Though he witnessed the large beast plummet into the trees below, he wanted to get as far away from the scene as possible. What little adrenaline he had left was used to limp his way out of the forest, wherever that may be.
He had no map or compass, but he had an instinct or a feeling that he was headed in the right direction. Perhaps he felt this way because of how calm and inviting the forest started to feel. The trail that he found would be any indication that something had to be nearby.
Though it looked as if it hadn’t been traveled on for decades.
But there was something else drawing him in. A sound or a song of some sort, guiding his path. It was something he could only hear if he continued to move down the trail. It twisted and turned in every which way, but the song only beckoned for him to continue forward.
He could see something off in the distance as the song became louder. A house sticking out of the side of a large tree, and a staircase spiraling around it. As he went closer, the song became more recognizable as a woman humming to herself, pausing occasionally like she’s trying to remember how each verse went.
As he made his way up the stairs, Daniel found himself trying to recall the song along with her. The song reminded him of early visits to see his uncle in Harbourstone. He remembered the celebrations that were had whenever his uncle came back from an expedition. People would gather in the town square, and he’d share his experiences with other cultures. From food and ways of life, to the wonderful ways that other countries entertained themselves.
Though it was never that far, August had an incredible fondness for Canada.
Daniel knocked on the door of the tree-house quiet at first. He was timid about inviting himself into the house of a stranger. He took a deep breath and knocked again, much louder. The woman’s humming stopped abruptly, and he didn’t hear any other movement. A silence that made Daniel feel far too awkward, that was met with the door swinging suddenly open in front of him.
A short woman in a scarlet dress and fur cloak looked him down from head to toe, and walked away from the door. “Come in then, and close the door.” she said.
His reaction was slow, but he complied. “um, yes… I don’t mean to intrude but I–”
“– Oh hell, you’re not intruding. The forest brought you here.” The woman went to a large cooking pot sitting above a fireplace, and poured stew into a bowl.
“The forest brought me here? but ho–”
“–Surely you’ve already witnessed there is more to this place than the eye sees,” The woman shoves the bowl into his hands, “Eat up now. Get your strength back.”
Daniel sat down on a nearby stool and looked at the bowl.
“Eat up.” She yelped, “It’s vegetables. Vegetables are good for you.”
He wasn’t sure why he hesitated at first, but follow her order and began to eat.
“See, it’s harmless!”
“Oh no m’am, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just–”
“Don’t worry about it, and just eat. From the looks of you, you’ve already managed to have a rough day. Why are you so haggard?”
“It was the beast of this forest, m’am.”
“Ah, yes… That Dosjetka is it? Ridiculously pesky creature that thinks puns are a means of intelligence…You’re lucky to survive it’s obnoxiousness, surely. Well no matter, He won’t bother you here.”
Daniel was busy enjoying the taste and smell of the stew, perhaps it’s been too long since he enjoyed a home cooked meal. The woman continued to do little things around the house. Tidying up, here and there, putting a blanket over his shoulders to comfort him.
“So what are you doing in such a forest as this?” she asked.
Daniel was trying not to speak with a mouthful of food, “I washed ashore from a shipwreck not too long ago. Grateful to have survived it.”
“What were you doing on that boat in the first place?”
“I agreed to board as part of the crew, in order to get my uncle back.”
“Strange. Was he held captive by them? what was it for?”
Daniel spoke, somewhat hesitant to tell the story, “Not exactly… He’s been dead for some time. They were smuggling coffins, for whatever reason.”
“What a strange business to be in, is there actually money in smuggling the dead?”
He was finishing up the bowl, and scraping the bottom of it with a spoon. Fixated on it, but still answering all of her questions. “The captain actually seemed disappointed. Like they were there for something else. Some sort of treasure–”
“–Where did that happen?”
“Excuse me?” Daniel was fiddling with his empty bowl.
“Where is this place?” The woman was reacting as if she knew where it was, but wanted to hear the answer from Daniel himself.
“Har.. Harbourstone.” She walked up to him, and grabbed him by the face. Smushing his cheeks, examining it in great detail. “What is your name?”
“Daniel… Daniel Wyke.” She let go of his face, and instead grabbed his bowl and poured him more stew.
“Ah, Thorburn’s nephew.” she recalled in a spell of thought.
“How do you know this?” Daniel replied, accepting another helping of stew as she hands it to him.
“There’s many things I know about that town Daniel. Many good, many more bad.” Her sudden actions of scanning through piles of books was telling him that she had something on her mind.
“Do.. Do you know if there is a treasure there?”
“Of. I know OF a treasure, but that’s as much as anyone from that city could say. Your uncle though, was well travelled and probably had more of a mind for it than anyone else.” She let go of the books and again went back to grabbing Daniel’s face, this time staring intensely at him.
“If you’re looking for an answer, you’d best see if that treasure has anything to do with his death.”
The woman hastily grabbed a satchel. Threw various notes and books into it, and walked toward the door. “Finish your food, and have a rest. I made a bed for you. It’s important that I have an errand to run, but I will be back before nightfall.”
Before she closed the door between them, he expressed his gratitude. “Thank you, m’am… for this meal.”
“I’m just doing what the forest asked of me.”
There, Daniel was left to his own devices, and he used that time to eat until full. After the second bowl, he served himself another helping, which is a strange feeling when you’re doing such a thing in a house that doesn’t belong to you. But he appreciated the sudden hospitality and did not want to question it, things haven’t had any moment of normality since he’s moved to Harbourstone.
In the house was nothing but horded books, ingredients, animal pelts and all other sorts of things you would find in a normal house-hold. Though she clearly came off as a witch, she didn’t live like the ones you would typically read about in scary stories. Her scribbles on books scattered across the central table, looked more academic than hokey. As if she was trying to find scientific reasoning for the existance of magic.
From the amount of books around the household, it looks like she’s been at it for quite some time.
The fatigue from the Dosjetka confrontation, mixed with the belly full of warm food made Daniel far too drowsy to wander about. There was no greater opportunity that could have presented a moments rest to him, in this forest. So he sprawled out onto the quilt and pillow that the woman laid out for him, and went fast asleep.
When he came to, the woman had already been working away at something for quite some time. He stretched his arms out and gave a satisfied yawn that prompted her response.
“Good, you’re awake. I trust you’re well rested now.”
“I am, very much Thank you.” As Daniel was standing up, the woman went up to him with something in her hand.
“I suspect you’ll be ready to go– You’ll want to find your way home now.”
“Before I send you on your way, Mr. Wyke. I must ask a favour of you.”
He scratched the back of his head, surprised by the idea. “ I suppose. The least I could do, is something in return.”
“Do you know of a girl, in Harbourstone. The one that has had her face taken from her?”
“Agatha? Yes.. I have met her.”
“Hmmm. Beautiful name.” The woman, who looked agitated from before, over the mention of Harbourstone, let out a faint smile. She then grabbed his hand and placed a vial in his palm.
“It’s important that you give this to her. You need not tell her who you got this from, but I’m sure she’ll understand what it’s for.”
Daniel brought it up to his face to examine it, and begged to ask, “Is this for her–”
“–Yes. Yes it is. But there is no known cure for it.. I can only hope it works.” Daniel slipped the vial into his jacket pocket as she continued on, “ The city, past the forest, is Meaton. Don’t worry about losing your way, or any strange creatures. Just trust that the forest will guide you.”
Daniel noded and walked out the door a couple of paces before turning around to ask her a question.
“You know of Harbourstone, of it’s secrets, my uncle, and Agatha. So I have to ask… who are you?”
The woman gave out a heavy sigh, reluctant to hear that question, whom over time, no longer felt the need to answer it. She gave the best answer that she could before closing the door.
“Someone that lost their way.”
He didn’t question it, he knew not to. For he felt there was more to her than just a name or a relation. So with his strength back in order he left the house. Making his way to Meaton for the long trip home.