The Forest

No prompt Written 22 December 2020

Before you enter the forest, stop a moment and take note of the wind, the sun’s position in the sky, the sway of the trees. Before you set foot in the shade, to hunt or hide or fight, you must check to see whose territory you are entering.

If the sun is high, shedding its warmth on your scalp and shoulders, and the wind skips gleefully along the stream, you are safe. On humid summer days filled with buzzing insects, you are free to take refuge in the shadow of the ancient wood. For the spring is a new beginning, a bringer of light, and belongs to humanity. Mother Earth embraces you gently, nurtures your crops and fills your stores with meat.

Be wary, though, if the sun is shrouded in clouds, if the wind cries out in mourning, or the rain comes down like waves. The summer sun is kind and gentle, but even a Mother must be strict, and Mother Earth has many children. Storms are for the witches, the spellcasters in gossamer nightgowns. They gather under the moon, cloaked in fog, skin prickled in goosebumps, as they call down the water and lightning from the sky. If you are careful, if you are polite, they may let you pass. Do not hunt on these nights. To take from the forest while it belongs to the witches is to invite the worst of trouble.

But here I warn you, never enter the forest when the snow falls thick, the trees stand barren, and the wind howls like a pack of hungry wolves. Winter belongs to neither man nor beast. Mother Earth is asleep, and she will not protect you should you dare step foot inside the world of spirits. Should your travel require you go near the forest, keep your eyes on the path ahead and leave an offering at every tree you pass beneath. Be respectful of any living thing you meet, and say nothing to the man with antlers curved about his head like a crown.

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