Part Four of Tales of the Tree of Wonder: A (Relatively) Short Story

What new dream have Liam, Merry, and Willow stepped into? Find out below!

Merry glanced around, quickly assessing her surroundings. The three of them had stepped into a maze. Stone walls rose up on either side of them, blocking out any view of the sun and most of the sky. The little bit of sky they could see was covered in thick black cloud that rolled and rumbled menacingly. Wind rushed down the tunnel past them, causing a high-pitched whistling. Liam was the first to creep forward and peek around the edges of the walls. No one was approaching them from either direction. “I think it’s safe to start moving,” he murmured, a hint of doubt in his voice.

Willow opened her satchel and started fishing around in side. “Just in case, I think you two should take these before we go.” She handed Merry a long dagger with a plain leather hilt and Liam a short sword. They couldn’t help but stare as she pulled the weapons from her small bag. She noticed their expressions and laughed, “It’s a magic bag. It can hold whatever I choose to put inside.” Just as she finished speaking, the clouds opened up and released a torrent of rain. Within seconds Merry, Liam, and Willow were soaked. “Quick! Run down the tunnel! Maybe there’s a house or something somewhere!” Willow held her cloak over the others as they raced around the corners of the maze, turning randomly in their search for shelter. They soon happened upon a small door in the wall of the maze. Stooping, Liam turned the knob and pushed it open. Merry and Willow crouched to hobble through the little opening, and Liam followed, closing the door behind them. After a few seconds of claustrophobic conditions, the three stood. A low wooden roof hung over their heads and a cheerful fire crackled in one corner.

“Where are we?” Liam turned around in circles as he examined the room.

“You’re in my hideout.” A soft voice whispered from the corner. The trio spun to face the speaker, a young child in tattered clothing. “I found it.”

“Why are you hiding?” Willow stepped closer and knelt next to the young one.

“There are monsters in the maze, lots and lots of them. They– they already took everyone I know.”

Willow closed her eyes. “Nightmare has already been here. He must have captured the dream quickly. Younger children are the easiest to scare. They haven’t realized they have some power in their dreams.” Her eyes flew open, and Willow spoke to the child again. “Do you know which way they are?”

The child’s eyes grew wide. “You can’t go find them. They’ll kill you.”

“I know how to fight; it’s okay. Just tell me.”

“Turn that way and just follow the footsteps in the mud when you go out the door.” The child gestured to the left, its eyes full of admiration. “I wish I was as brave as you are.”

“It’s not so very hard to be brave when you know who you’re fighting,” Willow murmured grimly. She stood abruptly after a moment of thought and opened the door. “Come. We must hurry. This young one won’t last long. If she dies in the dream, Nightmare will have an easy time of coming back every night and feeding off her fear. We can’t let that happen.” The door closed softly behind her as she, Liam, and Merry walked, or rather, crawled, out into the rain.

“Are we really going to fight Nightmare? It sounds as though he’s amassed an army.” Liam had to run to keep up with Willow as she dashed along the maze.

“Of course we are,” Merry and Willow jinxed.

“We have to help the girl, and it’s not as if the monsters are real,” Merry continued.

Willow cleared her throat. “Ah, um, yes, it is as if the monsters are real. You are dream material now. You came through the Tree of Wonder. If you die here, you don’t just wake up in the other world. You have to be committed. You can save the child from becoming a shell of a person, haunted by fear, or die trying. If you back out now, you may be stuck here forever. The Tree only allows you to return when you’ve accomplished what it sent you to do.”

“Then it doesn’t sound as if we have much choice, does it?” Merry asked, her voice determined. “We’re going to save this dream. I know it.”

“Good,” replied Willow, “because here’s your chance. The monsters found us.”

Merry and Liam whirled around. Red eyes glowed from every dark corner, and ferocious beasts prowled towards them along the pathways. Merry stood back-to-back with Liam and Willow, just the three of them, against a world of fear and evil.

 

Stay tuned for the next post to find out what happens to Liam, Merry, and Willow! Comment below with your thoughts!

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