Hole in the Forest


Photo © Eric Wicklund

I picked my way through the ferns, trying to step where Neyvan had, but he left no footprints on the moss.  Odd, how a man his age could walk so nimbly, never trampling a plant.

“Boy, if you stare at your feet, you’ll never find the hole.”  His voice was the soft patter of rain.

My foot snapped a twig.  “Couldn’t it be in the ground?”

“There’s a hole in the forest where old hope holds true.”  Neyvan recited the phrase for the hundredth time that day, cradling it like a talisman.  “Hm, could be.”

It was from the children’s rhyme, of course.  He’d said the rest was nonsense, but that line was ancient, magic. “How do you know that part’s real?”

“Asking questions, that’s good.”  He stroked a fir tree’s bark, gazing at its crown.  “A nebyn knows.”

His acorn necklace rattled when he moved.  One day I’d earn my own.  Not soon, I hoped.

“Does a nebyn know how this hole will defeat the White Pestilence?”

Neyvan’s eyes clouded. “Whatever happens, you stand back.”

That’s when I realized what he would sacrifice to end the plague.  “I will tell the tale.”

He nodded and turned, resuming the search.

Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Thanks to Al Forbes for hosting, and to Eric for providing such a fascinating photo prompt!  Click the link to read the other stories inspired by this photo, and to post your own.

For more about Neyvan, see Wayward Woods.  For more about being a nebyn, and what the White Pestilence is all about, see A Curse Afield.  Sorry bout the confusing similarity with the names.  If I’d realized Neyvan was a nebyn when I wrote that first story, I’d have chosen a different name for him!

The rest of the children’s rhyme:

There’s a hole in the forest where old hope holds true
There’s a hut in the forest where black becomes blue
There’s a nut in the forest that turns dead things new
There’s a gnoll in the forest and it’s coming for you

There’s a hole in the forest where the magic leaks in
You can drink it like blood, if you grant it your sin
If you chant the last word, if you cant to the spin
Through the hole in your heart will the magic leak in


21 thoughts on “Hole in the Forest

  1. Couple observations on this. One, the child’s rhyme reminds me of what Robert Plant did with “Stairway to Heaven.” I’ve been mulling on that song, picking the tea leaves apart, for the past couple days…the sometimes sense there’s some ultra-meaning in things, meant for just you.
    Second observation, in your writing and story-telling, is the “quiet” and focus you bring in immediately. Like, such restraint and focus on the details! It reminds me of the story you told I liked most, about an old witch-like woman though I can’t remember details…it was the first time I was ‘arrested’ by your writing style. There’s a crossroads of poetry and storytelling you’ve come upon here, or brought us, in the sparseness..I love it. Not just saying that, either. I don’t “just say!” Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill, I really appreciate such a detailed and thoughtful comment. I often read about how we’re supposed to work on our “authorial voice” and our “style.” But I find it hard to see that in my own work. It’s not something I’m deliberately aiming for; some ideas seem more “Eneana” to me, and then I keep editing until it feels “right.” So it’s very informative to hear how my writing comes across to other people

      Of course, the sparseness is required by the incredibly short word counts. I keep hoping that all this practice at writing stories at 200 or even 100 words at a crack will filter into greater brevity in my longer pieces, but I’m not seeing a huge difference yet.

      I searched for what story you meant. It turns out I write a lot of stories about witches/wizards, but I think you might be thinking about this one: https://talesofeneana.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/impish-impulse/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Most cool! It’s amazing how you put so much culture, lore, and myth in such a tiny story. The Nebyn are obviously Druids of some sort. I like how I can know this without you saying so. It’s testimony to good writing. I enjoyed the bit about his acorn necklace. I don’t know why, it just stands out for me. Beautiful story. I loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Eric, glad you enjoyed it! I really like the acorn necklace too. I invented that for “A Curse Afield” and now I want to keep finding ways to mention it. Funny, I didn’t even think about the Druid connection, but I see what you mean. There are Druids in my world and they’re not the same as Nebyn, but there’s a lot of overlap in their spell sets. Nebyn is primarily a god of healing, whose followers direct this toward plants and animals, both in the wild and on farms. Whereas the Druids… are a mystery for another day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is strange, for when reading this I thought of an Nordic shaman and his disciple. Perhaps it was the fir tree and the word white, what ever I always seem to enjoy your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The region they’re in isn’t quite cold enough to be considered Nordic, but I can definitely see some similarities, especially with the shaman/disciple relationship. I’m glad you enjoyed it — thanks for the nice comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This reminds me somewhat of Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, or rather the first of the Three Lives which are an appendix to that magnificent, wondrous book.
    So pretty good, is what I am trying to say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reading — glad you enjoyed it! I appreciate the compliment, although I can’t completely understand it, having not read your reference. I suspect I should put that on my list…?


    • Thanks Neel, I’m glad you think so! I do like to hope that I am getting a little better over time, with all this practice and with paying attention to what seems to work so well (and not) for other people. So it’s nice to hear it seems that way from the outside.


  5. Another gripping scene that kept me intrigued to the last sentence. The realisation of how Neyvan intended to defeat the White Pestilence works so well at the end. Is she (he?) ready for her acorn necklace?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Millie! My thought was that Neyvan believes the “hole in the forest” is a source of great magical power, and that he plans to try to channel it to cure the curse that has been laid over the land. Even though Neyvan is very experienced, wise, and powerful himself, it’s likely that this will be so much power that it will kill him. He doesn’t want the narrator (and I never decided if they were male or female, hm) to try to intervene, because they would surely also die, and uselessly. Instead, he wants them to take the story back to the temple, so Neyvan’s colleagues know what he tried and whether it worked. And no, no acorn necklace yet, although this is probably a good next step.


  6. Oh, I love your folkloric details! Every old poem, rhyme and myth from Eneana rings so tue, I almost believe they’re hundreds of years old. Neyvan is brave, I’ll give him that. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to sacrifice anything else along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so flattered that you would say that, Lynn, thank you. It’s immensely gratifying to feel like what I’m trying to do is actually coming out right on the other side. For Neyvan… Well, I’m not sure he’ll survive the encounter, but he’s willing to take that risk, if it means ridding his beloved land of this horrible curse.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I try to write the stories so that they stand alone for new readers, but that people who know the world more will get a bit more out of them. Thanks so much for reading, Suzanne, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • We don’t know whether Neyvan will definitely die if he tries to channel the energy from the hole in the forest, but he’s willing to, if that’s what it takes to make it work. If he does, the kid is the only one who can tell the other what happened.

      Liked by 1 person

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