What Lies Beneath?

By Sarah Greenleaf (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Beyond a wooden door hidden in the crest of a hill, a young dwarf sat twiddling his thumbs while scattering the gravel with weightless kicks. This particular dwarf went by the name Rockson. He was more of a coward than your average scaredy cat, which made his father, King Dwarfmaster, very disappointed. Today, he was going to prove the whole kingdom wrong. A meeting was held in the Hall of Legends, so Rockson figured this would be the perfect time to shine. With a sharpened stick in his hand, he tightened his grip and got ready to show his worth. On the count of three, he leaped out to surprise the others.

“Good god, don’t ever do that, kid.” a dwarf spoke from the crowd. Insults were thrown at him from across the room including,“You’re such a buffoon. A loser to your entire family.” Rockson’s face was so wet with tears, you would think he dunked his face in the ocean. His father came to his rescue, ordering everyone out of the room. The king looked down at his feet, his hands clenched in fists.

“What were you thinking?” his father spoke, gritting his teeth.

“I-I’m sorry father, I just wanted people to be proud of me,” Rockson stuttered. He wiped the tears from his face and looked up at his father. “I just wanted you to be proud.”

“Well son, I’m sorry, but now I’m even angrier,” he admitted, looking into his son’s teary eyes.

“If you want to prove yourself, then I order you to go to the Sinister Forest and bring me back the head of the Dark Creature,” his father exclaimed. Rockson knew who this was, one of the most feared creatures in the east. Rockson thought about this quest for a minute, and then nodded his head.

“I accept the quest, Father,” he said.

“You better make me proud, or I will not hesitate to banish you,” he threatened. Rockson gulped nervously and quickly ran back to this room to gather his necessities. Rockson exited the door, and headed down the trail.

After thirty minutes, he finally made it to a corner. With a sigh of relief, he hummed down the trail and made his way to the forest. Goosebumps arose onto his skin, causing him to shiver. Rockson slid his sword out of its holder, and got ready to attack anything in his way. A rustle erupted from the bushes in front of him, causing Rockson to jolt and slip on the mud. He fell down with a thud. Then, a deer leaped from the bushes over his head and left Rockson to lay in pain.

“Ugh, stupid deer.” Rockson groaned. A throbbing pulse came from his abdomen, causing him to squirm in agony. Lifting his jacket, he saw a stick jabbed into his stomach. A scream of pain was fighting to come out, but Rockson knew if he did, the creatures would come to tear him to shreds. He breathed heavily in and out, gripping his hand around the stick. He had only one choice if he were to continue, and that was to rip out the stick.

“Okay Rockson, you can do this, on the count of three,” he reassured himself.

“One,” he said. His grip became tighter around the end of the stick.

“Two,” he counted. His other hand picked up a rag from his pack, and shoved it in his mouth.

“Three.” He screamed. Rockson yanked the stick out, a ripping pain running up his stomach. Tears brimmed in his eyes, his face scrunching up from the pain and multiple groans erupted from his mouth. He quickly grabbed the rag from his mouth and placed it over the wound. All of a sudden, Rockson’s vision went blurry, and the world before him faded black.

 

Rockson woke up in a hut with incense filling his nostrils. He coughed and then a lady appeared from behind a screen.

“Hello there,” the lady greeted. She brought over a cup filled with fresh water.

“Drink up, you have a long way ahead of you,” she reminded him. He abruptly got out of bed, but a stabbing pulse in his stomach made him fall back.

“Be careful with that wound of yours, it still needs time to heal,” she told him.

“Well, how much time?” Rockson asked.

“Three days,” she replied.

“Three days!” he shouted in disbelief.

“Well you can’t defeat the Dark Creature in your state. You’d be dead before you could even scratch him” she stated. He sighed in annoyance, hoping that if he rested enough, he’d be better by tomorrow. Rockson laid his head on the pillow and rested his eyes for the troublesome days to come.

 

When he woke again, his stomach still felt sore, but he got up to get used to his surroundings. He peeked through the screen from where Penny had went. He saw her talking to a man, but he was much taller and muscular, with sideburns bigger than the moon.

“Listen, I don’t care if he’s innocent. I saw him in the Sinister Forest,” the man said.

“But he’s injured, Sarge. You can’t go in there and execute him,” Penny exclaimed with anger.

“Maybe he shouldn’t have been trying to kill me,” the man named Sarge shouted. He left in a flash and Penny started pacing around the room, while anxiously biting her fingernails. Without thinking twice, Rockson vaulted over the bed and barreled through the door. He winced from the pain in his stomach and fell down the stairs. Pushing up with his arms, he got back to his feet, and clutched his wound. Rockson ran into the thick of the woods, and he climbed into a tree hole to wait out the night.

 

In the morning, Rockson awoke to his stomach growling. While starting the fire, he scanned the area to see if any creatures lay nearby for him to devour. In the brush, he spotted a rabbit. Taking his sword in hand, he threw it towards the rabbit and claimed his meal. After cooking, his stomach continued to growl. “Huh, that’s strange. I just ate minutes ago.” Rockson exclaimed. However, it seemed that the noise had come from something behind him. He turned to see that a towering wolf-like creature stood over him.

“The Dark Creature.” Rockson mumbled.

“Why yes indeed it is I, the Dark Creature,” the Dark Creature stated. “Unfortunately, I think we both know where this leads to.”

“I guess so, but I’m almost certain I will be taking your head home.” Rockson said.

“Ha ha, I guess we’ll see little one,” the Dark Creature chuckled. The Dark Creature unsheathed his claws and snarled allowing the drool in his snout to drip to the mossy ground. They both intensely stared at one another, before Rockson lunged from his position and thrusted his sword at the creature’s stomach. The Dark Creature gripped the sword before it impacted and threw it to the ground with a supernatural force.

“Oh, it seems you have to fight unarmed now. How unfortunate.” the Dark Creature taunted.

Rockson bared his own snaggled teeth and sprinted towards the creature. The creature effortlessly put out his hand and casually gripped it onto Rockson’s head. Rockson now being frustrated thought of the only way to escape his grip. With all of his force, he stomped his foot down onto the creature’s foot. Howling in pain, the Dark Creature fell back on the ground causing the ground to shake. Rockson reacquired his sword, and kneeled over his prize.

“Oh, it seems you have to have your head sliced off. How unfortunate.” Rockson mocked him. He jabbed his sword into the creature’s neck, and began slowly cutting through the flesh.

“Just….tell….them……I’m……sorry for…..being…..me.” the Dark Creature coughed. The Dark Creature heaved in and out before taking his finals breaths of life.

“Well, I’m sorry, too,” Rockson sighed.

Placing the wolf-like creature’s head in his pack, he headed back to his kingdom to be honored with celebration., even if he felt the weight of guilt resting on his shoulders.

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Children Explore the Woods at Nature Summer Camp

This reflection from Martha L. Moore, Tyler Arboretum’s Youth Education Coordinator, details the experiences of young campers exploring the woods during Tyler’s recent “Nature Summer Camp.”

The camp children were so excited to take me to the door today. They swore to me they found a key that opened the door with Ms. Diana! I couldn’t contain their enthusiasm as we passed the troll bridge and played “Troll says!” They wanted to show me all the houses Tyler built for the trolls, gnomes and other mystical creatures to live in peace and harmony with the humans. 

As we were walking they were regaling me about the wonderful fairy that lives behind the door. She answered all of there questions about the magical, mystical world of Tyler Arboretum. She was telling the campers how happy all of her fairy friends were that we did this for them. When we finally arrived there WAS a key on top of the mailbox in the shape of a deer rib. I explained to the campers it was that shape so no one would recognize it. They tried using the key today, but to no avail. We could not open the door. One of my campers named Victoria told me she peered in the window of the door and she saw the inside was lit with crystals and there was crystals covering the walls! Oh how magical… I told the camper they will have to come back again and again to see if they could find the real key. It could be a twig, leaf, or tiny stone hidden in the surroundings just waiting for the right person to open the door.