by Zentara Shadowsoul
I felt blessed by the forest and was eager to continue my journey toward the monolith, happy that the trees not only knew of my destination but also welcomed my visit. But as I moved toward Ghost I was distracted by voices and the rumbling of wheels behind me and turned to look.
The trail I was now on had diverged from the main track some distance back, heading toward a cluster of buildings a mile or so to the west. Along the rutted course of the track four large wagons full of men and equipment were heading toward the buildings, the men’s voices drifting toward me on the wind. Shivers ran down my spine at the realisation that what I’d thought was a hamlet was actually the beginnings of a lumber yard. The men in those wagons were no doubt builders and workers whose job it would be to ravage the trees that had welcomed me so warmly.
Sorrow, anger and hatred raged within me. I wanted to prevent what those men were doing, to run toward them and shout at them to turn back, to leave the forest alone. But common sense argued against any such action. Even if I did manage to stop them they would only build elsewhere. Perhaps not in the exact same spot, but there were so many places now that they could construct such lumber camps that halting them all was impossible. I began to realise that the destruction would continue, perhaps until the forest, not just this one but all of those within reach of humans, disappeared from Rohinval.
For several minutes my emotions swirled and tears trickled down my cheeks, until Ghost nuzzled my shoulder as if to comfort me. His gentle whinnies and nudges brought me back from the edge of despair and I stroked him, muttering “Yes, I know, time to move. But it seems so wrong. Why can’t they leave the trees alone?” He snorted as if to agree with me and we both moved back to the trail and headed into Whittan Forest.
Huge roots criss-crossed the ground and low branches made riding impossible. It was almost as if the forest was trying to defend the route from invaders but the trail, twisty and narrow and almost invisible, opened up before me. Ghost followed as we threaded our way between the white-trunked trees and through the undergrowth, brambles and ferns parting as we approached. The soft murmurings of the wind, the pattering of small creatures, and bird-song were the only sounds apart from those of our feet cracking the occasional twig and our bodies brushing against the bracken. I began to calm down, to lose myself in the deep tranquillity of the forest, admiring the fallen golden leaves occasionally lit by pale sun filtering through the overhead branches, and patches of colourful fungi and mosses. Autumn was at an end and winter had crept over the landscape since I had left the Guild, a cold damp chill enveloping me as I made my way deeper into the forest. I lost myself in the beauty and silence. And before long my anger had dissipated, and I felt at peace.