Every Sunday I will drop the businessman in me and put down a piece of fiction… This could be something you enjoy yourself for a bit of escapism, or just read the kids before bed…
Darklands – Journey for Freedom (One of The Questor Chronicles – by Thomas Duncan Bell)
A Path through the Crystalline Forest
The adventurers continued to run as fast as they could manage through the crystal encrusted trees of the forest that engulfed them. They weren’t sure if they were being followed by goblins from the wall and they certainly didn’t want to risk being captured again. What if next time they were to meet something worse than a witch? “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen” panted William as they finally came to a stop. “I know” replied Samuel “I didn’t think we were going to get away from her.”
Samuel knelt down to lay Bindlebob on the floor before him. “Is he ok?” asked William as he knelt down beside his brother. “I don’t know William, I hope so, I’ve no idea where we are and we must have passed this tree at least five times!” he replied. “It’ll be alright Smello’s” said Bindlebob as he struggled with his words, his chest hoarse from the attack. “Are you ok Bindlebob?” asked Samuel, his eyes beginning to brim with tears at the relief that his friend was conscious again. “I’ll be ok you little rabbit gobblers!” said the hobgoblin as he sat up to catch his breath, hobgoblins are quick healers. “Why don’t we stop here and rest little warriors, this place is safe.” he whispered. The three travellers sat back to relax a while in the small glade, deep within the heart of the Crystalline forest.
Then, out of nowhere came the tiniest ear piercing scream. “Owwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeee!!” They all jumped immediately to their feet, even Bindlebob who was indeed already looking like he’d been healing fast and drawing their weapons they began scouring the area for any sign of a potential enemy. “Who’s there?” announced Samuel, trying his best to sound authoritative. “It’s me you big clumsy!” came the high pitched squeal again. Still none of the friends could see where the voice was coming from. “I’m down here. Why don’t they look down here?” screeched the voice. As they cast their gaze down toward the forest floor they could see what appeared to be a little mushroom waving two small silvery leaves that looked not dissimilar to arms right back at them. He seemed to be beckoning them to come closer. “That’s it, here I am, on your knees if you please?” the creature squeaked as the group drew nearer.
William couldn’t help pushing his youthful face right up to the man in an effort to get a better look. “What are you?” he asked. “I’m not saying a word until big bonce over there gives me an apology!” said the tiny creature pointing a leafy arm at Samuel. “What am I supposed to apologise for?” said Samuel looking confused at the accusation. “You sat on me” said the mushroom man “and it hurted!” “I am truly sorry little one, I didn’t mean to hurt you, we were just so tired that we had to stop and rest” replied the older brother. “I should have been paying more attention.” “You should have” retorted the mushroom man with a squeaky yet gruff undertone. “Now can you tell us what you are little man?” asked William. “He’s a mush man” chimed Bindlebob. “That’s right!” cried the mush man. “The gnome knows! I’m a mush man; a little bit man, a little bit mushroom. My name is Hempleroot.” he exclaimed.
“Nice to meet you Hempleroot” said the boys in unison. “Maybe you can help us?” said William. “We ran into the woods to escape the evil witch of the northern gate, but we’re a bit lost and we don’t know the way out.” “Can you show us a route through the forest Hempleroot?” asked Samuel readily. “Well I might if you grant me a wish?” replied Hempleroot. “What kind of wish?” asked a rather confused Samuel. “We don’t know any magic and we certainly don’t have any powers.” “Well you don’t need magic silly bonce, but you have to promise yes before I agree!” Hempleroot continued, in an even higher pitched voice, eager for the travellers to respond well to his request. “Very well” said Samuel hoping he could fulfil his vow. “If you show us a way through the forest then we will grant you a wish.” “Alright” said Hempleroot, preparing himself “My wish is to come on your journey with you! I don’t mind riding in the pocket of your jerkin and I can show you the way from there.” “Well that’s an easy wish” announced William “We can definitely agree to that, but why do you want to leave your forest? It’s very beautiful here.” “Its rubbish!” said Hempleroot folding his leafy arms in a huff. “All I do all day is wonder around the forest floor; I can’t see anything good because I’m all the way down here and what’s more is, every time someone comes around here they either try to pick me and eat me, or, they tread on me! It’s rubbish being a mush man. I’ve always wanted to go on an adventure, I’m bigger than I look on the outside you know!” he continued.
So, with a renewed spirit and confidence, the adventurers decided to continue their route north through the forest with Hempleroot as their guide, never having thought that they’d ever be lead by a mush man. The band of four wandered for quite some time, continually with the feeling they were being watched at the back of their minds as shadowy figures moved back and forth through the trees all around them. They quite enjoyed the company of their new found friend with his odd little stories of growing up as a mush man and how his family were all but eaten or squashed some years before, in a terrible accident while trying to cross a footpath.
After a short while Samuel spoke “are you sure you know exactly where we’re going Hempleroot?” he said. “Of course I do” replied the mush man. “We’re coming towards the river of red, we will have to cross it, but with you so big I don’t know how.” he squeaked. Sure enough, just as his sentence ended, the crystal trees parted to reveal a vast river before them. The river ran crimson and thick dark, like the blood of a thousand men and William felt a shudder run throughout his body, a lump in his throat as he recalled his father’s body, soaked in blood in the village square several days before.
The river must have stretched for at least twenty feet in front of them and on the other side they could see the remains of what must have been a bridge some years ago. One thing was certain; they were not going to be able to cross without some sort of raft. But before Samuel had chance to consider a solution, his thoughts were interrupted by a poignant howl in the darkness, like the cry of a banshee, piercing the air with its eerie scream.
The friends huddled together back to back, as slowly and silently from the shadows they could see at least eight pairs of silvery eyes moving towards them. A voice spoke from the dark. “What do you think you’re doing in my wood” rasped the voice. “Do you think you can just pass through without my say so?” it snarled. “Why don’t you show yourself scum toes!” Bindlebob called out into the shadow. “Very well” replied the voice. And the eyes began to move forward until the creatures were stood before them, surrounding the band completely with their backs to the crimson river.
As the travellers slowly peered about them they could see quite clearly that the voice that they’d heard was that of a wolf and his pack of snarling followers. The wolves all looked quite similar, great muscular beasts, with silvery flesh that seemed to glisten as they prowled around drooling, their sharp crystal fangs bared at the boys and their friends as if waiting for the order to tear them apart. The leader however was different, his flesh was a duller than the rest, it was torn and scarred as if from a great number of battles and his eyes bled black, as dark as the deepest of chasms, allowing any onlooker to become lost in the dark pool as they peer within.
His face was almost bloated though he had a slim pointed snout, upon which Samuel could see that there were what appeared to be crystals growing from his nose and up across his face, stretching down his back to become barbed crystal spikes that stuck out around his ribs and spine giving him the appearance of a creature of purest evil. “Looks like it’s time for us to feed, doesn’t it boys? Why don’t you come a little closer and say hello…” snapped the wolf, as he steadily began to approach his prey.
The brothers weren’t sure what to do, Bindlebob had vanished again, but they knew he must be somewhere nearby, though there was nothing that Hempleroot could do to save them, as he buried his face in Samuels pocket lining. In trouble again they found themselves wondering whether they’d ever make it to their mother and even if they did what good would they be? They couldn’t take on an army! William’s hair stood on end on the back of his neck; he reached out to grasp his brother’s hand and the boys held one another tight as they stood waiting for the inevitable; the wolves to attack.