Running hard, moving fast through the trees and green leafed bushes, the morning dew leaves splotches of wetness on his shorts and shirt. Occasionally he has to block sprigs and sprays from slapping him in the face; although he cannot block them all and red welts form upon his exposed skin. Behind him there is the steady and heavy plodding of pawed feet in comfortable pursuit. Its thick, rhythmic breathing fills the air around him. He can’t help but let out yelps of fear as he thrusts his body on, gaining speed. It is obvious to him that the beast is toying with him and can take him down at any moment.

“Damn! Damn! Damn!” Why had he strayed so far from the campsite? Why? They were having fun drinking and enjoying the fire. His friends were just having some fun at his expense, no big deal. They were always giving each other shit, it was just his turn. No need to feel like he was being ostracized in any way. No need to take it so personally and wander so far from the safety of numbers.

“Why would we hunt them on foot, Narna!?! We have perfectly good hunting stands,” Charles barked at him.

“Damn dude, do you even think sometimes?” Alexander chimed in. “We are just going to sit back, relax, and pop them off as they come through the bush.” His hands making the motion of holding and firing the rifle, left eye closed as the other peers through the scope.

“I thought you guys were into the thrill of the hunt, the art of sneaking up on your prey.”

“No, no Narna are you crazy? They could eat us alive! We just want to kill a couple, cut off their heads and hang them on the wall. We’ll just say that we hunted them on foot. Gees man, is your head full of rocks?”

Alexander started laughing, and Charles joined him. “You are such a dumb shit!”

Narna stood there a moment and took it, but his feelings were hurt and that emotion began to turn into anger. The feeling was mixing with the rising disgust he felt for his friends as he realized they were turning the skill of hunting into a target shooting contest. The emotion came on strong and began to overwhelm his sense of reason. He threw his beer into the fire, which drew louder guffaws of laughter from his friends, turned and stormed into the forest.

At first he was just going to walk to the lake, but once he got there he found that throwing a few rocks into the water was doing nothing to quell his anger. They had been up all night drinking, and the sun was starting to rise between the distant mountains, turning the sky orange and pink with its rays. He walked along the lake’s edge as his mind turned over the preceding events with insights and justifications. He had gotten about a half mile further when he came upon a part of the forest that seemed older then the rest. The gnarled limbs were reaching and twisting about the massive tree trunks, and the foliage! Narna had never seen such abundant plant life and it was magnificent to behold. He just stood there and tried to fully comprehend this amazing sight, it was so alien from the surrounding forest it just didn’t seem like it belonged here. A few moments passed and he noticed that a little pathway lie there, obscured by intertwined branches and large green bushes with leaves the size of lily pads.

The trail’s floor was barely visible through the abundant frondescence, and he was surprised he had seen it at all. He parted the branches blocking the path and began to enter it slowly. About ten feet or so ahead it cleared up and the massive growth all around it seemed to stay at its edge. His curiosity piqued and he found himself slowly going about the trail at a steady, even pace. As he was doing so he noticed that under the dirt layer of the path were smooth flat stones that seemed to form the foundation. He bent down to examine them closely and discovered that they were all of similar size and that they had been polished. This was some sort of man made walkway, and the question to him was, from how long ago? There was no backing off now; he was going to explore this trail and see what lie ahead.

For what seemed like the next ten minutes he ambled along this strange walkway as it curved and climbed through this odd patch of forest. It appeared to him to be of deep primeval roots, untamed and rampant with opaque shades of greens and blues, the rising sun barely cutting into its umbrage. Up ahead now he could see a rocky eminence, which he found a bit strange since there were not supposed to be any mountains within two or three miles of the lake. He had only been walking ten, fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, right? Yes, he was sure that he had not been walking long. He turned to survey behind him, and saw that the path, not but five feet away, was swallowed up by the encroaching forest. There was no way to see how far away the lake was, that would be impossible through the dense wood. And there was no way that he was going to turn around, he had to know what lie ahead. Onward he strode.

(END PART 1 of 3)