“The most important rule in the Evergreen – if you’re ever unfortunate enough to find yourself there – is never deal with the fey. Ever. If you remember only one piece of information from this book, let it be that. The second most important rule in the Evergreen – in any instance where you’ve broken the first – is never to let them get into your head.”“Fey Studies”, Pirell the Greater
Skallin watched as the elf departed, whispering to a tree until its trunk bent and warped, creating a window to another world, stepping through and leaving no trace of his passing. Skallin tasted the air. Sweet, almost sickly so. This place felt…unusual. Skallin felt simultaneously like an intruder, and yet also as if he had a deep and potent connection to this realm, one stronger and more primal than any other.
But mostly, he felt hungry.
Carefully, he inched his way out of the grotto he had been deposited in, tasting the air as he went. The druid had mentioned an abundance of beasts for hunting, and he could certainly sense their presence, though their taste was unfamiliar. Satisfied that nothing posed an immediate danger, he began to slither through the undergrowth in pursuit.
The grass was damp with dew, an uncomfortable sensation compared to the Dry Lands he was accustomed to. In the distance, he could hear voices, though he did not understand their words.
“Cracker, Ms. Goose! Simply a cracker!”
Skallin continued through the dense vegetation. As he rounded a thick oak, he saw in the distance a great crystal tower through the forest, stretching up into the lilac sky, shimmering with the setting sun’s orange light.
“Marvellous, isn’t it?”
Skallin stopped. Though unfamiliar to this land, he was quite certain he was alone. He waited, silent, for a few moments, but the voice did not speak further. Slowly, he resumed his hunt. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem a danger.
“Oh, no. Not a danger to you.”
Skallin froze once more.
“I mean you no harm, my friend.”
Skallin ventured a whisper. “Who…are you?”
“I? Why, I am a great many things to a great many people. To you, I could be a friend.”
Skallin began to move once again. “A…friend?”
“Turn right at that oak up ahead and follow the trail downwards. I assure you, you shall not be disappointed.”
Skallin followed the voice’s instructions and saw below him a clearing, empty except for a large, horned creature he had never seen before. His belly rumbled, and slowly, he approached, exhaling a low fog of breath as he did so. The creature succumbed almost immediately, slumping in a heap in the grass as Skallin’s noxious fumes surrounded it.
“How magnificent you are… A true hunter…”
The voice still unsettled Skallin, but he enjoyed the things it said about him. He gripped one of the beast’s legs in his mouth and began to drag it back towards the grotto. He preferred to eat in private.
“Why…are you helping me?” he asked as he travelled.
“Creatures like us must look out for one another.”
“Creatures like us?”
“Are you a hunter?”
The voice was silent for a while, and Skallin found his way back to the grotto, dragging the beast down into the darkness below. He began to eat. Perhaps the voice was gone.
Skallin was unsure what to do, but ventured another question. “Why…are you here?”
“I think we can help each other.”
“Help each other?”
“Have I not already helped you?”
Skallin considered his meal. “You will…help me more?”
“If you will help me.”
“How can I help you?”
Skallin could almost hear the voice grinning.
“All things in due time, my friend…”