Square One

"Where did this forest come from?" Max panted, admiring the light show. The reddish hue turned to a white one and began to shrink to a point. At the last, all that remained was a pinprick of light as if through a keyhole, and then the will-o'-wisp popped out of existence. In its place was a fragile snowflake, glistening in the light of the moon as it drifted to the ground.

When at last the snowflake settled, the scene began to melt away like a soiled painting. The trees rapidly grew into the ground, as if the hands of time were being speedily wound back.

Max found himself back in the cemetery, the wall at his back and the church in front.

"You should've let me finish," The Aged Knight admonished. "Exposition has its uses."

"I suppose now is as good a time as any."

"Will-o'-wisps have a terrible sense of direction. Often times in helping travelers, they only succeed in luring them far astray. It happens more often than not, leading investigators to suggest it is their intention."

"And the forest? As I recall," Max scoffed, double-taking a look at the quiet cemetery, "there isn't one."

"Staring into a will-o'-wisp at night blinds men to other details. They see stars, as the bard would say. But I don't need to tell you."

Max sighed, retaking his seat on the large rock and keeping an eye on his lantern with his peripherals. "Alright, Prince Valiant," he said, looking up at The Aged Knight, "let's get things straight so I don't get any more surprises."

The Aged Knight retook his seat beside Max. "As you wish."

"First of all, this forest of yours;" Max began, sweeping his arm through the air at the cemetery, "I thought it was just metaphorical."

"What is that? A summoning word for a bard's beast to do your bidding? Or should I call you Max the Magician?"

"No. Metaphorical; it just means an implied resemblance. Like," Max thought, "my mind is a forest of self-doubt."

"I am in awe of your intellect, Max the Bard. I do hope you will sing me a story while you're here. You were right in thinking my calling this world a forest was metaphorical."

"So then, it is a world and not a figment of my imagination?"

"It is your mind, but only a representation of it projected by this world. That is this world's speciality. It manifests the mind of its protagonist."

"My my, Strider, you casting a spell there?" Max joked, nudging The Aged Knight.

The Aged Knight cracked his pearly white smile. "What brought you here, Max the Bard?"

"You making a joke? I assumed you did, or this world itself."

"Excuse me. Let me be clearer. Why visit a cemetery in the dead of night? That is how you came to be trapped here, after all."

The End

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