Chapter 5: Tressa
Being a quite, do-good, peasant girl from Highrose, I would have never, in a million years, even think to go into a forest in the middle of the night. What a stupid thing to do! I’ve heard stories of idiotic people going into the Black Forest to test their bravery, and I’ve always wanted to slap them in the face for being so foolish. Now I was about to do the same thing. But I wasn’t doing it to be brave; I couldn’t be brave even if I wanted to. I was doing it because it was the quickest way to get to me sister. Lucille did the math and told me that if we went around the forest, it would take almost a full day to make it to Bluefield. Going through the forest would take about half the time and we’d catch up to Clementine and her abductor sooner.
There were a lot of flaws in our plan but with no other ideas and my growing desperation to find her as soon as possible, we were going to take our chances. But as we stood there, staring up at the dark forest, I began to wonder if it was a good idea.
“If we die, who’s going to save Clementine?” Lucille whispered to me, as if she was afraid the creatures in the forest would hear her.
I shrugged, my eyes not leaving the forest. “I guess we’re just going to have to make sure we don’t die.”
We decided that our horses would not be able to maneuver through the dense forest, so we left them behind. The forest was located ten minutes away from my house and the entire walk was spent in silence, trying to keep calm.
I didn’t know what laid in the forest. The stories all say that there are witches and magical creatures hiding in the forest, just waiting for the next unlucky traveler to snatch up and kill. Some people have heard strange noises and seen bright lights in the forest. Most people are afraid to even come this close to it.
“Shall we go in?” I asked, my voice squeaking.
Lucille didn’t say anything, she just nodded and grabbed my hand. I gave it a squeeze and together, we crept towards the looming darkness.
As we drew near, the scent of loam in the earth and decomposing leaves filled my nostrils, making the atmosphere feel warm and thick. Paranoia immediately set in as soon as we passed the tree line and I felt exposed. As if I were standing in a crowd of people with no clothes on. It was eerily silent and I could hear the soft susurration of branches floating overhead. There wasn’t much of a path to follow but I had a compass and as long as we kept facing northeast, we would be fine. I could just barely read my compass but I knew we were headed in the right direction. The ground was uneven, and I kept tripping over knotted roots and branches. It didn’t help that the darkness was unbearable. It closed in on us from all sides, making me feeling so stuffy and claustrophobic.
We continued to maneuver through the thick forestry in silence, afraid that anything we said would be overheard. Every crunch of leaves and branches made me cringe. The feeling of being watched was heightened and there was an odd itch between my shoulders. Someone was following us, watching us, mocking us. I reached for Lucille’s hand again to ensure I didn’t lose her to the darkness. My heart was pounding and I was sweating through my traveling clothes.
I began to walk faster in hopes that I could escape the feeling I had. But as hours passed, the gnawing in the back of my mind grew tell I was sure I could hear footsteps behind us.
Lucille finally slowed and said “I need to stop for a bit.”
I glanced around nervously and shuddered. Despite the warm summer air, I had goosebumps on my arms. “Do you feel like someone’s following us?”
Lucille bit her lip and peeked over her shoulder. “Kind of. But we’ve been walking for two hours and my feet are sore. I’ll only need a minute of rest.”
I nodded and sat down on the log beside her. I noticed that the forest wasn’t as dark as it was when we started and I tilted my head up to see the sky. I could only see a glimpse of the sky through the thick canopy above, but I could tell that it was almost dawn. The thought of daylight made me feel better.
After a minute of rest, Lucille and I went back to maneuvering through the forest and even though the feeling was still there, I felt more comforted knowing daylight was on its way.
We were trekking for a few minutes before I noticed a log that looked strangely familiar to the one we were sitting on. I mentioned this to Lucille but she just shrugged. “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Your eyes are probably just seeing things.”
I heard a noise to our left, the sound of footsteps that are not our own. Lucille and I stood motionless, holding our breaths. I could see the faint outline of a person that, to me, looked very small. The figure took a step forward and I could see her clearly.
I blinked a few times, positive that this was a trick. She was still there. My beautiful little sister. Her long hair was silky and shiny and her eyes lit up as she smiled. I didn’t think about the danger I was in at the moment, I just stood there and stared at her. “How? How are you…?”
“Come with me, sister. I know a place we can be save.” Her high-pitched voice sounded like music to my ears. I could tell Lucille was trying to get my attention, in fact, she looked almost panicked, but all I could focus on was Clementine. I felt jubilant for the first time since we began our journey. I couldn’t remember why we were in a forest or why Lucille was gripping my arm, but I knew everything would be alright. I felt myself taking a step towards my sister before something hard hit my face.
My reverie was broken and I gazed at Lucille, confused. “It’s not her! It’s a witch!” She yelled.
I turned back to where Clementine was standing and sure enough, she was no longer the sister I knew and loved. Instead, an old, ratty woman stood, grinning wickedly at me. I hastily took a step back and the woman cackled.
Lucille pulled a knife from her bag and pointed it at the woman. “Go back to where you came from, witch, or I’ll kill you.”
The witch laughed again, showing us what little teeth she had left. “You look hungry. Want some dinner?”
Lucille glared at her. “No. We’re not hungry. Now go away! I’m warning you.”
The woman turned her smirk on me and croaked. “If you keep heading in the direction you’re going, you’ll never make it out.” She cackled again and I felt myself get angry.
“Come on Lucille.” I whispered, turning away from the witch.
“But…” She glanced nervously between me and the witch. “Shouldn’t we get rid of her?”
“Not worth our time.” I didn’t realize how tired I was but seeing Clementine again hit me full force and I felt like I could go to sleep and never wake up. But I knew I needed to find Clem and that sleeping would waste valuable time.Lucille and I turned away from the still laughing woman and disappeared through the forestry. The witch’s laughter didn’t fade until the sun rose into the sky.
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