FOR: Shamatt0403 and Javamomma0921! Thank you for your donation to The Fandom Gives Back! This story is for the both of you!
I will keep this as short as possible for an author note. Writing/english was never my subject. I always excelled more in math (nerd alert!) so if you see something that I may have missed let me know. I love feedback. Any chance to grow as a writer is always a plus. Hope you enjoy!
Crow's feet, so long and dark, are nothing but signs of a human's length of life. What once was a smile, now lay a frown. Knees buckle to the ground while hope takes flight. No water flows from these squinted eyes, rather they make their way down the esophagus. A twinge of the mouth follows a shake of the head. Vibrant foliage all around a field, yet, it is bare. A dying plant is exhumed by the troubled man's hands. The plant waves its last goodbye to the adoring caretaker as the wind dances by.
Both, the harvest and farmer, wither in pain as another year comes without relief. He doubles over, pounding his fist into the tainted soil. Aging, spotted hands begin to ache as cracks in the skin bust open and blood rushes to the surface. Miff by the world around him the man struggles to his feet. Worrisome thoughts plague his soul.
Without a crop, I can not sell at the market.
Without selling at the market, I collect no gold.
Without gold, I cannot put food on the table. With no food, life will become no more over time.
Without gold, I will lose my homestead to the King.
Without a place to call my own, we will be pushed to the lands; most likely to become someone's servant.
A twig snapping in the woods can be mistaken for the man's heart; a break from the entirety. An unsettling realization stirs in the pit of his stomach. The fragile man has one possession that he can not stand being stripped from him.
She is all he has left in this murky world of abandoned faith.
Trudging back to his cottage, a commotion catches his eye. What appears to be another day at the market is masked with a dull stillness. The market attracts people, but, with a puzzling look, the old man knows it's too late in the day to sell. Passing by his home the man walks closer to get a better look.
Womanly giggles echo through the thick, stagnate air. "Can you believe it? A nobleman coming here in search of his bride."
"That means one of us has the potential to marry a man of wealth," another says.
With eyes so old and news so profound, the farmer turns his gaze past the ogling broads. Grabbing his attention is a black stallion with a charcoal mane and tail standing under a tall oak tree. A rare, beautiful breed in an odd placement for this part of town. Gold paired with a noble title are the only things one needs for a marvel such as this. Awestruck with a gaping mouth, the farmer wishes to move closer so he can look at the mystical creature.
Next to the horse stands a stout man. After a second glance the farmer recognizes him to be the town crier, who addresses all the townsmen and townswomen, informing the daily news. He is speaking with someone. The murmuring of the women overpowers the tone in the air, so not a word can be heard. Squinting as hard as he can, the farmer can not make out who the second person is. Assuming the mystery person is of wealth is the only thought as a generous-looking proposal transfers hands. As the town crier ties his new profits to his belt, the mystery man mounts his horse and rides east into the Whispering Woods.
Beads of sweat begin to trickle down the farmer's forehead, but are stopped short with a swipe of his pocket-rag.
Why would any person willingly go into the Whispering Woods? This thought baffles him. With woods so dark and thick, it's a dangerous place one should never get caught in alone.
The town crier catches the town's attention with the ringing of his bell; a sign to the town folks that an announcement is to be made.
A raspy voice so loud and clear pleads for everyone's attention. "Ladies and Gentlemen with daughters of age. Jacob Black the Third would like to extend his hand in marriage to a rightful maiden. If you wish to offer your daughter's hand then present her tomorrow at this very same hour."
His heart flutters, realizing what once was scuttlebutt now runs true. Hope filling his eyes, the newly energized farmer makes his way back to his homestead. With new faith on his mind he can't help but wonder how lucky of a chance this will be for him and his daughter.
Before his hand can push open the door, a smile appears upon his face. The mouthwatering smell of dinner hypnotizes him into a trance. Leaving his worries behind, the father allows his high spirits to take hold as he stumbles across the threshold.
Gentle smiles exchange for a hello. A bowl of three-day-old soup beckons him to sit. Reading past the bogus mask, his daughter knows the emotions he emits conflict his tiresome face. Little lines etch along the surface, showing just how long his days have become; working hard to provide a life for them. For her. A life for her is a must in his eyes. A life that is bound to crush him in the end. A life to which he can not provide anymore.
He does not express his woes of a pitfall, but the fatherly-side details out a plan of setting up his daughter with a nobleman. A game of chance, but a gamble he's willing to take. A better life is in the fate of someone within the village, a woman who has yet to know the warmth of a man's touch.
With much fuse, the daughter finally yields to his request, knowing 'no' would not be acceptable. She only wants to help her father, as he wants to help her. With pride spilling out of his mouth, he gushes about his daughters abilities in becoming a wife.
An unsoiled home and a well-fed man is what keeps a family going. Looking around the spotless furnishings along with the dinner on the table, he knows his daughter has all the right teachings.
With bellies full and embers cooling, the dark night sends their minds to a world of their own.
With the sun's early rise comes the shattering of this world the dark creates, in which a new day forms.
Breaking routine, the farmer shoos his daughter off to get ready as he prepares breakfast. Skipping his chance at a bath this week, he offers his daughter the cleaner water to spruce up with. She cleans the best to her ability, even splurges with bathing over her body twice, and assuring she washes behind her ears.
Patting dry, she pinches her skin to rouse the pink hiding beneath her cheeks, then slips on a dress her mother sewed.
Seeing the dress on her form in the mirror brings back memories of her mother. The last piece she ever made was this olive-green dress which laid flat against the body. Her mother was such a happy woman, that is, until the fever set in. It took her last breath and left nothing behind but glimpses of her past.
Smiling to herself, the daughter knows wearing the dress is a good choice. Perfect is the only word she could say when she spins around the room, watching the skirt twirl around her.
A snicker slips from the father's lips as he watches his daughter spin around. Long, flowing brunette hair glides through the air then comes to a stop when the twirl is done. Chocolate, excited eyes fall upon watchful ones. Those same dazzling eyes that took his breath away seventeen years ago.
With thoughts escaping their hidden chamber of his late wife, he swallows the thick air which accumulates in his windpipe for strength. His daughter is a spitting image of her. He motions for her to sit and eat so they may ready themselves for the day.
Before leaving, the daughter has one last doubt about her appearance and asks her father how she looks. A tender kiss brushes across her forehead to relax the nerves and they make their way to the center of town.
More girls are of age than the farmer had thought, which only dwindles hope. Eight other girls are the challenge, but upon sizing them up he knows, without a doubt, his daughter is sure to win. He might be bias, but inside he knew it was a sheer win.
Hobbling over and nearly tripping over a rock, the Town Crier pleads for everyone's interest. "May I have your attention! Please line up so that Jacob Black the Third may meet each of your daughters."
The Town Crier moves aside as Jacob steps out into the opening from underneath the great oak tree. A drawing, unified breath can be heard coming from each of the girls. As he makes his way over, the farmer's daughter couldn't help but notice how handsome Jacob is. He is very tall with long, onyx hair pulled back from his face. Dressed to the nines, he is wearing all black except his embellished gold vest which is grabbing onto his every muscle.
The farmer's daughter can't help but think this is a mask of elaborate, detailed clothing. Usually most noblemen were frail as everything was done for them, however, Jacob, on the other hand, is built from the thickness of his neck all way down to his bulging calves.
Waiting to be chosen, all the maidens stand in a line. Batting eyes beckon for attention while others have bulging cleavage peeking over the tops of their corsets with hands behind their backs in hopes to protrude the chest more.
Unlike these other maidens, the farmer's daughter barely has a chest to show and accepts defeat as she rings her hands in front of her, nibbling away on her lip while wishing her dress showed off more.
Further down the line, Jacob receives a wink with a single glance. Then, further down, a smile begins the speeding of a heart and rush of blood to the cheeks. Hiding from his admiring eyes, the daughter ducks back into line, out of view.
Jacob ignores the other girls as they silently cry for his affection. Loving a challenge, the girl whom shuns away from his stare is the girl he wants. He makes way toward her, the one whom used little effort to be found. So slight, the girl appears feeble next to the mighty nobleman. Even with all the squabbling girls around, all that could be heard was dead silence between them.
"My lady, what is your name?" he asks, bowing.
"Bella Swan." She genuflects, smiling with only her eyes.
"It would please me, greatly, if I could know you a little better. May I?"
Extending a hand, he beckons for her touch which will accept his offer. Disgust surrounding her, Bella is bewildered by what is going on.
Is he really choosing her over the others? She looks around, but everyone has already begun clearing away, leaving only her and the suitor.
Nodding her head, Bella offers her hand, to which he places a tender kiss. Blushing cheeks begin to infatuate him, knowing his presence is causing her body react. She looks into his brown eyes that seem of kindness, but does not match the growing smile that begins to spread across his face. There is something existing within his smile that is not inviting.
"How about a picnic over by the lake?" he asks.
Without a voice, Bella stands frozen, only finding the will to glance at her father as he smiles from ear to ear.
She can't help but wonder if this stranger is really who he's presenting himself to be. His intentions seem nice, but she senses underneath his handsome clothing and appearance there is a lurking fiend waiting to pounce. However, not wanting to disappoint her father, Bella accepts his offer, but still leans on the wary.
Offering his arm, Bella takes a gentle hold and upon cupping his other hand over hers, she notices how large his are. So much so, she's unable to take her eyes off them. His size is unlike any nobleman she's ever seen or heard of, and she questions him as to if he really is Sir Jacob or just a messenger sent to fetch a bride.
Booming laughter pushes aside such foolish questions while they sit at the edge of the lake where a plate of fruit and nuts await them. Reassuring Bella, he shows off his ruby ring, a proper indication of his stature. He explains of it's origin; a gift his father had given him a long time ago.
"Why do you believe I am not who I say I am?" Arrogant tone aside, he waits patiently as Bella takes a breath.
"You don't seem like other noblemen. You appear rather strong, as though you're a warrior."
"In a manner of speaking, I'm a warrior within the kingdom. My form is contributed to the partaking of hunting."
"So, you're more of a hunter, then?"
Another menacing smile stretches across his face as his eyes glimmer with pleasure. "That's correct… I'm a hunter."
Chills travel down Bella's spine at his last word.
Jacob ends the meeting some time later, feeling the presence of her father. A promising wish is that a goodnight kiss will turn to more if Bella will have him. This news stuns her, and with prying eyes she accepts.
"Everyday I will come to you, until our vows are firm," he says.
Watching Jacob ride off into the distance, Bella stands unsure of her ill thought-out fate. Is this what she wants? Maybe it's merely a bad first impression. More concerning was the direction Jacob was riding off toward.
The Whispering Woods.
Bella waits until they are in the comfort of their home to question her father about Jacob. She tries to explain how Jacob seems to be misleading and very mysterious. "Did you not see him ride into The Whispering Woods?"
Her father dismisses her question. "Jacob Black is a good man. He will make a fine husband. You know, my daughter, the woods are nothing but a legend; one meant to frighten young children so they won't be inclined to wander off alone." He pinches her chin between his calloused fingers. "I grow tired. You will find ease after you've had a good night's rest. I'll see you in the morning."
. . .
The next day as promised, Jacob rides into the village with a picnic in hand. This tradition continues day after day for two weeks. Each day, Bella grows more suspicious of her new suitor, as her father's love for him swells.
The moment Jacob presents him with the same horse he admired two weeks ago, her heart broke; for she knows she has lost her father's side and favor. Excitement takes over the old man's soul and his care which he once held for Bella is lost as he sets off into the fields to tend to his land.
The world abandoning her, Bella accepts her fate, wondering when the wedding will take place. Jacob suggests one week from that day to allow for preparations. Intertwining his hands into hers and pulling her closer, Jacob explains the plan he has for her tomorrow; she will journey to his home in the woods so his seamstress can create a dress for his beautiful bride. Mouth gaping, Bella looks toward the woods, then tactfully rambling, she confesses she doesn't know where he lives so she could not come. Sensing her concern and wariness, he says, "I will create a path of ashes for you, my love. With that path, you may find your way."
Without giving a yes or no, Jacob insists on Bella being there tomorrow by nightfall. He rides into the woods without giving as much as a single glance behind.
Unsettling dreams keep Bella up all night. Tossing and turning, the images behind her mind are too much to handle. Before she knows it the night sky passes and the sun takes flight.
She rushes outside to see her father already out in the field, working with his prized horse. Waving goodbye, she makes her way to the woods, heart pounding in her ears with a light gentle breeze.
A trail of ash, as promised, is a luring hand to the curious seeker. Kicking the ash, Bella realizes if a storm were to come along the trail would vanish. Such an ill-fitting plan, but is it with a purpose?
Breaking tree limbs here and there is the only sign Bella can give herself, a sign which indicates this was her way back. Trusting the ash could prove to be misleading. With each step into the Whispering Woods the breeze grows cooler. Curling inward and pulling the hood over her head, Bella surprisingly finds comfort in her cloak which Jacob gave her. Snapping another branch she hears a voice.
"So beautiful, so fair. I wouldn't go further if I dare."
Circling around, Bella searches for the person behind the sudden voice. Scanning the mossy terrain and high up in the drooping tree limbs, no one is seen. The Whispering Woods live up to their name. A place so dark and thick, voices have to carry.
"A heart first he will steal, which later ends in a meal."
She continues on still, stopping every so often to mark a tree for her path back. She notices no birds chirp here. There's always birds around where she lives, where are they at now.
"You've looked into the eyes. You've seen its a disguise"
She bites her lip and takes a further notice that there is no movement in the woods. Not even the wind moves a leaf.
"Don't fall for his trick. He can be very quick"
She contemplates on turning toward home, but what will her father think of her return?
Poorly, she thinks.
"Don't show your fear. He'll find a way to make you tear."
Picking up pace, Bella begins to move fast in a sprint. Tripping over a rock she comes to a halt. Ground catching the fall her breath escapes past her lips. Goosebumps rise as hair stands on the base of her neck.
"Listen to the wind's chill. Keep moving forward, your blood will spill."
Brown eyes dilate at the sound of the words. Stern words with meaning behind them. No. Menacing laughter. Warnings of the talking woods were myth were they not?
Ashes that first left a trail now finally come to an end. Up ahead stands a medium-size cottage. Tip-toeing up to the establishment, she can't help but see it as its own entity.
Has character, she thinks.
Old, English ivy constricts its way around the outer core. Weaving itself up and over, down and across, it takes over the frame of the front door, then swirls up the chimney. Where there is no ivy, moss covers. With a canopy of trees above, no sunshine beams through.
With each step toward the house, a knot grows tighter in Bella's stomach. The smell of blood and rot fills her lungs. Eyes begin to water as acid creeps up her throat. She hunches over as she silently begs for fresh air.
More voices begin to chime, saying to turn around and don't look back. Her body fills with urgency. She spins on her heel toward the woods, feeling as though she's being watched, but no eyes return her gaze. Looking back at the cottage door, she gathers herself up.
She'd already made it this far, no need in turning back now after the long, frightening journey. She has to find Jacob.
Fear masks itself with bravado as Bella walks up to the door. Twisting the door knob and pushing the door aside sends a echoing creak all around.
"Good morrow," she says, but there is no reply. Bella steps into the cottage. The smell which lingers outside intensifies on the inside, so she covers her nose with a sleeve and begins to walk from room to room in search of someone. Candles, placed all over, light her way.
As Bella investigates, she notices a dark door, hinting red. The door stands its ground no matter how hard Bella tries to pull it open.
Moments after rattling the door knob, a whimper is heard beyond it. Gasping at what Bella thinks she just heard, she starts yelling through the door to see if someone is, in fact, on the other side. Not much can be heard except muffled cries. Knowing someone may be in trouble, Bella pulls open any drawer she can find. Her heart races through her chest.
Feeling lost, looking for a needle in a hay stack, she checks the last room.
Opening the closet within bewilders the mind.
Woman's clothing torn with blood stains. Some, traditional wedding dresses. Moving onto the dresser she opens them to find other oddities; wedding bands of all shapes and sizes, matching earrings and necklaces along with lockets. Another drawer was nothing except different sized chemises.
She closes the drawer, harder than expected, causing something heavy to hit the floor. An ax.
She has never used one before, but figures now is a good time to learn. Racing to the door, she begins striking the sharp tool into the door with all her might. Every now and again, it would get stuck, so she'd have to pry it away. Time passes slowly with each swinging effort.
It takes Bella a while to create a hole big enough so she may climb through. Grabbing a candle from the room, she makes her way down the dusty staircase where the stench grows. Crying whimpers echo in the dank room. Upon illuminating the surroundings, she notices manacles mounted on the walls, and shapeless forms littering the floor. She lowers the candle to light the ground.
All lifeless, until she comes across the girl crying in the corner. Uneasily Bella makes her way over to the girl.
"Are you okay?"
"What are you doing here? Are you asking for a death wish? He'll know you've been here. He will kill you for sure now. You must leave!"
Leave? What did they do to this girl? Was she going insane and didn't know it? Matted black hair with a dirty face and brown glowing eyes, the girl looks about the same age as Bella.
"Who did this to you? We have to get you out of here before whomever comes back."
"You don't get it they will come back here see me missing and both will be hunted down for sure. It's happened before. It'll happen again," the girl cries.
A crash sounded through the floor above, followed by a howl. Eyes widen. Steps increase with purpose and the chained girl shoos Bella away. Ignorance is bliss when playing a game of outwit. As though nothing happened, the manacled girl collapses to the damp floor.
"Are you just going to give up and—"
Intense, bright green flames, a shade she's never encountered, flare around the room. She drops the candle, then, and a tear makes its way down her cheek when she turns to find a familiar face on the stairs. Staring back at her is a group of five, shirtless males. Jacob is in front. She does not miss the red streaked across their chests, which causes her hands to shake by her side.
The devil often often takes forms in beauty, when a smile doesn't match the eyes that's when you should worry. A mask of beauty is not seen by most, however, Bella knew the instant she saw Jacob's fiendish smile, he was a creature to be fearful of.
Jacob leaves the formation and walks past his bride, holding her eyes with his. He bares a grin. That menacing grin that makes the butterflies in the stomach fall to her gut.
"You wouldn't be trying to help this poor little thing now would you?" he asks. Picking up the shackled girl from the floor by her neck causes the other men to stir and rustle. Pleading with her screams, the girls tries to squirm away from his grip.
"Stop you're hurting her!" Bella said hopelessly. The men file past her then, and the screaming intensifies. The girl begs to be freed, to be let go, for them to get away. Bella prepares to hit one of the men, but not before she's caught!
Before he could charge at her actions, Jacob let out a growl, halting the loose cannon. "Take this one, I'm keeping her for myself," he says.
Their hair begins to grow. Arms and feet turn into paws. Nose and mouth form a muzzle. Eyes glow like the fireflies at night. Rivers begin to flow from Bella's eyes as teeth sink into the manacled woman as she lets out one last scream.
There is more to the forest than simple legend. They speak; haunted by ghosts of those who died. Their takers are the werewolves of the Whispering Woods, thought to be a distorted fairy tale.
"I'll give you a head start if you want to go now," Jacob says.
Running like she's never ran before all Bella could hear behind her was the bone breaking and skin ripping sounds of the nameless girl being eaten alive. A life taken so easily. A misfortune that is soon to be her fate. If only she can make it to the village before Jacob got to her. Maybe she would have a chance. She has to try!
Hope creates a fiery charge within Bella's heart.
She has to make it out. If not for herself then for all the other girls that fell for Jacob's trap. She exits the house and finds the ash and broken limb trail in no time. She tears through the forest, and with each growing step two more thuds can be heard behind. The red-haired wolf is nearing!
The edge of the woods is just ahead, and she begins to scream out for help. If she doesn't make it to the treeline, maybe someone will hear her! In the distance, she can see her father out in the field. Inhaling, Bella prepares to let out a scream that will end this chase. The shout is lingering in the back of her throat as a sharp pain rips through her back!
Body knocking to the ground, Bella's mouth is clouded with soil and foliage. She tries to scream again, but it was a half attempt when she realizes Jacob is on top of her, clawing and biting away. Her skin burns! She closes her hands around her face and, this time, with the last of her strength shrieks, "Daddy!"
The farmer stops his horse, and looks toward the trees. The Whispering Woods are working their magic again; sending out cries to scare off the young children so they dare not enter. It's a brief interruption to his work, then he continues working on his precious field that will now hold life thanks to his horse.
With a growing crop, a fathers mind is at ease. The farmer, once never wanting to release his daughter, never sees her again. It plagues him at first. However, as time goes on the memory fades. As all he knows, she is well in the sights of a nobleman's gaze.