The girls continued trudging through the forest, with Bridget sleeping on a cot carried by Bertha, Ottilie, Beate and Nadja. Brianna was trailing behind, exhausted from all this walking. Then again, they all were. Now, barely any sunlight was going through the trees and it looked like the earliest hours of mourning when the sun is barely peeking over the horizon.
“We need to take a rest.” Ottilie said “I’m exhausted.”
“Alright then.” Traude “Rest everyone!”
Everyone sighed with relief and flopped to the ground though Beate, Nadja, Ottilie and Bertha were careful to put Bridget down gently. But it quickly became clear to the girls that something was seriously wrong.
It was quiet. Too quiet. There were no bird calls, no animal sounds, not even the sound of the wind. Only the sound of the girls own breaths. But Brianna began to notice one other sound the others didn’t. They had started soon after they’d left the bridge but now they were becoming more frequent. The sound was an eerie noise. Almost like…talking. It echoed softly through the trees but could be heard faintly.
“What in heaven’s name?” Brianna muttered to herself.
Then words began emanating from this mysterious whispering.
“Quiet.” said the voice “They’ll hear us.”
“H-Hey.” Brianna barked “Those voices. Can anyone else them?”
“What are you talking about?” Traude slurred “I hear nothing.”
“My head feels funny.” Beate piped up.
In fact, everyone’s heads were feeling funny. That strange woozy feeling from earlier had returned with a vengeance. But now with the addition of everything looking as if everyone was cross-eyed.
“Whoa…” Traude said drunkenly “Daniela, what hour is it?”
“I don’t know.” Daniela said “I don’t even know what day it is. Or even if it’s night or day.”
“Nadja…go check…ahead…” Dorothea said groggily.
Nadja simply moaned and got up and walked ahead a few feet.
“Oh goodness!” Gerlinde groaned “Why are there so many trees and more trees?!”
Suddenly Nadja shrieked and everyone briefly came to their senses and hurried to where she was, which was thankfully only twenty feet away.
“What’s wrong?” Traude demanded.
“T-The path.” Nadja stammered “I-I-It’s disappeared.”
“What?!” Barbara yelled.
“She’s right!” Ophelia barked “I can’t see it anywhere!”
“Well, look around!” Traude ordered “Find it!”
Everyone immediately fanned out. Brianna, however, sat right where she was. Only after everyone had left did she notice they were gone. She looked around and finally spotted them in the distance, with Bertha, Nadja, Ottilie and Beate having resumed carrying Bridget.
“Wait! Come back!” Brianna barked “We must stay on the path! Girls?!”
The girls completely ignored her and just kept walking. Brianna angrily growled to no one in particular and began stomping after the girls.
“GIRLS!!!” she screamed.
Unbeknownst to her or the girls, the path was behind two trees, one of which they were all resting by no less than a few moments ago.
They looked under rocks, logs and all over the place but they couldn’t find it. And they were unknowingly wandering deeper and deeper into the forest. At one point the girls found themselves in a clearing of sorts (the forest canopy was still giving a noticeable lack of light) which had a small hill with a tall tree growing out of it. Brianna was currently resting near the roots of this tree, whilst Daniela was keeping watch whilst Barbara and Dorothea were looking under the roots and all around the tree.
“I don’t remember this place.” Barbara moaned “None of it’s familiar at all.”
“But it’s got to be here!” Dorothea whined “It can’t have just disappeared!”
“It’s not here either!” Ottilie called out in the distance.
“IS THERE NO END TO THIS ACCURSED FOREST??!!!” Traude all but screamed from where Ottilie was.
Brianna rolled her eyes and sighed as she turned to the tree she was sitting next to only to be surprised by what she saw.
The roots of the tree were covered all over with thick spider webs. Brianna looked up and realized the entire left side of the tree and some of the center was covered with webs that extended all the way to the branches of two nearby trees. And, without knowing why, she plucked the webs with her finger. The webs vibrated but it seemed as if Brianna could actually hear the vibrations. To make sure she wasn’t hallucinating, she plucked the webs again and again she seemed to hear the vibrations as they shot up the webs. Only this time that eerie whispering from earlier. And this time she could plainly make out a single word.
“Attercop.” hissed the voice.
Brianna suddenly felt very creeped out and looked around to try and find where the voice was coming from. But see couldn’t see anything at all. Just trees and trees as far as the eye could see.
It’s all in your head. she thought to herself It’s all in your head.
Seeing no hope in finding the path again, the girls decided unanimously decided to just keep going straight and hope beyond hope that they’d reach the forests end. Thankfully as they kept walking it started getting brighter as more light flowed through the canopy.
But a feeling of tiredness began to overtake everyone, similar to what they’d felt when they’d wandered off the path. Everyone felt exhausted and just wanted to rest. In fact, Traude was just about to call rest when she spotted something to her right.
Nearby she could see a group of black, red, brown and white haired individuals who from what Traude could see had pointed ears. Crap. Elves.
But wait, if they were camping that meant…food. Delicious food.
“L-Look.” Traude said.
Everyone stopped and looked where Traude was and but to their surprise didn’t see anything. But they were more surprised by Traude starting to walk over to them.
“Wait, what are you doing, Traude?” Barbara demanded.
Traude completely ignored them and continued walking, her steps getting slowly faster.
“We’re saved.” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” Brianna asked.
“We’re saved!” Traude cackled in response without even turning around “I can’t believe it took Elves to save us!”
And then Traude started running towards these supposed elves and everyone quickly followed after her, calling for her to stop but she didn’t listen. All the while, Traude had begun cackling like a crazed person as she ran. She soon ran into the bushes and ran faster shoving leaves and branches out of the way despite one branch smacking her in the face. Finally she tripped on something and fell out of the bushes and landed face-first in the dirt.
Traude lifted her face out of the dirt and spat the dirt out of her mouth and looked up expecting to see the elves. But she was shocked to see the elves had completely vanished. Now there was nothing but a circle of multi-colored leaves and grass and around that trees and bushes as far as the eye could see.
The rest of the girls arrived just as Traude got up and brushed herself off but continued looking around.
“What were you thinking?!” Barbara demanded.
“I-I saw Elves.” Traude replied as she turned to face the girls “Clear as day.”
“You were hallucinating, auntie.” Frieda said.
“Yeah, that’s probably it.” Brianna said “Didn’t Gillian say the forest was heavy with illusion?”
Traude angrily moaned and face-palmed, slowly removing her hand from her face with a very cross expression still there.
“I saw them.” she said earnestly “I know I did. It was too real to be an illusion.”
“Well, either way, the paths probably long gone by now.” Kamilla said.
“QUIT REMINDING US!!!” all the girls screamed at Kamilla.
“Whoa!” she exclaimed as she backed away slightly “Touched a nerve there.”
Two more instances of supposed Elf sightings occurred and each time Traude followed after them and the poor girls had to follow in hot pursuit. But every time they got closer the elves seemed to vanish into thin air.
Now the girls had literally no idea where they were going. And that strange feeling of tiredness came upon Brianna in full swing. Her eye-lids began to feel heavy and she felt as if she’d pass out any second. She looked down at her feet and was baffled because it seemed she was walking backwards but when she looked up everything else was moving forward. She turned around to see if Dorothea (who was behind her) was hallucinating as well.
But when she turned around she was baffled to see an exact duplicate of herself, looking at her in utter bewilderment. Brianna shook her head and when she opened her eyes Dorothea was back where she was.
“What’s wrong?” she asked drunkenly.
“Nothing.” Brianna slurred back before turning her head to look on ahead.
Now Brianna’s eyelids felt very heavy and it was now almost impossible to resist the urge to sleep. A few minutes sleep couldn’t sleep could it? So she surrendered to her instincts and shut her eyes.
But the second she shut her eyes then she slammed into something and awoke only to slam into the forest floor. The girls had all stopped suddenly and Brianna had bumped into Barbara and Dorothea had accidently tripped her. The girls carefully put Bridget down along with Traude’s bow and arrow as Gerlinde rushed over to Brianna’s side.
“Are you okay?” Gerlinde asked as Brianna got up.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Brianna replied as she brushed herself off “I’m…fine.”
Suddenly, Brianna’s head finally began to clear up and she felt much more like herself. She shook her head for good measure and looked around to see what everyone had stopped for. She finally noticed Dorothea holding a brown-colored knapsack in her hands which was covered in leaves and dirt.
“Hey, look, a nap-sack.” she slurred “Sewn from mountain bear fur. There’s dwarves in these woods, there is.”
“Dwarves from the Blue Mountains, no less!” Bertha said as she took the nap-sack and stared at it like it was most amazing thing she’d ever seen “This is exactly like my nap-sack! That’s so weird!”
“Because it is yours. Don’t you get it?” Brianna said whilst pointing her finger upwards and spinning her hand round and round “We’re going around in circles! We’re lost!”
“We are not lost.” Traude piped up “We’re just misguided in our sense of direction is all.”
All the girls looked at Traude with disapproving and frankly bored looks with Bertha raising an eyebrow. Traude likewise sighed in annoyance.
“Okay so we’re lost!” she angrily said “But the best way to get un-lost is to keep heading east.”
“But which way is east?!” Ophelia moaned “We’ve lost the sun!”
“Oh stop complaining!” Daniela said.
“That’s funny coming from you who was complaining twenty minutes ago about how long we’ve been walking!” Ophelia replied angrily.
“Now wait just a minute!!” Daniela all but screamed “I’m not the jackass who needs a stupid trumpet to hear outta one ear!”
“In case you haven’t noticed I LOST THAT HORN IN THE GOBLIN CAVE, YOU SAD OLD WHORE!!!” Ophelia shrieked as she shoved Daniela away.
That did it. Pretty soon the girls were all engaged in a vicious cat-fight. Though it didn’t amount to much due to them being exhausted from running and walking all over the place. It was mostly just shoving and falling over into the dirt. Traude just leaned against a tree and rolled her eyes, staying well away from the action.
But then suddenly a faint, eerie whispering crept into her ears. She suddenly felt very nervous. The whispering sounded very close and seemed to be coming from up in the forest canopy itself. And every now and again these whispers formed words.
“Attercop.” said one voice.
“We’ll slay them soon enough.” said another.
Traude suddenly remembered what Brianna had said a long ways back about ‘those voices.’ It seemed Brianna’s theory wasn’t too far off. Traude then turned to her group who were still fighting and yelling like a bunch of angry bratty schoolgirls.
“ENOUGH!!!” she roared “QUIET!!!”
Everyone immediately shut up and stopped fighting and looked to Traude with great concern.
“What’s the matter?” Kamilla asked softly.
“We’re being watched.” Traude replied sternly.