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Two Monsters

“No,” the trees moaned. “No, turn back. Leave. Do not enter here; the monster will be able to find you, get you.” The two figures beneath their branches walked on heedlessly, unable to hear. “No,” the trees continued to moan unceasingly. “Go, go…”

Two others could understand the trees’ silent speech. As soon as one heard the message, he began to run. He had to reach the traveler before the other did. The other merely smiled. Another foolish stranger was about to enter his territory; however, this one won’t leave as easily as entering. Besides, this means the Hunt is about to begin.

“Tell me again why we’re entering the Witched Woods?” asked Arielle. “Because,” Leo said, “I need some ingredients for my magic studies, you wouldn’t let me go alone, oh, and you thought that you might actually be able to find some new animals that will talk to you.” “Ah, I remember now,” said Arielle. “That idiot Derek dared you to come to this worthless forest, and then you actually agreed that you would. That’s why we’re heading there now in spite of the stories.” “Don’t tell me you actually believe those stories? That there is a, a werewolf in the Witched Woods?” Leo scoffed. “I didn’t think that you were that gullible.” Arielle just gave him her look. The one that says you were just denser than she had even thought possible. “All fiction has a basis in fact.” She saw the line of white oaks that marked the end of the ordinary forest and the beginning of the Witched Woods. “Last chance to get out of your promise.” “No,” Leo responded. “I’m going.” “Very well,” Arielle answered. So, they entered the Witched Woods, and in doing so, made the biggest mistake of their lives.

“This is the last herb I need,” Leo said, satisfaction oozing from his voice as he plucked the plant from the ground. Just then, Arielle began to look around her uneasily. There was something unnatural nearby, and, it was getting closer. There was a far away sound of branches snapping and breaking; it was as if the woods were protesting against the passage of some creature that remained unconcerned with the retribution the woods were exacting against it. An eerie wail split the silence. It was like someone had crossed a human scream with a wolf’s howl. “Still think that the old tales about the werewolf are false?” Arielle asked Leo, a pale smile across her face. “We need to go now!” he urged. Another wail shattered the fragile silence. It was closer, much closer. “Run!” Leo shouted. They were running now, sprinting actually, careening through the woods and bouncing between the trees. It was a race. Would they make past the boundary or would the monster catch them? The question became moot as they ran into the vertical side of a hill; there was no way to continue forward, no way to escape. As if in answer to their prayers, a man stepped out of the woods, appearing suddenly. The sound of pursuit died just seconds later. “Are you both alright?” he asked anxiously. “The monster hasn’t harmed you, has he?” “No,” Leo answered, “but I can say that the answer would have been different in another few minutes.” “Good!” he said, and smiled with apparent relief. However, Arielle noted something odd; while his smile portrayed all the concern and relief his voice showed, his gray, opaque eyes conveyed none of it. “Please, follow me. I’ll take to a place that is safe from that monster,” he said. “Where is this sanctuary?” Arielle asked, suspicion beginning to stir in her mind. “You don’t need to know that. Just come, now, you’ll be safe from it.” “We’ll take our chances out in the woods. Listen, it sounds like the creature has already left,” Leo said, as he began to sense what Arielle already had. “You can’t!” he said, the concern growing in his voice. “It’s not safe.” However, his eyes showed different emotions, frustrated possessiveness, thwarted desire. They were edging away when a massive black wolf flowed out of the forest and halted between them and the man that had walked out of the forest. The wolf bared his teeth in a silent snarl and began to growl lowly, menacingly. “Daniel,” said the man, “I thought you knew better than to interfere.” The wolf, Daniel began to bark in return. However, Arielle could understand him, and as long as Leo was touching her, so could Leo. “You will not harm them, Michael. That I promise.” “You think that I care about your life more than theirs’?” Michael laughed. “Then you are greatly mistaken.” Daniel merely replied, “Of course you care more about my life than theirs’; it’s why I’m stillalive. If your body dies, then so do you regardless of whether or not you are in it.” Daniel turned around. “We’re leaving now. I really hope you don’t try something foolish.” Michael’s face was a mask of rage. “They can leave only when they are dead!” He threw a ball of magical fire at them. Suddenly, Daniel was in the way; it hit him instead. Michael became panicked, “You can’t!” “Why?” asked Daniel bitterly, “Because you cast a spell to prevent me from suiciding and killing us both? I’m not actually suiciding; you just killed me.” Both Daniel and Michael burst into twin pillars of flame. Arielle and Leo managed to make it out of the Witched Woods unharmed, but they never forgot that it was because of one who had sacrificed himself. They also never forgot the lesson they had learned; the monster is the one without good in its heart, not the one with the monstrous face.

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