The Key Seeker
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chapter vi

Still shaken up from his encounter with that haunting creature, Siphter thought it would be smart to lay low in the valley in hopes of following the dark creek to some sort of civilization. He could stock up on supplies and rest up for the travelling ahead. The sounds of the water soothed him and the trek became hypnotic. Siphter reached a drawstring bridge that hung above the creek like a silken spider web. He crossed it and found a vast city, the largest he had ever seen. Two guards stood at the entrance of the city in royal garb. They eyed Siphter up and down as he walked past them.  

Lining the streets were vendors selling all kinds of things he had never seen before. So many different colors, smells and sounds blended and sang to Siphter. He explored and met vendors at the market. They spoke with him and traded stories of travel and adventure. Tucked between a blacksmith and a rotund man selling some bizarre spiked fruit, was an old woman wearing a neon pink eye patch. She smiled at Siphter with what little teeth she had and waved him over to her tiny wooden stand. Siphter approached and saw nothing on her table top besides a black crystal orb resting upon a brass stand. “Every adventurer must have their fortune told.” He began to turn and walk away from the gypsy woman before she said. “One key found, aye?” Siphter imediately turned and sat down at the mysterious table. “How’d you know that?” Siphter whispered. She ignored him and looked into her mystical crystal orb. The woman moved her boney fingers along the ball ever so gently. The orb was now illuminated. Colors began to stir and swirl inside, giving off a beautiful fractal light. It looked like a moving mosaic. Siphter sat saying nothing, only staring into the jumping polygonal shapes. “The sword is not of the hero.” she screamed. “Shadows aren’t always made of darkness.” She then grabbed Siphter’s hand so tightly that her nails were beginning to draw blood. “Face what you can’t.” she repeated it again. “Face what you can’t.” The colors disappeared from the crystal ball. Siphter snapped out of the trance to find the woman’s blood soaked hand on the table waiting for payment. He placed three gold coins in her wet wrinkled palm and continued on his path through the village. Siphter held the wound given to him by the fortune teller, he knew it would scar. When he turned back to see the woman one more time, he saw her biting the coins one at a time. The neon eye patch was now laying on the tabletop. She looked at him with to his surprise, both eyes. The old woman winked and ran into the alley behind her.   

Siphter had learned his first lesson about the market, but not every villager was a con artist. At an apple stand our hero bumped into a tiny green man. He wore large framed glasses and looked to be hunched over like a bending tree sapling. They began to talk and Siphter had discovered the little man’s name was Pikel. He owned an antique store just north of the apple stand, down the road. Pikel invited Siphter for tea at his store. They began to walk, sharing stories with each other. The green man had his share of adventures while collecting his antiques. He had traveled through the forest almost a hundred times through his lifetime. They entered the small store and Pikel began to brew some tea. Siphter looked around and saw that the walls were covered with ancient items. “The forest is always changing,” Pikel said as he poured a hot cup of tea. “I always ended up getting lost in one way or another, but I’ve learned it rewards perseverance.” He grinned a warm smile at Siphter and took a sip of his tea. “I ran into a creature in the woods,” Siphter said. “It looked as if it were made of the night sky, no eyes, and large tee...” “The Shadow,” Pikel interrupted. “That creature is called the Shadow.” Pikel made a mad dash for his bookshelves, spilling his tea in the process. His small green hands grabbed a blue leather bound book. He opened it and turned the pages so quickly he was tearing them from their spine. “This is the Shadow.” Pikel's was pointing at a charcoal drawing. It was identical to what Siphter had run away from. “That’s it! That’s what I saw. I almost didn’t make it.” Siphter exclaimed. Pikel stared off, surveying his antiques. “I’m surprised you did, my friend,” Pikel said with an odd monotone. “The Shadow is said to be made of pure fear. It’s existed for as long as the woods have. The creature has taken many a traveller. It hunts relentlessly once it has the scent of new prey.” Pikel closed his book and placed it back on the shelf. “Did it get close enough to smell you, Siphter?” he asked. Siphter looked around at all Pikel had collected one more time. All of the adventures he must have had to gather all of these time worn treasures. “Yes,” Siphter said.

Pikel went up stairs in his little shop and came down cradling something in his little hands. He gave Siphter four yellow marbles. “When you are cornered, throw these into the ground as hard you can. They are smoke bombs of my own creation. They’ve saved me once or twice along my travels.” Siphter placed his gift in his jacket pocket and stuck out his hand to shake Pikel’s. He refused, climbed atop his table and hugged Siphter as hard as he could. “Good luck, young man,” he said. Siphter thanked the little green man before leaving his beautiful little shop. As he exited, Pikel’s words echoed through his mind: “The forest is always changing.”