Some villagers kept their reason and calm, blaming the last few day’s events on a run of bad luck. But, for the majority, there could have been any number of things to blame, orcs, goblins, witchcraft, daemons or elves to name but a few. The list went on, more than half the village was in arms. Men and women were armed with bows, short swords, spears, maces, cudgels, a vast array of weapons, some were mounted, some had their hunting hounds, it was as if they had a been summoned to arms and were going to war. “I tell you” grumbled one heavily armored old dwarf, “its orcs, there is an orc war band in them woods. It will be like the old days, war again”. He looked mighty in his splendor this dwarf, a square open cheeked helmet that had plates to cover the back of his neck, his long thick white beard had iron rings tied into it, a chainmail hauberk, and he had leather boots with steel plates to cover his shins. He had a long hammer, half the size of himself, one end was fat with a round flat end, ideal for crushing bones, and the other end had a long nasty steel spike, perfect for piercing plate armor or thick leather. He looked like a lord of war, and he was, a veteran of the wars far to the western mountains between the dwarfs and orcs, the villagers were glad to have him onside, for more and more were believing him about the orcs, and having a veteran of the old wars with them was a mighty comfort. His name was Thorak , he had been in the village for many years, hoping to find a peaceful retirement after a few hundred years of fighting. Dwarfs live for up to four hundred years, and Thirak was no exception, he was already three hundred and fifty-two. He was about to come out of his retirement it would seem. The plan, orchestrated by Thorak, was simple, move in an extended line through the wood, from east to west, keep hounds on a lead till the orcs, or whatever it was were sighted, then slip the hounds and charge, the mounted riders would wait on the western side of the wood in the meadow and cut down any who attempted to flee. It was a fine plan, a plan made for flushing out enemy skirmishing parties in time of war, but this was no war, otherwise things may have panned out in the villagers favor. The main party of villagers set off in a line through the woodland, it was now late afternoon, and there were still many hours of daylight for the search. The wood was overgrown, consisting of mainly oak trees, honey suckle bushes grew to gigantic sizes, wild Buddleia and foxgloves reached colossal sizes, trying to reach up to the sun, to feel its warmth. As they got deeper the flowers died away, only a few measly specimens remained, the floor that was bare began to thicken with damp grass and moss, giant red mushrooms grew, a stream with many little creeks running off it cut up the damp ground, the moss was hanging into the fast running waters. Fern plants were scattered about in clusters. The warm inviting smell of the honey suckle was replaced with a cold damp earth like smell. There was an uncomforting closeness to this part of the wood. The hounds that were once chewing at the bit to be slipped off the leash were now very reserved, some whimpered, tucked their tails between their legs and hid behind their masters. “We know you are here” screamed thirak, to no one, but he felt something was here. “Come out, and bring us young Cassie, all will be forgiven, otherwise, I shall take your head”, the typical blunt way of dwarf talk. No answer, just the steady sound of the stream trickling away. He stood there in silence, by now all the search party, minus the riders in the meadow had closed in to the central location. Hounds whimpered, men and women grumbled about it being dinner time. Suddenly the moans were silenced by the laughing of a girl through the ferns, not far away. “Cassie” said Rowan, Cassies older brother, he ran through the ferns to the laughing that had now turned into a soft gloomy humming, “cassie, cassie, cassie” he yelled as he ran, followed closely by thirak who was very fast for an armored dwarf, and the others close behind. Most of the hounds refused to follow, they dug their feet flat to the ground and refused to move, some even snarling at their masters efforts to drag them. When Thorak reached Rowan he was standing still in a small glade, staring at a huge oak tree that was at the heart of the woodland glade. “A door, she went in the door, a door in the tree, the forest man took her, him, him and his fairies, and they took her”. Thorak had a look at the tree, it was huge, its trunk vast, there was on the side facing Rowan, a concave feature on the tree, however it was not hollow, it was simply an effect of nature. Thorak noticed a large rock by the concave on the tree, the rock had no moss on it, no debris, and the surface of it was smooth, as if it had been polished. Thorak stared at the stone, then to the tree, then back to the stone and finally to rowan. He knew something was amiss.
Well I must say, this remembering everything I once knew as if it was fresh in my mind yesterday really does take it out of me. I’m sure I have missed some parts of this tale so far, but I am not the gnome I was, my memory is lacking somewhat. And I am tiring very easily. I think, before I carry on, I will take a small nap. I shall re stoke the fire and have a snooze, hopefully when I awake my mind will be fresh again. There really is nothing like a nap to refresh the senses. Please, before the tale continues, allow me to enlighten you on another of the strange places in this realm, the netherworld. The netherworld is a place of intrigue, beauty, trickery, and evil. Those who prey on the souls of mortals reside there, imps, fairies (of the less friendly kind), gremlins and such like. Here is a place of ancient magic, a place where they can plot their schemes, toy with the mortals they have lured into their world of terror. I have seen the netherworld, but I can tell you it is a place of beauty, to the untrained eye, it appears as a haven, a huge underground cavern, accessible from netherdoors, located all over the realms. A clear lake at the bottom, huge natural rock bridges cross over each other, leading to the netherdoors, the very walls glisten like sparkling gold and glowing mushrooms. But the eye trained to such magic it is a cavern of death and torture, souls are trapped in chasms, and the netherdwellers slowly drink the souls of the poor fools trapped there, enhancing their magic and power by doing so. Cassie was doomed forever.
Thorak sat in his hut smoking on his long pipe, alone, his doors locked and bolted, he knew what lurked in that wood, he had seen it’s like before. He knew it was a door to the netherworld, he knew that Cassie was gone, he knew what evil could pour from it. What’s worse is that another three children had gone missing in as many days. He knew not what was taking them away, but it was pure evil. As he sat there he heard it, the squall that had stared to haunt them at night, it came from the woods, a terrible squall that was sounding more and more enraged, and almost desperate. As if it was yearning for something it could not find. That night Thorak went to the house of Edward and Anthony, he called for them to aid him, to go to the woods and find whatever creature this was. They wore no armor, just leather and a large cape each to keep out the cold, for this night was unusually chilly for a summer’s eve. They had only a short sword each, they were not intending to fight, merely to investigate. Slowly the three companions entered the wood, it was still, owls hooted, scurrying creatures rustled along the woodland floor, a fox barked, its bark echoing unnerving in the trees. Twigs snapped under foot, they walked slowly, so as not to scare away what was making the noise. Soon, as they approached the center of the wood, where the dampness could be smelt, where the stream trickled silently in the stillness of the night, there was, as best they could make out, an angry sobbing sound. There would be a squall, then a violent sob, like someone or something crying with a maddened rage. Edward and Anthony froze with fear, it was a bizarre sound, and it stole their courage. The two brothers felt sick with fear, they were no cowards, but this sound was unusual to them, thorak had fought orcs and many other strange creatures, he was more accustomed to the ghoulish creatures of the night. He waved them on, the two brothers glanced at each other then moved on up to their companion. They all got down low behind a bush, they peered over it into the clearing by the oak where the sounds were coming from, and there they saw it, enraged and sobbing. It was a pixie, a green pixie, it looked like a small green man…… it sat upon its rock, cross-legged. The moon light shone down bright, illuminating the green creature. To you I’m guessing pixie’s are small winged creatures, much like a fairy, maybe a bit taller, they play tricks that inconvenience people but cause no real harm. Well, real pixies are truly evil, they are about the height of a grown man’s leg, they have green skin and pointy features, large ears, skinny legs and arms. They don’t wear clothing a lot, but if they happen to find an item of children’s clothing that fits them they will wear it, but normally they weave oak leaves about themselves so as not to be seen, unless they are in the netherworld where all are naked without the restraints of clothing. They have razor-sharp teeth and long sharp nails, they are very learned in the arts of magic, as they live with fairies. Now pixie trickery is a thing not to be taken lightly, they do play tricks on mortals for their own amusement, but an angry pixie is a creature not to be crossed, they will steal, kidnap and kill, kill in any brutal way they can, and if things do not go in their favor there will be all hell to pay. They are pure evil, and very rarely seen, even in this realm they are commonly considered a myth due to the fact that they are never seen, or rather very rarely, they are often referred to as green men, or the green man when one is known to dwell in a certain area. As they watched him, they all felt a cold shiver creep up their spines, they knew now what had happened to the missing children, what had killed all the sheep and set the pyre alight, what had been the cause of all the disruption in the village, it was this wailing pixie that sat before them, cross legged on his rock in the moonlight. Suddenly he violently jerked his head back, and screamed in an unearthly voice, “my drink” was the only word they could make out from the droning babble. Then there was a cracking sound from the oak tree, a bright light shone out of it, illuminating the faces of the three hidden behind the bush, out of the tree came a dozen or so fairies, they were smaller than the normal fairy types, the size of large butterfly’s, they appeared to be glowing yellow. They surrounded the pixie, flew about him, the fairies were covering him in golden dust that seemed to appear from nowhere. It was as if they were enticing him to come back, to the netherworld guessed thorak, finally the pixie stood and hopped and skipped with the fairy’s, he danced his way back towards the tree and into it, there was the crack noise, and he was gone. The night air returned to its calm stillness , the owls hooted and mice scurried in the undergrowth, avoiding the owls gaze. Thorak, Edward and Anthony all looked at each other, aghast at what they had seen, the two brothers were unsure what it was, but thorak had no doubt in his mind what so ever. A pixie, of all the things, he was wishing now that is was an orc war band, at least the solution would be simple, but a pixie was far from a simple solution strong magic was needed to solve this problem. As they walked back to the village they discussed the night’s discoveries, “well what’s the problem thorak” asked Edward in an amused manner, “it’s merely just a thin green little man”. “Yes” said Anthony, agreeing with his brother “let’s go back and have its head off, let the crows peck out its eyes and burn its body to ash”. Thorak stopped, his worried face now turned to an angry one “because, you two fools, that thing is a pixie, a creature from the netherworld, it is trained by the fairy’s, it lives with them and all manner of creatures knowledgeable in magic, it merely has to look at you, rub its fingers and you will be turned into mush”. “I bid you good night…… and good luck”, with that thorak stormed off to his cottage, the two brothers stared at each other for a while, then also retired to the safety of their beds, but neither slept that night.