“Been hearing whispers from the townsfolk about seeing things in the woods, you know anything about this?” the constable asks and pours water from the earthen pitcher into a worn mug. Looks his guest in the eyes, gives the pitcher a shake.
The woodsman nods. “Sure, thanks.” Scoots his cup to the table’s center. “It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try.”
The constable fills the woodsman’s cup, “Take your time.”
The woodsman grunts, “Time…I’m not sure we have much.”
“Go on.” The constable sips his water. “What’ve you seen?”
“I’ve been chopping trees and clearing the paths for years. Ever since I was old enough to swing an axe my pops was taking me with him. Every day I go and fell a tree or work on splitting one from a previous day.” The woodsman runs a hand over the bottom half of his face, sighs. “It’s hard to say for sure when I started noticing it.”
The constable’s eyes narrow. “It?”
“Mm, this—Serra bless me—is going to sound crazy, but I think the forest knows what I do. I think it always has, but it’s different now.” The woodsman finishes his water, wipes his brow.
“What do you mean? More?” the constable motions to the pitcher.
“Have anything stronger?” the woodsman asks.
“I do, yes.” The constable gets up and opens a cupboard, finds a bottle. “What do you mean about it being different now?” The bottle’s cork comes out with a squeak and a pop.
“When I was a boy I recall this feeling of the woods knowing my father and I were there. Watching us…Watching over us, I think. I never thought it was happy we were cutting its trees, but I always got the feeling that it understood.” The constable pours two fingers of the brown into the woodsman’s mug, the woodsman nods in thanks. “Not happy about it, but knew we needed the wood to survive. Like there was some unspoken agreement. That it’d allow us to take a tree to fuel our fires and in return we wouldn’t be greedy and take more than we needed.”
“It’s not the same now?” the constable asks and takes his seat. “When did it change?”
“I’m not sure, but I think it was sometime after that young lord built his summer estate on the other side of the river.”
“And this feeling you get—what is it now?”
The woodsman shakes his head. “The forest isn’t happy. And to be honest I can’t blame it. The lord’s men cut a half dozen trees every couple of days and burn them for no better reason than to have bonfire parties.”
“Mm,” constable nods, “yes, those are hard to miss. The air constantly smells of smoke now.”
“I think the forest is going to do something, soon.”
“Do? Do what? How?”
“Like I said, it’s hard to describe, but I would swear I’ve seen people in the trees.”
“People in the forest? You mean the lord’s men?”
“No, no,” the woodsman shakes his head. “No. I mean the trees are the people.”
“How does…I don’t…” the constable, scratches his head, sips his drink. “What?”
“I think the forest is coming alive in a way we never thought possible.”
The woodsman sighs. “I think we’re going to find out sooner than later.”