The Root Path wound its way through the woods,
surrounded on either side by tall trees and thick
undergrowth. The path itself was narrow, composed of
thick roots that stretched across the ground, covered
here and there with bright patches of fairy carpeting.
Colin had to step carefully to avoid tripping over the
roots, but they were of little hindrance to Ailfrid, who
trotted nimbly over them as though the path were flat
Gradually, the path began to widen, allowing them to walk side by side. Colin now wore the mask slung over his back, secured by a piece of twine offered by Ailfrid,
He was more at ease with the mask now, and imagined
it was made of the very bark that encased the trunks of
the mighty trees lining the path.
“This area of the ‘wood used to be thick with trees,
so thick, only the smallest of the fey could get through,”
Ailfrid said. “Monohan the Druid came and spoke to
the trees, and asked to please make a path, so that all the
sheehogue could travel easily through these parts. A group
of trees pulled up their roots from the earth and moved
alongside Monohan. A great hole in the earth remained,
so the trees laid their roots across the hole. Monohan
stepped onto the roots and moved into the space they
had created, and the next group of trees before him also
parted, and laid their roots across the empty earth.”
Colin slowed, gawking at the trees that lined the path
with awe and appreciation.
Ailfrid continued. “Wherever Monohan stepped, the
trees before him parted and created a path for him, until
the way through the thick part of the ‘wood was clear,
and all the fey could now travel through it.”
Colin smiled at the trees, and marveled at all the
wonders Ailfrid was showing him. They walked along
the path till just past noon, and then the tree line along
the left side of Root Path thinned slightly, allowing
Colin to glimpse a glistening pond whose waters lapped
the shore just a few feet away from the mighty trunks.
“We’re nearing the bridge. Wait here, I need to get
something.” With the agility of a squirrel, Ailfrid
scurried up into the trees to his right.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
The ferrish grabbed hold of a branch, and pulled
himself over it with ease. Kneeling upon his sturdy
perch, he called down to Colin. “I’ve got to get a clutch
of blackberries for Doc Muffingrow. They grow near
here. I’ll just be a few moments. Just stay on the path
and you’ll be fine.”
Ailfrid climbed further up into the tree and slipped
through a space in the tangled mess of leaves and
branches, disappearing into the foliage. A moment later,
Colin heard a rustling on the other side of the trees, and
realized it was Ailfrid, landed safely upon the earth and
pushing through the undergrowth.
Colin looked around at the barriers formed by the
trees, and shook his head. Stay on the path? How could
he get off the path?
He picked his way slowly among the roots,
muttering to himself. At least the trees to his left had
the decency to thin wider, affording him a breathtaking
view of the small pond, alive with a large population of
ducks and dragonflies, and the occasional white swan.
The twisting roots of Root Path stretched outward like
a mass of snakes into the water, drinking deep of the
nutrients of the rich soil, while schools of tiny fish
darted playfully through the underwater maze.
Colin was so taken with the serenity of the pond that
he nearly stepped directly into a hole that lay in the
center of the path. He looked down and saw it at the
last possible moment, and nearly lost his balance when
he sought to divert his foot away from the hole.
The burrow was dark, measuring just a few inches
larger than his foot, and ringed thickly by the roots of
the ancient trees. It was at once frightening yet
beckoning, stroking Colin’s unyielding desire to explore
all things forbidden. Such traits are common in many
young boys, and often ultimately lead to trouble.
A light wind whispered through the trees, carrying
with it the sweet scent of honeysuckle, and the faint
tinkling of bells.
As if a trance had taken hold of Colin, he slowly inched
forward, closer to the hole, and kneeled before it. A shaft of
sunlight managed to reach through the trees and penetrate
the darkness in the hole, reflecting brightly off something
that lay within.
Peering even closer, Colin saw it was a small white
circular object, reminiscent of a shiny pearl. Then he
noticed similar objects laying beside the first, appearing
to be painted with veins of various colors.
He realized they were marbles.
Colin started to reach his hand into the hole.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice warned.
Colin quickly drew his hand back and leapt to his feet,
startled by the voice. Ailfrid emerged from the branches of
the trees above him, and hopped down to the roots with
the grace of a feline. “The gift of a sprite comes with a
“Sprites?” Colin backed away from the hole, eyeing it
warily. He could suddenly sense the presence of something
else within the burrow, something not so innocent as
“Indeed. That is a sprite hole. Pixies and sprites are
close cousins and nearly identical, and all of them are
bad. The ‘wood is full of them, especially Thorn Grove.
You’ll want to avoid them, and you definitely don’t
want to put your hand in there. One bite from those
mischief makers and you’ll find yourself in a heap of
A high-pitched snickering sounded from all about
them, and from within the hole.
Colin looked about, worriedly. “Ailfrid?”
“Don’t worry. They can’t do anything to you now.
You didn’t take their gift. So they can’t take you in
“Take me where?”
Ailfrid looked down at the hole. “Below.”
“Never mind all that. C’mon, look.” Ailfrid waved
about a small clutch of branches, covered with ripened
blackberries. “Bairtlemead makes a delicious blackberry
tea, better than any tea from those druids in faraway
Colin frowned. “I’ve never had tea before.”
Ailfrid frowned back. “How old are you?”
“Ten,” Colin replied. “Almost eleven. Wait, how old
“Three hundred and seven,” Ailfrid replied proudly.
“Ten, huh? I forgot, deiney years are different. Well, I
don’t care how old you are, you’re in Tanglewood, and
in the ‘wood, we have the finest wines made from the
plumpest of grapes. We have the sweetest mead made
from the most golden honey. And we have the best
blackberry tea made from the blackest of blackberries,
not to mention the tastiest of muffins made by Doc
Ailfrid grew excited. ”You’ll see, you and me are
going to have a flask of blackberry tea, and you’ll never
want to drink anything else again.”
And with that, Ailfrid turned and continued down
Root Path, and Colin smiled and followed, wondering
what the wonderful sounding tea might taste like.
For more information regarding the fantasy series, The Tales of Tanglewood, please visit the website to learn more about Colin and the other characters in the 'wood, and to download a sample of the first few chapters of each book for free.