The Forest

spiral staircase

© Sue Vincent

The Beginning of the Saga of the Davidson Children

Five children abruptly found themselves at night in a dark forest being drenched during a thunderstorm. “Mandy! What happened? Where’s Mom and Dad?” Thirteen-year-old Amanda Davidson felt panic rise her chest. Where were her brothers and sisters? What happened to their parents? How did they get here?

“I don’t know Paris. Stick with Taylor. Can you see Jake and Zooey?”

“Zooey’s here with me, Mandy.” Paris was holding her younger sister’s hand.

“Jake’s right next to me.” Taylor pulled his brother closer to him.

Mandy was trembling from the cold and terror at suddenly being alone with her brothers and sisters and lost in the dark.

“Everyone stay close to me. Paris, get right behind me. Jake and Zooey, get behind Paris. Taylor, you get behind Zooey and make sure everyone sticks together.”

“Okay, Mandy.”

Taylor and Paris were twins, age nine. Mandy could depend on Taylor to stay calm even when she was scared to death inside. Paris would be okay as long as she stuck close to her older sister. So would seven-year-old Jake and the littlest one, five-year-old Zooey.

Mandy couldn’t remember a storm so bad, so much rain. There were trees all around, so they were in a forest. Where had they been two minutes ago, five minutes ago? She couldn’t remember. They’d been with Mom and Dad, but where was that? She had to find some kind of shelter until the rain stopped. When the sun came up, maybe they could find someone to help.

“Keep following me,” she yelled back. “We’ll find a big tree to hide under, or a cave.”

She kept tripping over rocks and tree roots in her path. Mandy almost fell once and let out a screech before she caught herself. No matter how scared she was, she had to get the rest of them through this. Mom and Dad had always depended on her to take care of the others when they weren’t around.

“Mandy, how much longer?” She could tell Paris was crying. She didn’t blame her. Mandy wished she could let herself cry too.

“I don’t know. We’ve got to keep moving.” Mandy stopped. She thought she saw something ahead. Then it was gone.

“What’s wrong?” Taylor had almost run into Zooey when the group stopped suddenly.

“Nothing. C’mon.”

Mandy started walking again, trying to step over obstacles she could barely see. There was a flash of lightning and then the sound of thunder. How much are you supposed to count between the two to see if the lightning is close?

There it was again. Mandy was sure this time. It was a light. A house. A house in the forest.

“I see something,” she called back. “I think we’re going to be okay.”

She got excited and started to run, then she really did trip and fall, splash, into the wet mud and leaves and thorns.

“Mandy!” Paris screamed.

“I’m okay, Paris. I just tripped.”

Her sister was there pulling her up by her arm. She was sure she skinned her hands and probably her knees.

“Make sure we’re all together, Taylor.” Being furthest back, she hoped he could keep an eye on everyone else.

“Don’t worry. Everyone’s right here.”

Mandy looked back and saw the silhouettes of her brothers and sisters.

“Hey, what’s that?” Zooey pointed in the direction of the light. It looked like a window, but Mandy couldn’t see the house in the darkness.

Mandy stood up. She was soaked. They all were. No one was dressed for this downpour. Where had they been before where they hadn’t expected rain?

“Maybe they’ll help us find Mom and Dad.” Jake hadn’t said much, but he usually didn’t when he was scared.

“It doesn’t look too far. Everyone hold hands. Let’s walk toward the light.”

As they got closer, Mandy, who was still in the lead, couldn’t see the house, just the light. Then they all got close enough to realize that there wasn’t any house. They were seeing a window in a huge tree trunk. It looked like there could be a lamp inside, but the darkness hid everything else around them.

Mandy tripped again, but this time it was over a stone step. She could see a shadow in the tree trunk. It was a door, a wooden door. She could just make out a handle, some kind of knocker in the center, and big metal hinges.

She got to the door and the other kids huddled around her. There was a small overhang barely protecting them from the worst of the storm, but they were all completely soaked, freezing, and shaking.

Mandy used the knocker, one, two, three knocks. Then she listened. She couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the rain. She knocked again, one, two, three times and then yelled, “Help us. We’re lost. Please let us in.”

She put her ear to the door and thought she heard a voice.

Taylor slowly moved away from the rest and walked over to the window at their right. He could see a faint, flickering light inside. He put his face up to the window and after a moment, he gasped and jumped backward, tripping and falling on his behind with a thud and a splash.

Then he picked himself up as fast as he could and ran He slipped in the mud but managed to get back behind Jake.

“Mandy, Mandy!”

“Wait a second, Taylor, I think I hear someone coming.”

This time she could make out a voice, “Coming, coming. I’m old. Don’t rush me.”

“But Mandy, it’s a…”

Taylor was cut off when the door suddenly opened. There wasn’t much light inside, but it still blinded the children for a few seconds. They could only see a dark shape in the doorway.

“Oh my. Children. Human children. Please, please, come in quickly. You must be soaked.”

The large, bulky figure stood to one side. Mandy took Zooey’s hand, reminded by the pain that she had bruised her palms, and started in, but then stopped.

The deep, gentle voice belonged to a man, a very old man, but that wasn’t who or what the children saw. The figure standing just inside the doorway was no kind of man at all. He was a dragon.

I’m putting this story here in response to the Thursday photo prompt: Ascent #writephoto hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Every Thursday, Sue posts one of her original photos, and anyone who wants to participate can use it as the inspiration for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.

Lately, I’ve been using them to continue writing my novel, one chapter per week, but I’ve gotten to the point that, with over 50,000 words authored so far, I need to go back to the earliest chapter drafts and clean them up. Also, by reviewing what I’ve written up until now, I can get a clearer vision of the details I’ll need to include for the rest of the story.

So today, I’m presenting the very first chapter in the Davidson children’s saga, how they got to be in their strange fantasy world in the first place. Well, the story doesn’t tell how they got to be there, but it does reveal what happened next.

The photo doesn’t resemble the iron and brass spiral staircase (which isn’t actually mentioned in this story) in the center of Gerliliam’s tree, but I can use it metaphorically.

I’ve also been promising to update the Table of Contents for the novel, and here it is:

  1. The Forest
  2. Gerliliam
  3. A Tale Shared Among Friends
  4. Mr. Covingham’s Secret
  5. Departure
  6. Wilderness Pilgrims
  7. The God of the Dark Hills
  8. Hall of the Mountain Kings
  9. Sojourn in Direhaven
  10. Trial at Sakhr
  11. What Secrets We Keep
  12. The Uneasy Pact
  13. The Tracker
  14. Duel at Orholt
  15. Valley of Blood

Hopefully by next week, I’ll have the bandwidth to go on with a new chapter. Hope you enjoyed this look back to the beginning.

Oh, this story is pulling double duty at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.

The next chapter is The Fallen.

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19 thoughts on “The Forest

    • Thanks, Iain. If you’ll look at the Table of Contents, you’ll see a few of the stories aren’t on line yet. Chapter Four isn’t complete, and I haven’t started Chapter Five yet. Deffo a work in progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That first chapter, and the table of contents, was very helpful indeed James. Thanks for that. I’ve been reading the stories in these series off and on, but have obviously kept missing some also. Will bookmark this and read in order at leisure 🙂

    Like

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