Chapter 6:

Into the Woods

Theodora Plays to Win (With Cheat Codes)

The woods reached out with decrepit, bent hands, attempting to ensnarl passing travelers. The woods were not a place to be once dark set in. The moon brought with it dangerous beasts and gave the forest a dubious will. Moonlight casts eerie shadows across stumps, roots, and vines, which might as well have been monsters themselves in it’s foreboding light. Theo had not had the courage to stay out in the woods so late, and so did not realize how scary it truly was.

Mother had warned her when Theo’d first started wandering in that only seasoned travelers could make it through the woods of Sylvania in the night. This land was cursed. Long ago it was inhabited by nymphs and fairies and other faefolk but humans pushed in and either killed, or pushed them out. Now the Majin and the few remaining Faefolk, mainly lived in the southwestern portion of the continent bordering Arizna and Navahdah. The king of the faefolk laid a curse on this land with his final dying breath, those who walk the fae’s forest by moonlight are walking straight into the gullet of a feral beast, and so Theo made sure never to be in the woods past dusk. There were some nights she would have rather been forest food than live in the house with her sisters and Bessos, but she always had the hope that they’d meet some brutal, untimely comeuppance and didn’t want to miss it. The young are so naïve.

Edith whisked her sword around admiring it’s majestic blue glow in the moonlight, “It’s such a majestic, beautiful sword, befitting someone as majestic and beautiful as I.” She did a twirl, seemingly oblivious to aura of menace building around them. Makes sense. “Pick up the pace! Or I’ll skewer you and offer you as a sacrifice to the Fae King.” Something fast slithered across Edith’s path, “A weakling like you-” she tripped over a root, but Theo saw it slither over and was there to catch her.

“And watch where you’re going, idiot. The forest is cursed and you’re easy pickings. Do even know how to use that flashy little sword?”

Edith clenched her fists, “Of course, I do! I watched Cambria and Rhonda practice all the time.” She yelled at the top of her lungs.

“Just because you see something done doesn’t mean you can actually do it! Are you a complete imbecile!”

“You just watch!” Edith swung her sword at the root and chopped it off. A scream echoed all around them. “There. You see. Just swing and cut. I keep it simple.”

“Simpleton! The forest is alive did mom not tell you about the curse. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was covered in school.”

“I must’ve have slept through that one.” Her face was blank. Edith was only slightly shorter than Theo and they had similar builds, though Edith was slightly bustier so she was also slightly heavier, but with a burst of sudden adrenaline Theo overcame this weight difference and draped Edith over her shoulder. Theo broke out into a sprint. A tree root shot through the soil attempting to trip her up, but the jumped over it. A thin wooden hand whipped out from a nearby tree on her left, Theo dodged to the right. The forest came alive with bloody vengeance. Roots and vines and branches surged at the sisters as Theo barely dodged every single one of them. Adrenaline became the only thing keeping her upright. Scratches appeared across her face and arms as a few thorny plants landed hits. Eventually, they made it to a clearing and the forest stopped it’s relentless attacks.

“Let me down!” She broke free of Theo’s embrace.

“We should really keep moving. They stopped but who knows why or for how long.”

“No. I’m not going another step with you.”

“Did you finally decided to go back and accept your imminent death?”

“Hell no!”

“What about Cambria and Rhonda? They’re probably confused and pissed off that their faithful little lackey betrayed them. I know, even if you went back they’d kill you before the enforcers. I’d like to see that. Ha ha ha!”

“Heh, heh. You shouldn’t be laughing. As it happens, I’m not an idiot. I actually thought this part through. I left a little note saying you kidnapped me. I’m mom’s favorite and everyone in town loves me. You were so jealous that you wanted to kill my slowly and personally. After the royal announcement you saw a perfect opportunity.”

Theo gave off a scowl in response, “You might be mom’s favorite, along with a handful of old men so thin crows could use them for perches, but who this ‘everyone’ you speak of?”

“You really have no filter or eyes. I’m adorable how could I not be everyone’s favorite.” She did an “adorable” twirl.

“Stuff it. You pointing out how “adorable” you are is precisely why I hate you and why you’re no one “favorite.” Your personality sucks.”

“You’re not any better, acting all high and mighty. Maybe if you made some kind of effort you could have made friends instead being such a pensive shrew all the time.”

“Not one person in the whole village ever wanted to make friends with me in the first place. Why should I put in wasted effort?”

“Good point. We all hated you. That’s the truth. From the moment you were born. You could have tried though, even a little bit.”

“We should get going now.” Theo was tired of this back and forth. She’d had this same conversation so many times and it never went anywhere. This wasn’t the time or place. “If we keep heading west we’ll reach Hanover by mid-morning. You wanted to find an Inn to rest, yeah?”

Edith’s entire demeaner changed. “I can’t wait!” sparkles seemed to explode in her eyes, “I need to get to an inn. This level of cuteness doesn’t happen without quality sleep you know.”

“Does the next town even have an inn, I know what I said, but I’ve never actually been.”

“That’s right! Haha ha! Shut-in loser!”

“Drop that attitude or I’ll-”

“You’ll what? You have no magic. I’m stronger than you. I need your help less than you need mine. Did you think I’d do a 180 in a couple of hours of hiking. As you pointed out earlier, my personality sucks. That’s not going to change. I am who I am. Either put up with it or take your chances alone.”

Theo was flabbergasted, who did this little bitch think she was, “I’ve had to carry you over my shoulder and keep you out of danger this whole time. You’ve been less than useless. Do you think you can survive alone, huh? This forest will eat you alive. Forget the forest, there’s Manabeast in these woods.”

“Mana-what’s… It doesn’t matter. You think I’m useless, guess why you’re still standing right now. Sickly little worm like you moving like you’re a full fledged knight.”

“I don’t know, adrenaline, or something!”

“Ha! I cast support magic. Speed, strength, stamina, all of that was me. You would have died ten times over if not for me. You should be on your knees groveling, begging me to stay by your side!”

“And who got us into that mess in the first place!”

“I won’t sit here and be lectured by you of all people! With this sword and my magic, walking through the forest will be like a stroll through the village. I’ll be watching the sunrise from the hot springs inn while you’re still trapsing through the woods like the forest rat you are.

“Ahhh! Fine. I may not know what amenities await us in the next town but I do know this forest, as you mentioned. I’ll leave it to you. You want to test your luck on your own, I’m not going to stop you.”

“Fine. See you there.”

“Break both your legs.”

“You too.”

Edith walks off, leaving Theodora by herself in the ever darkening forest.     

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