It was almost noon when Petka arose, and the light piercing the canopy above provided a warm, bright day– perfect for travel. Petka shouldered his pack and great-bow. The bow was nearly as tall as Petka himself, at about five feet, six inches high, and he could quickly nock and fire from it a variety of arrows, some so sharp that they could easily burrow themselves a full three inches into a full grown tree. Tinkering had also allowed him to launch arrows that burnt with fire, streaking towards his target in the darkness, and some that even exploded– for as they say, “idle hands are the devil’s fletcher”.
He kicked dirt onto the ashes of his fire, and began walking the familiar and ancient paths in the forest where none of his compeers dared to tread and as he did so, his eyes were quick to pick out little details of the gnarled trees, and seemingly commonplace rock formations that told him he was still on familiar ground. Every now and then, Raksha would bump her large head against Petka’s leg- he tried offering her bits of food- cured salt pork, (The “paw-fect” treat for dogs! Or so said Wally Stotch), but she obstinately refused any of the meat offered. It seemed, in fact, that Raksha did not want Petka to venture too far into the woods, especially where things became thick, tangled, and dim under an increasingly thick canopy– specifically, it seemed, Raksha had a particular aversion to to the start of Petka’s adventure which took the form of a rickety wooden bridge that lay a mere few inches above a small, restless crick that Chaim claimed would be the literal gateway to “Worlds unseen, bordering the lands of dream”- Chaim often waxed poetic).
And as familiar with the woods- even the shaded parts of the map as he was- he had no idea who, or for that matter why somebody would build such a strange little bridge. Petka now found himself almost instantly far flung from the familiar deer and game trails, so much so that it seemed even the sounds of the forest only swelled intermittently, as if unsure as whether they were permitted to chirp and rustle in this particular part of the wood and were testing their boundaries with some unknown authority. Petka wondered if perhaps he was testing his luck with a similar being or ruler, though one that would remain unseen and unseeable.
Petka continued his cautious steps towards the bridge, gently shooing Raksha away, though it seemed she would not go quietly. At one point, Raksha actually locked her jaws on the hem of his trousers, standing as stubborn as a stone, refusing her canine-permission for Petka to trod further into the unknown, in the form of a growl mixed with a wine of concern. Ever patient, Petka whistled sharply to get her attention- she stopped and sat, gazing up at him with worried eyes. Petka stooped down on one knee, and stooped down to put his long, thin nose on Raksha’s cold pink one, and looked into Raksha’s worried eyes.
“I will be okay, Raksha, but I can’t put you in danger. Some journeys have to be walked alone.”
This apparently was not acceptable to Raksha, as once he turned his back, she latched upon the loose sleeve of his shirt. Taken off guard and slipping on the muddy ground, Raksha began to methodically pull him back into better-known territory by little jerks, as if he were simply a heavy hunk of meet and bone. Petka saw the little bridge inch away from him and, strangely enough, it seem to blur a little bit as if threatening to disappear completely.
Fearing the loss of his adventure, Petka shouted with alarm, “Raksha, no!”
And upon hearing the alarm and authority in her bipedal friends voice, she reluctantly let go of his sleeve, tucked her tail, and looked up apologetically.
Petka, pushed himself onto one knee, and placed his long, pointy nose upon Raksha’s singularly pink one.
“Raksha, no. I need to do this. I will be back. I promise.” And with that, he gave her a hunk of dried meat from his pack.
Raksha sneezed a little, as was her custom, took the hunk of dried venison, and slunk away a short distance, offering only the occasional muted bark as protest.
“Raksha!” shouted Fawcett, “I will be back!”
He then crossed the Rickety old bridge, and into a part of the forest that was unknown not only to him, but it seemed it was forgotten by the world itself, and he remembered something his grandfather had told him long ago.
“Be careful Petka; many men enter the forest, which is dangerous enough- doubly so are those who let the forest enter themselves- once the growth within matches that without, she can take you. And those taken rarely return.”