Somewhere in the misty forest, the monster lurked. To the young girl stumbling in the dark it seemed as if it was hot on her heels. A quick glance over her shoulder assured her this was not so. In her panic, she tripped and fell. She stifled a moan as something sharp poked her palm. The sweet, musky scent of the forest rose to tease her nose as she inhaled a calming breath. She lifted the hand to inspect the injury. She squinted her eyes, straining to see the hand in front of her face. The darkness made it almost impossible to see much of anything.
She pushed to her hands and knees, winching at the pain, thankful the ground was soft with moss damp from the mist. She cocked her head, listening for any unusual sounds that would tell her where the monster was. When the only sound in the night was the soft croaking of frogs somewhere in the distance, she let out a soundless sigh.
“Simoan?” The voice, faint, floated out of the darkness.
Her head popped up, searching the darkness. A flicker in the distance catches her attention. She exhaled slowly, concentrating on silencing the pounding in her ears.
Shortly, the flicker wavered and she realized it was a light. Then, another light flickered behind the first. The voice, stronger this time, came again, “Simoan?”
She knows that voice. Cautiously, she rose to her feet and called out, “I’m here.” Relief flooded over her and a soft, satisfied moan escaped. She was grateful they had found her.
A young man came into view and she launched herself into his arms. She smothered her face into the softness of his tunic.
“Simoan, what are you doing out here?” Rigger whispered, his arms going around her.
She pushed away and looked up into the handsome face of her brother. She might as well be looking into a mirror the resemblance was acute. He was a few inches taller than she, and, of course, more muscular. In his outstretched hand was a torch.
“I’m sorry, Rigger,” she began, “I was chasing a rabbit for dinner and got turned around. I couldn’t find the path once the sun set.”
“You know better than to be alone in the forest after dark,” he scolded. “Jabber and I set out as soon as we realized you hadn’t returned. Rooter didn’t want to be left behind,” he said with a wink.
Only then did she force her attention to the two men standing behind Rigger. Jabber, his best friend, held the other light she had seen, and Rooter, another friend, standing slightly behind Jabber. Both were busy surveying the surroundings. She knew that even though they couldn’t see well in the darkness, they were ever on alert, straining to hear what they couldn’t see.
Rigger peered closely. “Are you hurt?” he asked.
“No. I jabbed my hand when I fell but other than that, I’m well,” she reassured him.
"Then, we’d best be going. Stay close,” he said. He took her other hand.
Ahead, Jabber and Rooter walked side-by-side. Jabber was holding the torch high so that it illuminated the ground, making it easy to find the path. Simoan berated herself for her panic when she realized she’d missed the path by mere feet.
With the aid of the torches, they made haste along the path and soon reached home.
~ ~ ~
Leaving Jabber and Rooter to make their way to their own homes, Rigger and Simoan ascend the spiral ladder that snaked its way up the gigantic tree they call home.
Simoan, Rigger, Jabber, and Rooter are Tree Dwellers. They are a short people, but taller than dwarves, and willow thin. Although, they are not all related, the majority have short, ebony hair and violet eyes – large and round. Those eyes are equipped to see long distances, but only in the daytime. At night, they are nearly useless. Their ears are sizable, and though they can hear extremely well, it is not an exceptional gift. And, as their name suggests, they live in the trees on the edge of the forest.