The forest of Nihmakhtur had three major regions on the eastern side. One region was used by the villagers and belonged to them by an untold law of nature. They preserved the region with utmost care as it provided them with some very beneficial herbs. Another region was the one used by the town merchants to go hiking. The wild animals never visited that region, making it a picnic spot for many townsmen and their families- who were unaware of the abundance of exploitable plants around them. What was more interesting than the fact that the these profit seeking townsfolk sat in the middle of an herbal goldmine every time they went into the forest was another fact that many doctors, herbalists and self-declared healers had scoured this forest multiple times to find nothing of use. It was as if the spirit of the forest veiled its treasures against the people who wanted to exploit them.
The last region of the forest was the densest of them all. It started a few kilometers up the mountain and spread across the top and onto the western side. This region was considered sacred by the villagers and dangerous by the townsfolk. The former believed that the spirit of Nihmakhtur resided here with the animals that protected the forest.
The children awaiting the arrival of their guests were sitting patiently on the edge of the first region when one of them stood up and shouted at a ten-year old boy with dusky features, “Oi Koji, where is that golden boy?”
Koji looked across his shoulder to find the golden boy missing. He cursed his stars for failing at one task he was given. “H-He was here just a minute ago. I-I’ll go look for him. Wait for me till then Yuuki.” and Koji ran into the woods to search for the little boy.
Yuuki knew the little boy loved to wander but he also knew there was an unspoken limit to the land they could tread on. If that little boy trespassed that invisible boundary, the children were going to face a lot of trouble.
While this happened at the edge of the village, the only golden-haired boy in this vast land was walking around the forest fascinated by the flora around him. His green eyes reflected the drops of sun peeking through the canopy of trees. He walked around them as if he was familiar with the territory- like a man who went about his daily work through the same route, knowing full well what would come in his path at a certain distance. And as he walked, fate lead him on to a place where it forced him to a stop. In front of the boy was a shrub with flowers as blue as the cleanest ocean that sparkled under the direct sunlight hitting them from the hollow in the canopy above them.
The boy was lured towards the sweet-scented shrub when a voice startled him.
“Are you lost?” The little boy had jumped and retracted his hands in flash thinking he might have done something bad.
Opposite to him stood a boy as old as him. His thick red hair was halfway on his face as he held one of straps holding his pants in place while his other hand casually carried a food basket.
“I asked are you lost? My name is Jerarld. What’s yours?”
“I was looking for some plants.” The golden-haired boy’s sweet voice cracked. He tucked at his shirt with both his hands.
“It’s just wild grass here. Nothing else. Come with me. I’m going up to meet my friends. Our mammas packed our lunch for when we get tired of playing in the field.”
Saying this, Jerarld gave out his hand. Seeing the boy hesitate a little Jerarld told him to hurry before the rest of the boys eat all their share.
The boy, filled with curiosity to explore more of the forest, took Jerarld’s hand and they both started walking towards the nearest little hill.
Up on the hill Jerarld’s friends gathered one by one. One of them, a boy with teeth like a rabbit, came running to another older boy.
“Boro-san! Boro-san! Freckles says he saw a little boy from the village come into our part of the forest.”
Boro-san, who apparently was the leader of this heard of young sheep, looked at the rabbit boy with disgust through his black eyes. He hated tattletales. But what he hated more than them were people who did not do what he thought he knew was right. Rabbit-kun had witnessed Boro-san’s wrath just this morning when he had found a tiny chunk of the ‘outside of the bread that is not soft like the inside and I hate the outside’ and kicked his servant as well as the cook for overseeing this mistake.
“Looks like the little boy’s mama didn’t show him his place.” Boro-san said as he looked down at the village. “Don’t worry Furry. I-“
Rabbit-kun interrupted him, “It’s Furgeson.”
“I don’t care, you little rabbit. I’ll show that filth his place.”