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A 1000 word story
The Everwood is sacred. The Everwood is vengeful. The Everwood is night and day, good and evil. It is everything, and it is nothing.
The forest is alive, but its origin and its nature remain a mystery. The only thing we know for certain is that the Everwood is fickle. There is an energy that flows within you as you pass through the trees. It is unmistakable.
The Wardens give their lives to the Everwood. We protect it, and when necessary, we protect others from it, but today the Everwood is hungry, and today, I will make sure the Everwood is fed.
The king’s armies invaded our land amid a whirlwind of destruction. They pillaged our settlements, felled trees, and hunted the Everwood creatures without mercy. Without cause.
The forest is angry, but it knows only vengeance. An eye for an eye. My people fled as the vines and roots reclaimed our homes, but the king scoffed in his tower reveling in the chaos he incited. Now it is only the Wardens who remain, and the Wardens are coming.
There is no time for stealth. No time for secrecy. This is war, and the trees are out for blood. The vines lash at my face as I charge, but I am fast. Faster than the forest, and faster than the king’s men. I don’t need to lift a finger. The Everwood will claim their lives, all I must do is lead it to them.
The roots rip through the ground at my feet and envelop anyone foolish enough to remain still. All around me, the king’s warriors hack away at the writhing limbs. Their howling screams are a mixture of outrage and agony as the living wood consumes them. Their arms and legs continue to flail wildly as the vines drag them down below the earth where they will remain until their lungs give out.
The fools don’t know what they face; they think the Everwood can be beaten back—controlled. “For the king!” They shout as their blades chip and shatter against tree limbs that have become hard as stone. Some begin to run, begging the Wardens for mercy as they flee, but the Wardens will offer none. This is no place for mercy, and mercy is not ours to give.
I can see flashes of my brothers and sisters darting between the branches goading the king’s bravest warriors into pursuit. One by one the wretched men fall at their feet and are torn asunder by the wood.
Through it all, we run. We cannot stop lest the Everwood mistake us for the enemy. We know some of our own will fall today, but that is the price of our survival. Our freedom.
In the distance, I see a clearing. A safe space within the Everwood where the trees dare not tread. Once this was a Warden stronghold; a place of peace.
Today it will be a burial ground. I break through the tree line and into the sunlight. Within seconds, I am assaulted by arrows from the parapets of the tower I used to call home.
The other Wardens are not far behind me. We rally together and storm the tower. The Everwood growls and snarls at the edge of the clearing. The wards will hold long enough for us to break through the tower’s defenses, but when they give way, the full wrath of the forest will set upon us.
The king is not laughing now. He barks orders from the ramparts, and his men scurry about like rats. They are afraid.
We warned these invaders that the Everwood would not take kindly to their intrusion. We warned them that the trees would retaliate. They did not listen. “Fairytales have no sway over the world of men.”
The world will not remember them, but will surely mock their folly.
The rustling of the trees grows louder. All around us the clearing is being overrun. The king’s men abandon their posts as the wards begin to fade. The forest is closing in.
Pressed against the cold stone of the tower, the Wardens hammer at the gate trying to break in. The king and his army await us on the other side.
We are outnumbered. We are surrounded, but we press on. The hinges give way, and the beams begin to splinter. The door groans under the pressure, and then CRACK!
A knotted limb sails past my face and collides with the tower door, cleaving it in two. The wards have failed.
The invaders charge from the front and the forest strikes from behind. I dip and I dive across the battlefield as it is overrun.
The clearing is consumed by the rampaging vines. They pummel the tower, ripping it apart stone by stone. The king retreats to his chambers and a loud BANG silences us all.
There’s an instant of panic that feels like a lifetime, and then “Fire!” The cry snaps me back to reality.
These humans and their explosives are an abomination. The Everwood shrieks in agony as the vines recede. The king and his men believe they have won, but this will only buy us more time.
The Wardens continue their advance ripping through any who stand in their way. The king’s men are tired, but we have only just begun.
I climb the stairs to the royal chamber howling like a wild animal as I charge. I can hear the king giving orders to his noble guards, but when I kick down the door, they drop their weapons.
I hear a sound behind me, and I know. The Everwood has beaten back the flames. A pulsing mass of vegitation hangs in the doorway watching. Waiting.
I smile, because I know what comes next. A storm of vines whips past me latching onto the king and his men. They cry out in terror, but I remain unscathed. The Everwood is pleased with me.
The Everwood is sacred. The Everwood is safe. The Everwood is free.
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