Chapter XXXI

This part of the journey seemed to last for an eternity, but eventually it came to an end, as all things must. The blindfold was slipped from her eyes, although it made little difference, for, blinking in the sudden sunlight, Beatrix could make out very little of her surroundings.

As the sight gradually filtered back into her eyes, however, she realised they stood in a rough clearing with a great many tent-like shelters propped up against trees and the like. The ground was squidgy with a black, clinging mud, dark puddles pooling at the base of wet black trees, their gnarled trunks like leering faces, their sharp leafless branches akimbo to ensnare unwary travellers. Thick brambles snaked over the ground, their thorns scratching her ankles. Dead bracken and leaves littered the forest floor, wet from the recent rain. She stepped over a rotting tree-trunk, covered in moss and fungi and probably crawling with horrible beetles and such.

The clearing was covered in tall grass, full of weeds. If the castle lawn had looked like that, the gardeners would’ve been sacked on the spot.

Directly ahead of them lay the largest shelter, looking like a heap of earth and stones and wood, all slopped together in a lump and covered with moss, mud and bracken.

They live like savages, she thought. What am I doing here?

The End

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