A young-man is sprinting through a dense forest at night. He looks over his shoulder and back forward frantically.
"I was such a fool! I should have just gone around this forest like everyone else!"
In a bustling medieval town, the young man and 2 other men are arguing outside of the young man's house. The young man is packing what looks to be masks inside of a large bag.
“Seriously Edward!? You know all sorts of things get lost in that forest. Things… and people. What force has possessed you to try and go straight through it?” A man said to the young man.
“You all are waaaay too superstitious. There isn’t anything in that forest but trees, bugs, and MAYBE the occasional animal. Worst case scenario, I run into a few wolves, and they aren’t particularly violent. I bet you they won’t come within a hundred feet of my campfire.”Edward said.
“Oh come on now, what are you even doing trying to sell all of these masks? Who’s even going to buy these things?”, another man said.
“I’ll have you know that there’s a festival about to happen across the forest in the town of Norview. Someone informed me that the people over there love artistic items such as these, and even have masquerades occasionally. If I can get there in time, I can sell all these masks for a small fortune! If I were to go around the forest, I could miss the festival and have to wait an entire year!”
“I’m tellin’ you, this won’t end well. What if you never make it back home, huh?”
“And I’m telling YOU, that I’ll make it back no problem. My sense of direction is second to none. You remember that time I navigated us from Fenton back to here without even using a map? I think that should speak for itself.”
“You know, that’s one thing, but this is another. A forest is harder to navigate in the first place, nevermind all the stories of strange creatures and magic.”
“Myths of strange creatures and magic. And I would argue a forest is even easier to navigate around in. To me, every tree shall be a landmark!”
“Edward, you’re about as stupid as a tree. If you really think you can make it through, then go ahead. I just hope the stories aren’t true.”
Edward rolls his eyes and hoists his bag up onto his back
“I can, and they aren’t. Now if you’ll excuse me gentlemen…”
Edward set off in the direction of the forest.
Edward took confident strides into the forest, much to the surprise of a few distant onlookers. Many feet into the forest, Edward felt none of the apprehension that everyone seems to associate with the forest. He continued his journey for many hours onward, until it became dark…
He gathered some firewood with a hatchet, and lights it with a tinderbox. A flame flickers to life and Edward is filled with warmth. Despite this comfort, he couldn’t shake a cold feeling around him.
“I can see why people feel the way they do about this place now that it’s night… not that it matters, they’re all just myth-crazy…”
Edward tried to reassure himself of his pragmatic view. But it didn’t prove to be all that simple with his surroundings. Branches curled around him, fractions of the moon glared through the canopies, and he started to hear things. It seemed as though branches here and there were creaking and cracking, despite the lack of wind.
“It’s just… the crackling of fire…” he said.
Edward looked over and saw a couple of bright white lights that looked eerily like eyes.
“That must be the moon… but I thought the moon was over there…”
To Edward’s horror, the moon was exactly where he thought it was, in a position opposite these two lights. Edward whipped his head to the side to look at those two lights again, and as he did this, they “blinked” at him.
“AHHHHH!” he screamed
Edward panicked, and ran off into the woods.
“I was a fool, I was a fool!... why didn’t I just go around the forest like everyone else? I should’ve just waited until next year!” Edward exclaimed
The white glowing eyes descended from the tree branch they were nested on and approached the fire. A small, 2ft tall hooded figure could just barely be made out. It shuffled over to the campfire, reaching over and picking up one of the masks in Edward’s bag. It cocked its head to the side in curiosity.
“What on earth was that?! Don’t tell me there truly are mythical creatures in this forest...”
Edward had stopped quite aways from his campfire. In fact, the orange glow was nowhere to be seen.
“And on that note… where am I?"
The small hooded creature dragged the bag of masks behind it with relative ease, taking it all the way to it’s makeshift home in the forest. Upon arriving, it greedily reached into the bag pulling out multiple masks. It tried on a few, then decided to put them around its home as decorations. The creature nodded in satisfaction at the new appearance of its hut, as well as marvelling at its own appearance in the still pond nearby. It danced around and played with the masks, sometimes putting them on various inanimate objects and pretending they were alive. All this new commotion did not go unnoticed by another denizen of the forest, however.A creature, similar in size to the hooded one, but very cat-like in appearance approached the joyous figure. Immediately it’s ears perked up upon seeing the new toys it’s neighbor had found.
“I see you’ve found some new playthings.” the cat-spirit said.
The hooded figure jumped slightly, and upon recognizing the visitor, held onto the masks he possessed protectively.
“Don’t worry, as fascinating as these may be, I’m not here to take them. I am curious, however as to how you came upon these intricate objects. They certainly wouldn’t be found anywhere around here.”
The hooded figure shrugged, and turned away from the Cat Spirit.
“You mean to tell me that you don’t know how you found them?”
The figure didn’t respond.
“Surely you didn’t find them off of a… human?” the cat-spirit prodded.
The hooded figure flinched at the mention of a human, and the cat-spirit smirked.
“I believe my suspicions are confirmed. You and I both know nothing like these objects exist in the forest, which means there’s only one place they could have come from.”
The hooded figure lowered its head, defeated.
“If the owner of these things happened to have left the forest, maybe this would be another story, as leaving to return them could be dangerous, but we both know this is not the case. The owner still wanders this forest, seemingly quite lost, frightened and troubled. I don’t have to tell you that these aren’t pleasant feelings. I’m sure he misses these objects to the same degree with which you hold fascination for them. You know what I’m trying to say right?”
The hooded figure slumped it’s shoulders, then nodded in affirmation.
“Good, then you should hurry and return it’s belongings as soon as possible. It would be cruel to keep them waiting much longer.”
Edward sat crouched beneath a tree, shaking from the cold.
“What if they were right? I have no idea where I am anymore… I might never make it back home, let alone make a profit."
Just as the forest began to be illuminated by the light of the morning sun, Edward caught a glance of a large object hanging from a low branch.
“My masks!? But how? I…”
A wind blew through the trees, separating branches and allowing a better view of the sky between them. The sun was now visible to Edward.
“East… that way’s east, which means…”
Edward quickly ran over to his bag and hoisted it onto his back. He hurries off in the direction of Norview, then stops and turns around, looking into the forest.
“I’ve never been one for superstition, but if there truly is someone... or something out there… then I thank you!”
The wind carried Edward’s words through the trees eventually reaching the small hooded figure, crossing its stubby arms underneath its cloak.
“I know it may have been hard, but you did the right thing. There are others out there who aren’t that strong.” the cat-spirit said.
The figure relaxed it’s shoulders. And nodded to the Cat Spirit in acknowledgement.
“I’ll be taking my leave now, and I’m sorry for all of this, but I hope you have learned a valuable lesson here.”
The Cat Spirit bounded off into the forest, and the hooded figure walked into its home with the wind gently closing the door behind it.
Edward sprinted with glee and relief, eventually making it to the outskirts of a town with people dancing, performing, trading, and celebrating.
“I’ve made it… “
Edward breathes a sigh of relief, then lets out a faint chuckle.
“I think maybe when I leave, I’ll go around the forest this time.”