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Shadow Forest

Tranquility has returned to Greylock Manor, but their peace is soon broken by the arrival of another unexpected guest.

The spirit of the forest that covers Wolf Mountain pays them a visit and accuses Greylock of breaking their pact made long ago. In order to renew the bonds he must face the three trials he once overcame, but time and wear have taken their toll.

Alex knows this, and with Chris at her side she ventures after him as he makes his way to the location of the trials. The trouble starts at the first trial, and Greylock falls to his opponent. Stricken by more than just his grievous wounds, Greylock is unable to complete the trials. With no other option, all the pack members offer to take his place.

The spirit of the woods makes its choice, and Alex will be their champion. Chris pleads to help her, and the spirit agrees to have both of them face the trials. The catch, however, is they must face a fourth challenge, one that tests their bond. Win, and they confront its tests. Fail, and Alex must face the trials alone in the heart of darkness.

Unfortunately, one more player presents themselves at the trials, a player more formidable than they’ve ever faced. Together with their friends, Chris and Alex find themselves facing not only a threat on the entire forest, but their very lives.

Excerpt:

Secrets have a way of worming their way to the surface, no matter how long they’ve been buried. Other times they arrive on your doorstep covered in a shroud of lies.
Greylock’s secret came in both forms.
I awoke that day to a dark and stormy sky. The patter of rain entertained me as I slipped into my clothes, though I paused long enough to glance at the bed where a large lump was nestled underneath the covers. Chris’ dark hair stuck out of the top like a horror wig.
I contained my snort and slipped out of the room. The hallway was covered in shadows and my feet seemed especially loud as I made my way downstairs. A fire burned in the hearth to ward off both the shadows and the chill. It didn’t really do much for either as I stopped in front of the mantel and stretched out my cold hands.
“The joys of living in the mountains. . .” I murmured as I glanced out the window.

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A heavy fog surrounded the manor and cast everything ten feet beyond the building in a soft, floating mist that glided around us like ghosts. Except for the ticking of the clock in the living room, all was as quiet as the grave.
I shivered and wrapped my arms around myself. “Do you have to do that to yourself, Alex? Couldn’t you just have imagined cotton candy balls floating out there?”
That’s when I noticed something outside that wasn’t mist or cotton candy balls. Some dark shape flitted about the edges of the mist, moving in and out of focus. I walked up to the giant window and squinted through the glass. Whatever it was stood a little shorter than Chris and seemed to wear some sort of black outfit.
I blinked, and it stood just on the other side of the glass.
I screamed and stumbled back. The back of one of the chairs caught me and I clutched onto the sides as the creature remained like a statue facing me. It wore a black cloak that covered every inch of its body, and the hood hid its face in the depths of shadows.
Footsteps from all over the manor hurried to me, and Bonnie and Duncan were the first to reach me. They slowed a little to gape at the hooded figure. Bonnie clasped my arms as Duncan moved to stand a little head and to our side.
He cast a quick look over his shoulder at me while keeping one eye on the fiend. “What is it?”
I shook my head. “I-I don’t know.”
“Chris!” The shout came from Chris as he raced downstairs with only his pants on and his shirt clutched in his hand. He rushed over, and looked me up and down. “What happened?” He noticed where we all looked and frowned. “Who the hell is that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but I know it’s not my fairy godmother.”
Duncan took another step toward the window. “Who are you? What do you want?” The figure didn’t so much as twitch.
Bonnie’s face showed confusion as well as anger. “How could anyone get onto the grounds without our permission?”
“Because they do not need permission.”
The reply came from Greylock as he limped out of the central downstairs hall. His full attention lay on the figure as he stopped beside our group. He clasped his hands over his cane and leaned heavy on it as he studied our ‘guest,’ as welcome as our last ones.
Chris looked to our pack leader and jerked his head toward the figure. “Then you know who that is?”
Greylock had a grim look on his face as he nodded. “Yes, though their visit is unexpected.”
Bonnie’s voice held more fear than I’d ever heard in it before. “Can it get inside?”
Greylock shook his head. “No, or rather, we have an agreement that they not venture inside. However, let us see what has brought them.” He limped over to the door and opened it wide before he backed up to almost where we stood.
The fog that had given a buffer of twenty feet around the house swirled in closer and spilled into the room. The mist swallowed the figure in its white embrace, but I kept my eyes on the door and wasn’t disappointed, though I was more than a bit terrified. The figure floated in with the mist. I couldn’t see their feet, but the way they moved without motion reminded me of the phantom that had tried to take my werewolf powers from me.
This creature, however, gave off an entirely different vibe. I had the feeling that the thing in front of us was old, very old. Perhaps more ancient than we could imagine. Its mere presence was like Greylock when he entered a room, in that they commanded the room. The lights overhead seemed to dim on its visitation as the creature stopped a few feet from us.
Greylock inclined his head to the newcomer. “To what do we owe this honor, Lord Silva?”
The figure lifted its head slightly, but I still couldn’t see any face. When it spoke, it was like listening to the gurgling of a creek, or the rubbing of two branches together in a gentle breeze. “I have come to discuss our agreement.”
Greylock pursed his lips. “I see. What seems to be the problem?”
A slight hissing noise slipped into its words. “One of your own ventured into my woods and attacked one who inhabits my trees.”
Greylock sighed, but gave a nod. “Yes, I’m afraid that did happen and I profusely apologize.”
The creature’s head swayed from side to side. “That is not good enough. The pact is broken.”
Greylock started back. “Broken? Surely not on account of such a minor infraction after so long!”
I raised my hand. “Could you guys let us in on what’s going on?”
The creature turned its head slightly so that its empty hood faced me. A chill ran down my spine as I felt the thing’s-well, something look at me. Lord Silva turned its back on us and floated toward the door.
Greylock stretched out his hand and stumbled forward. “A moment, please!” Silva paused a few feet shy of the entrance, but didn’t turn around. Greylock hobbled up to near his back. “Surely there is a way to reforge the pact. Some way I might make up for my foolishness in inviting evil into your lands.”
Silva half-turned to him. “There is only one way.”
Some of the color drained from Greylock’s face. “I see. If that is the only way-”
“It is.”
Greylock sighed and gave a nod. “Then I agree to your terms. When will it begin?”
“When you are ready,” Silva replied as he turned away and shuffled off into the fog. The mist retreated and revealed the empty doorway where the creature had disappeared.
“I don’t think I like what just happened,” I spoke up as I turned my attention to Greylock. He stood there with his eyes closed and his lips tightly pursed. “Who was that and what did you just promise him?”
Greylock opened his eyes, and they showed a weariness that made my heart ache for him. “Lord Silva is the spirit of the forest that covers Wolf Mountain.”
Chris raised an eyebrow. “The spirit of the forest?”
“Spirits are better in glasses,” Duncan quipped before Bonnie jabbed him in the ribs with an elbow.
Greylock leaned on his cane and studied where the cloaked figure had vanished. “The forest around the manor is very, very old. Lord Silva has protected its mystical secrets since the beginning, and long ago he granted me leave to purchase the property and invite whatever other fantastical creatures wished to live on the land.”
Bonnie frowned. “And what about this pact?”
Greylock sighed. “In order for us to remain on this land, I must reforge the pact by completing three trials.”
Duncan swept his eyes over the ceiling. “What will happen if you don’t agree to do these trials?”
A bittersweet smile appeared on Greylock’s lips. “Then we will be evicted, and with no gentleness on behalf of our landlord.”
I shook my head. “I still don’t know what that means, or how Silva would do it.”
Greylock shook his head. “Nor I, and I would not wish to learn what that entails.”
Chris raised an eyebrow. “So what are these trials about?”
“They are a trial of strength, of determination, and of faith.” I noticed his hands shook a little, but he clutched his cane tighter so that his knuckles turned white.
Chris nodded at Greylock’s lame leg. “When was the last time you did these trials?”
Greylock closed his eyes and sighed. “Before my accident, but having two out of three may get me through the other trial.”
Duncan stepped forward with his jaw stiffened and his eyes steady. “Then I’ll do it. I’ll take your place.”
Greylock shook his head. “I appreciate the offer, but I must do them alone.” He turned away from us and limped toward the doors.
I leapt over to him and clapped a hand on his shoulder. He paused and turned his face to me. “You can’t go alone.”
He smiled and patted the top of my hand. “I must do this alone, but don’t worry. I shall return in a short while.”
Greylock limped through the doors and disappeared into the fog, leaving me behind with a heavy but determined heart.
I spun around to face the others. “I’m going after him.”

COLLAPSE

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