Anderstine’s Forest

11 minutes read


All through the Eterna-verse are Deities, worlds, stars, and things the mortal minds have yet to discover to be possibilities. On one small planet, in a deep seeded wood, hidden far away in a mountain range, a lone individual resided in a small cabin home. His hands were wrapped with bandages, and his face and arms were covered in scars and fresh cuts ranging from small to cavernous. His eyes were a vibrant blue that contrasted against his pale skin. Despite living outside his entire life, the thick canopy of the woods would not let any light in. He lived in harmony with nature; he was the only one who could wander the woods without fear; the other animals respected him because he respected them. The creatures of the dark wood had an image to match their home’s name. They were dark, harsh, and hostile. They were beyond animalistic; they behaved on a primordial base level, everything happened for the sake of harmony, desires, and wants to have nothing to do with it, and the man in the woods knew this. He knew that as the only human in the woods, he would be safe from the chaos of death, provided he did not upset the balance around him. He would wander the woods, scavenging the remains of the fallen creatures, using their parts to create things to sell to those who lived near the woods.

The man wandered from the woods; a large sac was slung over his shoulder as he emerged from the shade of the tree canopy and into the moonlight. His skin started to glow faintly as his pale skin reflected the moon’s light back into the open air. His footsteps were light, and he created almost no noise as he approached the gates of his local town.

The guards looked down, they were familiar with his pale glow, and yet they stood still as the man stood, waiting to be let in.

The captain of the guard stared down at him and tightened the grip on his spear.

“You know there are other towns around here; we don’t need your filth in here, Anderstine.”

Anderstine looked up, his eyes practically glowing in comparison to the dark brown eyes of the inhabitants of the town. He spoke softly, almost like a whisper that could be heard from the top of the wall.

“I am here to sell my goods, nothing else.”

“It had been a while; I was hoping that the monsters of the woods had finally come to their senses and eaten you. Like how they eat all of us who wander too close.”

“Stop wandering so close then.”

“Tell me.” The captain said as he leaned off the edge of the wall. “How is it you are the only human that can walk those woods without dying?”

“Because I don’t fear them or death.”

The captain of the guard stared down, unblinking, as Anderstine looked up the same. Their stare was ended as one of the other guards grabbed the captain.

“Sir, you remember what happened to the last guy who denied Adnerstine entrance? The mayor was furious. He got put on woods duty.”

The captain of the guard scowled as he reluctantly leaned back.

“Open the gate, but keep every eye on that beast. I don’t believe for a second that he is a mere trader or human.”

The gates slowly began to open, and Anderstine lowered his gaze, walking calmly into the town. Eyes followed him where he went; his silence was recognized, and his appearance unmistakable. For every keen eye from the guards that laid upon Anderstine, there were ten eyes avoiding him from the locals. But by the time he reached the center of town, news of his arrival had already spread to the local tradesmen, and Anderstine was surrounded by a small group of people wandering what was in his bag. He took his position on the auctioneer stand; with one arm, he lifted his bag onto the table that was set next to him, and the wood bowed under the weight. He pulled out the first item, and the auction began. While the traders made their bets, others watched from afar; some looked on with horror as large insect parts and bones of strange animals were pulled from the bag. Others marveled at the parts of the unknown things that lay within the forest. Animal parts, plants, precious gemstones, and strange mechanical devices were pulled methodically from the bag, each one sold off to the highest bidder. The bag emptied slower than it should have, and by the end of the auction, it was full once again with the coin of the townsfolk; Anderstine put down his 10% tax into the hand of the auction house runner and quietly moved back towards the gate of the town. Before he could reach the gates, a small group of well-armed individuals approached him.

“Please, Anderstine. Can we have a moment?”

Anderstine turned around to see the face of four determined-looking souls, well-armored and with stern faces.

“We want you to lead us into the woods; we desire to see what you have seen. We understand you must be under some kind of magical protection, so we have armored ourselves as best as we can and, sir… please, no, wait.”

Anderstine walked off as the man was trying to talk to him.

“Trust me, no amount of armor will save you from what is in there. You can follow, but you will die.”

The group started to follow, but the town’s guards stepped in the way.

“You follow that thing, and you will die. Nothing other than it and the other monsters of that wood can enter or leave. The rest of us, we are a meal.”

The small combatant group lowered their weapons as they watched Anderstine disappear behind the closing gates.

Anderstine walked calmly back down the winding mountain path, heading down every left turn. He wound up at the edge of the forest, stopping just shy of the tree line; behind him, he could hear the sound of creaking wood and strained horse hair.

“Drop the bag, and keep walking, freak. I won’t let you rob my town.”

Anderstine turned to see the guard captain with a bow drawn.

“Your mayor is going to be furious; you might find yourself on wood duty if you are not careful.”

“Don’t threaten me, freak, I don’t know what you are, but I know you are not human. So leave human gold behind, and go back to your woods.”

“I earnt this fair and square; they paid what they wanted; this is my property; as a guard, I assumed you would be around to protect me and my property.”

“I protect those who live on lord Barres land.”

“I am a resident of Lord Barres.” Anderstine interjected. “My cabin is a part of his territory; that is why I have rights to trade in his town. You are sworn to protect me.”

The captain of the guard lowered his bow slightly but grinned as he did so.

“No one expects you to come out of these woods; each time you come, it may be expected, but if you don’t return, no one would be surprised.” The captain raised his bow again and took aim. “There won’t be a body to find; I am sure the woods will consume you.”

Anderstine smiled; he dropped the bag and sat on the ground with his legs crossed.

“I am a pacifist.”

“What does that matter now?” The captain asked.

“That is the answer to your question.”

“What question?”

“The one you asked at the gate how I survive in the words where all else has failed before me.”

“Are you saying you have never killed anything?”

“No, just I never kill the things in the forest; we have an understanding. I am a scavenger in the woods; I take out the trash, then I sell it to you all, then I can return with your coin and store it where it is needed.”

“And where exactly is it needed?”

“In the dirt, a shiny mountain of bronze, silver, and gold. Upon it rests an ancient being that consumes them for nutrients; without me, it will have no food, and it will be forced to look elsewhere to eat. Places with metal, places such as your town.”

“I am not buying it; you are clearly making this up as you go, trying to find an out from meeting my arrow. But I am done with talking.”

The captain let his arrow loose, setting it into the far right side of Anderstines chest. The force of the blow put him on his back and set him in place to start sprinting. The captain nocked another arrow and set it into Anderstine’s leg, but still he ran towards the woods.

“That is right, run your best. I’d like to see you survive with those injuries in the woods. Come back again, and I will put you into the dirt.”

Anderstine disappeared into the darkness of the woods, collapsing behind a fallen tree log just out of the captain’s view. He prepared another arrow and started to walk towards the woods; approaching the tree line, he tried to get a better view of where Anderstine fell in hopes of putting an arrow through his skull. But with every step beyond the first tree, he could feel his heart in his throat, and the air began to cool.

“It is just a wood, only a short jot in.” The captain said to himself as he looked around. “Run in and finish it; run out.” He repeated over and over again, building up the courage to step further in.

Just as his feet found steady footing and his muscles began to function, he heard a chittering, followed by rapid, rhythmic thumping. Looking past where Anderstine fell, he could see eight eyes staring back at him, red and glowing faintly in the darkness of the wood.

“I’ll let the woods consume you; my job here is done.”

The captain ran from the woods, grabbing the bag in one arm. He felt it drag into the dirt, dropping his bow. He used both arms and hauled it onto his shoulder before running off back to town.

The town carried on as normal, and with each passing month that Anderstine did not return, the captain began to feel at ease. Resting in his bed, he sighed each night as his skin was wrapped in silken sheets wrapped over the softest mattress of down. Each night he would sleep like a baby, waking for nothing. Until one night, he heard the creaking of wood, and the snapping of tree branches, dragging him from the blissful sleep. He sluggishly woke up, then rapidly when he saw the eyes of Anderstine sighting across from him, his pale white skin and the glow of the moon on his back as he sat with his back facing the window.

The captain’s hand was already on a knife he kept next to his bed.

“Rest assured, captain, I am still a pacifist; you will suffer no harm from me.” Anderstine whispered.

The captain sat up, still holding onto the knife.

“No offense, but I don’t believe you just came back to chat.”

“Well, that is true, but I have not come here to hurt you either.”

“So what are you here for?”

“To tell you that I am taking the time from you that you took from me.”

The captain stood from his bed, his knife in hand.

“That sounds like a threat.”

“No, captain, you have threatened me before. I am informing you of your situation. You left me for dead with a slim chance of survival. So I am doing the same. I have moved your home; by my estimate, it should take you the same time it took me to heal for you to make it back to town.”

The captain looked to Anderstine with concern; he slowly moved to his front door and opened it. Looking out, he was surrounded by the dense wood of the forest; one small sliver in the canopy bathed his house in light, catching the threads of silk that surrounded it. On the far side was the path that the house had been dragged through the woods.

“That way leads back to town.”

The captain gripped his knife tightly as the sounds of the woods filled his ears.

“How long did it take for you to heal.”

Anderstine grinned as he faded into the dark of the forest, and the creatures started to stir.

“Three months.”