Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 134

eye saw nothing amiss. Woods, Mountains and Wargs My bones are too old for this, Manfred thought as he struggled onto his horse. The four companions were travelling light because they would soon need to revert to their feet. They left Elannort at dawn with a young groom from the stables. Manfred decided to take the most direct route, depending on his magic to secure a path where Dawit had recently failed. They headed north along the Lost Road. They saw no one on the road all day, befitting a road that seemingly went nowhere. They made camp on the first night on the outskirts of the Impenetrable Forest. Manfred ensured that they camped well away from the forest boundary and they only used dead wood on their fire so as not to break living branches. Better not to antagonise the trees. They were in good spirits and shared a warm meal and a story from Kris. Next morning the groom left them, taking their horses back to Elannort, and they continued on foot. As they approached the forest, it seemed to live up to its name. There was barely a gap between the greenery that a rabbit could get through, let alone a human. Manfred had been putting up with his companions’ scepticism ever since they had left Elannort. No one else believed it was possible to get through the forest. Time to show them that the old wizard still has some sparks in his wand. He looked for the appropriate signs; a barely discernible path leading up to the trees; some faint marks on some of the tree trunks that were old elven runes; and tracks or droppings to show that animals had been this way. “Get in line, one behind the other. Do not draw your weapons while you are in the forest. Respect the trees. Tread carefully. Do as little damage as you can. I hope no one is claustrophobic.” Manfred stopped in front of the impenetrable barrier. Now I must get this right. It’s some time since I’ve spoken old elvish. He spoke quietly and carefully, beseeching the trees to let them pass safely and in peace. He called on the names of elven kings and queens of ages past to justify their case. For good luck, he even mentioned the names of the Seven Great Sages. Slowly and grudgingly, the trees began to part. Branches moved aside until there was just enough room for them to pass in single file. It was like walking through a maze with the hedges almost touching. They kept up a slow and steady pace, never stopping; not even to take a drink from their water bottles. Time seemed to stop. They were just in an endless loop, putting one foot after the other while thousands of annoying insects buzzed around their heads and bit them incessantly. As soon as they had passed, the trees filled in behind them like a zipper closing, almost as if the forest were hurrying them to get out of its domain. Finally, a gap opened up in front of them and they emerged from the forest into grassland and rolling foothills. Ahead of them, the Devil Mountains stretched into the sky, snow covered peaks glinting in late afternoon sunshine. It had taken the best part of day to traverse the forest. Manfred spoke quiet words of thanks to the trees before the four of them threw themselves on the ground and all took deep drinks from their water bottles. “I have been in some t