Chapter Ten - Oaktooth

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DANIELLE AND JESSICA SKIRTED THE EDGE OF THE WOODLANDS and then cut across the meadow. Ahead of them, somewhere in the swirling grey mist, lay a thick tangle of brambles. Hunkered down among its thorny stems, protected from the outside world, stood a tree. But this was no ordinary tree. The Elves called it the Whispering Tree and told of how it was written about in their earliest histories.

At the beginning of the Age of Faerie when the great forest had spread its roots across the land, it was there. It had seen the coming of Mankind into the world and the disappearance of the Faerie races. Gradually the natural forests disappeared, cut down and destroyed in Man's unrelenting march towards so-called civilization. Now those ancient untamed forests had dwindled to small pockets of woodland. Somehow the Whispering Tree survived all the devastation. It lived a long lonely existence, maintaining a faltering contact with others through its withering root systems and the magical energies that flowed beneath the earth.

'He should be down here somewhere,' Danielle said softly.

Around them, the grey skeletal trunks and branches of fruit trees loomed through the mist.

'This is the orchard,' Jessica replied. 'Should be just on the other side.'

Leaving the trees behind they saw a dark bulk of vegetation rearing up from the meadow. Danielle pointed and they sprinted across the dew-soaked grass.

Once she discovered that the portal between the two worlds had disappeared Danielle worried how they were going to find George. She knew that he had made it through and was now trapped in Ellyonia.

But why close the portal?

Whatever was going on must have something to do with the demon George had mentioned. Maybe the tree could throw some light on the problem and she hoped that it knew of another way for them to enter the Elven lands.

The sisters reached the thicket and quickly set about finding a way through the mass of twisted bramble stems.

'Here,' Jessica said pointing to a thin trail that led into the vegetation.

Danielle quickly pushed through. Thorny brambles reached out for her and Jessica snagging at their hair and cloaks.

Then they were through.

The air was thick with the smell of damp and rotting vegetation. A carpet of moss, dripping with moisture, covered almost everything. Beneath a thin layer of mist that seemed to cling to her ankles the ground felt soft and spongy.

In the centre, on a small earthen mound, the tree slumbered.

Danielle gave a cough. 'Excuse me Mr. Oaktooth,' she said quietly.

The tree did not move just continued to wheeze gently.

She tried again, this time, a little louder.

Still it did not stir.

'This is useless,' Jessica said looking around. She spied a piece of broken branch sticking up through the low mist.

Grabbing it she threw it at the tree. It slammed into the trunk with a satisfying thwack.

The tree groaned. Its branches twisted and shook showering the girls with drops of water and dead leaves. A deep sucking and squelching came from beneath the mist as its roots writhed and heaved in the pools of stagnant water that lay there.

From deep within the trunk a deep voice resonated.

'Who dares?'

Bark slithered and one dark eye slit cracked opened. From deep inside a spark of light regarded the sisters.

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