The Forest's Snare
Some people seem to have a knack for finding strange things; strange things always seem to find Zane Legends. In fact, at the present moment, strange things seemed to be all around. The world itself was strange. It was not often that Zane wandered far from a city or town, but tonight was one of those times. He didn't much care for sleeping outside; too many slimy things that can crawl into your blankets- especially in a place like this.
I have never seen a forest like this one, he thought to himself. The whole place seems alive.
He walked down what he thought used to be a path of some sort. It meandered through the mangled trees. It was the trees that made this place so strange. So twisted, and so dark with tentacle-like branches that hung low- as if they were the fingers of the forest reaching out to touch the lonesome travelers and pull them deeper into the darkest parts of the wilderness.
The shrill cry of some animal being caught for supper was the only thing that told him that he was not alone in this place (a thought that he wasn't sure if he liked). His soft soled leather boots sloshed on the damp ground. No river was to be seen anywhere near, but the soil grew damper with each step- as if the water were coming from the ground itself.
Is everything in this place reaching out to grab at me? I feel as though I were a sausage on a stick waiting to be devoured! ....I wonder if this is even a trail. The real thought that he was too afraid to even think out loud was: Where exactly is this trail taking me? And then it happened, as though that thought were the trigger to the trap the forest had been waiting to spring. From just beneath the damp soil a net sprung into the air- surrounding Zane and hoisting him into the air. "Oh bloody sauss. . . .!" His curse was cut of by the stringy rope pushing against his face.
"Who would put this net in the trail? What are they expecting to find here?" Zane asked out loud. And then, as if the world were there to supply all the answers- a voice rang out in the silence:
"Well I wasn' spectin' to find sumfin' is ugly is you aw!" Zane tried to turn around, but this proved difficult while hanging in mid-air. So he settled for craning his neck to one side, but when he saw who had said that, he wished his neck hadn't stuck in that position. It was what appeared to be a man. A man who was draped in animal skins, though from what animal Zane couldn't say. It was also hard to tell where the animal skins stopped and the man's oily hairy self started. At first glance it appeared that his raspy old voice didn't quite match his body, but then after a closer look (a lot closer of a look than Zane had wanted) the man showed all of his years in the wrinkles that spread across his dangy face.
The old man walked right up to him until their noses were almost touching. "You got a bit of a birds beak to ya," the old man said. Zane had always been a little self-conscious about his slightly large nose. The fact that this old codger picked that to talk about made Zane feel more ridiculous than he looked. . . .on second thought, that might not be possible.
"I bet you can smell a Dange cat 10 leagues off wid dat snout!" The man almost lost his footing he was laughing so hard- a laugh that sounded more like a witch's cackle, but turned more into a wheezing dog.
"Well I can sure smell you," Zane said- as he tried to straighten himself a bit to regain a small amount of composure- a vain attempt. "Who are you anyway? And will you get me down from here?
The old man's wheezing stopped. Zane only saw the knife for a split second as it flashed through the air and back into the old man's belt in a single breath, and before he knew was going on he was on the ground with the breath knocked out of him. Now it was his turn to wheeze. While he caught his breath the old man stood above him, staring him down.
"Da name's Kanger. And you boy? Where'd you com from? You some sort o' lost soldier? That scar you got there looks like a shriveled mandrake root- dat from some sotra battle?"
Zane barely had enough time for all of the man's questions to register, let alone to try and answer one. "Kanger. . . . well, I came from that way," he said as he shot a backwards glance. "I'm no soldier, and this scar, well that's a bizarre story. You see this one day I just felt like. . . "
"Yeah yeah," Kanger mumbled. "Knew you wasn' any soldier, not with that mouth. You wouldn' survive youse own troops, let alone som one eles'."
Zane decided to ignore most of what this man said. "So what are you doing out here anyway?"
"What do ya think boy! I'm a trapper. I trap 'em and sell 'em. That's da game."
"Well sorry to have wasted your net here," Zane said- rubbing his bottom he suddenly didn't feel very sorry at all.
"Who says it's wasted? Kanger's grin looked like a tiger's might just before he pounced. "Why do ya think I put me net in the middle o' da path man, think! Lot's o' men come wanderin' through deeze parts with purses fat- ready for long journeys. Man skins might be a bit lackin' in the hair but the meat's still good." The man actually licked his lips and faught to hold back a snarl.
It took a minute for what the old man was saying to register, but when it did it didn't take very long for Zane to react. Kanger was slowly reaching for his belt knife again, but before his fingertips touched it Zane lashed out. He couldn't do much from his precarious position on the ground, but he kicked as hard as he could and the old man flew back against one of the old swirly trees. Before he had time to catch his breath and fight of the grasping branches that now surrounded him Zane had bounced to his feet (it's strange how agile the body can become when you think you might be dinner). He sprinted as fast as he could in the direction the path was taking him earlier- deeper into the forest. He ran and ran, not even looking back to see if the old man was breathing.
When Kanger finally lifted himself off the roots of the tree and unhooked the branches that had latched onto his clothes- he couldn't help but smile. By da way dat boy was runnin', the fool actually thought I would gut 'em meself! Oh well. . . . Guess I will jus let dem wild Mange cats do it for me. Kanger chuckled to himself as he re-set his trap back on the forest tiger's hunting path. Hope dis time the dang contraption catches me a real cat 'stead of some gutless kitten.