The village of Caledon didn’t look like much, or seem to stand out in any particular fashion. At least, not on first glance. A reasonable number of houses sat next to a nearby river, with the usual amenities that you would expect. The smithy, the weaver, a small open air market, a mill, a tavern, and the like. The villagers there seemed perfectly normal as well, going about doing their chores, living their lives with only the occasional dispute over their farm animals or ill-advised drunken escapade to add any drama. At least, most of the time. The one thing that made Caledon stand out and the rare source of any true excitement went unnoticed by any travelers: next to Caledon lay an immense forest. On its own, this didn’t merit mentioning. Much of the region remained uncharted and untamed. But with such a vast expanse of woods in their backyard, the resources of the forest remained untapped by the people of Caledon. Indeed, the Caledonians rarely set foot in the forest. The few times they ventured in among the trees, they didn’t in further than the outskirts, and never stayed long. For everyone there knew that the forest was haunted and full of ghosts, monsters, or worse.
Which Andrew found quite silly, as he walked along the shaded path up the hill that led to his favorite vista in the forest. Setting down his walking staff and sitting down on a stump at the top, he looked over the town as he pulled out a worn journal. Despite its mundane features and superstitions, he liked Caledon. He came to this spot almost every day and watched its inhabitants go about their business like a miniature play put on just for him. Yes, Tony had given the duty of keeping an eye on Caledon to him and a few others, but that didn’t diminish his enjoyment of doing so. Although Andrew had to wonder if the Caledonians posed such a danger as everyone said. They seemed just like ordinary human beings to him. Andrew sighed as he flipped open his journal and started taking notes with the quill he had brought with him. But should he ever mention that question to the others, they’d bury him in an avalanche of reasons why that idea… needed some more thought put into it, to put it politely. Sylvan and its inhabitants must keep itself a secret from Caledon. No one questioned that. But it didn’t stop Andrew from the occasional longing to meet one of the Caledonians he watched every day.
Unfastening his cloak, he set it next to them and arranged his tail in a more comfortable position. He supposed most Caledonians would take him for a werewolf, if his red-orange fur didn’t so clearly proclaim him as a fox Sylvan. Were-fox? Andrew doubted such myths existed in Caledon. His mundane ‘cousins’ didn’t instill fear as much as annoyance to the villagers of Caledon. The wolves got all the cool stories about them, of course. Either way, odds were that a meeting with one of the villagers would probably end up with an arrow lodged in him somewhere painful.
Which is why all the rumors and superstitions Caledon had about the forest proved so useful. As long as it kept them out, then Sylvan couldn’t ask for anything more. Even if most of the rumors had as much resemblance to the truth as one of Sven’s tall tales. Andrew scratched behind his pointed ears as he watched a nervous villager below eye the forest’s edge warily as he led a cow to a nearby pasture. Besides, Andrew had lived in the forest all his life, and he’d never seen a monster. Sure, the Deep Forest had the odd things pop up here and there, but the Outer Forest here consisted of mostly normal plants and animals.
Andrew’s ears twitched as he heard something step on a stick nearby. Heart pumping, he slowly grabbed his walking staff and turned around. Crouched low in the underbrush lay a large cougar, eying him intently. Andrew froze, staring the cougar down. The local wildlife might be mostly normal, but that didn’t make them any less dangerous. He pondered, considering his options…