Chapter Seven: Heart of the Forest
They both shut their eyes as they laid next to each other on the ground. They felt the change, and on the count of three, they opened their eyes. A wave of terror spread over them as they found themselves looking down on the forest. They were up in the sky, their backs attached to the air. They could see a roof from the top, they both had assumed it was the cabin they were looking for. In this place, it seemed like the two of them were on the same page at every twist or turn. They knew that they weren’t going to get what they want by turning on each other. They were going to work together and get what they came for.
“H...how do we get there?” Sylvia asked. “Without plummeting to our deaths.”
“Stand up?” Wes suggested.
“But we could fall down.”
“There is only one way to find out,” Wes said. “On three, one...two...three.”
Both of them jumped up and were standing, their feet into the sky and their heads facing the top of the cabin and trees. They let out a sigh of relief as they stood or better yet hovered, but then they felt something let go, and before they knew it they were ‘plummeting to their deaths.’ They both fell through the sky screaming. As they came closer to the ground they had braced themselves for the impact, their eyes shut tight. When they stopped falling and didn’t hit the ground, they slowly opened their eyes and found themselves hovering inches above the ground. Their breaths were the only thing they could hear, everything else seemed to be silent. At a shuffling noise they looked up to see a boy, his hand out, palm facing them. His blonde hair was noticeably dirty, it had gotten dark hue, his tan skin was brittle and scratched in multiple places, his shoes were torn to shreds, and his brown eyes looked somewhat empty. The boy slowly lowered is hand-making Wes and Sylvia fall down onto their stomach. They both grunted at the impact, but glad that it was a small distance, rather than the large one they were expecting. They collected themselves up and brushed the leaves and dirt off their garments.
“You two are new.” the boy said, more like a fact than a question.
“Yes,” Sylvia answered. “What is wrong with this place? It’s more cursed than I was told.”
“Cursed?” the boy frowned. “It isn’t cursed.”
“Then why is it...?” Wes asked but Sylvia and the boy understood his question.
“It is more broken than it is cursed.” The boy said.
“Say what?” Sylvia said in astonishment.
“The forest is made of magic.” the boy explained. “It has a heart somewhere in this land, and it is broken, not working properly. That is why it is acting strange.”
“So, why don’t you just go and fix it?”
“Because...he doesn’t know where it is, the heart,” Sylvia said as she figured out the problem. “Or else he would’ve already fixed it, and you are still in search of it, that’s why you haven’t left.”
“It’s like you read my mind.” the boy said and Wes looked at Sylvia accusingly.
“I didn’t use them.” She said in her defense. “I didn’t even touch him. You do know I have to have physical contact to do so.”
“Am I missing something?”
“No.” The two of them turned to him breaking their glaring contest.
“We’ll help you look for the heart,” Sylvia said.
“Uhh...I’m sorry but we can’t help,” Wes said and continued ignoring Sylvia’s protests. “We have to get the Grimoire form the cabin there, and then we have to find Mary’s brother and father, we also have to get back home in time to defeat the werewolves. Our to-do list is full.”
“Did you say, Mary?” The boy said.
“Yeah, she’s from the closest village,” Wes said.
“She is my sister.” He stated in shock himself.
“Well, that’s one task down.” Wes smiled.
“Your father, where is he?” Sylvia asked.
“He never entered the forest.” The boy said. “I saw him leave the village at night with all his luggage. I followed him to the woods outside of the village and confronted him. He said that he had found a woman who he loved more than anything and that he had to go to her. He left in a hurry and I got lost, then I ended up here.”
“’I am terribly sorry about what he did to you,” Wes said empathizing with him. “My father followed the same path.”
Sylvia noticed the pain that was apparent on Wes’s face, she had hardly ever seen him like that. He rarely talked about himself about his family. At first, she thought it was because she was a stranger, but even after their friendship, he had still not opened up to her. She never wanted him to feel like he had to share his past, she was just curious, but he never mentioned it.
“Do you know how to get out?” Sylvia asked. “Because we have two options with us that can take us out.”
“No, I do not.” The boy confessed. “That is why I need your help.”
Sylvia looked at Wes for an answer. Wes had always been one to help everyone in any way he could. But he knew that some things were more important than the others. He looked back and forth between Sylvia and the boy. He couldn’t leave him alone in here while they get out. That was not fair to him, he had gotten lost.
“Alright.” Wes sighed. “What’s your name?”
“Amanadiel.” He said. “Call me Diel.”
“Okay Diel, first we will go in the cabin and find the grimoire just in case we never see the cabin again,” Wes said. “We only have so much time, and after completing the things we came here to do, we promise to help you out, okay?”
“That is all I ask,” Diel said gratefully.
Sylvia was already by the door of the cabin, it was white and red, some strange and rather bright colors for the dark and eerie forest. The doorknob was wooden which struck Sylvia as rather strange. The cabin itself was covered in vines and moss, like its been there since the beginning of times, there was no questioning that it was an old building, yet it looked like all the cabins nowadays. She turned the knob and the door creaked open. The first thing that caught her eye inside was the floor, it was white wood planks, with no dirt at all, in fact, nothing looked old or dirty inside. It was neat and tidy with no spots, the furniture was all in contact, nothing like the outside.
“Woah,” was exclaimed as he entered with Diel. “Rather strange how clean it is.”
“It’s probably magic’s doing,” Sylvia said as she inspected the bookshelf.
Morgana had said that they would know when they found the grimoire. With so many books scattered around, Sylvia was starting to lose hope. Perhaps she would sense the strong magic coming from it, but that just seemed unlikely. Morgana had given them vague instructions, but they ended up finding the cabin, mayhap that will be the case with the grimoire.
“What are you looking for?” Diel asked.
“We don’t know.” Sylvia sighed as she collapsed on a nearby couch. “Morgana should have given us more insight.”
“She didn’t know herself.” We said sill scattering the bookshelves. “And we have to keep looking, we’re just wasting our time if we aren’t. Sitting around, doing nothing but complain.”
“Oh, so I am the whiny one.” She said fuming as she jumped off the couch.
“No, that is not what I said,” Wes said. “You are making a big deal out of nothing.”
“You think I do nothing and just sit around.” She said. “To remind you, I was on the verge of dying a couple of days ago because I fought to werewolves on my own. Is that witting around and doing nothing.”
“Who do you think took you all the way to Morgana to save you.” He said.
“I didn’t ask you to now did I?” She said.
Their bickering went back and forth for a bit longer. They were both too occupied to see Diel leave with their bag. After the dor clattered behind him did the two come back to their senses.
“See you scared the poor boy,” was said and began to go after him when Sylvia stopped him. “What is it?”
“Wes...he...he took the bag.” She said. “It had the potions in it.”
Wes looked where he had left the bag to see it was gone. The two of them ran out the door but saw no trace of him. He was gone and they were stuck, stuck inside a broken magical forest. They were looking around the cabin, running frantically, hating themselves for trusting a stranger. Sylvia didn’t blame Wes for putting the bag down, and Wes didn’t blame Sylvia for starting the fight. They both blamed themselves and they tried to convince each other, otherwise. After a long session of sitting in silence, Sylvia got up.
“Come, let’s look for the Grimoire,” she said holding her hand out. “We will think of the latter worries later.”
We smiled at her optimism in this dire situation and clasped her hand. They began the search for the grimoire yet again, this time more determined than before. They began looking at other places than just the shelf, underneath the sheets, the rug, behind the cabinets, under the tables.
“Do you hear that?” Sylvia asked.
“When I step in this area it sounds like creaking,” she said stepping hard on the floor. “Maybe only I can hear it, it is pretty faint.”
She plopped down to the floor, and knocked on the wood, and smiled as she heard a small echo. It was hollow, meaning that there was something there. She had picked up this trick when she was running away from her attacked village. She would find cabins in the middle of the woods with no rations. after a while of finding nothing in them, she came across their hidden components.
She felt around the floor for a place to pull the board out, she looked behind a moving shelf and found a lever. She crossed her fingers tight, as she pulled the lever. After some strange noises, the board popped open and revealed a book. It was bound with black leather that looked like it had been burned, but it felt normal. It was thick, and heavy, almost like a brick.
“Is this it?” was asked taking the book from Sylvia and admiring it in mid-air.
“Looks that way.” She said and took it back, then gently placed it in her bag. “Now, onto our second problem.”
“How to get out of here,” Wes said out loud. “Do you believe he was lying about the broken heart of the forest?”
“No, I believe he was speaking the truth,” Sylvia said. “It makes sense, magical things, especially as big as this forest, they need to have a powerhouse, a place where everything runs.”
“Only if we could find it,” Wes said. “Where do we even look?”
“Well, that is easy to answer,” Sylvia said. “Wherever the heart is the magic is stronger near it.”
“So it will be more cursed near it?”
“Yes, most likely,” Sylvia said. “So all we have to do is find the most damaged and cursed place in this forest.”
They were determined and fueled by the anger they had towards Diel. They both made it look like that the teleportation potions being stolen didn’t affect them that much, but on the inside, they were terrified. Terrified that they were going to be stuck in this place, terrified that Diel might have life about the heart, terrified that they were all alone, in this broad forest. They were both full of doubt that they will find the heart if it exists. The forest was unfathomably big, there was no way they could find it easily, they both knew it, but they both kept quiet about it for the other.
Sylvia and Wes laid down on the floor, pressed themselves against walls, climbed trees, jumped in the air, crawled through the smallest cave they had seen, but none of it brought them closer to the heart, everywhere they had teleported to was just like the other, nothing major, nothing extremely magical. As they kept on searching up, their hopes went down their faces were down without them knowing, the sighs that escaped their lips, their feet dragging against the magical ground. They hadn’t encountered anything living, no animals, no other people, it was just them walking and teleporting around the forest.
“How long has it been?” Sylvia asked as she looked up at the thick fog at the top that covered the sky. “I can’t tell because of this fog.”
“I don’t have an idea,” Wes said. “You know, we should’ve just stayed in the cabin.”
“Yeah, at least we would’ve had a place to rest and feel safe to some extent,” Sylvia said. “Better than walking around with no direction of where we are going to.”
“Let’s try and get back to the cabin,” Wes said. “If we can.”
“We haven’t encountered it yet,” Sylvia said. “How about we do what we did the first time.”
“Let us give it a shot.”
They followed the steps and soon they were up in the sky again. With a deep breath, they got up again, dangling from the sky. Then with a whoosh, their feet were released and they dived down towards the ground. As they were saved earlier, this time they found themselves hovering inches above the ground again. After falling down to the ground and brushing the dirt off themselves they miserably walked back into the cabin. Everything was the same as when they left, Diel was still missing.
“He probably drank the potion and returned home,” Wes said. “No point in thinking about him, he turned his back on us even when we offered to help him.”
Sylvia wobbled as her legs shook and Wes instantly caught her and set her down on the couch. She shook her head from the dizziness and looked up at Wes.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“Yeah, I’m just dizzy.” She said. “Falling from the sky twice a day is not fun.”
“It’s weird how we only end up in the sky when we come to the cabin.” Wes said and his eyes widened at the realization.
“What?” Sylvia asked.
“This is it.” He exclaimed. “This is the heart.”
“The cabin? But how can that be?”
“Think about it, the only place where we ended up in the sky is when we come to the cabin, the grimoire was in the cabin, and we hover on the ground near the cabin when we fall.”
“It makes sense,” Sylvia said getting up. “But how do we fix it, I mean what needs to be fixed.”
“Maybe there is a hidden place, like where you found the grimoire,” Wes said and looked around the room. “Some lever or hatch.”
Quick on their feet, they started to move the heavy stuff to the side, hoping they could find something that would help them. After moving almost everything they were panting by the window, trying to catch their breath. They hadn’t found anything and once again the hope that had filled them slowly drained, leaving nothing behind.
“This is pointless,” Sylvia said. “We aren’t going to find anything here.”
“Do not lose your hope.”
“Wes, you know deep inside of you that we are hopeless, there is nothing we can do to get back, and even if we do get back we won’t be in time to save the village,” Sylvia said as she slid down against the wall and drew her knees to her chest. “It’s all my fault. If I weren’t born than this wouldn’t have happened.”
“No, it is not your fault,” Wes said sitting down beside her. “We will find a way, we will.”
They both sat there thinking of ways to get out. Their eyes jumping across the room, hoping they might find something. The cabin was small too, so they had already looked in every corner, and they were sure they hadn’t missed anything. Sylvia looked down to her feet, she had taken off her shoes and rested them on the rug, it was a small circle shape rug, soft and fluffy. It was a light grey color, with smooth edges. She noticed that it was in a strange spot, further away from the furniture. Like it was isolated, she slowly got up and lifted the rug, they hadn’t even thought about that. When she lifted the rug and pushed it to the side, a trapped door was revealed.
“Wes.” She said. “Look.”
He came up and looked at the trapped door, it blended in with the white floors, but there was a small metal handle to pull it open.
“What are we waiting for?” He asked as he grabbed the handle and pulled it upwards.
It took a couple of tries since it seemed that it was stuck. After one last pull, the door popped open and revealed a ladder going down into the dark.
“I’ll go first,” Wes said. “We don’t know what’s down there.”
“Fine,” Sylvia said as Wes started is descent. “I’ll be right in front of you.”
When there was a decent distance between the two of them, Sylvia put on her shoes and climbed down. The metal ladder was cold to the touch, ut after a couple of steps down they got used to it. The tunnel down was pitch black, and as they went further the light from the top grew smaller. It seemed to them that the ladder went on forever, another trick from the broken forest, perhaps it was a trap that diel had made. To capture them, and make sure they never leave the forest.
“How much longer do you think?” Wes asked.
“Eternity?” She guessed with a laugh. “I have no knowledge.”
“I see a light,” Wes said. “Look below.”
Sylvia glanced down and saw a white light, it was bright and powerful, it hurts her eyes after being in the dark for so long. They continued their descent until the ladder stopped and they reached the bottom. They jumped down onto the soil, and the white light was coming from a growing mushroom. As they moved further they gasped at what they saw. It was a whole forest, lush green trees growing, some blue some white, some glowed some weptThere was scattering in the bushes, animals of all kinds were jumping around, some they had seen and some they had no idea of what they were. They looked up to see a bright blue sky, with some clouds scattered here and there. In the center they saw a humongous tree, it’s brown bark was wide and sturdy, the branches were going over the other trees, it’s leaves looked burnt, blackened, the only thing that looked damaged in this peculiar place.
“What is that?” Wes asked looking at the tree.
“The broken part,” Sylvia said. “That’s why the magic around it so strong, it’s keeping the essence of the forest safe from the corrupted part.”
“Then let us go fix it,” Wes said walking towards it. “We have no time to waste.”