The woods were always off-limits to the citizens living in the small town just outside the kingdom Athereal. Children were told horror stories by their parents about an evil witch that lives miles in the evergreen. The witch takes the appearance of a young girl with long, tangled brown hair and sad blue eyes that will make you feel pity for her.
The children were told if they tried to help the witch, they would be taken back to her home and tortured. Their eyes gouged out by birds, their hair plucked out strand by strand from enchanted tree branches, and their limbs bitten off by wolves.
The children were afraid, and avoided the woods. But as they grew older, they grew more daring and rebellious.
One day, a little boy named Ferrier was tricked by his older brother and his friends to go spend one night in the woods. If he didn’t, then he wasn’t truly a man and his parents would not want him. Being at the tender age of eleven, Ferrier was afraid of his parents forcing him to leave, and so he trusted his older brother.
He set off on his own one night, determined to prove himself to his family. He brought nothing with him but a cloak to keep him warm through the night, an apple, and a loaf of bread. He was only planning to spend a night in the woods, so he figured he wouldn’t need more than that.
The woods scared him. The twisted branches of thick, gray-trunked trees seemed to reach for him, and he recalled the horrible stories he’d heard growing up every time a branch caught on his hair.
Still, determined to be brave, he ventured deep into the woods until the sunlight barely passed through the thick tree branches littered with leaves. When he figured he’d gone far enough in, he took shelter at the base of the thickest tree trunk he could find.
He fell asleep that night rather quickly considering how afraid he had been, but he was surprised to see everything so vividly in his dreams. He was still walking through the woods as if he had never slept in the first place.
As he was walking, he came across a small waterfall. The cool water splashed against his face, sending waves of comfort rushing through him.
This is nice, he thinks to himself.
“Isn’t it?” A small voice says from beside him. He’s startled to lookover and see a young girl sitting beside him. She’s wearing a torn white dress and her feet are bare. Her long dark hair falls in waves over her small shoulders, and her piercing blue eyes stare right through Ferrier’s
Ferrier jumps to his feet, startled.
“Y-you’re the witch,” he says, backing away from her. The girl smiles at him sadly and she gets to her feet.
“Yes, that’s what they call me,” she hangs her head. “I don’t want you to be afraid of me. I want friends. I’ve never had a friend before.”
Ferrier, despite all of the warnings he heard growing up, can’t help but feel sorry for the girl. She looks so small, and afraid. And never having friends… He can’t imagine it. He can’t help himself, and he steps closer to her.
“I’ll be your friend,” he says.
The young girl looks up to him and she smiles widely before stepping forward and wrapping her arms around him. Ferrier is shocked at first, but he finds instant comfort in the girls small arms.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
Suddenly, Ferrier wakes up in the very spot he fell asleep. At the base of the tree trunk. He still feels oddly comforted by the encounter in his dream, but he feels sad too. Was it really just a dream?
He decides to head back home to tell his parents what happened. His walk seems longer this time around, but soon he finds himself at the familiar entrance to the town.
At the gate, guards of the kingdom stand watch as normal, but when they see Ferrier approaching from the woods, they grow pale. One of them raises a sword in warning and demands Ferrier come no closer.
The young boy is frightened, and he stops, wondering what he did wrong. Before he gets the chance to explain himself, a guard from the watch tower sends an arrow flying in his direction. The arrow pierces his heart, and Ferrier is dead before he has the chance to feel any sort of pain.
The woods is forbidden. Nobody is allowed in, and nothing is allowed out.
From the edge of the treeline, the young girl stands waiting, holding her new friend’s hand in her own.
“I’m sorry,” she says, looking over at Ferrier, who stands beside her, his skin glowing and pale, and his bright eyes now as radiant as hers. “They don’t want me to have friends. But I have you now.”
Ferrier says nothing. He just stares on as he watches his own family slip past the gates, his mother sobbing at the sight of his dead body. It’s clear his brother feels guilty, and his father is ashamed. But they aren’t angry. It was his fault for not listening to their warnings.
“Don’t worry,” the little girl says. “Now we can be together forever.”