The small village sat back in the country. Beyond the regular farm land of the world, deep within the shadows of the forests. The only way to get into the village, was through a series of rough roads that had become overgrown with brush and trees from the lack of use over time. Everything held a dark hue of gray about it on the road to the village. It was very rare for anyone to dare set foot within. Most people blamed it on the harsh weather, and the bad roads. But the villagers who lived within knew better. They knew what was really happening. Everyone who lived in the village knew of the true terrors that lurked in the thick, dark forest that had them surrounded on every side. The village was a lively place despite all of their troubles. Most people constantly had cheery smiles to offer one another throughout the day, everyone knew everyone, and there was a sense of balance about living life within the village.
A group of young teenage boys, ranging from the ages of thirteen to fifteen were playing a game at the edge of the forest. The youngest one though, he came from a foreign family in the village. His family had shown up shortly before his mother had managed to get pregnant with him. No one knew where the couple had come from, all the villagers knew was that they had quickly adapted to the customs of the village, and made their own lively-hood in the village. The boy looked like a perfect mix of his parents. He had the soft face, gentle brown eyes, and dark brown hair from his mother. He already had a rugged and almost chiseled look about him despite his young age, making him to carry the physical appearance of his father. He did his best to fit in with all the rest of the kids his age who lived in the village. He was a hard worker for a child his age, and he knew exactly what it was that he wanted from life. He had already decided who it was that he wanted to marry when he came of age, and he had already begun to save up money to build his own cabin.
“Hey Jared, go and get the ball! You kicked it too high and it went in the forest!” one of the other teens instructed.
The kids were playing with a large, round ball. They often enjoyed spending their free time making up games to play to keep themselves out of trouble. Of course, that was only when the had the spare time to play. Everyone was expected to do their part in the village, even the children.
“We’re not supposed to go in there though… You know that. What if one of those catches me?” Jared asked with a bit of fear lacing his voice.
“It couldn’t have gone too far with the way you kick. So I’m sure you’ll be fine. I mean, the trees are so close together that there’s no way that you got it to go in there very far,” another assured him.
“Maybe we should just wait for the traders and get a new ball. It’s really dangerous in the forest,” one boy piped up.
“Oh hush Vince, it’ll be fine. I mean come on, we’ve all been in the forest before. We hep the men of the village cut lumber!” the first argued.
“But that’s only just right on the line of the forest… We don’t actually go in,” Jared did his best to argue back.
He knew that his father had drilled into his head from the time he could move around on his own that the forest was a dangerous place and you could never trust anyone of anything that lurked there. His father made certain that he knew to never go into the forest. Anyone who had ever set foot in the forest had been as good as dead. There was no point in being hopeful that they would survive, no one ever came back.
“We all pitched in a whole seven months worth of earnings to get that ball from a trader who happened to come through! You know the traders have been coming less and less until they just stopped. We can’t wave a magic wand or anything and just make one appear!” another boy snapped.
“Alright! Alright! I’ll go get it! But, if I can’t find it in ten minutes time, then I’m coming back out. We’re just going to forget about okay?” Jared offered.
It was obvious that he was afraid. It was practically suicide to go into the forest for all he knew. He took a big breath to try and steady himself.
“Twenty minutes, just in case it did make it through some of the trees,” the first boy said with a dirty smirk on his face.
“Fine,” Jared sighed in defeat.
He stopped at the very edge of the forest and took a deep breath again. Without looking back, as he feared he would lose what little bravery he had mustered up, he walked into the forest. He was instantly in darkness. The trees grew so close together that it completely blocked out the sun. There were a few random patches where birds had made holes through the leaves, causing just a small drop of sunlight to peek through. Everything was deep, vibrate green, and thriving with life. But the farther back he went, the darker and more leering things seemed to be. A small part of him knew that it was just his fear making things seem so much darker.
“This was a bad idea. I knew it was stupid. Maybe I should just sit here by the edge and not go in any farther,” he whispered to himself.
He quickly shook that thought from his mind, knowing that it would be wrong and dishonorable to do
such a thing. Jared was an honest and kind hearted boy. He had been raised to know right from wrong and he held to his morals no matter what. Years of watching his dad had taught him that your word was all you had, and that you should never give anyone a reason to speak ill of you. As much as he wanted to fit into the life at the village, he would side with the right decision over his friends. He walked a little farther, fighting with the trees, and briars to search for the missing ball.
After a few short minutes that felt much longer than they really were, he spotted the rough leather of the ball peeking out at him from a rose bush. He ran as fast as the trees and underbrush would allow him towards the ball. It was nearly within arm’s reach when something hard threw him to the ground. Rocks and twigs dug into his body, making him bite down hard on his lip in order to hold in the cry of pain. He rolled over onto his back, looking around wildly to see what had attacked him. There was nothing around though, at least not that he could see through the growth of the forest. Everything was as still and as silent as it had been when he had first entered it.
“Maybe I just tripped,” he whispered to himself, standing up and wincing in pain.
He looked down at his leg and found that there was a large cut from falling onto the sharp rocks. It was bleeding profusely, but he pushed the thought and worry to the back of his mind so that he could deal with the matters at hand. All he needed to do was reach out, grab the ball, and then run like the dickens out of the forest. He reached out for the ball, but was once again knocked to the ground again. This time though, he managed to catch sight of a shadow flying behind a tree.
“Who’s there? Hello? I saw your shadow so there’s no point in continuing to hide from me. Vince? Is this some kind of trick you guys are trying to play on me?” he called out.
Soft, feminine laughter filled the air around him. He looked around him, but couldn’t locate the source of the laughter.
“You really are a funny one, aren’t you?” a girl’s voice giggled.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?” Jared called out to the voice, unsure as to where to look for her.
“You’re not supposed to be here. And as fun to play around with as you are, you’re going to have to go and see the King and the Prince. They really don’t like it when you Humans decide not to listen to the agreement,” she said.
Jared spun around to where he had thought the voice was coming from but suddenly, there was a sharp pain filling his head just before the world around him turned into darkness.