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Spirit of the forest- part 3
Morning came sooner than Owen wanted it too, as always. He got up before the sun could reach over the wide horizon and was out side in the small stable saddling their one horse before the dew had finished falling.
Pulling the old worn girth of the saddle around Myrtle, the horses, belly Owen felt the tap of a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see on of his few friends, Sam. Sam had been his friend since before ether of them could walk.
“I heard you are going after all,” said Sam, looking everywhere but Owens eyes and holding his hands guilty behind his back.
“Yes, I was going to go in the first place,” Owen said, finishing strapping the sword to his saddle and turning to face his friend.
“I knew you would, I guess. I just wanted to give this to you.” He held out a belt made of the finest leather Owen had ever seen.
“Thank you, my friend” exclaimed the green eyes boy as he hugged Sam.
“I’m going to miss you,” said Sam
“I’ll miss you too friend, but this isn’t the end. I will return to be welcomed back with glory, as a man.” Said the boy who wanted to be a man. Owen swung him self up in to the saddle and put his hand on his friends shoulder.
“Oh!” Sam exclaimed, “my sister said to give this to you.” Sam had a sister who was but four summer old but had taken a shine to Owens green eyes and gold hair. The thing the boy held to his friends was a small lily-of-the-valley blossom. Owen took it solemnly and placed it in his vest. He took one of the leather cords with carved bone and the end off his neck.
“This is for your sister, and this is for you,” he gave him the dagger from his belt.
“But won’t you need this?” Sam asked and he took the precious dagger,
“I have another one, any ways, I have this,” Owen gestured to the sword on his saddle.
“Goodbye Sam, I will see you when we are men,” and with that Owen kicked his horse in to a gallop and cantered in to the sunrise towards the forest.
The moment Owen entered the forest the temperature went from balmy to chill and the moist cold you only feel in the forests. However Owen was quite prepared for any weather and was wearing a heavy traveling cloak made of warm wool. The mists that hung heavy in the air clung to Owen face like little beads of icy dew. They also clung to the thick lashes around the boy’s eyes making him blink often and constantly brush the droplets of moisture out of his green eyes. The sun was rising steadily outside the boundary of the forest casting a warm golden light on the village but where Owen sat on his horse in the woods, no light could reach him. The ground was obscured by a translucent fog that swirled like smoke around the auburn legs of the horse on which Owen road. Sometimes in the dim shadows of the forest as the two trotted along the horse hoof would hit a stone or a gnarled tree root and he would stumble causing Owen to lose his balance and once, even, to fall from the saddle and on to the cold damp ground of the forest floor. Owen only knew vaguely where the Creepers cave lay, as he was looking at his feet the last time he was in the forest as to not fall upon his face. He rested only once, during the mid of the day, to give Myrtle a sip of water and a bit to eat and the same for him. The horse was steadily bound to the trunk of a tree as she drank and ate and Owen sat upon the back of his cloak on the ground. The mists had gone and thin beams of warm sunlight rained on to the forest floor landing in pools of liquid gold. Owen hadn’t noticed the small flowers that bloomed along the path until he sat down to eat his lunch. They were common buttercups but they looked to be made of the finest gold in the light that fell upon their sunny faces. Reaching out Owen picked one and tucked it in his jacket pocket, admiring its beauty. Though the bread was try and the cheese hard it revived hi greatly and he was eager to get on his way, towards the heart of the forest where he was convinced the Creeper lay, awaiting the fool to try and vanquish it. As the boy and horse walked along the path a great shadow fell over both of them. Owen, nervously gripping the reins tighter, looked up into the sky to see only a cloud obscuring the sunlight.
“Don’t you worry your self, Myrtle, its but a cloud passing over the sun,” said Owen to his horse as he stroked her strong neck. But she would not be consoled; she shied and whickered nervously and jumped as something moved in the bushes. Tenaciously she stepped forward into the mists that have yet again collected around the roots of the trees. Suddenly a deep growling came from all around Owen. The sound was one Owen had heard many times before, when the full moon came and the wolves would attack the pack of resident sheep at the village farms. It was the deep, hungry, angry growl of wolves before they killed. Suddenly Owen was shaking, his arms, his legs, his hands, even his feet had begun to shake with the fear that gripped him. His horse’s eyes began to roll in their socket, the whites flashing like stars on a night sky. From in the darkness he could see the eyes of many wolves, glaring back at him, sickly yellow and terrifying. Somewhere a raven called. A twig snapped.
‘Howwwwwwwwwwl!’ it was the call of one of the wolves. Myrtle began to shy away and buck as one of the wolves came forward. Suddenly they were snapping at the heels of the horse. Owen acted as fast as he could. He grabbed his sword from his sheath and yanked it out and branded it at the wolves. He manages to lop the ear off one of the smaller wolves and inflict a long scratch on one of the bigger ones but he didn’t know how to use the sword well enough to inflict any great damage upon the wolves. His horse suddenly reared with fright and it was all Owen could do to hold on to his sword and his horse. Myrtles adrenaline and fear drove her on and she jumped over the wolves and galloped through the dense woods towards the darker, deeper part of the forest. Owen was afraid and ashamed he could not control his horse but he did not give up. As the horse had bolted he had snatched up the horn of the saddle but had left the reins dangling precariously in the air. Reaching down he managed to grab them from there swinging position on the horses sweating neck. Using all his strength he managed to slow the horse down to a brisk trot then to a tense, but walking, walk. As soon as his heart had stopped pounding enough to let him hear and see his surroundings he knew one thing. They were lost. The small path they had once followed was gone and the sun was indistinguishable beneath the overcast sky and the heavy cover of branches and vines that crept snake like over his head. He knew not where he was; his sword was bloodied with the blood of wolves that would probably catch up to them at any moment and there was little or no light to lead his way. Desperately Owen clung to Myrtle as the crushing feeling of being lost and cold and hungry overwhelmed him. He clung the cold sweaty neck of Myrtle. Suddenly he realized that not all the wetness on Myrtle’s neck was sweat. Pulling his hand away he could smell the familiar smell of salt and iron and fell the sticky texture of blood. He felt his own blood drain from his face as the smell reached his nose. Owen had never been able to stand the smell of blood, even the sickly sweet sent that came issuing from the butchers shop would make his dizzy. He had never told any one of this, for fear of being teased. This also left his family thin and frail, for hunting became a chore for Owen, not a sport. But gritting his teeth he letting his hand glide over he flank, feeling for a wound. Just as he hands felt the deep gash in her side he felt a stabbing pain in his thigh. He looked down and in the dim light he could make out a dirty slit in his trouser leg. He put one of his hands down upon the slit in the muslin and felt something wet and stick, and just as warm as the horse blood already coating his fingers. Suddenly he felt blackness engulfing him, he could see little black spots, like the dust beneath his bed, cloud around his eyes totally obscuring his vision. Owen could no longer feel the pain in his leg or the blood on his hands or even smell the damp, leafy forest smell that had been moments before floating around his nose. The only thing he could see was black and then nothing at all. A flock of crows flew up from their perch a tree, cawing, as the sound of a falling body disturbed the misty silence.