone, where she first met the witch she had befriended. She gazed at her stone, supernaturally clearer than a diamond, and mused at the reflected colors of light, as if there were some message too deep to grasp, amid the rich, flickering, iridescent colored rays; reminding her of some odyssey gone wrong, or some abandoned purpose of that ill-fated day.

Singing a sad, but beautiful song, she opened up and poured out her heart this soliloquy to Astrid. The sun was warm, and it was a fine day; like the one when she had been interrupted and frightened by a witch; a witch that had changed the Forest forever. As she commenced dancing on the transparent diamond object, sparkling spotlight rays, bent up from at her feet, like they were from a rotating prism in the middle of the clear wee lagoon. She climbed them in loveliness, as her arms flowed in a delicate motion, like willows in a gentle breeze. Her echoing, angelic voice, filled the trees with poetry; and sunlight joined the dance, and poured down from the sky happily, where all else was a bitter cold memory… Elvia could not forget.

At the base of the mountain, far below the reaches of this mystical world; there was a man that would pave a way to something far greater than he could have ever imagined. What important role he would play in the discovery of a place more remarkable than any other place on earth! He was a tall, brown haired, brown eyed, man of 6′2", living in a house that he had built nestled amongst the trees; an ideal abode for his young family. His name was Adam Cross. He had two sons; Jack, a dark haired, light gray eyed, eight year old; and Adrian, a brown haired, hazel eyed, six year old.

Adam had in his possession all the journals and writings, on the Lost Forest; he traveled, collecting everything he could get his hands on over the years, and dedicated his life, to accumulating any literature he could find about the legendary Lost Forest. How overwrought he became, studying them laboriously again and again. He had no knowledge of who they had been written by, exactly, or of where they originated from. The writings said that somewhere up on the mist covered mountain, there was a paradise, and to find it, you must first become lost…

Adam gazed out through the big wood-framed window, facing the mountain; the morning sky, cloaked with thick rain clouds. Adrian, who just awoke, noticed his father looking out the window and quietly crept over to him. Adrian observed, looking up at his father, then out at the mountain.

“Why are you looking at the mountain?”

Adam looked down at his youngest son, and said jokingly. “I’m looking at the mountain, because I don’t want to forget what it looks like!”

Adrian laughed and said. “What is up there?”

Adam replied with an exaggerated and expressive countenance. “Somewhere... up there... there is a Forest, where no one has ever been. A Forest filled with creatures that have never been seen... and most of all, the Four Protectors… who make sure to keep it that way!”

Adrian always showed great enthusiasm and Adam loved this about most children; their adventurous spirit!

“Can we go out and find it right now?”

Adam glanced at Adrian then back out the window, as if in deep thought. “Someday, we will… but not now.” Adrian stared at the mountain, in mostly just mimicking his dad, rather than actually having a reason to for himself. Adrian was definitely daddy’s little boy.

Meanwhile, Jack was still in his bedroom, groggily waking from slumber, rubbing his tired eyes. With a yawn he stretched out his arms from east to west, much like a compass deciding where to steady its arrow. Partially off balance, he got up to enter the hallway, and stumbled towards the kitchen, to fetch a glass of water.

He caught a glimpse of his father and Adrian, staring out the big window, as he proceeded around the counter. Curious, and yet amused, he veered over and said as he looked on out at the scenery. “Aw man, it’s gonna rain again!”

Adam looked at his older son Jack, and said in a sense of humor. “And that means we can spend all day in the house listening to me telling stories of the Lost Forest… AGAIN!”

Jack poked fun back. “No… Adrian can.”

Adrian smiled at his father. “How long will it take us to find the Forest dad?”

Adam answered. “Well, let’s see… you won’t be old enough for at least fourteen years, and then… we would need at least, ah… two months for preparations, and to get a team together for this expedition!”

Adrian gleamed with excitement. “I can hardly wait!”

Jack rolled his eyes and walked off into the kitchen, to get that glass of water he wanted. He only truly remembered what it was like, to be so parched, as he watched the water pour out from the container.

Adam knew Jack to be more of a seeker than a lifer. Adrian was definitely a lifer like him. But Jack seemed to have it all figured out. He always assumed responsibility, and was a very good big brother to Adrian; aside from picking on him from time to time. That was a thing to laugh at and dismiss; for what siblings didn’t pick on each other.

“So what do we want for breakfast?”

Adrian wanted the same thing for breakfast every morning it seemed; always. “I want pancakes!”

Adam clapped and rubbed his hands together playfully, and said. “Pancakes it is!” Adam walked into the kitchen, took a bowl out of the cupboard, and started mixing up the batter. Adrian followed right behind his father, elated to help him. Adam had a magnetizing personality, finding the fun and appreciation in everything. But even though it was Adrian, that had only ever been a sponge, eager to absorb and depend on daddy, Jack was not distant, just more independent; a natural born leader, as one would predict.

The first pancake was poured into the spattering greased pan, by the time Jack had finished his second glass of water. He walked back to his room, to change out of his pajamas, and by the time he had come back, Adrian and his dad were setting the table with plates, forks, and three glasses of orange juice. Jack opened the refrigerator door, grabbed the syrup, and placed it on the table.

Before eating, they all sat down and folded their hands to pray. “Lord, thank you for this food we’re about to receive… and may it leave us in good health... Amen...”

“Amen.” Jack said along with his father.

Adrian thought it fun to wait after they both had said it, then he would say it in a cute childish characterized voice. Adam would be annoyed, but at least Adrian was original, he had to give him that.

Adam had raised his kids as best he could, to be self-disciplined, have good values, and to be all around, good people. It hadn’t been an easy thing to do in a broken family. Their mother and him were divorced. They clashed in the worse of ways; because of his obsessions and free spirit, and her practical business-woman mentality. She wasn’t the most positive person to be around. But she did have at least one trait that he had fallen in love with, and will always be in love with; her crazy overachieving, workaholic attitude.

Jack was the first to finish breakfast. He rose from the table, and went over to the sink, rinsed his plate, and then proceeded to take the trash out. Adam and Adrian finished eating, did the dishes, and put them away. Jack had been gone for quite a while now… Adam wondered what could be keeping him. He looked at the clock and noticed that Jack had been out there for almost half an hour! This was ridiculous!

Adam walked out the front door, shooting back a worried look at Adrian, telling him to sit tight for a minute. He thought that something terrible might have happened! With haste, he made his way to the back of the house, and luckily he found Jack there, cradling a baby raccoon in his arms. Adam sighed with relief. “Jack! You scared me half to death! I thought something horrible had happened to you!”

“I’m sorry dad, but I got caught up with this raccoon here. He was trapped in the trashcan, so I had to get him out… can I keep him?”

Adam looked at Jack with composure and replied. “Where would you keep a raccoon?”

Jack said in a positive manner. “Rickie can stay in my room, and I’ll take good care of him, I promise! So can I please, keep him?”

Adam stared at the raccoon for a moment, and pondered, then, gently rubbed his furry little head. “Since you named him, he’s part of the family now; so he’s stuck with us!”

Jack, in anxious excitement, thanked his dad more than once, as he ran for the house with his new pet raccoon, Rickie. This would be great, having a pet raccoon. How he couldn’t wait to see Adrian’s face, when he walked in the door, with this furry little friend in his arms.

Drawing a picture of the mountain for his dad, Adrian dropped his crayon and ran after Jack who carried a baby raccoon to his room. Adam smiled, laughed, and then shook his head, as he heard Jack ranting on and on to Adrian, about his new pet.

That night, they all gathered around the fireplace, and Adam started to tell them legends of the Lost Forest. “Long ago… before man even existed, there was a sacred and enchanted Forest with Four Protectors, and it was filled with mysterious creatures! The Protectors are Beings in the form of humans, gifted with unknown powers and abilities! They are said to be the first of this world; and also the creators of the elements themselves! No one of our world has ever seen them, so no one here knows, for sure, if they exist... or what if that is not it at all… what if they just don’t want to be discovered…”

Adam went on and on about the legends, with great enthusiasm, keeping his vocabulary simple, until Jack and Adrian fell asleep. Then, he put them to bed, and went to his study.

It’d seem he’d spent night after night, endlessly studying, figuring out as much as he could, and comparing notes; but he always ended up, not quite being able to fit the pieces together. What was it about the legends of the Lost Forest, that he couldn’t find any hard facts; how would he be able to prove this to anyone! If only he could… then he would have something. He needed concrete evidence, proof, that the Forest existed.

Frustrated, Adam began exploring the mountain by himself. He went rampaging around, from time to time, to see if he could make any sense of what he read, if he could find anything unusual; but he had made none-whatsoever progress.

One day, when Adam had gone on a hike in the woods, he could have sworn he saw something. A ghostly movement of some kind; he was not certain. He chased towards it, but there was nothing there. He looked around, his vision sharp. He felt that something had been watching him, but found there to be nothing again.

He continued to walk, still keeping an eye out. Some kind of out of this world presence had been taunting him. Like a demon, it plagued him, tormented him, to the point of making him question his own sanity. This time there was definitely a presence of something, and it closed in on him; he sensed it. No doubt in his mind now; there was undeniably something there. Adam quickly turned, and took a few steps back on his heel. The air was quiet, the woods were calm; and there was nothing there to see, but just the forest and him. If any kind of thing was disturbing anything, it was him, who had been doing so. Had he gone mad? He backed up on his heel several more steps, feeling disheartened and confused. He cried for help, when all of a sudden, he tripped and disappeared into the ground, falling down into a deep black pit. His body, clumsily bounced off one side of the pit to the next, ripping pieces of his flesh and clothes, and leaving them hang on the jagged rocks. The faces of his two young boys, and the thought of how he may never find the Forest, flashed through his eternal contemplation in one instant. The fall ended; and Adam’s body laid at the bottom of the hole, without a sound, or even the slightest motion.

His sons, unaware of what had happened, wondered why their father hadn’t return. It was dark now; Jack and Adrian were afraid! This was not like their father, to leave them all alone at home, when the sun had gone down.

Jack thought of going out to look for his dad, but the woods were not safe for a child his age. The woods were full of wolves and bears, and other wild animals as well, and God knows what else. Adrian was in a panic, and Jack tried to comfort him, by letting him hold Rickie. Adrian started to calm down, until he heard thunder roar from outside. Oh how ironic that a storm would be raging in such a situation. Adrian squeezed Rickie tightly, and ran into his room. Jack ran after him and closed the door. They sat on the bed, hiding under the covers, waiting for the rain to stop.

Opening his eyes from a pleasant dream, into a nightmare, Jack woke, and realized it was morning. Jack looked at Adrian, peacefully asleep, still holding Rickie in his arms. He roused his little brother, and they both, began searching the house for their father. Adrian held Rickie tightly, as he followed Jack out of the room.

They went to Adam’s study, to see if he was there; and peeking around the corner, Jack was sorely disappointed he wasn’t.

This really had happened to them; their father had gone missing. And out of all the tragic scheme of things, that could have been; that could have gone wrong; this was it. Jack entered the room, treading his feet over the parquet floor, and came to his father’s desk. There, he saw a large opened book, with several other papers collected around it of Adam’s handwriting. Also on the desk, there were a few bound and tied, much older books… and a few scuffled journals. The big book, was opened to a page, page fourteen; and something caught Jack’s eyes, as significant, upon that page; some kind of symbols, in quilled ink, bordering along the edge of the bound paper. There were more designs, drawings; and written there, upon the page, was an interesting description of a village that use to stand at the bottom of the mountain; more than several hundred years ago. He read on:

Beyond the woods covered in mist,

Far from the shadows where the sun hits,

There lies the Forest that began all of this.

Jack stopped reading, lost in thought for a moment; his beliefs, worries, and all sense entertained by fear, and further realization, of the downright seriousness, of the incident, that his father had gone missing; and still, since last night, had not returned. Could he ever hope to see his father again. Jack picked up the phone, to call the police. The line was dead. He should go look for his father, but he couldn’t leave Adrian alone; plus, he hadn’t any idea of where to start…

A few days later, when the phone lines were back on, Jack made a called to his mother, and told her, that their father had been missing for three days. She flew out there to handle the situation, and immediately, she had a search and rescue team looking for Adam. They found his body five days later.

It was almost too tragic to be true; but it was. Their mother broke the news to them in tears. Jack took to silent mourning. This was a lot to take in, and now everything would also change, because of it. Adrian was traumatized. They all hugged and cried together, but it was Adrian who had freaked out the most. “No! He’s not dead!” he screamed in utter horror, his mother then comforting him more, which was all that she felt she could do, and knew how to do. She told them, that they would have to leave here, and come live with her in America. Of course, she wouldn’t let Rickie go along, so Jack had to say goodbye to him; and that seemed to tear every little bit that remained of his father away from him. It was as if his death was being rubbed in his face; how stricken and unsettled it made him feel; not only because Rickie was his pet, but because his dad allowed him to keep him.

While their mom helped Adrian pack, Jack finished packing, and went into his dad’s study. He grabbed the worn, leather-covered books, from on his father’s desk, gathering up the papers also, and put them in his bag, along with everything else he could find, that his dad had jotted down and made sketches of. After Jack and Adrian were ready, their mother took them aside, to speak to them; in hopes to help them accept the change. “It will be okay. Everything is going to be alright.” she tried to give them a sense of reassurance, that even though their father was no longer with them, they would somehow find a way to move on. They walked out the door, and Jack and Adrian took one last look at the house, as they loaded there stuff into the vehicle.

When they arrived at the airport, and boarded the plane, Jack began to cry, and stared out the small round window. He made a promise to himself at that very moment; that someday he would find the Lost Forest; for the world... and for his dad.

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