OTW Book 1 – Prologue

It was a perfect afternoon. The sun streamed down through the tall redwood trees, dappling the forest floor with golden light and warming Avery’s back as they sat on their rock, staring at the road in front of them. 

Now, you see, they didn’t fully understand why they were here, shifting their weight uncomfortably on the cold stone beneath them. They had originally been planning on a walk through the woods when their best friend, Ryder, had dragged them into this. There was no explanation, something unusual coming from Ryder, given as they were someone who usually took the time to elaborate on their reasoning, but they had known immediately from the urgency with which Ryder had tugged on their sleeves that it must be important. From there on, Ryder had taken them to the top of the hill they were sitting on, overlooking one of the roads leading in and out of the nearby town.

Avery could hear the sound of Ryder’s breath next to them as they gazed intently at the winding strip of asphalt below them. The two land spirits would have been an odd sight if anyone else were around, Ryder with their bluish-gray cloak and Avery with their bone-white mask surrounded by a mane of silky brown fur, but for now they sat alone, sitting silently on small boulders from their hilltop vantage point.

The mule deer antlers attached to Avery’s mask stood proud above their head, but they caught themself unconsciously adjusting them more than once as they waited for Ryder to tell them what was going on. The warm breeze rustled in the pine needles above them, the same color as the T-shirt Avery was wearing under their favorite plaid button-up, the brilliant red complimenting the darker green beneath it. Restlessly, they tapped a hiking boot-clad foot against the soft forest floor. It had been five minutes since the last time either of them had made a sound, and the silence was becoming unbearable.

Finally, after what seemed like millennia, Ryder spoke up. They turned to gaze at Avery with their two wide, pale eyes set in their pitch-black, noseless, mouthless face. Sunlight flashed off of the gold trim on their cloak as they moved. “All right,” they said, heaving a slight sigh, “Time to explain.”

“It’s about time!” Avery joked, nudging their friend playfully in an attempt to lighten up the atmosphere a bit.

Ryder shook their head, already usually serious expression darkening as they spoke again. “No, Avery. Listen. This is important.”

Oh boy. This already explained the urgency and weird behavior Ryder had expressed earlier. You see, when Ryder said that something was important in the tone they were using now, they really meant that something was up. And, if you added up the way they had behaved since the minute they had come knocking on Avery’s door, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that whatever it was this time was really stressing Ryder out. Avery, wanting to be a good, supportive friend, nodded. They would listen.

“The house on the edge of town sold out about four days ago,” they began, then continued when they caught Avery staring at them with an ‘is that all?’ expression on their face. “I think it’s a family, given how big the house is, but I don’t know for sure. Whoever it is, they’re supposed to move in today, and I’m getting this feeling…”

They trailed off momentarily. Avery tilted their head to one side, furrowing their brow lightly. Because they were a pair of land spirits, beings connected strongly to the environment they represented, they had as strong a sense of intuition as the land around them. This meant that they sensed things that other beings might not, which helped in the protection of their life force; the place they were tied to.

“Is it a bad feeling?” Avery asked gently. Ryder shook their head.

“I don’t think so, although it could go either way. I guess I’m just nervous that they’re going to be horrible, is all.” They said with a sigh. “It’s probably nothing I should be worrying about.”

Typical Ryder. They were always very sensible compared to Avery, dismissing their emotions for the sake of statistics and logic. Avery let out a small hum, and placed a hand on Ryder’s shoulder. “Well, I’m here if you need me.”

“Thank you.”

More silence. Avery went back to tapping their foot, thoughts now swirling in their head. They were less worried than Ryder, to be honest. More curious. Who would the new people be? How many of them would end up living there? How quickly would they adjust to living here? 

The nearby town was a place that took a lot of getting used to. It was small and surrounded by trees and coastal meadows absolutely infested with all sorts of strange creatures. The locals didn’t seem to mind too much, but it was certainly a place that took quite a bit of adjusting to if you were a newcomer. 

Next to Avery, Ryder had returned to staring at the road. They fidgeted slightly, twiddling their thumbs. Avery turned to watch them for a bit, then looked up at the sky through the trees. “It’s getting dark out.” they observed, glancing once more at their friend.

Ryder shrugged. “And?”

“And maybe we should head home.”

“No, not yet. Something’s coming just around the bend, I’m going to wait to see what it is before we go anywhere.”

Avery shrugged, then gasped slightly as the thing that Ryder had sensed popped into view. It was a car, red in coloration with its headlights on in the slowly fading light of the day. Behind it were two larger trucks with the words “Joe’s Moving Emporium” printed in big letters on the side. Both land spirits’ eyes widened. Could it be?

“They’re here.” Ryder whispered, turning to Avery. “I guess we can go home now.”

Avery stood for a second, speechless, then nodded. “Sure.”

As Ryder got up and quickly strode down the hillside under the canopy of leaves above the pair, Avery reluctantly followed, quickly jogging to catch up with their friend. Little did they both know that observant eyes were watching them as they left. Observant eyes belonging to one very curious child.

Author’s note: I apologize if this chapter didn’t flow right, especially if you were reading it out loud. I am attempting to better my writing in the next chapter, but I am still finding my footing with this storyline and thus things may be a bit irregular and imperfect for a little while. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed and that you will stick around for more when the time comes.