By EM Malachi
The Dark Monk
I was lost in the forest.
My journey had been one disaster after another. I had lost most of my supplies fording an icy river. The string of my bow snapped trying to bring down the elk that would have been dinner. With the replacement strings at the bottom of the river, I could hunt nothing on the trek to the logging camp. If I was even going in the right direction…
It was nightfall at the end of the third hungry day when I saw the campfire. I was desperate, so I approached without caution, waving my empty hands to show I was unarmed. Seeing a lone druid in a dark robe, instead of a group of bandits, I thought my luck was changing. The stranger was startled to see me, nearly dropping the spoon with which he was stirring his dinner.
I asked for a place by the fire and any food he could spare. The druid nodded and took a simple wooden bowl from his bag, which he filled with stew from his cook pot. It was the best meal of my life.
No longer starving, I attempted to talk with the stranger. I managed to learn that his name was Ciaran and he was some sort of monk. While we sat by the fire, an owl landed near Ciaran, and he tossed it meat from his bowl. I found myself growing tired after the large meal, so the monk offered me a few pelts in which to wrap myself. I quickly fell asleep.
I awoke to find the monk kneeling next to me, binding my hands. When he noticed I was awake, Ciaran drew a sharp blade. “I’m sorry about this, but I don’t have a choice. We are all pawns of prophecy in the end.”
I managed to push the monk away and stand up, but his blade caught my side. Despite the pain, I ran. I fled though the cold night, tripping in the darkness and working to free my hands. Sometimes, through the trees, I would see an owl in the night sky above me.
At dawn, I found trail markers that passed close to a stream. More lost than I had been the day before, I had no choice but to follow the trail. It eventually led me to a logging camp. I almost let myself hope, until I noticed the lack of lumberjacks.
Before I could flee, I was knocked unconscious. I was shaken awake by a Meer in a dark robe. “Very good. You are awake. The Guide has led you here to us.”
Trying to stand, I looked up at a twisted tree, taller than a tower. The tree’s great roots were drinking from a pool of blood.