Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 2)

The cottage loomed over them. Like a living thing it cast a presence upon like shadows that surrounded them. Filled with something more inimical than darkness, it pooled beneath their feet growing as if sought to consume them whole. Acutely aware of the unnatural sensation, Pan felt the cold as surely as any of his companions but only he recognised the faint taste that permeated the air before transorming to mist on their breath. It reminded him of home.
Striding purposefully forward, Telfor’s heavy boot crashed through the overgrown path and broke the silence few of them realised they’d been observing. In the time it took for the slower members of the group to recover and follow, he was baisically at the door. From where he stood near the back of the group, Pan could make out Rubin whispering a prayer behind him. Watching Telfor’s fist as it brought his knuckled down on the door, Rubin’s sudden outward display of piety seemed only sensible.
From within the sound of movement carried. The noise held colour, when all around them felt black. Natural like nothing else there felt, it lifted a weight that had settled in their chests.
The door opened and Zsófia’s greyish-green face greeted them with a wide smile, “Come in, all of you. Please.”
Inside the cottage bore none of the malevolant foreboding that had characterised the clearing outside the familiar taste, however, Pan noted seemed stronger though. In addition the style of the building was distinct from those of the village. Curious, as Zsófia led them through a hall to what must have been her sitting room, Pan’s searching eyes noticed the concealed basement entrance behind a curtain which implied further room below ground. Basements were common in the kingdom, but he had seen none within the village itself. Finally he noted the walls were not made from wood, but stone. Particularly odd for a village isolated by the forest.
“Thank you for agreeing to come see me before you left,” Zsófia’s quiet voice spoke over the crackling fireplace where they had gathered around, Vahkragg gratefully warming his hands.
“It was nothing,” Telfor answered, “How can we be of service?”
Bashfully shifting her gaze to the flame, Zsófia seemed to hesitate before she answered, “I have a request for you all, I believe it would be of benefity to all of us.”
Pausing slightly longer than was normal, Telfor had opened his mouth to prompt her when she finally got the rest out, “Please let me come with you. With the death of your friend, you are without a representative of the gods and I have never seen the world beyond the forest!”
The force of her plea came as a shock, left speechless Telfor was blindsided once more by the answer that came from behind him.
“Absolutely not.” Rubin’s hands were clenched in tight fists by his side, but his face was of impassive determination, “We have suffered your continued freedom due to the supposed debt owed for your service in reviving our companions, but this is too much. You are a necromancer, and a heretic. Even if we agreed to take you, you would be arrested the moment you entered the kingdom. It is impossible.”
Face flushing with colour, Zsófia’s cheeks filled with a darker green, her body balling with frustration to mirror Rubin’s own, “I have told you, I am not a necromancer. The Wild God works through me, his divinity is as true as Atyx or any of the Pantheon worshipped in the kingdom. I am no more necromancer than your friend was.”
“Alright, that’s enough your two.” Telfor interrupts, rubbing his head wearily, “Zsófia, doesn’t the village need your ministrations to keep your god civil?”
“Not until the solstice. I have a full turn of the seasons before the next ceremony I’m required for. I’m not merely asking out of fancy, winter is coming and there are things the village needs that we can’t get here. I’ve already spoken with the elders, they’ve agreed that this is the best option, the wild god’s creatures won’t attack me and I’ll hire people to escort me and the goods back to the village. And as to your friend’s objection, I shan’t call upon the wild god within the kingdom, no-one will have any reason to suspect me of any crime.”
Telfor’s rough fingers stroke the stubble that lined his chin. Pan wondered what thoughts were going through the veteran’s head, seemingly a simple man, Telfor had proven time and again to make decisions with deeper consideration than the quick witted scout could have. Glancing back at Rubin, the scholar’s cheeks were pools of vibrant bloody red, his prejudices ran deep, it would be difficult to picture him going along with any decision to bring Zsófia along.
“Alright,” Telfor answered, to a spluttering wordless exclamation from Rubin. Pre-empting the scholar’s objection, the veteran continued, “You can travel with us as far as the capital. Understand that you’re putting me in a difficult and dangerous position with your requestion so for as long as you travel with us the wild god stays here unless it’s a matter of life and death. Rubin, I recognise your distaste for Zsófia’s faith and it’s practices, as such I’m giving you the task of watching her. If you have reason to suspect she’ll bring us trouble, you tell me and we’ll send her home. Satisfied?”
By their experessions, Pan judged that neither of them were in any way close to satisfied, but eventually Rubin inclined his head in a stiff nod. Raising an eyebrow, Pan tried to read the room but other than that lingering taste of home, nothing really stood out. Whatever it was that convinced Telfor to agree, Pan simply had to trust the old soldiers’ instincts for now.
“Good. Are you packed? If not you’ve got five minutes, we’re already behind schedule.”
Despite the gruffness in the words, Zsófia brightened noticibly, and rushed into the hall emerging shortly after with a small pack that seemed much larger upon her small frame, “You won’t regret this, I promise.”


Part two, two weeks late unfortunately, my apologies. I’m not the best at forming positive habits it seems, but I’ve been doing pretty well at keeping up with my goals for eating better, exercising and writing more, so hopefully I’ll keep improving as the year progresses.
I’ve been making progress on my novel, still early days but it’s better than the cycle of write something, delete more, that I’ve had so far. Working title “Outcast”, the story shares a universe with many of the stories I upload on this side under the category “The Chrysalis” if you’re curious. It’s a fantasy coming of age story, with some influence from science fiction.

Hope you enjoy it,
-Zairron

P.S. Featured Art Herne the Hunter by Angela Jayne Barnett

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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