The chorus of birds arose Evynne from her slumber. Blinking she tried to comprehend her white washed surroundings.
“Oh, yeah I’m in the Kingston’s house. I wonder what time….” she paused as a sweet aroma drifted up the stairs.
Evynne smiled and quickly changed and hurried down the stairs to the kitchen. The kitchen was filled with natural light, with one dark a brooding cloud of tension above the table where Cameron an unknown man sat.
“Oh Evynne you’re awake. Jethro darling this is Evynne.”
Evynne jumped as Martha wheeled pass her to husband, said husband glance up at her with dark brown eyes. He stood and stuck out his hand, which she shook. His grip was tight and unfriendly.
“Jethro Kingston, chief of police, I’m sorry I was unable to pick you up at the station. I’ve been drowning in my work for the past few months.”
“It’s okay, Cameron walked with me here, he’s a real lifesaver.”
At the table Cameron blushed and quickly took a bite of his eggs. Martha beamed at her blushing son, while his father leveled a glare.
” I see. At least he’s a the slow path of redemption, come your breakfast is getting cold.”
Evynne quickly took her seat next to Cameron, who passed her a stack of pancakes and syrup. Breakfast was intense as the two males ate in silence while Martha chit-chatted oblivious to the elephant in the room.
“I have a great idea!” exclaimed Martha suddenly, “Jethro how about you take the kids on a tour of the town.”
Cameron winched as he shot pleading looks at his mother, almost begging her to reconsider. Martha only smiled and batter her eyes at her husband, who in grunted in response.
After breakfast cleared and cleaned up Jethro kissed Martha and shooed the kids out the door. Outside Evynne froze as Jethro held open the backdoor of his police cruiser.
“I take it you’ve been in the back a few of these aye?” he chuckled as she slowly got inside.
She only smiled in response as she fastened her seatbelt, praying that this was going to be a soothing trip.
She was wrong.
As they drove the tense brooding cloud hung in front part of the cruiser ready to explode at any given moment. And it did, when Jethro let out a sigh.
“Damn it! Out with it already! C’mon father let me know what is whirling in the pissed off brain of yours! I mean honestly are we really going to just sit here and ignore the elephant in the room?” exploded Cameron throwing up his hands.
Evynne squeak at the sudden outburst and pushed herself into the seat wishing that she could anywhere but here.
“Damn right I’m pissed! Ten damn years you’ve been gone with not even a letter to soothe your mother’s worries! After all we did to raise and care for you and that’s how you repay us? By leaving with a god damn drifter, who was three times your age!”
“I was an adult! I could go and do whatever I wanted, and you had no right to tell me otherwise!”
“And yet here you are back in your forgotten mother’s bosom. Your prince wasn’t all he was cracked up to be aye? I see you have no bag, just the clothes on your back. So tell me was he worth it?”
Cameron bit his lip and turn his to look out the window, “At first yes, but then he….changed.”
Evynne eyes widen when Cameron shoulders started to shake, and to see his tears fall freely.
“He raped and beat me, and cheated on me. I couldn’t get away from him. I was a prisoner, in my own house. So yes, you were right about him. You right about every damn thing. I had no where else to go, and so came here where knew I would be welcomed. Or so I thought, if you want me to leave I will.”
Jethro sat there speechless, as the cruiser rolled to a stop on the side of the road.
“Get out of the car Cameron.” Jethro ordered.
Cameron blinked, tears still trailing down his tan face, “What?”
“Don’t make me say it again.”
Sobbing Cameron got out along with Jethro, which made Evynne highly concerned. With heavy steps Jethro made his way to Cameron’s side of the cruiser, and without warning threw his arms around his wayward son. After a brief pause Cameron returned the embrace and cried into his father’s shoulder.
“No matter what you do your mother and I will always love you. Don’t ever forget that you hear? And that goes for you to Evynne, I hope one day you can call upon us to be your family.”
Evynne sat there in shock, was he serious? Jethro’s looked confirmed her suspensions, again as she thought to herself perhaps these family could hers.
Once everyone calmed and settled their composure the tour began. It was a short tour since the biggest thing in Sacred Grove was courthouse. Evynne was surprised though to see several different little stores, that lined the main street. They seemed to have everything. From Daisy Organic Grocery Store, to Mike and Bill’s Pastries. Though out of the blue Cameron order to stop in front a store called Prince Finest.
Cameron almost flew into the store with Jethro and Evynne on his heels. Inside there was a loud crash.
“Cameron? Is that you! Whoa, whoa hey get off of me! You’re going to ruin my painting!” Evynne stood in the doorway amused as she watch Cameron rub on a pink hair boy, who was trying to escape his grasp.
“God Prince you haven’t changed a bit!” exclaimed Cameron as he continued his snuggling.
“Ya, ya I know I haven’t changed but for the love of god get off me!” yelled Prince as he finally freed himself. Prince’s hazel eyes narrowed as he straighten his shirt, “Be thankful you didn’t ruin my painting, or there would have been blood to pay.”
Evynne rolled her eyes as she bypassed the boys to look at the half-painted painting. The background scenery was breathtaking with no detail left wanting, it was to beautiful to put into words. But it was the center image that had her staring, upon a ledge was the giant white stag she saw from the train. Prince had captured its every detail, for the moss and vines to the branching antlers.
“Ah, I know that look. You’ve seen him to no? An honor that, he rarely shows himself, especially to outsiders.”
She whipped around only to have Prince chest to chest with her, “What do mean by him?”
“Folklore says he’s the Lord of the Forest, the Guardian of Sacred Grove.” Jethro explained, “that is if you believe in such tales.”
“Folklore is laced with truth, remember that Jethro. You are nothing but sprout in this great forest.” Prince hissed as he resumed his painting.
“Oh no the paintbrush has meet the canvas, it time to leave if you value your lives. Prince gets very serious when he paints.” Cameron whispered as he hurried his father and Evynne out of the shop.
Jethro shook his head, “Prince has always been a unique character of Sacred Grove, I always thought that you and him would become a couple.”
“Ha, no chance in hell. That boy is straighter than the Halo River.” laughed Cameron as he held the car door open for Evynne.
They continued on their drive, when suddenly the police radio went off.
‘Chief Kingston, do you copy?’
“Ya, Murray what’s the situation?” Jethro replayed
‘We have an 10-68 up at Old Kelly Farm on route 1.’
“Shit, I told Luther to keep those damn sheep in fence. 10-4 Kingston out.”
Jethro sighed as he glanced at his passengers, “Hey, I have some sheep wrangling to do. Do you two want me to drop you both at house or…”
“Can you drop us out at Arrow’s Point? I want to give Evynne a tour of some the woods while it’s still light out.” Cameron cut in.
Arrow’s Point was a nature trail that whined itself through the ancient woods. They ambled along with the sound of wildlife cocooning the them in serenity.
“A few miles ahead, there is a spring and one of the best swimming holes. Some other time I’ll show you the hot spring, and my secret sanctuary.”
Evynne smile as Cameron went on and on about how he was the best guide of the forest when Evynne heard a cry on the wind. She froze as the cry echoed again, it was coming from her left.
Without thinking she darted towards the cry, down a hill and through a grove of trees. The trees thinned to a meadow on fire from the setting sun, and stained with blood. In the center a man was been dragged by a creature its massive claws completely through his torso.
The wind whooshed in her ears as the lumbering creature snapped its head to look at her its face white with no features. It pulsed power shaking the ground, Evynne stumbled and collapsed. The world swirled as the darkness quickly swallowed her.