Sarah blinked her eyes as she woke up in her own bed, in her own house that she shared with the Alchemist she apprenticed to. The sun shone in her eyes through the window, and she briefly wondered whether the last few days had been just a dream. It seemed so surreal. She sat up to look out the window, and the stabbing pain in her back brought back a flood of memories. The cougar, the rescue, the discovery, the Sylvan community, and her ‘rescue’ to return back home. But looking out over the town’s bustling streets, the whole time spent in the forest felt… unreal. Everything seemed so normal and mundane, like she had never had an adventure. But it had happened. It had really happened. The claw marks on her back attested to that. She didn’t particularly want to have to go through the healing process all over again, but if Andrew had taken an arrow to help her get back home safely, then this was the least she could do.
Looking over the rooftops from her window, she could see the forest covering the hillside all the way to the mountains beyond. She hoped Andrew was doing okay, and was healing up soon. For that matter, she hoped everyone was doing okay. Somewhere out there was a whole village full of creatures that no one else knew about. A whole world of the unknown and the unexplored. She hadn’t been there hardly at all, but she wanted to go back. How could she not? There was so many questions that she wanted answered. So many Sylvans to meet, so many new discoveries to be made about the nature of Magic and Alchemy! Their very existence hinted at amazing things that could be done, held just out of reach in the fog of ignorance. Speaking of which, someone knocked at her door. Calling for them to come in, Sarah smiled as Albert entered, her teacher and partner in the study of magic and science. So far she had enjoyed her apprenticeship to him, even if she did end up having to do a lot of the paperwork that he didn’t care for. He claimed that his eyesight had deteriorated with age, but she knew just well that he just got too excited to write down notes when they were in the middle of an experiment.
“Good morning, Sara. How are you feeling today?” he said as he sat down in a chair near the bed while adjusting his glasses.
“Fine… I think. My back still hurts, but it does feel better than before.”
“Yes, yes. I spoke with healer Henry after you had gone to bed, and we agreed that thankfully the wounds seem mostly superficial. You should be safe to go about town, as long as you take it easy. And goodness knows how much you’ve been through recently, I thought you would appreciate having the day off.”
Sarah jumped up and gave Albert a thank-you hug, immediately regretting it as her back protested the sudden movement.
“Easy now, Sarah! I said to take it easy!” Albert laughed as he helped Sarah sit back down on the bed. “Don’t want to reopen any of those wounds now, you hear? So just take it slow. Rest in here if you want, or do so outside. The sun’s warm today, despite the cold air. See some friends perhaps? I know some of them were asking about you. Last I heard, they were planning a party down at the tavern for tonight.”
“I think I’ll do that.” Sarah nodded as she got up slowly. Albert nodded and began to walk out and back downstairs to his research before Sarah stopped him. A certain thing mentioned during her stay in Sylvan bubbled to the top of her memory along with a perfect lead-in.
“Albert… I’ve been thinking. Those ghost wolves…”
“Oh yes, once you’re better I’m going to see if you can give me more detail about them.”
“I can later, but that’s not what I had in mind. Someone mentioned to me something about a time long ago when something came out of the woods. Do you think they would be related?”
Albert stopped and stroked his beard in thought, leaning against the wall for support.
“Well now, my grandma did tell me stories about the year the river froze over that sounded something like that. I always thought they were old wives tales to keep me in line. Would always get myself into all kinds of trouble as a youngster. Lost my eyebrows once or twice that way too. But that’s an intriguing possibility. I’ll see if I can find any more info about it.”
Albert left and returned to his research, while Sarah thought about what to do as she changed into a fresh outfit. She still hadn’t made up her mind as she shuffled out the door and into the daylight. The dichotomy between Sylvan and here struck her once again as she looked up into the clear cold sky, with nothing between her and the few clouds that dotted the sky. Two worlds…
She shook her head and made her way down the street. She tried to resist, but she couldn’t help taking a glance at the forest every now and then. She knew it would prove futile, but she hoped she could get a glimpse of something, or someone. Walking over to the tavern, she poked her head in and was greeted by cheers as her friends quickly ushered her inside and got a chair for her.
“I’m so glad you’re okay!”
“We were just talking about what happened!”
Jake, one of the search party, grinned and struck a pose. “Yeah, I was telling them about how we beat off all those ghost wolves! They were going to charge us, but we beat them back! Eventually they just gave up and disappeared in a poof of smoke!”
Sarah smiled and kept her mouth shut. That’s not exactly what happened, but it was best if she let it slide.
“I was just getting to the point where we heard you scream! We followed the path down, and there was one more ghost wolf, about to tear her limb from limb! So we charged!” Jake swung an imaginary sword through the air. “…and they must have seen what we did to the others, since it just ran off!”
Jake finished his story to a small smattering of applause. “But the important thing is that we got you back home safely! Well, mostly safely. Are you feeling better?”
Sarah nodded and rubbed her back gingerly. “Yeah, somewhat. Mr. Albert said I should take it easy, but I wanted to thank all of you for coming for me! I would have been a goner without you all.”
The discussion fell into more mundane things from there, but like all talk in a small town, it turned back to the drama of the past few days.
“Ghost wolves. And goodness knows what else. The stories about that place are true.”
“What a shame. You know how big that forest is? Imagine if we could go in there freely.” Jake set down his drink and leaned back. “Wild game, loads of timber, and goodness knows what else is in there! This town would be a lot bigger if we could make use of the woods. It’s just sitting right on our doorstep, and we can’t even touch it for fear of ghosts, or monsters, or whatever. I mean, just look at what happened to Sarah! She’s just trying to take a shortcut through it, and she gets torn up!”
The rest of the crowd muttered their assent, some furtive glances made out the window towards the shadows of the trees in the distance.
“Well, we beat them back and saved Sarah, right? Perhaps they’re not as tough as we think…”
A: Try and dissuade them from going into the forest
B: Wait and see what happens, and try to send a warning
C: Try and sabotage any ‘monster hunt’ that happens.
D: Scene Change! (Other)