Into the Woods
Two and Some Odd Years Ago
It was early morning; the sun had not yet woken but there was a soft glow upon the canopy of trees netted above the little house that remained in darkness. It smelled of the dew and smoke long seeped into the rickety wood houses.
Her family was asleep. Even her eldest brother, Roman, who was oft up long hours every night was fast asleep.
Creeping steadily, Posy bunched her white gown at her knees so that her bare feet might move soundlessly along the hand-laid floorboards. With careful fingers, she opened the cabinet without offense. Her fingers passed along the bottles of varying contents and her eyes squinted in the dim light to find what she was seeking. Herbs, tinctures in various degrees of emptiness...
With trepidation, she removed two herbed vials from their resting place and pressed them to her chest.
Contraband in tow, Posy crept from the sleeping cottage and padded down the path into the still forest. Her bare feet matted the dirt beneath her and left a soft trail of proof in her wake. The trees welcomed her even in darkness. It was as if they bordered her path in loving protection. The roots seemed to bow to her instead of endangering her steps.
It was not long before she reached the small graveyard hidden in the thickest part of the forest. Headstones stood sentry — some crumbled with age and some felt as if they had been erected this very morning.
With little care to the state of her dress, Posy knelt down before one such grave: still smooth and not yet forgotten. A little lamb at the top of the stone sobered Posy who sought her center and connection to her magic. She brushed her long, unruly blonde locks over her shoulders for sight and placed the stolen vials in front of her. She began by brushing away the softest layer of dust from the stone. The gravesite was maintained but lonely — his mother; it was grief that drove her far and away... but Posy knew this little boy deserved the world.
He was family, after all.
Uncorking the vials, Posy littered the ground before her with their contents.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in...
Posy placed her palms flat on the ground in front of her just before the stone and focused — shutting away the rest of the world. Beneath her fingers the browning grass began to crackle. Green began to rise from the stale earth like water from a well.
A booming voice scared Posy out of her skin. Jumping up, the greenery retracted like a frightened snake and she spun around with wide eyes to find herself face-to-face with Gray, the father of the sweet little boy who laid at rest beneath her feet.
Gray wavered while his face was bloated with drink.
“What — do you think you’re doing?!” he stumbled forward with purpose, sobering in his surprise.
Posy took a deep breath and stepped forward to meet him, “I didn’t think you’d come until after the sun,” she murmured but her cryptic words seem to confuse the lumbering gentleman. She reached forward and took his hand. He was tense but he was so taken aback he had no choice but to allow it. She ushered him back to the spot where she had begun and tugged on his hand when she knelt. Unable to do anything other than listen, he was brought to his knees. Posy could see the pain in his eyes, being here — she doubted he’d ever been here with another soul.
With one hand in his and the other on the ground beneath her, Posy focused again. The crackle resumed, a soft rumble like thunder shook their ground as green began to grow — lush and plentiful. Vines swept over the stone and lined it with beautiful little flowers. The grass beneath their feet befell green and vibrant. A striking arch of begonias placed itself behind the stone and as quickly as it had started — it quieted. Somewhere an owl cooed into the night.
Posy opened her eyes and sat back on her heels.
Gray looked over the new landscape in broken awe. Posy squeezed his hand gently, “He knows you’re here,” she said gently. Gray looked to her and the emotion in his eyes gripped her heart in a vice. Very few people would ever see through such a vulnerable window and Posy knew beyond the shadow of a doubt she had done the right thing.
He nodded only once but his meaning was inescapable: Thank-you.
Posy pushed from the ground to stand but his grip on her hand tightened and she froze, her small hand lost in his great grip. “I think...” he started, very careful to steady his shattered voice, “He’d like it if you were here too...”
“Well it’s about time!” Rita, her unforgiving mother called as Posy stepped through the threshold one evening.
Posy held up a small cloth bag, “I found a fresh bed of King’s Foot.” Posy felt victorious but her mother remained unimpressed.
Roman and her father, Phillip, sat at the table with the beginnings of a dinner setting. They were deep in the middle of something Posy could not understand. Her middle brother, Jasper, sat by as well but he was deep in a book of some sort.
“We don’t own the seaside, the coast...” her Father spoke calmly, the lines on his face were tired in the tension with his son.
Roman, less calm, “We should! It’s close enough to us to be cause for concern but Gideon doesn’t even notice! Am I the only one who remembers how dangerous outsiders are!?”
“No,” Philip spoke, remaining level and a good-sport all around, “but—”
Rita interjected, “His illness has him blind,” she spoke of Gideon, their leader.
She retrieved the bag of King’s Foot from Posy and gave her daughter a once over, “Go wash up, dinner’s nearly on,” she said exasperatedly. She made a clicking noise with her tongue as she pulled a twig from her daughter’s unruly tendrils.
“No one wants to break bread with the unwashed!” Roman called after her as she reached the narrow staircase and ascended. Posy let go a breath as she blocked out the rest of her family’s words to disappear into the bathroom for a moment’s peace before dinner.
Posy found happiness outside. When she finally escaped dinner to take a walk through the forest she was at peace.
Rita and Roman usually had loud, heated discussions after dinner over some homemade liquor. Tonight, Jasper had gotten involved, so the house was extra loud, too loud for her to think. There was only so much she could take with her mother and brothers shouting statements about superiority and isolationism. Her father left cryptically after dinner, announcing to the family that he would not be home until the next day. Posy knew better than to question her father about things. She trusted him completely, so she wished him well.
The night was chilly and windy, and she knew rain was coming. Posy walked silently, picking up little roots and berries that she found along the way. Before long, she had made her way out of the woods and on to the beach.The old abandoned house on the beach sat quietly, same as always. It was a house Posy had been inside many times as a child. It had been a grand seaside getaway for some ancient family, but was falling into ruin now. She had never known anyone to live there, the poor house was abandoned and unkempt. However, Posy noticed that unusually, there was a dim light flickering inside the house. Smoke rose from the cracked chimney. Was someone in there? Was she seeing things?
“Does your mother know you’re out here?” came a sarcastic voice from down the hill behind her. Posy turned on her heel to see Sadie approach, dressed all in black, smoking the remnants of a cigarette. Her face was hard and serious, as per usual. Posy greeted her with a genuine smile and handed the Wolf a few berries from her hand, which Sadie accepted hesitantly. It had taken years for Posy to cultivate a completely neutral relationship with Sadie. She had her family to blame for that. Rita and Roman were not welcoming to the small pack that constituted their clans only neighbors.
“Is that one of us?” Posy asked, motioning to the house with her head. “I didn’t think anyone was allowed in that house since...” she trailed off.
Sadie took a deep breath and cracked her neck roughly before tossing back some of the olive branch berries. “It’s a human. Male. Just one from what I can tell,” Sadie muttered, arms crossed. She never once took her eyes off the house. Posy glanced back to the cottage.
Is what Mother and Roman had been discussing earlier? They had been using words like “invasion” and “infiltration”, so Posy had assumed it was something far more serious. Posy, however, found herself curious about the new arrival. The wolves and witches had been alone out here on the seaside so long that someone else being around seemed almost unthinkable. When was the last time Posy had seen a human? It was far too long ago for her to even remember. Her mother had insisted upon keeping the family isolated from the ′lesser species’. Posy looked back to Sadie, one question in her head.
“Are you protecting us from him, or him from us?” Posy inquired, shifting her weight, grains of sand falling over her feet. She wasn’t quite sure that she wanted to hear the answer but she needed to know.
“Just taking a look at what we’re dealing with. Gideon doesn’t want anyone to approach until we know more,” Sadie replied cryptically, shoving her hands even farther in her jacket pocket. “Get out of here, will you? Steer clear of here.”
“If you are planning on being here awhile, can I bring you anything? A blanket? Tea?” Posy offered. She should bring the woman an umbrella, since the rain ambled closer.
“Some peace and quiet would be nice,” Sadie replied coolly, grunting as she sat down in the sand, claiming her spot for the night.
Posy hurried away back into the woods.