Dontarius looked to his right to see a thin man tied to the tree next to him. The rope constricting his chest and belly.
Broken limbs and leaves crunched behind the men followed by a low chant.
“What now,” Dontarius cursed and struggled the loosen the rope. His right foot slipped from a small slab of wood nailed to support his feet.
“I have to find the train. I’m looking for my wife,” Dontarius replied.
“We all have our missions my friend my you are human and you are alive. I wish for you to stay that way. If you faint sleep the followers of Elderon will spare your life a little longer.”
Dontarius placed his right foot back on the stand and waited. The chanting grew louder till small men marched past. The followers of Elderon wore hoods over their heads and marched in columns. The columns were measured and the men stepped in time. The men stopped and stared upward at another human in front of him. Within seconds a spear was thrust upward into several men and the blood was collected in buckets. Another creature stood beside him and suffered the same fate. Dontarius hung his head and feigned sleep just enough to watch the procession. After the men had been drained they were removed from the trees and carried away.
A jab from a spear poked Dontarius’s side but he held quiet. He stared downward within partially closed eyes to see the face of the follower below him. The follower’s face was painted black, He had small pale eyes that hung above the nose. Another follower spoke briskly and the man below him stood forward. The small men then marched forward.
“They are the mirror-keepers.” Said the man next to him after the followers disappeared into the forest. “They capture the unlucky ones trapped by the mirrored pools of water. After the rain they have a glut of victims to go through so our chances are good. I am Jacob and I am with the tribe of Eros. We tend to stay within the mountains but that I am now here.”
“I am Dontarius from Earth or whatever realm you call where I can from.”
“Nice to meet you Dontarius. Now let’s work on freeing ourselves.”
The weight from Dontarius’s chest pulled on his shoulders as he struggled to loosen the ropes. His elbows burned as he twisted. The knot was behind him and just out of reach.
“So crazy monk-like creatures spear men at dawn. What happens at noon, blood tea?” Dontarius said as he paused.
Jacob stared at Dontarius for several, uncomfortable seconds. “Have you had blood tea?”
“Are you serious?”
Jacob smiled. He wiggled his right wing slightly bringing the knot behind him closer. He grabbed the knot and pulled it forward a bit more. Dontarius worked to pull the knot toward him and managed to move it only inches. Jacob wrapped his fingers around the knot and pulled it apart. The rope fell, he pulled his wings forward and fell. His bare feet touched the floor of the forest within seconds. Dontarius watched as Jacob negotiated with himself. He could see through the motion of his eyes that he was thinking.
“I have a knife in a pocket under my skirt.” Jacob wore an opaque brownish skirt and a white button down shirt that was draped loosely over a very, hairy chest.
“You openly admit you are wearing a skirt?”
“Oh, we are well aware of the customs of the living world.” The angelic man smiled broadly and offered Dontarius a small blade with a carved ivory handle. Dontarius worked on the rope that held him to the tree. When the knife tore the last of the tendons holding him, the rope separated, Dontarius grabbed the loose ends and used them to help him to the ground.
Upon the ground Jacob was quite a bit taller than Dontarius. The angelic man stood over him and smiled. “The tribe of Eros huh..” Dontarius began. “Can you get me back on the train so I can find my wife?”
“I am from the tribe of Eros and we have to get out of the forest first. I barely know you human so I’m cannot guarantee you will be alive long enough for me to help you.”
“That’s just awesome.”
Dontarius walked around the thin, winged man and began toward his assumption of the edge of the forest. Jacob followed.
After several hours Dontarius stopped. The forest seemed to circle around.
“You tired yet?” Jacob asked.
“What are you saying?” Dontarius shouted. “Do you know something?”
“You can’t walk out of here.”
“Oh, that’s nice to know after an hour.”
“Stop thinking like a human,” Jacob said as his turned to fit between a pair of trees. “This is an enchanted forest. A world of magic unlike, what did you call it? Earth?”
“Earth logic doesn’t work here. The is a world of puzzles.”
“Ah, and I’m just a dumb human man. I can’t play your stupid magic games!”
“Listen,” Dontarius said as he stepped up to Jacobs thin frame. “I’m not here to play games.”
Dontarius grabbed Jacob’s shirt and held him still. “Tell me how to leave this forest and send me on my way. I don’t want any trouble. I just want to find my wife.”