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Life for David wasn’t bad; it was just endlessly frustrating. He’d learned, after much pestering of various Children of Chaos, that his brother and the girl with him had been “sent to the home in his heart,” to enjoy the fruits of the festival in peace. Now, David wasn’t an idiot, so he knew instantly what they meant – there was only two possible places which Stone might call “the home of his heart” -- their home, or the god’s forsaken forest which he seemed to have such a strong rapport with.

Packing up and leaving his friends and the party behind, David had rushed home to report in and check on any sign of Stone. Nobody there had the slightest idea of where he might be, and David downplayed it as if they’d simply gotten separated and his idiot brother had gotten lost. There wasn’t any reason to worry anyone about whoever the girl was, and whatever Stone was doing with her now.

Once he was certain that Stone wasn’t anywhere around, David made his apologies for losing his idiot brother, and promised to return to the city to check on him in the temples and the dungeon. After all, when dealing with someone as stupid as Stone, his family figured either the priests would have pity and take him in as a lost soul, or else he’d end up in the prisons for stealing, or brawling, or something else stupid. No one ever indulged even the slightest imagining that Stone might just run away and enjoy life on his out in the forest with some strange, almost naked girl.

And so, without raising any real flags with his family, David had packed up his bow and arrows, dressed in a fine suit of hunting leathers, and he’d worked his way to the edge of The Mazing Forest. It wasn’t an “amazing forest”, like several of the idiot travelers or merchants liked to call it; the locals all knew of it as “The Mazing Forest”. Those who wandered into it, always wandered out of it, helplessly lost and never where they thought they should be – no matter how good they thought their hunter skills were.

David had even tested himself against the forest, several times in the past. Enter the south border, travel north all day, and by nighttime, emerge from the far eastern corner. Or maybe the far western corner. Or, once even, right back where he’d entered the forest at!

And, there was no damn reason for it! Sure, the trees were tall and the constant canopy of leaves made it impossible to ever view the sun directly, but the forest itself was generally clear walking. No large ravines to cross. No massive mazes of brambles and thorns to navigate around. It was clear forest, straight walking, and then emerging at some place that was impossible to emerge at!

‘Unless, of course,’ David fumed to himself, ‘Stone happened to be walking beside one as they wandered the forest.’ Apparently Stone was simply too stupid for whatever magic, or trickery which was afoot in the forest, to work on him! ‘And now the idiot bastard’s gotten himself lost in there, and I’m trapped out here,’ David fumed to himself, for the thousandth time over the last few days.

David couldn’t help as every growing worry built and twisted in his gut over the last several days. Try as he might, the forest was completely broken now. He’d paced up and down the road a dozen times, but try as he might, David couldn’t force himself more than a few hundred feet into the forest, before he found himself back out at the road again.

His mind rebelled and told him it wasn’t possible, yet, it happened anyway. The forest was simply… broken was the only way David could even begin to imagine describing it. Tie a string to an arrow. Tie one end to a tress. Shoot it direct into the forest and pull to make certain that it’s stuck solidly in another tree. Follow the rope…

… And come back out at the road, with the rope stretching out into the forest, as if he’d tied it and fired it from there to the road, and not the other way around!

‘And my dumbass brother,’ David fretted to himself again, for the thousand and first time, ‘is trapped in there with that girl from the city. They’re probably both starving, dehydrated, and dying now!’

Yet, no matter how much her cussed the forest, no matter how much he begged the gods, nor no matter how many times he tried to enter the forest from various paths in, David was helplessly stuck outside, waiting as day after day creeped by slowly; his frustration ever mounting.

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Darkbringer

  • Dark Dream Weaver

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