Alba Chapter 5

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Warlock Woodland

“They say that if you wander off the path in Warlock Woodland, you’ll get lost and never find your way out. They speak of a wicked wizard who lives out there bent of making travelers die of madness,” Kai told as they rode on the back of a hay wagon being pulled by a khee—a 4-legged creature who spends all day eating wheat and is immune to the world’s misery.

Nonno had secured the khee to help with their travel, pulling a wagon of supplies which could also turn into a lean-to for shelter. They also carried firewood, which turned out useful. Beyond the Eastern Sand Drift was the Plains of Sorrow where only a stretch of empty wheat field grew. There were no trees to shield them from the scorching suns. It was several days before they saw a dark mist on the horizon.

As they neared the dark mist, it became more recognizable as a tall, dark, and forbidden forest. It loomed in front of them like a fortress. Alba turned to Kai, with his vast knowledge of stories and asked, “there are no dragon here, are there?”

“Not that I know of,” he replied. “But you never know since no one ever came out of the forest to tell his stories. Why? Are you afraid?”

“No! I’m not afraid!” Alba shouted defiantly.

Nonno chuckled from his front seat of the wagon. “If no one ever came out to tell their story, tell me, boy, how do you know so much?”

“I only hear stories, Nonno,” Kai argued back.

“Well, let’s not scare Alba.”

“Nonno, I’ve said I’m not afraid! Why won’t you believe me?” Alba exclaimed even though Nonno and Kai chuckled.

“It’s all right, Alba,” Kai put his arms around her shoulders. “We believe you. Just remember, you don’t ever have to be afraid. I’ll always protect you no matter where I am.”

“You say that as if you’re going to leave us,” Alba pouted.

“Life is full of uncertainty. But you can always be certain that I’ll always be your friend. The one who’ll protect you from all harm.”

This made Alba smile, thankful to have found a new friend, a friend willing to protect her.

“We are here,” Nonno announced, stopping the khee, and jumped from the front seat.

Alba and Kai jumped off as well and walked around to meet Nonno, facing the forest, noticing that the some trees stood tall and proud while some slumped like sad weeping men. So thick was the forest no light could penetrate its depth.

“Now Alba and Kai, you must stay close to me in the forest. There’s not much light so you can get lost easily. We’ll leave the khee and wagon out here since there’s not enough room to drag them through the forest,” Nonno instructed them. They nodded and followed closely behind him.

“Why are you silent now, Kai?” Nonno asked as he picked up walking sticks and passed one to each as a guide through the forest. He then picked up a thicker branch and wrapped one end with a wet fabric before lighting it up with a match, turning it into a torch to help them descend into the darkness. “How about the story of the wizard?” Nonno suggested.

Kai nodded and started the story of the wizard, not knowing he was telling tales of Alba’s uncle. But Alba was intrigued and wanted to preoccupy her mind while traveling through the dark forest. “They say a wicked wizard lives in the heart of the forest, as punishment for stealing the heart of a young mountain girl, which made him immortal.”

“The stealing made him immortal?” Alba asked.

“No, the stealing of an innocent heart. Maybe he ate it. But anyways, when they punished him, the locals trapped him in a tower, surrounded it with thickets of thorns and monsters that even your nightmare cannot conjure up.”

Alba shivered in fear. “That’s rubbish. Everyone knows monsters don’t exist.”

But the deeper they went into the forest and the light from the entrance of the wood dimmed and grew smaller, Alba felt less and less certain about her statement. Hardly a bird could be heard flying or even insects cooing their wings. Only the rustling of leaves and broken twigs underneath their feet echoed. The darkness of the wood distorted their perception of time.

Just when Alba was getting tired, Nonno announced they had reached the spot. Alba and Kai looked up to see a giant tree with hanging limbs, its trunk covered in green moss and orange fungi.

“Come forth,” Nonno beckoned, reaching one arm up to hold onto a branch. As the two drew closer, Nonno yanked the branch down and the earth beneath them suddenly fell away; leaves and twigs flew up and fluttered around them.

Chapters 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

Author’s Note

When I was a kid long ago, I used to play these old Heroes of Might And Magic game (remember MS-DOS?). Part of the game actually allowed you to design landscape and adventures that you have to defeat.

Heroes of Might And Magic III
So many of my ideas around magical landscapes and scenarios comes from this game’s world. This idea of adventure through various landscapes and of the unknown and meeting random adventurers like oneself has always intrigued me.

And who doesn’t love a deep, dark, dangerous forest? It’s in all the fairy tales I’ve read, all the Tolkien books. There’s something about the darkness that we fear but are drawn into but is it fear that draws us in?


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