Shellvon Heights

“The offence in hand, was committed with two deadly weapons, one knife and one firearm.” A heavy silence smothered the room: press, public and jury all sat quietly as the judge continued with her closing statement. “The crime was carefully premeditated, fuelled by his bitter, jealous nature, and the defended has shown little to no remorse for his actions.

From the middle of the courtroom, a tall man stood with both hands bound together. He looked up at the judge before him with a vacant stare.

“The court continued to consider the previous convictions held by the defended, which includes aggravated assault and multiple charges of GBH. Not only this, but considerations were made for the emotional harm and grief inflicted on the victims family members as a result of the defences actions Therefore I have come to the decision that, Norval Tunnock, is a violent, remorseless and vicious man who is unfit to ever mix with the civil population again.”

Not even the slightest flicker of emotion showed on Tunnock’s stern face that was set as if it were carved from stone. His eyes watched from the dark sunken hollows they were situated in. His lawyer stood beside him, just beyond the group security that encompassed Tunnock, eager for the judge to finish her words and finally put an end to this un-winnable case.

“The court has unanimously agreed that Norval Tunnock is guilty of two accounts of murder and shall be put to death.”

The faint mumble of hushed chatter emanated around the room. People leaned from ear to ear, carefully and quietly exchanging thoughts and their personal opinions.

Tunnock’s empty gaze lowered to the floor, his expression unmoved and unchanged. Whilst his lawyer brought a hand to his forehand and rubbed one temple gently, relieved that the ordeal was finally over.

“However,” The judge continued suddenly, casting another shroud of silence over the room, “In this rare occasion, an alternate sentence shall be offered.”

The judges words caught Tunnock’s attention once more and he slowly lifted his beady glare.

“The alternate sentence is offered on behalf of Smith Ltd’s mercy. The defended can choose either the death penalty or life imprisonment at their maximum security facility Shellvon heights. There is no chance of parole and the charged must conform with all terms and conditions that the facility asks of you.”

Tunnock’s lawyer spoke up immediately, “What kind of terms!?”

“The information will be disclosed if the defended chooses to accept the sentence and appear at Shellvon Heights.”

“How can my client be expected to accept their terms if he doesn’t even know what they are!?” The lawyer cried out, waving his hands as he talked.

A frown came about the judges winkled face, unimpressed with the man’s tone. “The defended will hold the right to revoke the sentence offered by Smith Ltd at any time he chooses. If he does not agree with their terms, he can be put to death on the site.” The judge hissed, “Can the defended make a decision please?”

The entirety of the room turned to Tunnock and waited with baited breath, as he chose his punishment.

***

The next thing Tunnock knew, he was being thrown into the back of a police van by two huge hulking members of security. Who had brushed him past large groups of press that flocked to the corridors of the crown court building, waiting with microphone and camera in hopes of gaining even the faintest of words from the

convict.

The truck in which found himself was windowless and had only a dim bulb situated on it’s ceiling. There was no seating of any sort and Tunnock found little comfort as he awkwardly situated himself on a wheel arch.

There was a brief moment of stillness, as Tunnock poised himself carefully and stared aimlessly at the floor of the van. Echo’s of faded voices gently whisked through his mind, like fallen autumn leafs on a soft breeze, before melting away.

The van then hummed angrily as the engine started, and Tunnock snapped back to reality, the truck then proceeded to begin it’s slow, long journey.

Tunnock had heard stories about Shellvon Heights, many people had, civilian and inmate alike. Dark rumours circulated about the mysterious place. It was an infamous, high security compound, privately owned and funded by a company called Smith Ltd. The general knowledge was that Smith Ltd received endorsements and money from the government and in return they offered to lock up and detain the harshest criminals that a broken society could spit out.

The location of the prison was mystery to most, including Tunnock. The information was kept private to minimise the chance of rescue attempts or possible revenge attacks from gangs or terrorist organisations.

However Tunnock was well aware that there was no one who would come break him out. He knew he was now completely on his own and Tunnock didn’t care.

The vehicle began to slow down as it tackled a steep incline. Tunnock slid to the back of the truck and was pressed heavily against the back door, unable to brace himself as both hands were still bonded tightly behind his back.

The van shook violently as it went. Throwing Tunnock about like a ragdoll, causing him to bash his head several times off the wall beside him.

Eventually the van came to a halt and the hum of the engine ceased. The doors behind the convict flew open and a hand grabbed the collar of his shirt, dragging him out onto a hard layer of black tarmac.

Tunnock lay on his back looking up at the blue skies above him.

“Make sure you get a good look,” A prison guard said as he leaned over him to obstruct his view, “It’s the last time you’re ever going to see it.” He smirked before grabbing hold of Tunnock and pulling him back onto his feet.

Before him stood the light grey buildings that made up the mysterious prison complex, Shellvon Heights. A series of tall gun towers littered the area,each with hexagonal crows nests situated upon them, rifles were permanently poised and ready to open fire if a situation called for it. Beneath them lay the rest of the bleak prison buildings, which were situated in a large outcrop surrounded by steep rocky hills.

Tunnock was lead to a large rectangular opening that was completely dark and void of light.  He was escorted through the darkness for several seconds before emerging in a small lit grey room. In which a single woman stood, a long rectangular object was poised neatly in her hands. She had short brown hair that had been shaved close to her head, yet it didn’t inhibit on her feminine appearance. For her smooth jaw line and soft eyes brought an unsettling beauty about her.

“Tunnock is it?” She asked sternly.

“Yeah. That’s me.”

She ushered the guards to step back from the convict as she approached him. Looking the criminal up and down as she circled him. “I always get the soft ones,” She scoffed.

“Whatever you say sweet stuff.” Tunnock replied coldly, flexing the muscles in ridged arms.

A fist smashed straight into his face, the force threw him down to the ground. Tunnock tried to retaliate, only to have the object she welded forced into his ribs which dealt a spine ripping electrical shock to his body.

“You will call me Darius,” She continued, withdrawing the stun stick from his body. “I am one of the enforcers at this complex. I shall be escorting you and monitoring you until either you die, or I’m instructed otherwise, got it?”

Tunnock groaned as he attuned himself to the searing pain that afflicted him.

Darius tutted to herself as she look down at the man beneath her, “Get up!” She said to him, “You haven’t even been inducted yet.”

She turned her attention to the guards that still lingered within the room, and flicked her hand to signal them to leave.

Daruis spoke into a small device pinned on her body armour. “Okay Dr Kesh, come in.”

A door opened from the opposite side of the room and a man dressed in a smart pressed suit made his way in, a small silver suitcase held in one hand, and a bundle of grey clothes in the other. He made his way over to a table that stood situated in the small room and placed the items upon it.

“Hello there Norval.” The man said cheerfully, turning as to face him.

“Tunnock, Call me Tunnock.”

The doctor raised a bemused eyebrow, “Okay, Tunnock. I trust you’re eager to hear our terms and conditions relating to the sentence that you’ve wisely accepted.”

Tunnock remained in silence.

“Well, I can tell that if you do continue to accept life imprisonment with us, it will be under the proviso that you are subjected to daily doses of scrinacine.”

“Scrinacine?”

Dr Kesh messed with the combination on the box beside him and flicked the lid open. Revealing a set of syringes, filled with bubbling yellow liquid, housed neatly within a layer of foam.

“It’s a concoction that us scientists at Smith Ltd have created, and we wish to trail it. The scrinacine will be administered to each of your limbs and to your chest. Previous tests on rats have shown the injection to restrict blood flow to the muscles, whilst also drawing water from them. Leaving you in a perpetual state of unrest.”

Tunnock raised an single eyebrow as he looked upon the strange serum. “Why do you want to test something like this? What practical use does it have?”

Dr Kesh held a stare with Tunnock for a moment, before removing his spectacles, “That is something you need not worry about Mr Tunnock. All you need to be concerned with is what sentence you wish to carry out. Remember, if at any point you wish to cease your contract with us you can, you are free at any point to fullfill your alternate sentence. You’re in control.”

Tunnock chuckled lightly, “So my choices are either Death, or, living my life in mild discomfort for the rest of my days?”

Dr Kesh nodded.

“Shoot me up then doc.”

Darius stepped forward and brought her taser into Tunnock back. His muscles seized up and he collapsed to the floor.

“Make even the slightest move and you’ll get get toasted again, got it?”

Tunnock snarled angrily before looking down to see Dr Kesh approaching him with a syringe in hand, a slight smirk upon his face.

He carefully pierced Tunnocks skin and pushed all of the yellow liquid into one of his biceps. Dr Kesh repeated the process, skilfully injecting the scinacine into the flesh of each of the man’s limbs and rchest.

Tunnock remained cool and collected throughout the process, as he felt the drug seep into his veins and muscles.

Dr Kesh gently closed the lid to the suitcase once he had finished and packed the syringes neatly away once more.

“Is that it?” Tunnock asked, as he climbed back onto his feet, looking at each of his limbs curiously.

Dr Kesh made his way back over, and passed a small bundle to Tunnock.

“These are your clothes from now on.” Dr Kesh replied, “Come on, get changed and we’ll show you to your room.”

The convict turned slightly and raised a seductive eyebrow at Darius, who stood behind him. She responded to the gesture with a taser to his gut. He collapsed to the floor once again.

“Do you like being hurt Tunnock?” The enforcer quipped.

Tunnock squirmed on the floor, before reaching for the pile of clothes that lay strewn out before him. Once he had climbed into the plain grey attire he was promptly escorted from the room.

Darius led the convict down an array of bland shadowless corridors. All sense of orientation was lost within the complex. No signs or markers lay on the walls, the hallways were barren and windowless, twisting endlessly like a grey maze. Creating a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia.

They made their way round a curving corridor. Stopping outside a large steel door labelled ‘1-C16’. Darius brought her key card to the scanner beside it and the door slid open, revealing a wall of steel bars behind which sat the prison cell.

Darius proceeded to unlock the steel bar door and drew it open, throwing Tunnock inside before closing it once again.

The cell was tiny no longer than 5 meters in length. It contained a steel toilet, and wash basin. A small desk and chair, made from solid concrete, which was fixed to the floor, and finally one bed that was also fashioned in the same way. Just a solid block of grey, with a thin foam sheet upon it.

“Welcome to your new home!” Darius beamed, “Dr Kesh will visit you once a day to check up on you and administer more scinacine. You’ll get 3 meals delivered here and one hours exercise a day. The other 23 hours, will be spent in this shit hole.” Darius swiftly left after adorning a sarcastic smile, leaving Tunnock alone in his cell, to begin his life sentence.

***

Tunnock couldn’t help but find himself inexplictly drawn to a window that sat at the end of his cell, just above his bed. It was 4 inches wide and about half a meter long he clambered over to it and tried to look out to see if he could catch a glimpse of  the skies above, to no avail.

He slumped onto the bed and feeling the scrinacine slowly pinch through his body. Each of his muscles twitch slightly as the drug rushed through, whilst also feeling stretched and sore.

“This isn’t so bad.” Tunnock muttered to himself, smirking as he lay back against the concrete wall.

He sat in silence until a peculiar noise caught his attention. Tunnock opened an eye and peered round the tiny cell. The noise continued. He got up and  followed the faint noise across the room, leading him to the steel sink basin.

A faint gurgling could be heard coming from down the pipe. Tunnock peered down into the darkness and found himself disgusted as a spray of water shot upward out the sink and into his face.

Tunnock staggered back, grunting as he did so. Whilst wiping the sink water off his face. However to his surprise, he could hear almost inaudible words creeping up through the pipes.

“Use the toilet roll….”

A grimace came about the convicts face, however he did as the unknown voice instructed. He picked up the loo roll that sat beside the toilet, and unravelled the paper leaving only the card tube in his hand.

He looked at the tube, then at the sink hole and crammed one end in, carefully placing his ear upon it.

“Say something if you can here me. Hello?” The voice said to him, the words now clearer.

“Who the hell are you!?” Tunnock yelled down the sink angrily.

A high pitched laugh rattled through the pipes, “Oh man this is exciting, I haven’t talked to anyone in ages! Anyone that isn’t a goon that is! I’m your cell block neighbour. We’ll probably never meet, my names Ashamm by the way!” The man replied in childish excitement.

“Tunnock.”

“Hello there Tunnock my buddy! Go on then, tell us what you’re in here for!?”

“That’s no concern of yours!”

“Wo-o-ah bud, okay then! No worries! What sentence you serving?!”

“Life, no parole, under scrinacine injections.”

“Look at this guy, opting for the goon juice! You’re alternative sentence must have been pretty bad.”

“It was the injection, or death.”

There was a slight pause before Ashamm’s boyish voice echo’d back out of the sink.

“If I was in your shoes… I’d be knocking on heavens door mate! Hello God it’s me, let us in would ya!!”

“Why’s that?” Tunnock replied, with a new found curiosity.

“The peeps that run this joint are pretty relentless, as you’ve probably found out. They’re not going to make your life a skip in the park, if you know what I mean.”

Tunnock scoffed, “I’ll take my chances.”

“Never forget, they own us buddy. The moment we waddled in here we became nothing more than their livestock. You’ll end up in the cellars for sure. ”

“Shut up! No one owns me!”

“Oooooh, we got a hard man here. Guards help! Help! I feel threatened.” Ashammed laughed mockingly through the drain pipes.

“Shut up!”

“What you gunna do Tunnock? Big man Tunnock? Fight the sink?”

Tunnock pulled the cardboard tube from the pole hole and launched it angrily across his cell. Ashamms mocking words slowly faded, “Shellvon gunna break you!”

***

The following night saw Tunnock subjected to the full effects of the scinacine inside him. Twinging his muscles and ligaments, causing periodic spasms throughout his body. He lay flat on the concrete bed, looking straight up at the blackness above him.

The grown man winced as short bursts of pain pinched at him. Forbidding him from succumbing to the gentle state of sleep. Both eyes grew to be dry and heavy, and a headache grew like a thick fog inside his mind.

Eventually the lights flickered on once more, after the sleepless, endless night. His sore eyes ached under the pressure of sudden bright lights. Before he knew it, Darius and a group of scientists entered the cell. Forcing him down and injecting more scrinacine into his veins.

The first week of Tunnock’s stay followed this painful, yet dull routine. Each night was sleepless, each night the scrinacine pulled at him. Each night rolled on to become more hellish than the last.

Slowly Tunnock found himself falling into deteriorating state, as his mind slowly began to pull itself apart. For the hope of sleep was ripped from him. His vision became hazy and unfocused, the world surrounding him blurred out into barely distinguishable shapes. The once overly proud man now found himself jumping in fight at illusions that popped up momentarily around him. Touch became nothing more than a memory as a soft numbness set about his body. The only thing he could feel was the vicious drug within him, a potent virus, keeping him set in a perpetual set of warped awareness.

***

The 6th night brought true terror and fear, unlike anything Tunnock had felt before. He lay there motionless, as he had for the 5 previous nights. Waiting for the lights to flicker on once more.

But something caught his attention. “Footsteps?” he thought… Tip toeing within the darkness.

Tunnock brought his head upward, the world spinning violently as he did so. “Hello…?” He murmured.

Then a force struck him violently in the fore head, throwing him back against the bed. In amidst the panic and darkness Tunnock could just about distinguish a figure, who had jumped upon his chest pressing down on him relentlessness.

He gasped desperately for air, and as he did so the figure brought down a barrage of fists into his face. Crashing hard into his head, shaking his skull beneath his skin.

“Stop! Please stop! Stop!” Tunnock wheezed in horror.

The beating ceased as suddenly as it started, and Tunnock was left quivering, crunched up into a shaky ball for the remainder of the lightless night.

It wasn’t until the lights in his tiny cell came on once more than Tunnock dared to move. He peered out from behind his hands at the cell entrance and watched as Darius entered followed shortly by Dr Kesh and a group of scientists for the routine injections. However the broken Tunnock cried out to them, throwing a hand out wildly.

“No don’t!” He whimpered, “Don’t come any closer! Please!”

Darius looked to the scientists surrounding her, and shrugged. Dr Kesh spoke out, “What’s the matter Tunnock? Is everything okay?”

“Someone, Someone attacked me!”

Kesh looked back to Darius, who responded once again with an unenthusiastic shrug.

“When were you attacked Tunnock?”

“Last night! Last night someone came in and attacked me!”

The doctor cocked his head, issuing the other scientists to restrain the shaking man. Before administer more of the cruel concoction. Tunnock screamed out helplessly.

Once they had finished, the group promptly left the cell with Dr Kesh, followed shortly by Darius, who glanced back at Tunnock with cold grey eyes.

Tunnock remained cowered behind his numb hands. Slowly, thin streams of tears forced their way from the corner of his eyes.

But then, unexpectedly a voice spoke out.

“How can I be your little secret if you’re going to tell everybody about me.”

Tunnock lifted his heavy eyes from behind the safety of his hands to see a nightmarish figure standing before him in the cell.

The hellish creature was a solid shade of harsh black. Towering over Tunnock,  standing on two unnaturally long, thin legs. With a pair of gangly arms to match. It’s eye’s glowed as if they were a pair of blood rubies, their gaze brought with it a nightmarish feeling of dread. All of which was fixated upon Tunnock.

“What the hell is this!?” Tunnock screamed as he desperately tried to shuffle backwards. Despite already being firmly pressed against the wall.

“We’re going to have lots of fun together.” The jagged figure hissed sinisterly in reply.  It lunged forward and brought it’s hulking head besides Tunnocks, whose frighten stare was fixed upon the creatures burning eyes.

A long thin tongue slipped from the monsters razor teeth and slowly licked the side of Tunnock’s face. Revelling in sinister delight as I did so. An icy chill splintered through Tunnock’s spine.

“You skipped school again.”

“W-what?” Tunnock trembled in reply.

“What have I told you back skipping School Norval.”

The nightmare’s black silhouetted body expanded, engulfing the entire cell in a thick blanket of darkness. Tunnock found himself to be standing as the monotone grey of the cell melted away into nothingness.

A burning grew beneath his skin and he desperately clawed at his arms, in hopes of relieving the sudden searing pain. As he did so, an large door sped toward him from a indistinguishable horizon. It paused before him, towering meters above his head.

Tunnock watched as the door crept open. A thick stench of stale cigarette smoke oozed out as the door revealed a large arm chair face away from him. He took tiny steps as he stumbled his way in. Looking about nervously, like a lost lonely child.

“You know the punishment for skipping school Norval.” The voice hissed once more.

The ominous black figure pulled itself from the large arm chair, and had now tripled in size, dwarfing Tunnock as if he were a small boy. It pulled what appeared to be a large cigar from it’s sharp toothy smile and shoved the searing glowing embers into Tunnock’s face.

His screams were muffled beneath the cinders of burning tobacco. He felt his flesh peel from bone.

“You’ve upset daddy very much.”

Tunnock screamed. Then suddenly he tumbled back from out of the darkness into the light grey surroundings of his cell. Beads of sweat poured from his brow as he frantically patted his face with both hands. Finding it to be free of damage.

The terrors continued day and night. The creature would return to torment Tunnock and as his insomnia stretched on, the terrors grew to be more horrific and more frequent.

The mysterious figure would whisper chilling words into his ear. Beat him until he could hardly breath and warp his mind with twisted visions. Painting dark illustrations onto the canvas that was his fragile mind.

Tunnock did all that he could to make the guards and the scientists aware of his ghostly abuser. However each time he brought it up he found himself met with a set of stern, unimpressed faces and silence. As a result he was left alone, with his monster.

Another week passed by, Tunnock lay flat on his bed. The world around him was an incoherent mess of scrambled information. Resulting in a perpetual state of nausea. The light above him faded out and a blackness flooded the room.

There was silence. Tunnock waited for the monster to return. But there was silence. He lifted his foggy head and looked for a pair of glowing eyes in the dark. But there was nothing but silence.

Tunnock slumped backward and let out a deep sigh, perhaps this sleepless night was one free of torture and torment. Then a set of soft footsteps came from beside his bed.

Tunnock began to breath deeply and beads of cold sweat began to run down his face.

“Daddy?” A softly spoken voice called out bedside him.

He gripped his head in anguish, “No… no… no! Please stop!”

“Daddy?”

Tunnock turned his head to see a little girl standing at the bed side. She had curly hair that hung freely from her head and was dressed in a school uniform. However her skin was an icy wash of white and both eyes glowed a faint red.

“No please! This is too much!” Tunnock screamed out helplessly. “Please!”

The small child jumped up onto his chest, forcing the air out of his lungs.

“I’ve got a headache daddy.” The little girl said quietly, “Mom does too.”

“…no, get off, get off!”

He did his best to move the child, but she was fixed in place. Set like a steel anchor upon him, cold to the touch and unmovable.

The small child’s eyes gazed upward as she brought her tender hands to her forehead. Tunnock flailing ceased as he stopped to watch the young girl.

A tiny red circle materlised on her forehead, she began clawed at it gently with her fingers. It slowly grew in size and a thin trickle of red oozed out from it. Sliding down her forehead, into her eyes and down the rest of her face.

Pure horror seeped into the core Tunnock’s bones.

The girl then began to cough and heave heavily, hunching over forward as she did so. A large gush of blood spewed from the girls frothing mouth and poured over Tunnock’s face.

Kicking and screaming, he tried once more to force the girl off of himself. But she wouldn’t move. Madly he wiped the red liquid from his face and eyes. However the small girl brought her hands to his face.

Tunnock struggled, but was over powered by the girls supernatural strength. She slowly prised his mouth wide open and leaned forward. A shower of blood poured from her mouth into his.

The coppery taste raced down to back of his throat as he gargled the thick warm liquid. He couldn’t bring himself to swallow, or to heave. Instead the red liquid bubbled and frothed in his mouth as he desperately tried to clear it from his windpipe. Then the muscles in his throat gave up, and blood poured down his airway straight into his lungs. Just as he felt life leave his body he jolted upward violently, flailing his limbs about in a mad fashion.

The nightmare had vanished, but a coppery taste still lingered on his tongue. Tunnock then let out a defeated a yell. One that signified a man who had been broken, a man who had given up.

The iron door to his cell slid open, and Darius made her way inside. She stared at the killer, who was perched upon his knees, whimpering like a child.

“Keep the noise down Tunnock.” She said bluntly, turning to leave as she did so.

“Kill me.”

“What?”

“Kill me Darius. I want the alternative sentence. Kill me.”

***

Tunnock was pulled from his cell the following morning, by a pair of bulky security guards, instructed by Darius. The felon flopped about weakly as he was dragged out of the grey cell, both feet sliding limply behind him.

He was in a state between the conscience and unconscious, caught in a hellish limbo between rest and unrest. Yet it was the closest thing to sleep he had got since beginning his stay in Shellvon heights.

He felt his feet flop about awkwardly as he was dragged down a flight of circular steel stairs that descended into a dark dingy corridor. Illuminated only by the faint glow of a few dying light bulbs.

Security threw him into a small cubical room. The floors and ceiling were flat, plastic and white. A thin piece of metal ran across the floor at one side of the room, acting as drainage.

Tunnock brought himself up onto his knees weakly and stared up at Darius who towered above him. He raised his hands and brought them together as if in prayer. “Please. Finish it. End it.”

Daruis looked down at the broken man with a smirk. Then took a step backward out of the cell, closing the door behind her.

Tunnock looked up in shock and scuttled frantically across the floor. Peering through the small circular port hole on the door.

“What’s is this!? Whats going on!” The felon cried out loudly. “I thought I was to be put to death!?”

Darius peered at him through the foggy glass. “You are dead Tunnock. Well, as far as the outside world is concerned.”

“…What?”

“We’ve filled out all the documents, death certificate, execution statement and so on. As far as the outside world knows. Norval Tunnock is dead. But you, will actually be spending the rest of your natural life here, in this room. You will be visited by our scientists for 15 minutes a day, to administer more scrinacine.”

“No… No!” Tunnock whimpered, as he began to claw violently at the handle-less door.

“The other 23 hours and 45 minutes. You will spend here, in total darkness, alone. People like you deserve nothing more.”

“No! No! Please you can’t leave me here!

“Goodbye Tunnock.” Darius said with cruel twisted smile, before exiting up the spiral stairway once more.

“Why are you doing this!?”

Darius paused for a second on the stairwell before replying, “We’re just curious.”

“Kill me! Darius please! Kill me!” Tunnock shouted desperately as he heard her footsteps fade away. “Darius!” Seconds after Darius had left, the lights in the small cell flickered out. Drenching the cube in a heavy darkness.

An icy chill shook his bones. He quivered as he turned around to stare at the darkness. Finding a pair of red glowing eyes staring back.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun together Norval.”

The Wood for the Trees – Chapter 3

 

Breaking Bread

“Winter is a bitter season, the variety of food and flavours are bland. But a warm roll of rye bread baked by loving hand’s can warm the coldest hearts.”

“I’m sorry about my brothers out burst. He can be so insensitive sometimes.” Monarda apologised to Soil, who was walking quickly alongside her. Doing his best   to keep up with her long stride.

“You don’t have to apologise, I know what having a sibling can be like.” Soil replied, “It’s clear that Brook cares about you. His anger and frustration shows this, he’s just unsure of how to communicate that care to you.”

“Oh it isn’t that, trust me. My brother is just rotten because he isn’t the head man in the family.” Monarda finished her sentence as she approached the doorway to her own house, that she lived in with her partner, Phlox.

Soil stared up at the marvellous homestead. It’s dark timber framework had been elegantly crafted and the multitude of pieces interconnected in a seamless, satisfying, fashion. Unlike many of the other homes in the village, this marvel made use of black brick to construct its walls. Rather than using the common, and cheaper, method of using wattle and daub. The building had it’s own yard, that sprouted a variety of green winter plants. White bulbs of garlic could be seen reaching out from beneath the dirt, as rows of leafy spinach.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the house was a stable that connected to it. Housed within was a great brown mare, whose head hung over the stable door. It’s large friendly eyes looked upon Soil as he gazed upon the large homestead.

He wasted no time in following Monarda into the house, of which the front door stood at a height that accommodated her towering stature. As the pair entered he hallway they were greeted by a sea of delightful smells. The aroma of sweet boiled herbs wafted throughout every nook and crannies of the house. Soil mouth began to water uncontrollably. Steam rolled in from the kitchen and crept across the ceiling above, bringing with it a warm refreshing temperature that drew the bitter winter chill from Soil’s limbs.

Monarda removed her thick blue coat and hung it on a collection of hooks that protruded from the wall to her right. She fanned her face weakly with her hand and exhaled deeply. Her hand stilled and her eyes widened when she noticed Soil was still standing with his large thatched cloak on. She kept forgetting that this young man before her was not used to the little rituals that village folk carried out on a daily basis.

“Feel free to hang your cloak up Soil. You must be boiling in that.”

“I am a bit warm to be honest.” Soil replied sheepishly, his face quickly reddening. After fiddling with a small toggle he drew the cloak from round his shoulders and hung up on one of the wooden hooks bedside him. Revealing his undergarments, which consisted of shorts and a sleeveless top, that looked much like a weaved potato sack and was a green grey in colour.

Monarda looked at his thatched cloak and cursorily rubbed a part of it between her thumb and index finger. It’s outside layer was harsh to the touch , almost gritty, as if one was rubbing their hand against sandpaper. However, to Monarda’s surprise, the inner lining was the opposite, pleasantly soft and elegantly smooth .

“Where did you get silk from in Eyre wood?” She asked in amazement.

“It’s not lined with silk, it’s moss.” Soil replied cheerily.

“Moss!? That’s incredible! How have you managed to use moss like that?!”

“The cloak is more like a living plant, rather than an item of clothing… It’s a mix of craft work and magic,” Soil told her, “But I couldn’t explain how the magic aspect works, I crafted it together and the forest just… sort of… did the rest? I can’t explain it.”

Their conversation was abruptly interrupted as Phlox came to stand in a doorway at the other end of the corridor.

“Monarda! Soil! I hope you’re both hungry!” The dark man said with a smile, “Your mother and brother are not joining us Monarda?”

“Unfortunately not my love, You know what Brook’s like.”

“That’s no problem. He’s a growing man looking for his place in the world! I was just the same when I was his age.” Phlox chirped, before bringing his hands together into an enthusiastic clap, “Let’s eat shall we!”

The trio made their way into the dining area, which held as much splendour as one would have imagined. Four large arrangement of candles sat in each of its corners, they provided a bright light that flooded the expansive room. The walls were adorned with a collection of different antiques and trophies.

On the northern wall situated above a doorway, that led to the kitchen, was a pair of two curved swords. Mounted so that the naked blades crossed one another. The swords were inscribed with strange symbols that ran from their points down to their hilts. The western wall housed a large open fireplace, in which a beautiful yellow crimson flame danced about upon a heap of charring wood. On the mantle of the fireplace sat a collection of 4 plates, very bland looking, made of clay. Each of the 4 plates had a unique character painted upon them.

Finally, in the centre of the ceiling, hung a truly grand yet unusual ornament. It was a crab claw, however it was nearly the size of a human, spanning a length of 6 ft. The bazaar appendage had been suspended by ropes that were in turn fixed into the dining hall ceiling. It hung freely, mirroring the long rectangle dining table that sat below it. Soil winced slightly as his eyes met the grotesque centre piece.

Phlox pulled out a chair for Monarda, and then for Soil, on the opposing side of the table. “Make yourselves comfortable! I shall return shortly with your food.” Phlox sung out as he exit the room, disappearing into the soft, steamy fog of the kitchen.

Soil couldn’t stop himself from slowly shifting his gaze upward, doing his best to conceal the fact he was doing so from Monarda. A grimace forced it’s way across his face as he stared at the gigantic pincer. When he shifted his gaze subtly to Monarda he jumped! For she was looking directly at him. Quickly the distasteful expression left his face and Soil did his best to replace it with one of neutrality.

Monarda laughed slightly, “Is the giant claw bothering you Soil?”

Soil leaned across the table slightly as he replied “It’s a bit… Unsettling. Is now a bad time to mention that I don’t eat meat…?”

Monarda couldn’t contain the laughter that popped out of her body, Soil looked at her in confusion.

“Don’t worry Soil. It’s not the season for meat, Vegetables are the only food that we can get hold of right now, so you’ll be fine.”

Soil forced a small appreciative smile onto his face. He couldn’t stop his eyes from nervously glancing up at the claw at final time.

Phlox re-entered the room carrying three bowls of creamy soup, and a basket of black rye bread, upon a large tray. He placed the dish down delicately on the table and shared out the food. Providing each dinner guest with a dainty sliver spoon.

He looked upon the table with a distinct look of pride when he had finished, before pulling out his own chair at the head of the table and planting himself firmly upon it.

“We were just talking about the claw Phlox,” Monarda said, breaking the silence that Phlox’s entrance had brought with it.

“Oh yes the claw! The most prized item in my collection.” Phlox said cheerfully, staring up at the suspended limb. “Was an awful pain to transport when I moved to Tachbrook however.”

“I didn’t know crabs grew to that size…” said Soil as he brought a spoonful of soup to his lips.  He found the collection of herbs provided a sweet flavour that was most agreeable, yet the boiling heat scalded his tongue. Soil did his best to conceal his discomfort, he glanced across at Monarda. Who was giggling at him quietly, and purposefully blew on her spoon before placing it in her mouth.

“It’s not a crab Soil! That is the claw of a mighty Argapod!” Phlox bellowed, before taking a tiny mouthful of steamy soup. “They’re a race of intelligent crustaceans that live just off shore of the Muskove mainland. Incredible beings.”

“Did you kill this one?” Soil asked.

Phlox laughed in response to Soils question. “No, no, I can’t even begin to pretend that I did. I don’t have the strength or the means to take one of these beings down. I came across the claw at an auction many years ago. A very rare find, taking into account that Argapods are notoriously hard to kill. Some even consider them to be gods.”

Soil looked down at his spoon thoughtfully, before blowing on it and sipped at the sweet pea soup.

“Anyway Soil, Tell me what it’s like living in the Eyre woodland!” Phlox continued.

“Have you never been in for yourself?”

“Never had the chance if I’m honest. Much of my work consists of travelling between Tachbrook and Larton city. So I don’t get much free time to go exploring. What’s it like?”

“It’s a very beautiful place, full of amazing flowers, trees and wild life. You could never get bored with the colours they display. Truly wonderful.” Soil smiled, as he thought of his woodland home. “Monarda, which of the flowers is it that you wanted to see. The ones that your brother mentioned. I can take you there at some point if you want? No one knows the forest like I do!”

The mood of the room instantly plummeted and Monarda’s face went a ghostly white. Soil sat staring at her, with a large grin plastered on his face. However he shifted his gaze between Phlox and Monarda as the silence began to draw out. Soil’s smile slowly receded, he wondered what it was that he had said…

Phlox delicately placed his silver spoon flat onto the table. The faint sound of the cutlery being rested on the wood rang out clearly in the complete silence of the room. He said in a low voice, his stare fixed directly on the table, “Monarda. We’ve spoken about this.”

“Phlox please, I didn’t-”

“When are you going to give it up Monarda! When are you going to grow up and get a hold of yourself!”

“Can we do this later?” Monarda hissed through gritted teeth and shifting eyes. “Let’s not argue in front of our guest.”

“No we shall! Otherwise our guest is going to think that I’m just unreasonable and don’t want you to go, out of spite.” Phlox snapped back hastily, remaining firmly upright in his chair. “Which we know isn’t the case, is it.”

Monarda looked down sheepishly at her lap. “No.” She whispered sadly.

“So please, stop chasing silly dreams and focus on what’s important for once!” Phlox’s stare was fixated his partner.

Soil, didn’t know where to look at or even what to do with himself. He stared at his bowl of green soup. Hoping, wishing for some excuse or reason that would justify him to leave the table. However none sprung to his inconveniently vacant mind. So Soil continued to sit, silently. He sipped at the broth and prayed that Monarda and Phlox would hurry up and do the same. In order for him to make an early escape from the tense, awkward atmosphere he now found himself in.

The rest of the lunch time meal was carried out in a bitter silence. The couples heated exchange had sucked the previously enjoyable atmosphere from the dining room. Instead it was replaced with a heavy, uncomfortable one. That squashed mere seconds to feel like minutes and minutes into hours.

Soil’s heart leapt with joy as Monarda finally took her last mouthful, after what felt like a lifetime of waiting. She tenderly placed the small silver spoon beside her bowl. Soil was eager for someone at the table to say something, anything! Until he realised it was up to him, the neutral party, to shatter the quiet that hung around them.

“That was really nice. Thank you for inviting me.”

“A pleasure Soil.” Phlox replied, as he got up onto his feet. Slowly he started to clear the bowls from the table.

Monarda and Soil gazed at one another, “I suppose you’d want to be getting off back to the woods now?” Monarda asked, ”Would you like me to escort you to the door Soil?”

Soil’s mind screamed with delight “Yes! Yes! Please! Yes! Get me out of here!” He got up slowly and calmly replied, “That’d be most kind, thank you.”

When Phlox had carefully stacked the bowls he turned to the Woodling. “It was great having you over Soil.” Phlox said, he made a move to shake Soil’s hand but retracted it. Instead he bowed slightly. Soil smiled, and did the same.

“I had a great time.” He replied.

Phlox smiled, then turned on his heels and disappeared into the depths of the kitchen.

Soil looked up at Monarda. “This way,” She said to him calmly.

The two made their way from the dining room to the front door. Soil lifted his thatched cloak from a protruding wall peg and swung it over both shoulders. Fastening it’s toggle tightly.

“Are you going to stay in Tachbrook for a while?” Monarda asked the young man, “I’m sure there would be a room for you at my mother’s inn?”

“That’s a gracious offer, but the woodland. sorry, Eyre woodland is my home.” Soil replied with a sunny smile, “I will come back soon however. I quite like this place.”

Monarda smiled, “Okay Soil, See you soon.” She leaned down slightly and embraced Soil in her arms. He returned the gesture.

“Goodbye.” Soil replied, before disappearing through the doorway.

The late luncheon meal had dragged on, and slowly the days sunlight began to fade. Leaving the sky a pastel red.

Soil weaved his way along the village pathways. He passed by homesteads whose families were coming to the end of their daily routines as the sun began its early winter descent. Men and women who tended to their idle homes began to file away behind small wooden doors.

Soil stepped to the side of a pathway, to make space for a group of weary tree smiths. Who had just entered the village through the narrow northern gate. All were eager to return home and soothe aching limbs in gentle slumber.

Two mighty horses escorted them. Behind them they pulled a large cart in which a  collection of sawn off wood was heaped.

Soil made his way through the gate once they had passed, and found himself running his fingers across the cool tall grass that encompassed him. A smile leapt to his face as he saw the edge of the forest. Standing like a mighty wall that embraced the village.

Soil continued to follow the path that he had taken that morning with Monarda. A feat most people would have had difficulty in doing, as the forest can often be disorienting. With it’s plethora of plant and tree life.

However the woodling could see past the forest’s illusions and was able to traverse the landscape with accuracy and ease.

It wasn’t long until soil found himself back at clearing. The gentle brook still sang its quiet song as it’s waters trickled by. He looked up to the sky above, watching as the crimson twilight sky faded into a blanket of stars.

He took a deep breath of cool air, before looking upon the red tree that he had found Monarda weeping under that very morning. Thoughts of her flashed harshly in his mind, thoughts of her pale skin and long flowing hair.

He ran the bright crimson leaves through his fingers as he approached the small tree. The cold winter wind suddenly hissed. Soil’s cloak and the tree leaves danced in accordance with the breeze.

In this moment, Soil noticed something, strange and peculiar. Fluttering gently was a small piece of parchment, which was nailed to the tree bark. sunset-forest

He leaned in curiously and pulled the note from it’s fixing. Carefully unfolding it within his hands, making sure that the ever growing gust of wind did not steal it from him.

The note had five bold words scrawled across it in big black writing. “DON’T LEAVE. SHE’S NOT SAFE.”

Soil’s stomach dropped and the wind hissed once more. He quickly scanned his surroundings. In hopes of finding some clue as to who had delivered the note.

A black figure stood, hidden away under the faint dark veil of the tree line. Which suddenly darted off.

Without thinking Soil set off after the mysterious silhouette, dashing over shrubbery and fallen trees. As if he were water, uninterrupted, free flowing and fluid.

However the dark shadow seeped away into the darkness, like water into a sponge, and Soil came to a sudden stop on top of a large tree stump. Soil stared deeply into the darkness, but no trace of the being was to be found.

The words on the note were etched into his mind and a thousand thoughts tumbled through his head.

 

“DON’T LEAVE. SHE’S NOT SAFE.”

“DON’T. LEAVE. SHE’S. NOT. SAFE.”

 

 

The Wood for the Trees – Chapter 2

Tachbrook

“We are not like animals. We have a higher consciousness that can think, and place us, beyond nature’s laws. It’s up to us as people to act on this and ensure we make the right conscious choices to help all of that which we find around us.” – Soil speaking to his old brother.

 

The walk back to Monarda’s village was a short one. Soil knew the forest well, and was able to navigate with ease. Despite the lack of a coherent pathway.

The bitter edge of the morning was melting away as the sun stretched into the sky, pouring it’s warmth onto the land below. Morning frost, that had decorated tree bark and saplings, faded away into droplets of morning dew.

Soil’s eyes widened as they came to the edge of Eyre forest. The tree’s came to a stop, and the tough forest floor faded into soft emerald grassland. He had known the whereabouts of the settlement for sometime, but rarely visited. For when he was younger, he had almost convinced himself that the forest didn’t have an end, and simply extended indefinitely, encompassing all far reaches of the globe.

But finding the village broke that idea. The forest brought him comfort and a sense of security, and finding an end to that, finding there was more beyond the trees, brought with it a feeling of doubt and worry.

Soil paused and turned his attention to a tall naked tree that stood to his left. Jumping up, he hauled himself through the array of wooden arms that stretched out the towering trunk. The woodling positioned himself high in the tree top.

He looked out at Tachbrook, that sat humbly a short distance away. The green meadow encompassed the collection of quaint houses that made up the village, and surrounding that further still was the edge of the Eyre woodland. Framing Tachbrook in a circle, as if it were an elegant painting.

It was a quiet place. The common folk that resided there, much like Soil, kept themselves to themselves and liked to remain in a degree of separation from the rest of the wider world.

“Are you coming?”

Soil looked down to see Monarda waiting patiently at the base of the tree. “Yes! I’ll be down in a second.” He took one last glance of the view before making his descent. Within seconds the woodling landed firmly on the ground, after making his way through the branches with little effort.

“That’s some impressive climbing skills you’ve got there,” Monarda smiled.

“When you’ve lived in the forest as long as I have, it’s just something you pick up.”

“I don’t know how much use it’ll be here.” Monarda replied, before walking into the soft grass of the meadow.

Soil watched her as she glided through the shallow sea of green. Mesermised as her hair glimmered in the late morning sunlight. He followed a short distance behind her, gliding his fingertips across the meadow top as he went.

It’s wasn’t long until they had come to the edge of Tachbrook, the stretch of grass came to an abrupt end, as it met with a wooden fence. Which ran around the entire edge of the humble village. To their right, a perimeter had been erected in part of the meadow that housed a collection of fluffy white sheep. The flock bounded over to a long steel trough, which a middle age man poured a large bag of oats. He looked up to wipe the sweat from his brow, and cheerily waved at the pair as they walked past,  entering through the northern village gate.

Each of the village buildings were made up by wattle and daub, with strong timber providing the frame work. Many of the homes were cramped tightly beside one another. However still providing enough space for yard, the boundaries of which were depicted by a skeletal wooden fence, to accompany each house.

Soil watched with curious eyes as men and women exited their homesteads, clothed in thick woolly tunics, tending to mundane tasks that routine called for them to do. Each home bustled with all the vibrant signs of everyday life. A slight sense of unrest gripped him, for he had never witnessed so many people at one time before. However his nerves were eased as Monarda turned and smiled at him.

He continued to follow Monarda down a rough dirt pathway that weaved through the multitude of buildings. Whilst on there way, a particular home caught his attention. It stood alone and was unlike that of the other cheery households that surrounded him.

The wooden framework was a cloudy grey, and the buildings daub coating had begun to peel away, revealing a strewn mess of rotten branches that had been laid beneath. The yard was a mess, overgrown weeds and nettles stretched up from the ground and seeped through the garden fence. The buildings most striking feature however was the large amount of mysterious wooden symbols, hung on the buildings exterior by pieces of black ribbon, like medals on a soldiers uniform.

The amount of hangings draped upon the home was so numerous that it’s  deteriorating framework was almost completely covered. The only part of the building that wasn’t covered, was a single door that stood at the front of the house, which had been painted black and scrawled over in strange archaic writing.

A thousand questions instantly appeared in Soil’s curious mind. He turned to Monarda, but before a word had left his lips another voice called out to them. “Monarda!”

Soil held his tongue and watched as a dark skinned man jogged calmly down the pathway towards them. He enveloped Monarda in his arms and planted a kiss upon her forehead. “I’m so glad to see you’re okay!” The man exclaimed, “Don’t run off like that, you had me worried halve to death!”

“I’m sorry.” Monarda replied, looking down at the pathway beneath her feet.

“It’s fine Monarda,” The man hugged her tightly once again, “Just think about your actions a little next time, and the effects they may have on those you love.” The man planted a final tender kiss upon her pale forehead, before he noticed Soil standing idly behind her.

“Who’s this?” The man asked cheerily.

Monarda turned round and introduced the pair to one another, “Phlox, this is Soil, he helped me find my way back through the woods, and Soil, this is my partner, Phlox.”

Phlox was quite the contrast to the frail and gentle complexion of Monarda. His skin was dark cocoa in tone and his body boasted lean muscles. He had his hair closely shaved. Except for a row of black dreadlocks, adorned with purple beads, that ran down the centre of his head. Flowing freely onto his shoulders.

“Thank you so much for escorting her back safely.” Phlox extended an open hand out towards Soil, who was unaware of the cultural context of a handshake and instead bowed slightly, keeping his back perfectly straight as he did so.

“You’re welcome.”

Phlox smiled, and withdrew his hand before saying, “May I offer you some food as a sign of gratitude?”

Monarda’s face beamed with delight, “That’s a great idea!” She turned round quickly to Soil.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to hassle you.” Soil replied quietly.

“Please I insist,” Phlox insisted with a welcoming smile. “Monarda, could you offer the invitation to your mother and brother also?”

“Yes of course, Although I don’t know why you keep inviting my brother. He’s never going to come.”Monarda grumped.

“There’s no harm in asking is there?”

“I suppose not.”

“Okay, Lunch will be ready within an hour! Don’t be late!” Phlox announced mirthfully, “See you there Soil.” He planted a final kiss upon Monarda’s brow before turning to leave.

“Come on you,” Monarda said to Soil, “Let’s go see my mother and brother!”

Soil smiled at her, following the frail woman quietly once more.

The pair cut through the centre of the village, passing by an expansive hall building. Three large sliding panels made up one side of the barn like structure, all of which had been slid open. Soil had a quick peek into the inside to see a collection of men and women, working tirelessly. Each of the workers used a multitude of tools and equipment to shape wood that had been harvested from the Eyre forest. With extreme care and skill the different pieces were being fixed together to construct an assortment of furniture and other fine goods.

“This is the hall of the Timber Smiths.” Monarda said, after noticing Soil’s keen intrigue, “It’s more or less a giant workshop. They collect timber from the forest. Then fashion it into different items that we export to Larton, which is a large trading city that is situated several miles east of here. Apparently Tachbrook is renown for it’s excellent wood craft, however when you’ve grown up with it I suppose you just take it for granted.”

“It’s fascinating,” Soil replied as he continued to gaze into the large hall, “I’ve done some wood crafting of my own, but nothing like this.”

“My brother is a trainee timber smith, you can ask him about it when you meet him.”

Monarda turned to continue on their way, and Soil quickly followed.

“Are there any other towns? Like Tachbrook and Larton?” The woodling asked innocently.

Monarda laughed lightly to herself, “Of course, there are more than two towns in the world. I myself only know of a few however, and my only experiences of them are through traveller tales.”

“What are the other places? And what are they like?”

Monarda gently rubbed her chin as she tried to recall stories she had heard, “Well, there’s the Otto highland towns, that lay to the west of the us: Fort Kun, Bamoral and Orkoats. I’ve heard their folk are quite gruff, and that Orkoats makes good whiskey!

There’s also Ottarr, that lies at the base of the Silkurn hills in the south. Oh! And Ullar which is some sort of fishing town I think?”

Soil listened attentively, but quickly found himself lost in wonder.“The world is so much larger than I first thought…” He said quietly.

“It’s even larger than that!” Monarda continued, “Land stretches far beyond the world that I know! For example, there are great deserts deep in the east, that make up the Akaian sea! But I’m afraid I have little knowledge of the world that far away.”

Soil was left speechless, within the space of a morning his known world had expanded drastically. It were as if someone had taken a tightly folded map, wiped off the dust, and finely spread out it’s deep set creases across a clear table.

Monarda smiled as she looked down at the woodling who was clearly awe struck.

“We’re here Soil,” Monarda announced calmly, snapping him out of day dream, “Welcome to my old home.”

Soil focused once again, and saw that the two of them were approaching an old charming inn. A small square sign hung above their heads, rocking gently in the faint breeze. It read ‘Ivy’s Inn’ and had a sprawling vine of ivy lavishly painted upon it. An assortment of clay flowerpots were arranged out front, each one filled to the brim with soft dirt.

Monarda walked through the Inn’s entrance, ducking as she did so. She held it open for Soil who filed in quickly behind her.

The inn’s reception was a refreshing sight, all of the flooring and beam work were crafted out of lightly tanned wood. Bringing a soft glow to the room. An assortment of tables and chairs made up a large dining area on their left, and to their right stood the reception desk.

As soon as they had entered the room a hearty female voice called out joyfully “Monarda!”

A small, stocky woman made her way out from behind the reception desk and hugged Monarda tightly. Who had to bend down awkwardly as she succumb to her mothers embrace.

Watching from the back of the room, was a young man. He was slumped in a chair and whittled away at a small piece of wood held within his hand.

“Soil, this is my Mother, Ivy. Mother, this is Soil” Monarda introduced the pair, stepping to one side as she did so.

Monarda and her mother were in contrast to one another, so much so that one might find it hard to believe that they were related at all. Ivy was small, plumb lady with big red cheeks and a even bigger heart. Despite there visual differences however, she share Monarda’s style of hair. However Ivy’s beautiful locks, once golden and flowing like her daughters, had started to age into humble shades of grey and silver.

Ivy’s mouth dropped open in disbelief as she stared, wide eyed, at the woodland boy.

“Is it really you!? Are you the boy from the forest?” Ivy asked in wonder, as she began to touch his earthy cloak.

“Yes, I suppose that’s me.” Soil replied, a nervous twinge brought a wobble his voice.

“I’ve heard all about you!”

“You have?!”

“Sure! Travelers come by my Inn all the time, passing to and from the Eyre woodlands. I’ve heard it all! The small woodling boy, and your allotment deep within the forest. I’ll be honest however, I had my doubts in whether there was truth in those stories. Wasn’t sure if they were just pulling my leg, but here you are! In the flesh!”

Soil’s smiled sheepishly, “here I am!” His reply trailed off into an awkward chuckle.

“Mother, Phlox has invited you and Brook to come round for lunch today.” Just as Monarda had come to the end of her sentence, a loud slam came from the back of the room. As the lurking young man slammed his wood work onto the table.

“I’m not going. You couldn’t pay me a weeks wages to step into that man’s house.” He lashed out wildly.

Ivy rolled her eyes, “When are you going to get over yourself Brook. Phlox has offered you this gesture in good will.”

Brook leaned back against the wooden wall of the Inn, both of his pale, scrawny arms were folded tightly across his chest. “Phlox is a heartless manipulator and you’re all blind to it!”

“Brook, I wish you would stop this. It’s pathetic.” Monarda said bitterly.

“Pathetic? Being kept on a leash like some sort of pet, now that’s pathetic!” Brook whipped back hastily, “He won’t even let you see that tree in the forest you like, the one with the flowers! Bloody crazy.”

“Get a hold of yourself young man!” His mother yelled angrily.

The young flustered man jumped up onto his feet, and threw on a coat that had been placed on the back of his chair. He barged past his mother and sister as he flung the door open. “I’m going to Raephers.” Brook huffed under his breath as he made his way out into the street.

Ivy ran out of the Inn after him in, as her anger swelled. “Yeah that’s right, you go to that crazy crackpot again, see if I care!”

Brook didn’t show any hint of acknowledge to his mother’s deafening words and disappeared from sight as he turned a tight corner.

When Ivy span back round to join Monarda and Soil. Her face had flustered into a furious red, her cheeks ripe like fresh tomatoes. “Your brother is just- Urgh!” Ivy huffed in discontent as she made her way back behind the reception. She pulled out a beige wood chair and planted herself down upon it, releasing a long deep sigh. The flood of red quickly drained from her face.

Soil looked to Monarda, unsure of what he should in the present situation, feeling out of place, amidst the awkward family squabble.

“Apologise to Phlox on behalf of myself and your brother would you Monarda?” Ivy asked, “I had best wait here for when Brook returns and have a talk with him.”

“I will mother, but I don’t know what good talking will do, you could talk more sense into a wild sheep.” Monarda scoffed.

“Monarda, He’s your brother and we both know why he acts like this.”

Monarda’s bitter scowl subsided from her face.

“I’m ever so sorry you had to witness that Soil.” Ivy continued as she noticed the woodling standing awkwardly in the corner. “My children can be right pains sometimes.”

Monarda rolled her eyes. Soil chuckled, and large toothy grin spread across his face.

“Anyway you’d best be off! Don’t want you food going cold because of me!” Ivy pushed herself up onto her feet, a hand firmly planted on the reception desk as she did so. She hugged her towering daughter once more, before planting a loving kiss on her pale cheek.

“I’ll see you later mother. Come on Soil, Phlox will be waiting for us.” Monarda ducked once again as she tenderly made her way through the small Inn door.

Soil bowed towards Ivy, “It was nice meeting you.”

“You too Soil.” Ivy replied with a large smile.

Soil span round and made a swift exit, making sure he remained close to Monarda.

 

The Wood for the Trees – Chapter 1

The Crimson Tree

“Still the mind. Inhale peace. Let go of worries. Exhale stress. Notice the breath. Connect to all.  Embrace the calm.”

The world can appear to be endless. Without boundaries, or borders. One can stand upon the dunes of the earth and watch rolling hills ascend to ever reaching horizons and beyond. Stretching far beyond comprehension and often our own imaginations. Especially those of us who seek shelter in the familiar.

A cloaked and hooded figure walked idly through his forest homeland. He knew little of the world beyond his realm of trees and earth. He walked tirelessly, without purpose, reason or intent. Trekking across the hard earth of the woodland floor in search of nothing, just as he had done many times before. But just because you are not searching for any in particular, it does not mean the world is not searching for you. As often we find ourselves in explicable situations and circumstances, as reason and purpose seed their way into our lives.

The cloaked figure continued his aimless, barefooted walk. Silky morning sunlight seeped through the cracks of bare tree branches that spanned above him. The figure’s calm breath condensed in the cold winter air and vapour bellowed out from the darkness under his thatched hood.

The figure pulled the hood down, allowing the cool air to envelop his face. The young man closed both his bottle green eyes as he drew a long deep breath, listening to the soothing sound of a shallow brook that ran nearby. Fresh air seep into his lungs, before it was exhaled once more, condensing into a thick fog of vapour.

The birds who had braved the winter months sang their proud songs from the trees above, the cloaked man stood in silence, listening. He had heard their songs before, and was familiar with the symphony of the woodland in which he resided. However a new sound caught his attention, a cry that was out of harmony with the forest song that sang around him. The sound of sorrow, the sound of someone weeping.

He turned on his feet, following the notes of sadness that glided through the air. He quickly found himself beside a shallow brook that cut through a small clearing within the forest. Across from him, standing on the other side of the brooks gentle embankment, was a small tree. Which stood no taller than that of an average man. It was unlike it’s tall and mighty brethren, who stood proud and bare throughout the forest, the sapling had retained it’s leaves through all of winters spite, which were bright red in colour. Sitting beneath the tree’s arching branches, was a young woman who’s head was buried in a pair of soft pale hands.

The cloaked man stood in silence, observing the stranger from afar. He had encountered people before, however it was however an uncommon occurrence. The young man was accustom to a singular existence of isolation. Yet the good nature of his soul urged him to call out to the girl. “Are you alright?”

The girl took her head from the cover of her hands. Her heart cramped in fear as she looked across at the cloaked stranger, who stood still on the embankment opposite.

The youth was hidden beneath his thatched cloak, that had been woven from plant life and wood harvested from the floor of the forest. It flowed out from his neck, and came to an end softly at his knees, completely shrouding his shoulders, arms and torso.

“It’s okay, I’m not here to harm you.” The stranger continued, as he made his way down a steady incline into the crystal clear waters of the small brook. The icy water brought with it a bitter chill as he carefully made his way across the shallow stream. “My name is Soil.” The stranger said calmly, “I am of these woods. I only wish to help.”

The girl watched as the woodland man slowly walked towards her, a spring like smile adorned his face. He sat down on the frosty floor once he had reached the crimson tree, leaving a meter or so between them, and folded both his feet so them rested upon each thigh.

“Why is it that you’re crying?” Soil asked.

The young woman sniffed a couple times, wiping her numb, running nose with a purple handkerchief. Whilst at the same time trying to swallow a sad lump that swelled within her throat.

“My partner and I, We’ve just had a silly argument is all.” She replied hoarsely, wiping cool tears from her pale cheeks.

“I hope it was nothing serious.”

“It was over nothing important.”

Soil smiled at the young woman before saying, “The course of true love is not always a smooth and gentle one. But it’s rewards are worth the effort we invest in it.”

His words struck a chord in the girls young heart, and an involuntary, yet welcome smile bloomed upon her face. She turned to Soil, “My name’s Monarda and thank you for your concern. It’s a rare trait to find these days.”

“You’re welcome.” Soil replied, before turning his attention back to the endless canvas of trees that spread out around them.

“So you say that you live in the Eyre forest?” Monarda asked as a new found curiosity took a hold of her.

“The Eyre forest?”

Monarda raised an eyebrow, bemused. “Yes, The Eyre forest. This forest.” She cast one of her hand in front of her as she spoke, encompassing the tall bare trees that surrounded them..

“I didn’t realise this forest had a name!” Soil replied in excitement. “Eyre forest… I like it!”

The pair laughed for a moment before Soil continued. “But yes, I’ve lived out here on my own for many years.”

“Don’t you have any family?”

“I had a brother, but he’s gone now.”

Monarda’s cheery look melted away, “I’m sorry.”

To her surprise Soil turn to her with a glowing smile. “Don’t be,” He said, “He’s one with this realm now. I see him every morning when the sun shines and I hear him in every bird song.”

Monarda’s heart was warmed by Soil’s undying optimism, a trait that she found was uncommon among most people.

“So where are you from?” Soil continued, “My guess is that you’re from that settlement that lays south from here?”

“That’s correct!” Monarda replied, brushing her long, cream blonde hair behind her left ear, “It’s called Tachbrook by the way. Have you been there before?”

“No I haven’t, But I have met with several travelers who say they came from there.”

“It’s a quaint place,” Monarda said softly, as she looked up to the milky morning sky above. “Oh my, I’ve been here too long!” She suddenly exclaimed, climbing up onto her feet and brushing the dusty earth off her winter jacket.

She was a very tall and slender woman, standing at 6ft. Rich blonde hair gracefully flowed from her head down to her lower back. She was clothed in a thick winter jacket, deep blue in colour that covered from her shoulders to her knees and round its collar was thick white fur. Black woollen stockings kept her the biting cold from her legs and both feet were encased in tough hide boots.

“I’ll escort you back if you like?” said Soil, as he also stood up. Monarda towered above him, as the young man only stood at a modest 5ft 6.

“I’d appreciate that.” Monarda replied, as she awkwardly looked around, “For.. I’m not sure if I’ve got myself lost or not…”

Soil laughed and pointed with an outstretched, “This way, would be a good start.”

The two of them set off together, to retrace Monarda’s early morning footsteps. Leaving the solitary red tree to stand on it’s own one more, by the calm brook waters.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wood for Trees

64 A4 pages, 37,205 words, countless hours and a whole lot of love later…. I’ve finally finished the first draft of my latest story, The wood for the trees.

Not quite a novel but non the less a huge hurdle jumped. It’s the longest complete work of writing I’ve done so far and I can’t wait to start the second draft soon!

Calling all book worms out there, if anyone wants to be a beta reader and give me feed back on this first draft you’re more than welcome to message me, just keep in mind that this is far from the final product and only a first draft.

Stare into the Light – Revision

“I flew down the flights of stairs as fast as I could, tripping down a few of them as I frantically raced for the door. Doing my best to keep my eyes shielded from the yellow artificial glow that surrounded me. As I reached the door, I flung it open and gently came to a halt outside, breathing in the cool night time air.”

I gave one of my older stories a quick polish the other day, as I cringed when I read it back to myself. So  if you’d like to give my old story some love I’ve added a link below where you can find it! —> Stare into the Light

The Twin Tail and the Willow

The following is a small excerpt from an unnamed story that I am currently working on! This particular section is very much inspired by the works of Hans Christen Andersen, the fairy tale writer who wrote the Little Mermaid, the Snow Queen, the Ugly Duckling and many more. 

“I used to go there with my brother a lot and we would make up stories for why the fire lilies only appeared in that one pond and no where else, to our knowledge anyway.”

“Do tell me the story!” Monarda chirped, a half smile spread across her face.

Soil smiled too, as he thought back to his younger days with his older brother, “Okay, So once upon a time there stood a willow tree in the forest and she stood alone and apart from the rest of the trees. For she was the only willow tree for miles. The other trees would laugh at her and call her names, for she was different from her tall proud brothers. The trees would comment on her slouching posture and mock her for the way her branches drooped and bent.

She was very sad, until a blue breasted twin tail rested upon her bark one day. “Why are you so sad?” The twin tail asked.

“The other trees keep calling me names for I am not like them. I am hunched and bent over and ugly.”

“You are not ugly!” The twin tail exclaimed, “Why I think you’re the most splendid tree in all of the forest.”

“You think so?!” The willow glowed with glee.

“Of course. I see a million trees like the ones that pick on you, but I only see a handful of willows like yourself. You are as beautiful and as precious as any shining gem stone.”

The willow and the twin tail became the closest of friends and spent the entirety of the summer together. However the leaves of the forest began to turn gold and bronze , and the twin tail had some heartbreaking news to tell the lonely willow.

“My friend, it hurts me to say this. But we must part.” The twin tail sung sorrowfully.

“Why?! Why must you go?!” The willow replied, sad that maybe the twin tail had grown tired of her company.

“This forests golden period is setting in, and it signals the coming of the icy winds and snow. If I stay here I shall surely die, for there will be no food for me to eat, and no shelter warm enough to protect me from the ice’s bite. I must depart to warmer lands till the spring rolls round again.”

“I shall see you when the spring comes back though won’t I?” The willow asked sadly.

“I wish that was the case my dear friend, but the woodland is so large and so vast I doubt I would be able to find you again.”

The pair of them wept as they spent their final days together. But on the day that the twin tail was due to leave the willow came up with a plan! “Twin tail!” She cried, “I have devised a way for you to find your way back to me when spring comes round once again.”

The willow tree dipped her branches into the cool pond water beside her, and the twin tail watched as an assortment of small green buds materialised out of the calm pond water.

“In the spring, these lilies will blossom bright yellow and orange, and it shall seem as if the pond is doused in a blanket of fire. This is my signal to you my friend, so we can be reunited when the icy chill as left this land.”

“Thank you my friend,” The twin tail exclaimed, “This is the most precious gift anyone has ever given me. I shall look out for the fire lilies when I return. Goodbye miss Willow.” With that the twin tail took to the skies and flew far away to warmer lands, whilst the willow waited in silence as coldness gripped the forest.

The twin tail would look out for that pond every time spring came back to the forest, and would spend the summer times with his fellow friend the willow tree. He did so till the end of his days. The willow tree looked at her lilies with sadness now that her friend was gone. However she decided to keep beautiful little flowers, as an ever lasting memory of their eternal friendship.”

“That was a lovely story Soil.” Monarda said cheerfully.

Soil humbly laughed to himself, “Thank you.” He replied graciously.