Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
Deep in the forest a cloaked figure glided past the ancient oak. It traveled silently through the forest searching for something. The setting sun cast long shadows over the trees, further throwing his face into darkness. The only distinguishable feature left by the dying sun was the soft orange light emanating from the folds of his cloak. Although no one knew the source of this light, it seemed to give off a sense of pure magic and joy for those who could obtain it. Stopping briefly to observe the crystalline faces in the pond and to hear the pleading voices of the whispering wind, the figure trudged on towards the twilight, trying to reach some end.
An owl screeched a warning to the nearby village as the figure swept through the forest. Most of the villagers knew to avoid this wandering spirit of the forest, but some of the younger ones were eager for a glimpse of the cloaked figure. A group of teenagers stood near the edge of the forest measuring the courage of each other. One boy named Cedric decided to head out in search of this spirit. He had heard the old story from the village elders. The spirit was said to be one of the ancient druids, entrusted to guard the object hidden beneath its cloak. As to the identity of the object, not even the wisest of the elders knew. The object was guessed to be everything from the heart of magic of the forest, to the source of all knowledge, to immortality. The villagers didn’t go near the forest for fear of the ghosts of those who tried to steal the object and failed. Cedric was determined to steal the object because he had a plan ready by the time the teenagers were huddled at the forest’s edge.
“I am going to steal the wraith’s magic, for I have a plan” he boasted to the audience.
“Well, does your plan involve becoming a ghost of the forest?” shouted James as his friend Nicholas laughed.
As the crowd began to jeer Cedric shouted over their heads, “I can attack the wraith with a sword my father gave me (though truth be told, Cedric stole it while his father was away). It’s powerful enough to control the dead.” The crowd stopped laughing as Cedric pulled out an old iron sword. “A witch spelled it so it can strike fear into the heart of any wraith.”
The crowd watched, horrified as Cedric went into the forest, spelled sword held high. He intended to make a fool of the spirit and claim his prize. Cedric didn’t care for knowledge, he hoped the wandering spirit had gold. Cedric marched along, his greed propelling him forward. As he passed beneath the trees he noticed they seemed to moan and groan like old bones rattling in the wind. The way the trees seemed to sigh made him imagine lost human souls trapped in their branches. Cedric knew he was imagining this as he walked along, ignoring the warning sighs of the wind. He came to a pond and was happy of the chance for a drink. He knelt down to drink when he got a horrible shock: the translucent face of a boy from his village stared back at him. The boy was older than Cedric and had disappeared from the village a year ago. Cedric hopelessly tried to pull him from the water until he realized a ghost was staring back at him. The listless eyes of the ghost seemed to be warning him to turn back. It was too late to go back now.
The immortal wanderer crept up behind the boy at the pond and waited. When Cedric realized the ghost was behind him he stood, brandishing his sword. “I do not fear you wraith”, he shouted, “This sword can harm the dead. Now give me your gold or -“
“What is it that you want?” rattled the hollow sound of death.
Taken aback, Cedric said, “I want that valuable object you’re hiding or else -“
“Take it”, gasped the tired old druid.
Cedric took the object as the withered old man walked off in the direction of the setting sun. The once immortal druid went West until he found an end to his wandering. Cedric, however, now had to guard the object. He started wandering the endless path of the forest, searching for the next greedy fool to come along. Cedric soon learned from the trapped souls of the forest that most who encountered the spirit chose death over the object, knowing they would take the burden of the wanderer if they knew the secret. As far as everyone but the wandering spirit knows, the object is immortality acquired by greed, because Cedric still wanders the forest to this day.