Giving Directions

Up on second mountain, beyond first mountain, we are warned to stay out of the forest. Why, we ask; well, it’s complicated. Witches there, but they’re not the problem, though they’re a surly bunch. Not cruel, mind, but insular; self-sufficient. Worse, they’re inquisitive, you’re not like to get away from them without decanting your whole life’s story into their varied ears. Lose a whole day, that way, or a week, if you’ve the bad luck to meet a group of ’em all at once. Best avoided, unless you’re looking for ’em particular, of course. Nice enough, but like feral cats, better appreciated from a distance.

Deeper in, well, it’s a tangled place, all blackberries and scrub, you’ll lose more skin than it’s worth to push through. Blackberries are a blight, a settler plant that went rogue a century back and hasn’t been purged out, not since the fires got outlawed. Nowadays it’s a powder keg. Hasn’t been a year in a decade where summer hasn’t brought choking smoke from one fire or another, and often both. Dangerous to get caught in.

Course even if you do push through all of that, what’ll you find except the center, a long rolling lawn with a manor house at the end, and, why, if you’ve seen that it’s already too late. Nobody climbs up that lawn who sets foot on it, neither tourists nor townies nor witches. What’s at the bottom? Couldn’t tell you. Best left alone, whatever it is. Don’t bother it, won’t bother you; you could ask for worse neighbors.