Chapter 15:

Child of the Forest

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

 Slowly but surely, the crying grew louder as Paltar and Nanna walked through the forest. It was almost a full-blown wail when they reached the child.

“There,” Nanna said.

A small child, perhaps six or seven years old, was crouching in the tall grass, surrounded by flowers of all colors. The boy had dark hair and his hands were full of dirt and dried blood. His clothes didn’t look any better. Paltar froze. How long had he been here? How long had he been crying for? The boy must be exhausted.

Slowly, Paltar took a step forward.

That motion was enough for the child to rapidly turn to him, his intense blue eyes locking with Paltar’s. A second later, the child shuffled back into the plants around him, making it difficult to see the boy.

“What are you doing?” Nanna hissed. “We have to help him!”

“But… how?”
He had never been good with children. Back in his first life, he had no siblings, and even in this life, he was the youngest child. Once, he had thought that he might have offspring of his own with Satsuki and then, he would just learn it by nature. Now, he knew that there was no way that would ever happen. And thinking about it all made him all the more insecure about it.

“You do the talking,” he said. “You look like a talking animal! He should love that.”

“But I’m not a talking animal, I’m a princess! That’s… I’m-”

The boy’s crying had stopped.

Paltar and Nanna exchanged one heated glance before she waddled a little closer to the bush the child was hiding in.

“H-heeey,” she said, “are you feeling better? Hmm?”

Paltar, instead, looked around this dark forest. He felt torn. On one hand it was clear that they both had no idea how to deal with this child, but they also couldn’t leave him here. Where were his parents? The boy couldn’t live alone, could he?

And this forest was dangerous. Paltar could feel it in his bones. Something lurked in the shadows, even though he couldn’t see it. Still, his heart raced, and he was much more awake than he should be, given all that he had gone through.

Slowly, he passed Nanna and crouched down near the bush.

“Can you come out there?” he asked with a smile on his face.

Out of the bush, he saw the boy’s bright eyes looking right at him. It startled Paltar a bit, but he managed to keep his composure. Just like the forest, he got a feeling that this child also wasn’t quite normal.

Slowly, the boy approached him, staring at him without blinking. Paltar continued to smile, trying to look as friendly as possible.

“Who are you?” he asked the boy. “I’m Paltar, and this friendly goose here is Nanna.”

“Hello,” Nanna said, giving the best curtsy her current form allowed.

“You can speak,” the boy said with wide eyes.

“I can,” she grumbled. “Didn’t you hear me talking with Paltar?”

“Thanks for coming here,” Paltar cut in. “Can you tell us what your name is?”

For a moment, the boy looked at him, and it felt like he could see into Paltar’s soul. Soemwhere in the back of his mind, he wondered if they really should have done this. But now there was no way they could leave the child alone.

“Eo,” the boy finally replied.

“That’s a nice name you have, Eo,” Paltar said.

It didn’t sound like a real name, but it was better than nothing. Right now, it was good that Eo spoke with them at all.

“So, where is your home? Where are your parents?”

Clearly, that was the wrong question. At those words , the boy began to sob again, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“I don’t know,” he wailed. “This hurts!”


Paltar took a step back. This wasn’t something he had planned. What could he do? Why was Eo in pain? He shot a panicked glance at Nanna, who just stared back.

“Paltar… I think that’s deadwood ivy,” she hissed. “Get him out of there!”

“What? Huh?”

He wasn’t thinking, and yet, thoughts raced through his head. ‘What is deadwood ivy? That sounds bad.’ His arms reached forward.

“Sorry, kid,” he mumbled as he grabbed Eo by the shoulders and got him out of the bush.


He let go as soon as possible, as the skin on his arm started to itch.

“Nanna! Is this poisonous?”

She knew what this plant was, for whatever reason.

“No, you’ll be fine.” She waddled over to Eo. “Does it hurt?”

“Mhmmm,” he sobbed.

“Let this be a lesson not to go into strange shrubbery,” she said. “You’ll be fine.”

He blinked, and within a moment, stopped crying, as if he knew that it wouldn’t sway Nanna’s opinion. Paltar didn’t know how Eo did it. His skin still itched as if he had touched nettle, a sensation he had been most familiar with during his childhood on the farm. The sky above them was getting darker, and Paltar knew they shouldn’t be out in the open after dark. They had to find a place to hide.

“Hey, Eo,” he said quietly, scratching his arms, “we’re here to help you, okay? Maybe we can find your way home together.”

“Mmmm… no...” the boy wailed. “I don’t know!”

‘Neither do I, buddy,’ Paltar thought. But right now he had to be the adult in this situation. So he slowly stood up, looking at Eo helplessly. Too bad he didn’t have something sweet to calm him down. Or… He got an idea.

“What’s your favorite animal?” he asked Eo.

Eo blinked at him, his expression completely normal. Paltar wondered if he was a child at all. But still, he displayed childish behaviors, and they couldn’t quite reason with him.

“Mice...” he finally said.

“That’s a good animal.” Paltar replied with a smile. “Clever and brave, I would say.”

While he was talking, he fished around in his bag for some scraps of cloth. There should be enough left to make at least a small stuffed animal for the boy. Paltar sat down, his arms aching, making sure he wasn’t too close to the boy, but close enough for him to watch what he was doing. Even Nanna watched in silent awe as he cut the pieces of fabric and sewed them together in a fun, spontaneous pattern. Paltar didn’t know how long he worked on it – after all, this state of bliss was why he did the work. Fortunately, this toy didn’t take nearly as long as Nanna’s dress. Soon enough, Eo crawled closer, and with a tired smile, Paltar gave him the little mouse made out of mismatched cloth.

“It’s yours now,” he said.

Eo took the stuffed animal in a cautious hug, never once looking away from it. He mumbled something Paltar couldn’t hear, but he imagined it was some sort of thanks. The boy seemed calmer as well. Paltar smiled at him.

“Okay, shall we look for your home now?”

Eo looked up at him and nodded slowly.

“Good job,” Nanna whispered in his ear, and Paltar couldn’t stop smiling.

Maybe he wasn’t so bad with kids, after all.