I peered through the door, then pulled back to stare around the tree. Yep, the scenery was different around and behind the tree than it was through the tree. There were several puzzling things about this. First, the basic question – why was there a door in the tree to begin with? Secondly – where would I be if I stepped through that door? The view through the door was very attractive. Green, lush, and filled with sunlight. Extremely inviting indeed. I didn’t remember ever running across this patch of woods before and I’d been roaming this neighborhood for a couple months now.
Nevertheless, I hesitated. If there was one thing I’d learned over the years it was that seemingly calm, innocent, friendly settings could hide some ugly surprises. Granted, not always, but often enough that my desire to step through that door was tempered by wariness.
The door was propped open, so I decided to sit down in front of it and see what I could see of the other side. Just in case something popped out of the door, I pulled my pocketknife from my jeans and sat down cross legged facing the tree. For the first few minutes that I watched, nothing more exciting than the occasional rabbit wandered past the door. A shadow fell over the doorway and I tensed, rising to one knee, snapping open my knife. The shadow resolved itself into a curious stag who peered at me before lowering his head to nibble on the grass. I sank back down to the ground. I had nowhere I had to be, and watching the tree-door gave me something to do. I settled down.
After about an hour of watching and seeing nothing more exciting than the rabbits, I picked up my meager belongings and walked to the door. I had nothing to lose and no reason to stay on this side of the tree. Nothing untoward had happened while I was watching, so I stepped over the threshold and took a few steps into the welcoming scene. A small click behind me had me spinning around just in time to see the door swing closed. My first thought was one of not-quite-panic until I remembered that I really had nothing and nobody in the world I’d just left. As an orphan with no known family, I’d been on my own for most of my life. There was nobody who would miss me. Might as well move forward and see what new adventures lay ahead of me. Not that I wanted to tempt fate, but I really didn’t think things could get much worse than living on the streets had been.
The sound of someone clearing their throat came from the bushes to my left. I whirled, raising my little pocketknife. It wasn’t much, but I was damn well going to defend myself to the extent possible. I was a dirty streetfighter, so I figured I could at least inflict enough damage to get away.
“You better come out now!” I said with what I hoped was a confident voice.
The bush was pushed aside and a tall man with blond hair, wearing what looked like something out of the fairy tale books I loved, stepped out. He had a cloak on over a belted tunic, with tights or leggings, and boots. Everything was shades of brown and green. In the shadows, he really blended in.
“Good afternoon, fair… maiden?” he said with a question in his voice, looking me over with one eyebrow raised.
“Is that a question or a greeting?” I asked, not lowering my knife. “I don’t know about ‘fair maiden’ but I am a girl… woman, if that’s what you’re wondering.” My defensive sarcasm came out. “Who’re you? Robin Hood?”
“My apologies. I can tell you are a woman, but your choice of clothing confused me for a moment,” the man said. “I do not know Robin Hood. I am Cooperson and I am a Third Rank Mage. And you are?” His tone was polite, and I didn’t sense any malice coming from him. I lowered my knife but didn’t let my guard down.
“I’m Marianna, but I go by Mari,” I said. “Um, you’re a mage? Like you can do magic?” I paused. I wasn’t sure I should tell him I wasn’t a part of this world, but then again, my clothes probably gave me away. “Uh, I am not sure where I am. I came through that door…” I turned to point behind me at the tree. Fortunately the door was still visible, so I didn’t look like a total crazy person. “and found myself here.”
Cooperson glanced over at the door. “Ah, yes. I’ve often wondered where that door went. It’s been an ongoing mystery, yet until today, every time I’ve come by here, it has been closed, and would not open no matter what I tried. Today I came by on my walk and saw it was opened. I didn’t see anything on the other side, so I thought I’d wait to see what happened. You stepped through,” he explained with a friendly smile.
“Oh. So have other people come through here from my world?” I asked.
“Not that I know of. I’ve only been in the area for a few years and in that time, you are the first person I’ve seen or heard of to come through here,” he replied. He glanced between me and the door. “I’m afraid I don’t know how to open it from this side. It does not respond to my magic. So, I don’t know how to get you back to your world and your family.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say. “Um, nobody’s really going to miss me,” I confessed. That might have been stupid, Mari. If nobody is going to miss you, nobody is going to look for you, therefore you make the perfect victim. I shook my head at my own stupidity. But I still didn’t feel any threat from him, and I was pretty good at detecting threats to myself.
He tilted his head at me. “I’m sorry to hear that. May I invite you to my home for some tea and a more comfortable location to discuss your predicament? I promise you, I do not mean you any harm.” His warm smile was echoed in his eyes. I made a snap decision.
“Sure. I have no idea where I am and I could certainly use information and maybe a friend,” I responded.
“Excellent. We go this way.” He pointed to a path that led off to his left. “Oh, and you are in Printanier.”
“Oh. Thank you,” I said. He started off down the path and I followed, looking around. It really was beautiful, and I got no hint of any darkness. That didn’t mean there was no darkness, but for now I enjoyed the calm and the sense of new adventures ahead of me.
Last week was a space cadet week for me and not only did I not get my prompt response up, I forgot to send one in for this week. Instead of one of the spares, I took the lead picture for my prompt. Head on over to More Odds Than Ends to see what the others (they’re more organized than me) have done with their prompt challenges. If you’re so inclined, pick up a spare, or one of the pictures, and use that as your prompt. If you’d like a challenge, send a prompt to oddprompts <at> gmail <dot> com and come back on Wednesday to see what you get! Details can be found on the main page of More Odds Than Ends.