Darkness cloaked the company of soldiers. They marched slowly, swords hilts clutched. The forest loomed several yards ahead. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the soldiers in Sir Harold’s company were brave, but even they were uneasy as they approached the Ctygian Forest. Rumors of wild men and murderous wood nymphs were heavy in reference to it.
“Halt, men. As we enter the forest I plead that you will keep your wits. Any man that breaks and runs for any reason will be charged with treason,” declared Sir Harold. “Now, advance. Or would you have our borderlands overtaken when their relief forces never come?”
The company trudged forward and strode past the tree line. An owl hooted in a far-off tree, the sound enough to send a shiver up the weaker-willed men. Marching became far more difficult as few moonbeams could penetrate the thick, leafy ceiling. More than a few men walked into trees, but no injuries resulted. The monotonous pace continued as they made more progress in their trek through the woodland. Droopy eyes blinked and many men stumbled, but very few faltered. After a period of time that no one could accurately measure, Sir Horace gave the command to remove their bedrolls from their backs and lie down. Five of the one hundred men were posted as guards for the first watch. Each watch was predetermined, and all were short. Several hours slipped by in silence.
The fourteenth watch was awakened for their duties. A slight breeze whistled through the trees, but all seemed well. The men stood at five roughly-spaced points with sword drawn and helm worn. The rightmost soldier heard light rustlings in a nearby bush. A squirrel leapt out, crushing the ill feelings from the ominous noise. He averted his eyes for a moment to look in the direction they had come from. Then it got even darker, perilously black.
A war-cry rang out as an unknown multitude of crude men charged at sleeping soldiers. With clubs, spears, and axes many were cut down before they could unsheathe their weapons. When every last man was slaughtered, the unseen warriors, in truth mere apparitions, disappeared. The rumors were nearly true. The Ctygian Forest claimed many and the unworldly entity that lived within its borders was satisfied, at least for a while…