Short recap. Charlotte found a hole in the crawl space under the house and dug it out till it was wide enough for her to fit through. It led on to a tunnel which Charlotte unknowingly crawled through until she fell out the other end some time later. The world she fell into was green and lush, nothing like she anything she had ever seen before in her city, though she believes she must be in a park. A stranger confronts her and agrees to show her the way out of the forest. She’s convinced he’s either a homeless crazy person or an escaped lunatic from a renaissance festival (or asylum) because he’s dressed like someone out of LotR.
Wow. That was a very short recap. If you’re just tuning in, you can stop over at The Path of Moonlight: 1 to start from the beginning. I try to keep each installment under 1000 words for ease of reading.
======== The Path of Moonlight ========
“Please, believe me. I don’t know where I am.”
“Did you come here to die then?” he asked as he watched me.
I shook my head as weariness crept into me. How much time had I spent crawling through the dirt and then walking through the jungle-like park? Hours? It felt like hours, like many hours. Too many. I wasn’t used to this much physical and emotional exertion.
“I don’t want to die,” I said. My words had to squeeze past a sudden lump in my throat and came out small and weak. Tears filled my eyes. I worked so hard to escape my guardians only to be caught and murdered by some escaped or homeless lunatic. A stray thought entered my mind that, if he was homeless, the police should’ve confiscated his weapons a long time ago. He was obviously a danger to society.
“Get up,” he said. I blinked away the tears fogging my vision and sniffed. “Get up,” he repeated and gestured up with his blade.
I stood, my legs shaking, and wondered if he was going to show me out after all. But if he was, why not put his weapon down?
“Where are you from, girl?” he asked. “None but the forest born travel through these woods. If you didn’t come to die by them, then why are you here?”
He didn’t believe me. In despair, I told the truth. “I ran away from my guardians. I couldn’t stay there. You don’t know what they’re like. I don’t know how I got here.” I threw my hands up. “I don’t even know where here is. I just want to get as far away from my guardians as I can.”
He studied me for a minute longer before sheathing his weapon opposite his other blade.
“And so you came here though you claim to not know where here is,” he said. “You must have lived a sheltered life if you don’t know of the forest born. You would have been better off staying with your guardians than coming here.” He looked her over before sighing and shaking his head. “Come, I’ll show you the way out.”
A part of me wanted to argue with him, to make him understand why I had had to get away, but I knew there was no reasoning with crazy people. He would show me the way out of the park and then we’d part ways and I’d be free. Free to do what? I asked myself. Starve perhaps. I shoved the thought from my mind as I fell in step behind him. The moment I did though, he seemed to think better of it and stopped.
“Not behind me,” he said and gestured me forward.
“But I don’t know the way.”
“Walk beside me. I don’t want you at my back where I can’t see you.”
His words held little patience, as if I should have known better. I wanted to ask if he thought I’d smother him with my jacket or something – I literally only had the clothes I was wearing – but common sense dictated it wasn’t smart to antagonize crazy people, especially ones who held two blades sharp enough to separate my life from my body.
We walked in silence for more than several minutes. I noticed he was alternating looking ahead and watching me. Despite his lack of undivided attention on the less than smooth landscape, he didn’t stumble or slow his pace. I, on the other hand, was constantly shifting my gaze from the ground and the trees to avoid rocks, stumps, and hanging lichen-covered branches. Soon I was panting trying to keep up with him though I did my best not to show it.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“I’m not going back,” I said and was surprised at how mulish I sounded.
“I didn’t ask if you were going back. I asked where you were from. I don’t recognize your garb.”
“My garb?” I asked then remembered he thought he was from the renaissance or from The Lord of the Rings. I shrugged and skirted the question. “I don’t recognize your clothes either.”
He seemed puzzled over my comment. “I wear the garb of any traveler.”
I decided it was easier to go along with his delusion and eyed his weapons. “Are you a hunter?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” he said.
“What do you hunt?”
I was trying to be polite but his short answers were exasperating. “On?” I asked, trying to sound encouraging instead of impatient.
“On what needs to be hunted,” he replied and stopped to face me. “Why ask me all these questions?”
I searched my brain for an answer that wouldn’t be construed as rude. I didn’t think my real reason of “I figure no one else will give you and your delusions the time of day” would be good to share.
======== End of 8th Installment ========
Come back next week to find out if this mysterious stranger ushers Charlotte out safely or if he decides that she’s a danger that must be chopped up and left for dead.
What’s his name anyway? My girlish mind has two questions: 1) is he cute and 2) will he be a future love interest. I’m doing my best not to think of these things as I write though. Keep it casual, people, keep it casual.
I still think he’s a slave trader. The moment they get out of the forest, he’ll knock Charlotte over the head, tie her up, and sell her as a not-so-exotic specimen of forest born!