The forest in front of Elsea was a dense wall of impassable black trees.
It was alive.
She could hear it breathing.
Her lungs seared with each sharp breath. Her muscles shook with fatigue from running for the past ten miles. She hadn’t rested in seven hours, and she was not going to start now. Not when she was this close to avenging her parents’ death and rescuing the prince.
The forest of her bedtime stories loomed in front of her, more horrific than she imagined during the countless nights she spent in the crowded bedchamber at the Home for Abandoned Souls. Elsea remembered the way Chloe’s voice would drop to a whisper when she talked of the gruesome sand traps that grabbed hold of unsuspecting traveler’s legs and sucked them into the earth without any warning. Trees that appeared dead, but breathed and could be felt on the back of her neck, waking her up where the darkness was very real and not just imagined.
It was as if the trees had been sown from rotten seeds and the decay had seeped into everything around it. They didn’t grow as normal trees. The dead, black, oozing trees twisted and spiraled into the gray above. Those closest to her, barely illuminated by the light from her torch, didn’t grow straight from the ground. The bases of the trees were flat, curved at a sharp angle before curving again then straightening. A dark gray sludge dripped from the bend, gurgling toward the black ground.