The fate of two worlds - Maegard, land of magick, and Midgard, land of humans - was changed by one chance meeting when Daniel Sherwood goes out into the middle of the night to investigate the Forest of Souls, a place that centuries of folklore tell is cursed.
He finds more than he could have imagined, and loses more than he could have ever realised...
EVERYBODY TALKED ABOUT the Forest of Souls, because in truth, nobody really knew anything about it.
Throughout the quaint hours of breaks and mealtimes, it would arise in conversation complemented by quandary and a tone of unbidden terror. Nearly every day of every week it was the same, whether or not it had begun that way, so it would always end. Some spoke of demons rising from deep amongst the firs, I just one listener of many. Others told stories of monsters snatching away children, penance for the sins of the father. Over the years, the stories only grew, as did the lies, for everybody claimed to have been inside at least once, and having survived, one could call it nothing but fallacy.
The forest spread over dark mire, spindly trees of hemlock and spruce visible from the highest mountainous peaks, growing in blackness like the rash of a plague upon the skin of the earth. When pine cones recoiled for the winter, the trees would creak and snow would fall from the branches, spurring other trees to do the same until the entire forest seemed to dance and sway iniquitously. All of the villagers said that the Forest of Souls was cursed, and when yet another child was discovered missing, our auld ones would say the same again.
Ask the trees.
Yet, I do not doubt that they would not have done away with the Forest of Souls, for it was the most interesting place that they knew of.
I remember my village as a place far in the North of your world. We were cut away from the world by brackish wetland, where I met the smog clothing the ground each morning that I arose. I always used to think of the Forest like the shadow of the moon, a spectral crescent that fondled our highest mountain, so it was impossible to hike or climb when we were in need without entering that place. We had lost many fools that day.
The last time that I visited, we had been one hundred and fifty three, if you were to count two hounds and a farm of cattle. We were the few, all of us children of the Christendom, or at least we were each Sunday. Our children attended school many miles from our boundary, whilst as the remaining adults, we had agreed that our village was the dullest of places. That is, when we did not know of the events unfolding half a mile down the road within the forest.
You might wonder why we had named it the Forest of Souls. Many years ago, longer than my mortal fingers can count, it was because of its closeness to the church, a place sempiternally scented by thurible-burnt angelica, to keep out spectres of white that we had sworn to have seen. Some had sworn to have seen them, men and women alike, weeping within the graveyard, even screaming, their voices melting into the hissing wind. But always, always, these people would return to the Forest. If they were not spirits as our pastor had decreed, they were demons sent to tempt us from our marriage-beds. But I had heard a different story of its true name, for the auld used to say that for many years before our births, the Forest had had a different names, not Souls, but Sheol.
The forest had never liked visitors as I was soon to learn. It felt every tread of a trespasser's foot on its soil and it shuddered, feeling the poison in its roots. The wind became a shriek, that of its own hateful voice, and that of the new victim fallen foul to the forest's insatiable hunger.
That was to be me, and this is the tale of how I survived, and of how I died.