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The Tower 3
The road wound back into the trees and it wasn’t long before the bridge disappeared. The forest remained quiet as I traveled, increasing the nerves in the pit of my stomach. I looked up trying to track the sun, but my view was completely obstructed by the tall trees. It seemed darker here in the forest, but I wasn’t completely sure.
One thing was certain, I wasn’t about to spend the night on the ground in a fairy tale forest from my own, obviously overactive, imagination. I really didn’t think I had any control over the circumstances, but if by some chance I did then I prayed some sort of shelter would appear before I was forced to crouch in a ball beneath a tree.
I walked on annoyed and yet curious. The trees were enormous, towering hundreds of feet above me. They reminded me of the Red Wood Forest in California, yet they were different somehow. I moved closer to one and examined the trunk. It had the appearance of bark, but the color was off somehow. I reached out to touch it and pulled my hand back in surprise. Instead of a rough texture it was smooth, like silk.
I touched it again running my hand up and down the surface. It was hard as granite, but silky soft to the touch. The surface wouldn’t give at all. I moved to a branch and examined the fir needles. They looked prickly, but they moved against my fingers like heather.
With a sigh I went to another similar tree and found the textures to be the same. Perplexed I tried a different tree. This one looked more like a beech tree. Its bark was rock hard like the fir trees, but it felt more like velvet than silk. The leaves also had a velvety feel to them though they were more solid than the fir needles.
I tried to pull a leaf from the tree, but it wouldn’t budge. My brows knit together in determination as I pulled again. It remained firmly attached. I scanned the ground looking for any dropped leaves and found none. This forest was definitely unique. I left the trees, my attention completely taken from the road.
I examined the bushes and flowers finding the exact same circumstances as the trees. Everything was rock solid and unmovable, but still incredibly soft to the touch. I figured I could run into a tree and though it would hurt my blow would be softened by the textures.
Shaking my head I finally continued on. I couldn’t see any noticeable change in the light around me and I hoped that would remain the case until I left the forest or found a place to sleep.
I walked for what felt like several more hours when I heard a sound in the forest. This surprised me because I had gotten used to the silence surrounding me. I stopped in my tracks and listened. It was a faint crackling noise, like leaves crunching beneath someone’s feet.
I whirled around searching for the source, but seeing nothing. I continued on carefully searching the trees and bushes as I walked. The noise got louder and I slowed my steps moving cautiously.
Ahead I saw the faint flicker of a light in the trees. Anxiously I moved toward it. It looked like a fire, but again the colors were off. Instead of the cheerful yellow glow from a fireplace it was a brighter colder color, like the sun on a foggy winter morning.
As soon as I reached the strange fire it got dark very quickly. I reached out my hands and felt the warmth from the fire. I examined the wood. It looked like ordinary wood, but I noticed that it burned differently. It was like looking at the fake logs of a gas fireplace. The logs burned and yet they didn’t. Shaking my head I glanced around. A tent had been set up in a flat, grassy area and a small loaf of bread sat on a metal plate next to the fire.
I stepped back. This was way too convenient for my taste. I was certain the moment I sat down or ate a morsel of the bread I would turn into a mouse or something. I turned away from the cozy campsite to return to the road, but stopped suddenly.
A terrible feeling struck me in my stomach and uneasiness gripped my heart. I tried to moved but I felt frozen to the ground. It was then I heard the voice I had been hoping to hear since this whole dream started.
“It’s not safe on the road, you should stay here,” he whispered.
It was the voice of the man from the tower. I turned around expecting to see him standing next to the fire, but I was still alone.
“Why?” I asked quietly.
“Stay in the circle. You are protected,” his voice whispered ignoring my question.
My eyes immediately scanned the ground. At my feet I saw several tiny white flowers spaced evenly. I followed the line. They made a complete circle surrounding the campsite. I had not even noticed them as I stepped into the camp.
I took a step back and felt an instant relief from the terrible feeling, but I still felt uneasy. A sense of being trapped crept into my mind and settled comfortably berating me for even thinking about approaching the fire.
“You are safe here for the night. Just trust me,” he whispered answering my thoughts.
“Who are you? Where are you?” I asked hoping, but not expecting an answer.
“Soon,” he whispered back.
Deep down I knew the voice would not return that night. I got as comfortable as I could on a medium sized rock next to the fire and ate the bread thinking as loudly as my mind could shout, “If I turn into a frog, this is your fault.”
I listened carefully to the silence around me hoping to hear the voice again, but not too disappointed when no one answered my thoughts. The bread was deliciously soft and warm. It tasted like whole wheat, but the grain was meatier and more satisfying than any wheat bread I had ever eaten.
After I finished the bread I found a canteen in the tent next to a cot. I took a long drink realizing I was much thirstier than I had originally thought. When I finished the whole canteen I pulled the blankets back from the cot to check for bugs or spiders or anything magical that could bite me.
Finding nothing I climbed under the blankets and fell asleep. I totally expected to wake up in my hotel room and go through another day of flying, but to my surprise I woke up the next morning in the tent. Sunlight was trickling through the rock hard leaves of the trees and through the opening.
I stretched and yawned and crawled out from under the blankets. I had slept soundly and surprisingly warm and comfortable. I put my shoes back on my feet and reached for the canteen. As I lifted it I remembered that I had drained it the night before, but I found it was still full.
I shook my head gratefully reminding my brain that I was in some sort of a fairy tale and that things like this were going to happen, a lot. I took a smaller sip this time not sure how long the magic canteen would last today.
When I left the tent I saw the fire still burning cheerfully and another loaf of bread on the metal plate. Hungrily I reached out and picked it up. Offering a prayer of thanks I took a bite expecting the meaty, delicious meal from the previous evening.
This time, however, the bread tasted like the most delicious orange roll I had ever eaten. It wasn’t too sweet, but it felt like I was actually biting into an orange. I chewed slowly reveling in the sensations that delighted my tongue. I spent at least ten minutes devouring the bread and when I had finished the last crumb I was sad and annoyed with myself that I hadn’t saved some for my day’s journey.
I put the thought out into the expanse that another might be provided for my journey, but nothing appeared magically for me to take. With a sigh and a mental reproof I grabbed the canteen and slung it across my body. I couldn’t complain. I had water which was more than I had the day before.
I started toward the road and stopped glancing down at the ground where the tiny white flowers had been the night before. The flowers were gone, but in their place was a thin line of fine, white sand. I rather liked this form of magic. I wasn’t a big fan of things that appeared or disappeared at random (except food and water of course).
Seeing the sand replacing the flowers was comforting. Though the magic of the flowers was probably gone a residual feeling remained with the sand, like a reminder of something good. I stepped over the line of white sand and made my way back to the road.
The sun was just coming up, but instead of the cheerful sound of birds in the trees and bees buzzing around the flowers there was just silence. At first I didn’t mind the silence, but then it started playing tricks on my mind. I think I hear a twig breaking and I turn around looking for the intruder, but then I realize that nothing could possibly break the branches, nor were there any broken or dead branches lying on the ground.
The silence became an annoying sound that drove me crazy and I would have to stomp my feet just to create some sort of sound to reference by. The path continued on and on seemingly forever. When the sun was directly over my head I stopped to take a sip from the canteen and looked around hoping to find something to eat, but nothing magically presented itself.
I was tired of this silent, long journey through a forest that seemed almost frozen in time. I started thinking about the tower and the forest around it. There had been a marked difference. Around the tower it was as quiet as here except for the wind in the trees, but the further away from the tower I got the more noise I heard. Once I crossed the bridge the change was complete.
I wondered what had caused such a change to occur on this side of the chasm. Clearly there was some sort of magic afoot, but what? And what was my purpose here?
The questions tumbled through my tired mind. I was going crazy with the silence of this forest. I stopped in my tracks and turned around ready to go back to the tower and dream myself back to the hotel, but as I faced the forest I realized I couldn’t go back through there, not alone.
I turned back and continued on. I had taken fifty steps when I rounded a bend and found myself facing the open countryside. I could see the road trailing up and down across and around the rounded landscape. Miles away I could see a body of water whether ocean or lake I couldn’t tell from that distance, but I knew it was vast.
Lastly on the edge of the water sat a beautiful white castle. It was gracefully built, arching up toward the sky with the same lines and arches I had seen on the bridge. It was clear whoever had built the castle had also constructed the bridge.
As I stepped forward the sunlight parted the clouds sweeping the castle walls with its brilliant light. Everything sparkled invitingly in the light, but I paused realizing the pinions high on the towers only sparkled. Even in the distance I could see they were expanded out as if in a stiff breeze, but they were frozen in place.
What magic has affected this beautiful place? I wondered in my head. Clearly this was to be my destination. I stepped out of the trees and continued on the road toward the mysterious white castle.