Inker Forest by Evelyn J Steward

The colours were brighter.  Must be new.  Mirander did not realise something had happened further over, almost out of her sight.  This meant a trip.  Nadrinal would have to be persuaded to go with her, as chaperone.
This would mean going through the part where the forest demon lived.  The striped forest demon hated people, things.  Anything moving about in his part of the forest without his knowledge or permission, would meet with danger.  You go through his territory without his say so and you were in for trouble, with a capitol T.
Puffing up his stripes, he often strutted about his area of forest, growling his displeasure at any goings on he did not approve of.  But, he was careful.  For the next forest hid an even larger demon than himself.  Though strictly not a demon, nor himself, come to that ( but it was how he liked to portray his importance) still, a creature to be careful of.  Those wings were enormous purple scaly things.  The talons longer and sharper than his,  could rend a creature to pieces, no trouble at all.  And, the dragon was encroaching!
That was the problem!  There were bare patches just across the striped demon’s  border, just itching to be extended.  Utilized.  He had seen it all before.  His forest was once much smaller.  Barely room to turn around.  But, he sighed heavily, it had been extended for him to wander through.  Admittedly, those pesky birds came with!  A small price to pay though, he thought.
Still, a dragon, no less.  With huge wings, covered in scales, metalic purple in colour.  He was the most gigantic of creatures, and he breathed fire.  All the time.  Must get a sore throat!  Perhaps that was why he was so mega angry?

Crouching at the edge of the forest, Mirander signaled to Nadrinal, (who had condescended to accompany her),  to stay low.  All was silent, even the waving folage, leaves and fronds, made little noise.  Mirander beckoned Nadrinal and they both crept forward, looking all about them.  Making certain the striped beast was not around.
“Come on,” she whispered.  “Now is our chance.”
Nadrinal nodded.  He was aware of movements around him but felt there was no danger at present.  It was a bright day.  The leaves reflected the light on their shiny surfaces.  A kind of peace had settled as they hurried along.
Mirander and Nadrinal had been going quite a while, listening to birds, as they went,  who had awakened, calling to each other.  Quite a pleasant journey on the whole until they heard a rumbling roar in the distance.  It was The Beast!
“I’m scared,” said Mirander, drawing her flimsy gown around her body.
“We can outwit him,” stated Nadrinal.  “don’t let him see us!”
The roaring grew louder as the pair travelled deeper across the forest terrain.  They ran for shadowy areas, moving on only when they deemed it safe.  Creeping closer, the sound reverberated through the vines, drumming through their ears.  Leaves shook, fronds bent over in the blast of noise.
“My ears are hurting,” whispered Mirander.
“Mine too,” affirmed Nadrinal.  “He is close.”
Then they saw the huge striped beast, his fangs dripping drool, its tail curled upward, tip bent over and thrashing about, making quite a ruckus.
Its head was turned upwards, watching a gigantic flying creature, so large, that nothing else could be seen as it passed overhead.  Fire spouted from its gargantuan mouth and burnt foliage floated down all around the two terrified adventurers.
Running as fast as they could, they left the striped beast behind.
Reaching the edge of the forest, they both stood staring at the wasteland before them.  “There!  I told you,” said Mirander.  “Didn’t I tell you.  You never believe me.”
“You’re right!” Stated Nadrindal.  “Bare and open.  Who would have guessed?  But, look in the distance.  Is that someone planting?”
Mirander cupped her hands to her eyes, straining to make out the movement on the far side.  “Something is going on, that’s for sure.  Want to find out?” she teased
“Might as well.  Come on.  That flying creature has gone.”
They skirted the bare area, becoming quite hot, even beneath the vines and leaves.  The journey took a while as they had to fight off snakes, keeping out of sight for fear of the scaly beast.  Nadrinal spotted it in the distance once, but it was high up.  A mote, a speck above the forest.  He aaid nothing to Mirander, for fear she might get scared again.
“Look, look,” cried Mirander.  “Is that a drilling thing?”
“Possibly,” remarked Nadrinal.  “I heard about those.  But don’t worry, they are slow. Probably planting more forest.”  Mirander cocked her head to one side and murmmured.
” Hmm!”  She was unconvinced.
Suddenly, a great shadow passed overhead.  “Quick, it’s that creature again.   Ohhhh, it’s seen us!”  Sure enough, a sudden burst of flame singed the forest just ahead.  Marinder squealed.  Nadrinal grabbed her hand and pulled her faster back into the deeper forest.  Great gouts of fire burst all around them.  They ducked and dived, moving targets were harder to hit.
They managed to dive into an overhang, a sort of cave.  They were breathing hard.  After a while, the flaming stopped. Both Nadrinal and Mirander poked their heads out.  It was a rich lush forest here, perhaps enough so that the fire could not penetrate.
“I think we should go back now,” muttered Nadrinal.  “We’ve seen all there is to see.  Nearly became incinerated!  Almost caught by the striped demon!  I am really pooped!”
Mirander thought, for a moment, not quite wishing the adventure to end.  “I suppose we should try to get back.  It’s getting cooler and we have seen as much as there is to see, don’t you think?”  Nadrinal nodded.  She was seeing sense, after all.  Tomorrow they could wander out to the bare area again, if she wasn’t satisfied.  They had the way of the striped demon now.  He was relatively easy to skirt.  It was the huge flying beast  that was the problem.  But, they knew about the cave.  It could not reach them inside there. So it would be easy.
Yes, Mirander was still curious.  So next morning, they set off.  It was still early and cool.  They made it to the bare patch quite fast this time.  However, whilst they were gone, the area was bare no longer.  In some strange way, water had seeped actoss the earth.  Weird tall tree trunks now stood beside yellow soil.  Except that it was not soil but some rough stuff that burnt the feet.  Great hanging fronds waved around as the air moved and the water surged.  Out on the waves, someone sped actoss the water, from one side to the other.
That someone must have seen them, because he or she waved.  Mirander waved back.
“Careful,” advised Nadrinal. ” We don’t know who it is.  Is it a man?”
“Think so,” replied Mirander.  “Look, he’s waving again.  Go on, don’t be so picky.  Wave back.”
Nadrinal tentatively raised his hand and waved.
He was rewarded by a returning wave.
“Now what?” He asked, shrugging his shoulders.
“Look!  The only way we can get to meet him is to get something that will float.  Then, we can sit on it, and paddle out there.  I would absolutely love to do that.”  Mirander was getting very excited now.  She danced about on the soft yellow earth, calling to the birds flying above, feeling so full of happiness.
Nadrinal had been searching the edge of the forest, looking for and finding a fallen log. He dragged it out to the waters edge.  “Come on,” he cried.  ” Jump on.  This will do for paddle.”  He raise his hand, showing her a fallen piece of wood he was going to use as a paddle.  Mirander raced to his side, helping to push the log into the water.  Mirander was laughing as the waves hit the log, wetting her all over.
Soon Nadrinal was paddling well, getting closer to the figure who by now was across the other side, turning, and heading back in their direction.
As they paddled closer,  Mirander grabbed Nadrinal’s arm.  “Stop paddling!” She ordered.
“We’re nearly abreast,” he argued.
“Look!  He’s got a spear, and he’s levelling it at us,” she yelled.  ” Turn around, turn around.  Head for the shore.”
Nadrinal stared hard at the approaching figure atop an incoming wave.  He saw a menace in the man’s  eyes.  The spear was levelled at shoulder height, he was hefting it, testing his aim.
“Faster Nadrinal, paddle as fast as you can.”  Mirander bent down on either side, dipping her hands in the water, lending a little more power to Nadrinal’s stroking with the paddle.
Time seemed to go slowly but finally, they hit the beach.  Both leapt from the log, racing as fast as they could for the treeline.  They were puffing hard when racing for their cave, but stopped when the shadow of the huge dragon skimmed the trees, heading for the water.  Mirander turned to see through the gaps in the tree trunks.  Great gouts of flame burst from the dragon’s maw.  A blood-curdling scream tore from the man in the water.
Suddenly, everything went silent.  No birds called, even the wind sound died.
She whispered to Nadrinal.  “Do you think that creatire killed him?” she asked, her heart pounding.
“Who else would scream like that?” he stated, feeling more secure now that they were not only out of the water, but almost to safety.
“I think so,” replied Mirander.  “What say we go home now?  I, for one, have had enough wandering to last a lifetime.  Think I prefer to stay in my own little patch of forest.  I was a fool to want to wander abroad.  Safety at home is best.”
“Me too ” said Nadrinal, taking her hand in his, leadng her back through the striped demon’s forest, on into their own little places, his next door to hers.  “What do you say about a nice little picnic under the lianas tomorow?”
“Ooh, yes please,” agreed Mirander, happy to be safe and sound with her true friend, Nadrinal, the Centaur.
Copyright. Evelyn J. Steward.  June, 2015.

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