Chapter 1 Blood Mountain
It was a magical place when the weather was clear and the ever-present mist was coaxed away by the sun. A place Eve enjoyed visiting at least once a year since she was born. Nestled in the foothills of the Azur mountains, the small village of Woodpine was the only civilization close to the family cabin. Deep in the forest with no neighbors for miles, it was the perfect getaway. Her family loved the homestead and called it Ravenwood as the forest was home to many ravens. It was peaceful, rugged, yet quaint with potted plants brightening the porch and pretty lace curtains that swayed with the breeze. Even the overgrown garden was a sight to see with its once vibrant colors now fading preparing to meet the falling leaves of autumn. It was an escape to a simpler past, an oasis from the ordinary world.
Even the drive there was beautiful, especially at this time of year when the leaves were starting to turn. After miles of domed hills and rock stern meadows, they veered off the main road at an ominous sign declaring this was the way to Blood Mountain. Eve wondered if this was because of the many blood-red trees on the mountain.
Eve held her breath as they passed over a rickety old bridge. With wide eyes, she watched the rushing water below wondering where so much water came from so late in the year. Once safely across the bridge, the road narrowed with tall grass and wild weeds on either side till they were once again winding like a serpent with a looming dark rocky wall on one side and a precarious precipice of breathtaking beauty on the other.
The excitement was clear on Eve’s face. She was coming back to her favorite spot. Looking down, she could see Woodpine village nestled in the valley that looked like it belonged to another time. Besides exploring the hills and natural beauty on foot, this was her favorite part of the journey to the cabin. The anticipation of adventure and discovery on the way there was part of the fun.
She loved it here. They came every year and spent a month away from everything. This land had belonged to the family for as far back as anyone could remember. They were homesteaders that lived here for hundreds of years. Now, the land had been passed on to her father and at some point in the future, it would be hers. Each year she would help her dad make any necessary repairs while they were there becoming closer as they worked together.
Eve’s father had grown up here but had left as a young man to get an education and make his way in the world. As wonderful as this place was, her father never talked of his time here. It was a separate life. The most she could get out of him was that his parents were eccentric. Perhaps something bad had happened that was too painful for him to talk about. Eve really didn’t know.
All she knew was that her grandfather refused to leave the place so her father made sure supplies and food were delivered to him once a month. He had no phone so the only way they could check on him was the yearly trip to visit him and enjoy the forest. Her dad might act like it was an obligation but the smile on his face betrayed how much he really enjoyed it.
After all the nauseating turns, they had finally arrived. Eve admired the rustic charm of the cabin lit by lanterns, candles, and a warm cozy fire on the stove. The nature-loving family would soon light a fire outside quietly enjoying each other’s company. Eve thought of the gooey marshmallows they would toast on long sticks and the spooky tales her grandfather would tell almost tasting the delicious sweetness with the goosebumps of anticipation.
As soon as the car stopped, Eve jumped out. Seated on a rocker, wrinkled lips pressed to a Cobb pipe, the old man waved his hat in greeting. Eve ran up to him and gave him a big hug.
“How are you, Papa Bear? I’ve missed you.”
“Hey, little darlin’ I’ve missed you too!” Her grandpa smiled a toothy grin at the nickname she had given him many years ago.
“I’m just itching to stretch my legs and enjoy the woods. What a treat it must be to live here.”
While her parents unpacked the car, Eve waved at the chickens and walked through the overgrown garden ready to explore the trail.
“Stick to the path or you’ll get lost,” her father warned.
Her mother added, “Make sure you are back before sunset. We are having a bar-b-q.”
Her eager feet crunched on the fallen leaves so she could barely hear her but she smiled and waved to reassure her.
Little did she know Eve would venture into another world and the greatest adventure of her life.