The Goblin Tree – One

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Feed The Dragons

Song Suggestion: Ghost In The Mirror by Nox Arcana

XXX

One

There was, upon a distant road in the Silverlands, a wagon. It was painted over with twisting green vines and the mural on the side was of a silver door set into the trunk of a tree. This wagon was cozy, with a soft bed tucked into a very small loft, a little wood stove, and a chair, if one was in the mind to stop driving down the road and read.

This wagon was drawn by a most remarkable horse with a dapple gray coat, a mane and tail the color of sea foam, and a bright, many pointed star on her forehead. As she went along, her hooves clicking smartly, it seemed that she was shining. Through the grass beside the horse there bounded a wolfhound with a curling, rough, black coat and long, lean legs. Sometimes she would chase after a rabbit, but never did she kill them, for there was plenty that was good to eat in the wagon’s cupboards and she was only having fun chasing, for, just lately, she had been a very old hound to whom youth had been restored.

Driving the wagon was a young woman with deep black hair that fell down to her waist unbound and bright green eyes. Many might have called her beautiful, and she was, in her own way, though what others truly saw was the radiance of her heart. Beside her on the wagon’s seat, there sat a cat of uncomfortable size. No house cat, no pet to sit on window sills or laze upon the lap, this clever tom was as big as a medium sized dog and both claw and fang were larger than he’d need for mousing. There was a wildness about him that spoke of places where men would not want to live or wander in the dark. Yet he was no threat to the girl or her horse or the dog, for he called them friends. His coat was silvery charcoal with black spots and his jade colored eyes were gleaming with intelligence.

As they drove along, the young woman, whose name was Bethany, was singing, for she was in a glad sort of mood.

“Down the unknown Road,

In the shadows of the forest lie,

Adventures untold, names not yet spoken,

And my heart has not yet been tried.

I’ve come a rolling on the Road,

From lands beyond the door,

And the place that I called home.

I come seeking wander and forgotten lore.

Adventure called me forth to come and find it,

Round the bend or down the valley I must ride,

Because I have not yet found what I am seeking,

And my heart is still untried.”

Bethany paused in her singing. The air was soft and the sunlight fell in golden veils upon the dark face of the forest. It had been many a day since she’d seen a village or a farm, and though she had plenty to eat, she wondered at the empty miles; the wide road had carried her away from the Sea of Stars and the wide, silver door which had brought her to this strange land. There had been a few, small villages along the shore where the children had all run beside the wagon and everyone had admired the mare, the dog, and the cat. All she had met had been merry enough, though they had not been more or less than the simple folk of her homeland and no adventures waited in their quiet villages or neat fields. She’d thought she must leave them behind, for she’d not come from her home to settle for more of the same, no matter how kind or happy the people might be. Now, though, the landscape was empty, the forest loomed dark and deep and she was missing the merry voices of those she’d left behind.

“The forest looks unfriendly,” Bethany remarked to the cat. And many might have found it odd that she was speaking to a beast, but might have found it stranger still that he answered back.

“It is,” said he and Bethany didn’t find it odd at all because she was of gypsy blood and, in fair Inìsfail, from whence she came, gypsies knew a great many things that others did not. That all cats, be it lazy, fat, and master of the house or wild and hungry stalking unknown mountains, could talk when they wanted was only one of the many strange and eldritch things a gypsy could tell you, if they did so choose. “There are creatures there which would wear your skin like a coat and gnaw your bones to dust. There are those that would lure you into their pretty homes and murder you for your hair. And there are others still that would sing to you sweetly and send you to sleep for a hundred years in a nightmare they made you just because they are bored and do not care what should happen to your mortal soul. For that is the Elder Wood, The wood of Elysium of old, and many there are now which call it wicked and will not live or walk near to it.”

“And so this is a lonely sort of place,” Bethany said with a shiver. “And it makes me wish I’d chosen a different way.”

“Many will say just so, when they find themselves on such a road,” the cat replied and curled up with his tail across his nose.

Presently, Bethany heard a soft cry upon the wind. She no longer was singing; the grim forest, looming so close, had stolen her voice. At first, she thought it only a sea bird. Though they were many miles from the shore, she still heard them calling in their harsh voices and sometimes saw them wheeling in the distant sky to the East.

Soon, though, she thought it might be the wind howling low and mournful to itself, for it did seem to be blowing endlessly. Then, at last, she thought it was a child and though the sun was setting, she carried on a bit longer, searching for the source of the crying; she knew there ought not be a child in this lonely place, but she could not listen to the crying without making certain.

Soon enough, Bethany came to an old signpost worn smooth and nameless by wind and rain and sun. Beneath its crooked, gray post, there sat a girl weeping. She was small and had golden hair that fell down in long braids. “Hello, little one,” Bethany said without stepping down. Though she had not been raised among the gypsy tribes which wandered in merry bands all over the Blessed Lands, her grandmother had taught her their sense. Perhaps this was a child, lost and afraid in the wilds. But, perhaps it was something wholly else playing malicious tricks upon what few travelers might wander here.

The girl turned her face up and Bethany saw by the light of the rising moon that she was truly just a child. “All that I love has gone,” said the girl. “Taken away, ne’er again to be free. Down, down, down, they went, beneath the goblin tree.” And though she stopped crying and let Bethany feed her and tuck her into the wagon’s soft bed, the child would not say a single word more. When Bethany woke in the morning, the girl was gone and the cat could not tell her what or where the Goblin Tree might be. Or maybe he just wouldn’t; that’s the way cats are, only telling what they wish to, keeping the rest to themselves, and they do not care if anyone else likes it or not.

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