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CHILDREN OF THE FOREST

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Scrappy and thin as a wire, Laramy Plethic darts between the trees of Rangled Woods, his emerald cloak trailing behind him. Floating ever a few steps behind, a golden bag filled with soil follows and he pauses now and then to dab at rainbowed bark with it, covering up any evidence of the Chroma lurking beneath mighty roots.

About him, similar folk of different ages complete the same task. Some stop to converse with trees, lovingly whispering news of their day into the ancient bark and others take time to use their Flora magic to heal broken blades of grass or to aide the growth of struggling shrubs.

Laramy heads to a bush, scrambling beneath its tangled leaves and offshoots to tend to the base. A sharp intake of breath and murmured words cause him to push through to the other side, still partially obscured by the verdant tangle he’s ensconced within.

A smile lights his face as he sees Blossom bent before a majestic and towering tree, lights dancing about her. He steps forward but recoils as in a sudden flash of blue, Countess Issadora Curdle appears behind her. Laramy watches, curious as they exchange words he cannot hear and creeps forward until Blossom spots him. He opens his mouth but a hand grasps him from behind, pulling him inexorably through the foliage and back the way he came.

Mother Branchit holds a finger to her lips and beckons him to follow her through the woods. The sun catches upon flowing locks of auburn as she darts light-footed through the dense undergrowth. Satisfied they have travelled far enough, she lets out a low whistle and a rag-tag group of children and adults all dressed in similar emerald apparel melt from out of the treeline.

‘The trees have spoken to us and warned us well.’ Whispers Mother Branchit in a low, musical voice.

‘The Curdle woman was here, with Blossom.’ Answers Laramy, poised as though to dash back to his friend.

‘Our work is ever more precious. The darkness of Curdle Village is touching the trees and bringing with it a rot I fear will spread.’

Nods of agreement ripple through the group. Mother Branchit bows her head before speaking again. ‘We must continue our work with all due haste. The Countess’s presence here suggests she knows or suspects what we do.’

Laramy swallows deeply before nodding, the gravity of the situation made clear.

She smiles down at Laramy.

‘Peace. The woman of Curdle is a danger to many things in this Realm but to children, she is not.’

Mother Branchit nods, then takes to the air. The Children of the Forest scatter, returning to the care of the ancient forest and Laramy stands alone, crestfallen.

‘Blossom.’

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