The Choice

The Choice:
Korwood Forest (Morning: Day Two)
A loud shrieking “caw” pierced Sidney’s quiet slumber. She awoke to see a huge black raven sitting a mere foot away staring at her with an odd, human-like twinkle in its’ eye. With closer observation, she noticed that there was definitely something out of the ordinary about this bird. It had large glowing red eyes and long manicured talons, sharpened to razor points and, if that wasn’t enough, there were luminous gold markings on its back. The minutes ticked by until suddenly it turned, spread its massive wings, and gave a loud “CAW”, as it flew away. Sensing the urgency to follow, she gathered her belongings and headed off in the ravens direction.
A short time later, she found it perched on a high bare branch above a very small arched opening in the forest hedge. “This must be the path to Earthgate, she thought, the one that Selena was talking about. Instinctively, she spoke aloud to her dark messenger, “O.K., I’m here. Let’s go!” and as though the bird could understand, it took flight again, winging its’ way into the darkness and Sidney followed.
The thick forest canopy, with its cool, moist air, was a refreshing change from the previous day. After what she estimated was at least an hour she paused, her ears buzzing with an infinite number of unearthly sounds; and caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She was sure that someone or something was following her, watching from a distance, but everything was still. A few moments later a shadow was moving just ahead and to the left. “Who is there?” she shouted, but there was no response. Her heart raced, fear and doubt was filling her with images of dangerous animals and weird people, making her skin crawl. She told herself, “Settle down, you have not seen anything to create these feelings, you just have the jitters.”
She quickly turned, at the sound of a twig breaking, to catch a glimpse of, what she thought, was a small child. Moments later, there was a soft POP sound and a small figure was standing in front of her, scantly dressed in a piece of tattered lace, covering her chest, and a silky loincloth, tied with a bit of string, around her waist. Sydney was only given a spit second view before the figure began running in circles around her so fast, that only the echo of a tiny “Helloooo?” remained.
“What is going on here?” exclaimed Sydney as the small figure reappeared and then, trying to remain calm, asked, “Well now, how do you do that?”
It was like turning on a faucet. “My name is Twilla June, Who are you? What is your name? Where are you going? How long have you been here? Who sent you?”
“Slow down. I am Sydney, Sydney Star and I’m on my way to the village of Earthgate”, she waited but the little girl said nothing, so she tried again, “I am trying to get home, can you help?” but still no response. In fact, there was no indication that she was even interested in this line of questioning. There didn’t seem to be any logical explanation for her behavior but it was becoming obvious to Sidney that this child did not want, or even know how, to have a proper conversation, was very annoying and most likely a waste of time, after all, the day was progressing. “If I am going to find that village before dark, I need to get moving. I’ll just have to leave her here,” she mumbled to herself.
Twilla did not stay behind. She kept following Sydney, for a very long time, blurting out bits of senseless information along the way, until they came to a wide stream.
“At last, fresh water,” sighed Sydney.
She bent over to get a drink and sighed,"At last, fresh water" but Twilla jumped in front of her. Her arms extending outward, palm up in a halt position, firmly stating, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Startled and thinking that this was a very aggressive stance for a child, Sydney questioned, “Why? What’s wrong with you? I need water, move o…” Her words halted in the still air as a green mist began to rise from the ground, enveloping the child, swirling upward to the sky, with mounting speed. Sydney backed away in awe. She was so captivated by the graceful beauty of it that she could not seem to find her feet. “Running would be a good idea,” she thought, as she felt her body give a slight twitch but remained still.
The mist began to fade and her jaw dropped open as a new shape came into view. This thing was not old, it was ancient. Very tall and slender with long wispy arms and no apparent legs. The wrinkles of its skin were so deep and rough it looked like the bark of a tree and a faint odor of moss began to seep into Sydney’s nostrils as it spoke in a slow, commanding voice.
“The mist can change a tree to seed or a stone to delicate dust. They will not appear, as you to me; for the elementals do as they must. This is the law, living within the woods.”
Sydney was in complete shock. Her body swayed momentarily on rubbery legs before she fell onto her bottom with a thud, sputtering meaningless sounds of confusion. Shaking her head, trying to find her mind, she uttered, “O.K. lets try that again. What did you say?”
The old one continued, “I am the Wood Sprite of times long past. You are surprised to see that I am not as you assumed me to be. The mysteries of my forest can alter the future at last. If you take this journey, you will not remain the same. The spirits of this Isle are not to be deceived by unworthy travelers. Danger and treachery come to those who lack imagination but great rewards will come to those who succeed. It is now time for you to accept the path that is written or return to the place where you entered.”
“Hey there, declared Sydney, hang on a minute. I didn’t ask to be here. You might say that I just found myself on your beach without a paddle! I have no idea what you are talking about. What written path? What journey?
What Spirits? I’m not looking for danger or treachery either, for that matter and I happen to like who I am. Look, I just want to find a boat and get home. What kind of a place is this? Tiny people, riding on talking fish, children turning into old withered things that tell me I have to make a choice? Alright, choice made. I choose to go home.” Her voice rising in a resounding pitch, she turned from old Wood Sprite and demanded, “So get busy with your Spirits, if that’s what you do, and get me out of here!“ She was in over her head and she knew it.
She began to fill her flask and again the old one spoke, “I cannot direct the other Spirits of the woods and I know of no other way for you to leave this Isle without their aid. Oh, there may be another way, but I do not know of any. The ancients have predicted that when the dark takes the light there will be a stranger from a distant land who will come and show the way.”
Turning to the voice, Sydney noticed for the first time, a pair of dark green eyes. A deep, rich color that made her think she was lying under the shade of a large oak, on a bed of cool moist grass. A kind of calm was flowing through her, creating an odd sense of familiarity. “I know I am a stranger here but I am not the one you want. How can I show the way, when I know nothing about this place? I can’t even find a way out of these woods. Selena of Windpoole told me to find the Beginners. They would be able to help me.”
“Selena’s assumption may be correct,” replied the Wood Sprite, “but to get to Earthgate you must find your Spirit guide and accept the written path.”
This was definitely a frustrating situation for Sydney. “So let me get this straight, I have to accept this written path thing or go back home? But to get home, I have to go to the village and I can’t go to the village without a Spirit guide. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I will change, it is dangerous, treacherous and I would get rewarded, that is, if I live through it all. Is that about right?”
A blunt “yes”, was all she received from the old one.
“I don’t know why I should believe any of this,” stated Sydney. “I’ll tell you what, I am going to have a long deserved drink and a refreshing dip, and then find that village. Thanks for all your help, but no thanks.” She took a gulp of the cool water, expecting another warning, but the wood sprite had vanished.
to be continued.....

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