Guardians of the Forest Pt. 1 - Original Short Story
Part One: Maze Beneath the Roots
They told you the only cure for the children of your village lay deep inside the forest. They told you the cavern was hidden beneath the Great Tree’s roots. They warned you to stay far away, for the maze that lay beneath the earth was one few had ever returned from exploring, and the cure lay even deeper still. “Wouldn’t waiting for a mercenary to arrive be the wiser choice,” they’d said.
But you didn’t listen. And your arms were burning. Your knees shook as you grasped the hilt of your sword with both hands, struggling to keep the blade pointed skyward.
Another spiked vine glanced off the blade, but just barely. You were becoming sluggish.
One of the rat beasts, vermin the size of pigs, lunged at your feet. You brought your sword down and took a swift step backward. The beast squealed, a high pitched cry that ended as suddenly as it began after its head separated from its body.
You inhaled sharply, struggling to control your breathing.
Another vine wrapped around your left arm and yanked your hand away from your weapon. The other arm, weakened from overuse and weighed down by your sword, fell dumbly at your side. Your weapon hit the grass.
You stared at your sword for a moment, an empty, thoughtless moment, stunned by this turn of bad luck. The vine tugged and ripped you forward.
You hit the ground hard, smacking your face in the dirt. When you lifted your head, all you could see was the gaping razor toothed maw of the grotesque tentacled plant that was dragging you into its mouth.
Another moment. You thought about giving up.
But the kids back home needed you. They had no one else. That was why you were there after all, the reason you hadn’t heeded any of the elders’ warnings.
Another rat beast was at your feet. It clamped down on your right boot, fangs grazing your flesh underneath the hard leather.
Panic began to set in. You started to wiggle, to flail, to yank your arm down and kick your feet out.
Red and orange eyes were emerging from the thicket to join the onslaught.
Hopeless, frustrated — dead. You screamed.
“That’s enough! You guys just aren’t playing fair!” A girl’s voice?
“Agreed.” Another one.
Where did those voices come from? Were you going crazy? No, don’t stop moving. You commanded yourself.
The rat beast had already removed your boot and your foot was bare, your toes ripe for a big, juicy bite.
Glass shattered overhead. The shards sprinkled down and a moment later there was an explosion.
The entire forest cried.
“Fire beats nature!”
“Is it not more akin to wind opposing earth, fire opposing ice?”
“My rules! Fire. Beats. EVERYTHING.”
You tried to crane your neck to find the source of the voices but the fire had spread too quickly in this densely wooded area and smoke clouded your vision.
You remembered being frightened of fire as a child, even shrieking at the smell of kindling in a campfire, but in this moment the smell of vines incinerating, the crackling sound, the way the smoke stung your eyes, these were the most welcome feelings in the world.
You lost consciousness with that thought, an undeservedly triumphant grin on your face.