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The One

Whispering Woods challenge

By Rebekah ConardPublished 20 days ago 5 min read
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The One
Photo by Mónika Fehér on Unsplash

"The Adventurer awakens on the grass of a forest clearing. Their mind is foggy, but the sky in the immediate area is clear. In most directions, the forest becomes too dark and dense to penetrate after a few yards, but a well-lit path in front of them leads to the North."

Wait, that wasn't your inner monologue speaking. You heard it out loud, and it wasn't your voice. You stand and --

"The Adventurer climbs to their feet and takes it all in. There is, after all, naught but mystery surrounding their surroundings! After some thought, they make the bold decision to start down the path."

You don't move a step. "Who's there?" you shout.

There's no answer. You sit cross-legged on the grass and wait for the voice to speak again.

"Drawing on their experience, the wise Adventurer will not rush forward unprepared! They sit, pondering --"

"Nope!" you shout, throwing your head back. "Not pondering, just confused and a little perturbed knowing I'm being watched." There's no response.

That's fine. You don't know what's going on, but you also don't feel a sense of urgency. You can wait them out.

"Actually, you can't."

You look around and realize you can't tell what direction the voice is coming from. "Can't what?"

"Wait us out. We're, well, we're the forest." The voice clears its throat. "The Adventurer, through their cunning, has made an important discovery! It seems they've arrived in a sentient forest. Imagine that! Yes, the very trees themselves, every watchful, ever invested in the actions of all travelers who find their feet on the time-worn path."

You're not convinced. "You mean that path in front of me?"

"The observant Adventurer has located the way forward, and can now proceed toward their destiny!"

Nah. You jump back to your feet and head in the opposite direction.

"What? No, stop!"

As you approach the treeline, a flurry of branches moves to obstruct you. Okay, you're a little more willing to accept the possibility of a sentient forest. Taking a step back, you choose a tree and focus your gaze at the bark a few feet above your head. If a talking tree were to have a face, that's where you would expect it.

A moment later, though, you wish you hadn't expected it. Chips of bark begin to splinter and pop off of the trunk, revealing a face in the most unsettling way you could have fathomed. You privately hope you don't have to see it blink its "eyes." And those nostril-slits... would a tree even need a nose?

"Hey! That's... that's rude. We constructed this face just for you, you know."

"Sentient forest, talking trees... and mind-readers?"

"Ever astute, the Adventurer --"

"I'd like to leave, please."

The tree with the face rustles its leaves, as if straightening itself. "Ready at last to begin the journey, the Adventurer points their feet in the direction of the path and takes the first steps into the exciting, enchanted forest!"

No, you still have questions. "Why can't I just go this way?"

"We thought that would be obvious," the tree begins to sound exasperated, "It's dark in there."

It's your turn to clear your throat. "As a seasoned adventurer, I can assure you that I have more senses available to me than my sight. I think I can make my way through some vegetation."

The tree stares hard at you. You've changed your mind, you do wish it would blink.

"The seasoned Adventurer knows full well that if they were to venture into the pitch dark, they would likely be eaten... by a grue."

"... the heck is a grue?"

With a loud, creaking groan, the tree slowly rotates to face the darkness. The sound feels like your teeth falling out.

"Behold!" shouts the tree, pointing a branch into the void.

You crane your neck and force your eyes to adjust, but you see nothing. You conclude that the forest is messing with you.

"Nothing's there."

The tree completes another agonizing rotation to face you again. You cover your ears this time.

"We will level with you." The abrupt change in the tree's tone makes you snort. "We, the humble forest, are not, in fact, as you would say... enchanted."

"Really?" you feign astonishment, knowing the trees can sense your true feelings.

"In truth, we are cursed. Yes, cursed! Hundreds upon hundreds of souls, trapped within trees. Our shared consciousness is our prison. Rooted to each spot we stand, we wait for the day of our release. We wait... for The One."

You wait for more information, but it seems like the tree wants you to ask. "And what does this One need to do for you, exactly?"

"Break the curse, of course."

"Right. How?"

"First, The One will walk down the path--"

"After the path."

"The One will face the Five Trials! The first, The Stone."

"A stone."

"The Stone! It stands in your way and cannot be moved until you solve the riddle etched upon it."

Okay, that doesn't sound too bad. "And after that?"

"The second trial: The Dragon!" The tree raises its branches and shakes its leaves for dramatic effect.

That sounds less pleasant, but you're getting curious. "Okay, and the third trial?"

The tree says nothing. You can't glean any insight from its visage. You press further, "Well, that shut you up quick. What's after the dragon?"

"The brave Adventurer is unafraid to venture into the unknown, confident in their abilities --"

"You don't know?"

"No one has yet vanquished The Dragon! It is a true test of courage, might, and --"

"And we're done here." You mean it. You do a 180 and march to the far edge of the clearing. You could probably have pushed your way past the tree you'd been talking with, but it skeeves you out and you'd prefer not to touch it.

---

They thought for a moment about trying to stop the adventurer, but decided against it. It would be a wasted effort. Clearly, this wasn't The One. They'll try again tomorrow.

The trees stand silently and listen to the darkness. The wait is short. First comes a growl, then the screams, followed by the crunching of bones. Then, silence again. There's no need for words. They all know.

Another adventurer had been eaten by a grue.

Short StoryHumorFantasyAdventure
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About the Creator

Rebekah Conard

31, She/Her, a big bi nerd

How do I write a bio that doesn't look like a dating profile? Anyway, my cat is my daughter, I crochet and cross stitch, and I can't ride a bike. Come take a peek in my brain-space, please and thanks.

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