It’s believed to be the oldest forest. The trees at its edge, which are supposed to be the youngest, are said to be older than any tree outside of the forest by several thousand years. I stood before these outer trees, trying to conceive that they were the youngest and looked towards the centre to make sense of it. I found my view blocked by the intense twisting of branches and the cold fog.
Whatever was at the centre was sure to be a remarkable discovery, taking my name and making it known far and wide.
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Yet, the only problem was getting to it. A horse could not move amongst the trees, as they almost formed a barrier against anything larger than a human. That already put a damper on any glorious expedition. Secondly, every axe and saw we tried could only make a small scratch on the bark after hours of work. If we were to cut our way through, it would take us days to get past the first tree, if the trunk was as hard as its bark. However, we knew it would be much denser.
As for fire, few dared to set one of the trees alight. most were afraid of stories and superstition. Yet, when I stepped forward with the torch and held it against the tree, I found my jaw hanging, staring at the tree with disbelief. Not even a burn mark for my efforts.
“If that is the best way the forest plans to keep me from my work, then I laugh,” I announced to the exhausted workers and the villagers watching nearby. “I plan to explore this forest, examine the trees, the plans and the wildlife. See what the forest has preserved, what it has protected. Once I have what I seek, I will make these discoveries known by all!”
My speech had the desired effect and I saw respect in many of their eyes, even supporting smiles. Yet, I saw amongst them the eyes of doubt and even looks that told me that I was making a mistake. Funnily, it was these negative expressions that fuelled me rather than the positive ones.
The day had not ended before I slung my bag over my shoulder. In it, I had the instruments for my research and plenty of ink and paper to note my discoveries. I had planned on bringing cages, pots, beakers and vials, to collect samples for me to experiment on or save for later study. I left that wagon of equipment with the innkeeper while I marched straight into the forest.
What I noticed first was the cold.
The air in the forest felt icy on the skin. Looking at the floor of the forest, I saw that the leaves and plant life felt the same way. Frost covered the edges of many roots and small plants, the dead leaves crunching loudly beneath my boots. It was not something entirely unexpected, as the fog that I saw told me of the cold pocket, but I had yet to experience one as profound.
I was grateful to discover that this went on for only close to two hours of walking. By the end of the second hour, my teeth were chattering and my muscles were sore from the shaking. I had stepped from the cloud of the fog into a far more clear forest, with more grass and life than dead leaves and rocks. By this time, it was getting truly dark and I needed to warm up fast.
With that clear thought in mind, I collected dry sticks and branches in this new part of the forest and began making a fire. My disappointment was incredible when nothing caught the light, reminding me of my attempt to burn a path in the forest. That left me with no choice but to keep moving in this warmer part of the forest until I was warm enough, or tired enough, to go to sleep.
Luckily, I felt both when I sat next to a large tree, tucking myself against its trunk and roots until I was somewhat comfortable. It was too dark for me to write, so I closed my eyes and let my mind do the rest.
When I woke up, I saw her.
I must have only slept a few hours, lost in a dream I cannot remember. I saw through blurred vision, a glowing figure. At first, I saw a woman, among the trees, her movement strange and swaying. Staring at her hurt my eyes, she was so bright amongst the darkness.
Once I had blinked a few times, I saw that it was not a distant figure of a woman swaying side-to-side. It was a feminine figure but close to me, small and flying before my eyes. She had clear wings, large eyes, and hair so white it glowed like her skin. She stared at me with curious eyes.
It was a fairy.
Its wings fluttered silently, even when she darted here-and-there like a hummingbird. I opened my mouth to say something, but I could see the fairy’s expression change to suddenly alert, her head turning to look off in the distance as if she heard something. Without hesitation or even a second glance at me, she darted out of sight. It was easy to follow her, shining like a star amongst the darkness, occasionally vanishing when she went behind trees. Yet, she flew so fast that it was mere seconds before that white speck disappeared.
I looked in the direction she did and decided to take her departure as a warning sign. I got to my feet and ran the way she left. My thoughts were no longer on my research, only on what I had seen. Plagued with doubtful thoughts that considered the experience a dream and the heartfelt desire to believe she existed, it was no wonder why I forgot my bag.
It was the beginning of something greater than anything I could have hoped for.