Book One in the Legend & Lore series
Never bet against a dark forest filled with monsters…
Desperate for the approval he hopes it will gain him, Mihai accepts a challenge from his brother: Venture into Fenris Forest, and retrieve a leaf from a rare tree to prove he did it. Though he has been warned to avoid the forest and the monsters that fill it all his life, Mihai’s longing for approval trumps his fear.
Mihai soon realizes, however, that it is his fear he should have heeded. Just as victory seems within his grasp, he is attacked by warg, the most dangerous beasts in the forest. Alone and helpless, Mihai resigns himself to being just one more person who went into the woods and never came out—
Until he is saved in the most unexpected of ways.
(c) T. T. Kove
The forest loomed threateningly in front of him, enormous trees reaching high towards the sky and branches fluttering in the wind, giving off a faint sound—like whispers.
It chilled Mihai to the bone but he could not back down now. He was here, he’d made that stupid bet, and he would have to take the consequences. He couldn’t go back, not without proof that he’d actually been into the forest itself.
Why did I do this? he wondered to himself miserably. Oh yeah, because he’d wanted to impress not just his brother, but his brother’s best friend. Maybe Flynn would actually notice him then.
Though, before Mihai had left the village, Flynn had looked at him as if he was crazy. That was not much better than not being noticed at all.
And so now he was here. Standing in front of Fenris Forest, and having no choice but to enter if there was ever any hope of being noticed in any way. A good way, at least. He just had to go into the forest, get a leaf off a rare breed of tree, and go back home.
That was his brother’s challenge. And Mihai was taking it—and he was going to make it. He was. Though the forest was awfully frightening.
All their lives, all everyone was told was to not go into Fenris Forest, because there lived all kinds of vile creatures. Dominating it all were the wargs. Big, wild, vicious beasts, they were said to be. Mihai desperately hoped he wouldn’t be meeting one of them on his trip.
Taking a deep breath, he finally forced his feet to move. The trees loomed higher, and as he passed between the two foremost, the light immediately started to dim. Of course it got darker, Mihai hadn’t expected differently with such enormous trees, but it was frightening all the same.
He couldn’t deny that the forest was beautiful though. Bright green trees, the packed earth covered in fallen leaves and branches. The sky could just be glimpsed between the fluttering leaves.
No one knew exactly where to find this rare tree, with leaves the color of silver. Only witches entered the forest, because only they had what was necessary to protect themselves against what lurked in the woods.
Mihai startled at a sound to his right—a rustling in the bushes lining the side of the path he was on. If it could be called a path, that was, with how overgrown it was.
He thought he saw a flash of grey in all the green. It was nothing, he told himself sternly. Just a figment of your imagination. He couldn’t help the shivering that came over him, though, and he wrapped his arms around his torso as he pressed on.
“I can’t do this,” he whispered to himself, glancing around nervously. If he even found this tree, would he be able to find his way out again? Would those that lived here in the forest let him get out?
A flash of silver to his right and Mihai let out a gasp of surprise as he realized what it was he was seeing. The tree!
He bolted from the path, pushed away the branches in his way and stopped right in front of the tree. It was quite small though, hardly fitting to be called a tree at all. More like a big bush, he’d say, except that it had branches and those silver leaves …
It was gorgeous. He didn’t want to ruin the beauty of it by plucking a few leaves, but he had to. He had to have the proof of having been in the forest. Else he wouldn’t live it down. Hraban had, according to himself, been several times inside the forest, and Mihai did not want to be a coward like everyone thought him to be.
So he reached out reluctantly and carefully plucked three leaves, tucking them neatly into the pocket of his vest. He patted his chest slightly, making sure they lay all right, then he turned to start the way back, only to stop dead.
There stood not just one, but three big, grey-furred wolves. No, wargs, he reminded himself. These were too big to be regular wolves. They blocked the way he’d come and Mihai didn’t dare bolt further into the forest. He had no idea where he’d end up then. At the same time, there they were, right in front of him.
The one closest to him bared his teeth in a deep growl, and the one farthest back took a step forward. Mihai was terrified. All his life he’d heard of these beasts and now he was face to face with three of them. Were they going to attack? Kill him? Or possibly eat him? He shivered at the thought.
He took one cautious step back, then, as all three wolves took a step forward, the panic took him and he ran. Past the rare tree and further in. Branches hit him across the face, but he was so terrified he couldn’t feel the pain.
As he was running under a tree with hanging branches that blinded him completely, his foot caught on something and he fell face first to the ground. Grass and weeds broke his fall, but fallen twigs prodded painfully against his palms and face and chest.
He lay stunned for a moment, then turned around, crawling backwards at the sight of the wargs approaching. He didn’t get very far before a big rock blocked his way and he backed into it hard.
The growling got louder, the wargs were coming closer. Mihai trembled in fear. Was he going to die now? Was he never going home? No one would know what had happened to him. Everyone else who had gone missing in the Forest of Fenris had never been heard from or seen again.
At least Hraban would know he’d been into the forest, he thought dryly. That would be a sure sign when he never came back.
Two of the wargs stopped, but the third kept advancing. Mihai’s eyes were only for the big teeth that were bared: the last thing he would ever see. The thing that would kill him.