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