The Myth of Arden
The Lonely π•Žπ•†π•†π”»π•€π”Ό

𝕺nce upon a time, Arden the tree lived happily with his friends in The 𝖂ondermist 𝕱orest.

It was a wondrous place where the birds chirped and the forest friends scampered and scurried along the limbs of the friendly trees. Every day was filled with joy and fun under the canopy of their lovely little world. 

Breezy spring mornings shifted to the longer days of summer. One warm morning the birds chirped louder and the forest friends scurried faster. Something was different, and they were scared. 

Arden opened his eyes and once they adjusted to the much too bright sunlight, he couldn’t believe what he saw. All of the other trees had vanished! He could see the sky and an open field all around him. 

 “What the fungus!? Where is everyone?”

“The logger! He came in the night!” replied Sparrow.

That’s when Arden saw the horrible truth. Under the leaves and broken branches that littered the forest floor he saw the only thing that remained of his tree friends. Stumps. They didn’t leave, they were taken! Now Arden was the only tree left.

He tried for days to shelter the animals but the harsh sun scalded his leaves, and little by little, most of the animals had to leave to find new shelter. Days turned to weeks and Arden grew sad and lonely. 

One crisp fall day, Arden lost his first leaf of the season. Soon it would be winter. The remaining birds would fly to warmer climates and the forest friends would hibernate and Arden would truly be alone. His friends weren’t coming back. Arden knew what he had to do. He would have to go out into the world himself, searching high and low, to find his tree friends. Only they weren’t tree friends anymore since they’d been removed from their roots. If Arden wanted to find them he knew his time as a tree was over as well. 

Arden would have to become… A π•Žπ•†π•†π”»π•€π”Ό.

 He called over his forest friends to tell them of his plans. The forest friends were sad Arden was leaving too but Arden promised they’d see each other again. The forest friends helped him by gnawing at the base of his trunk until… TIMMMMMBERRRRRR!!!! thud 

“Oww!"

Arden said as he stood, wobbling as he adjusted to his new mobility. He looked toward the tire tracks on the north side of the forest and began to walk, following his only lead.

…and that is the story of Arden the Woodie, who is now searching for his friends. Nothing is going to stop him. As for that logger… well… let’s just say the logger better hope Arden doesn’t find him too. 

Arden followed the tire tracks as far as he could but when he reached a road, he didn’t know which way to go. He closed his eyes and tried to listen to his instincts. He looked both ways, and then decided he’d go toward the sun. Luckily for Arden, it was the right direction. 

Arden stayed alert as he traveled for any sound or any sighting of the Woodies, but to no avail. But then, just as his new legs couldn’t take him any further, he heard something. He looked toward the sound and saw…a person. 

At first Arden was a bit scared. He didn’t know if this was the horrible logger he’d been told about, but then the person smiled. 

Realizing this person was friendly, Arden decided to take a leap of faith. “Excuse me, can you help me please? You see, I’m trying to find my friends. They were taken by the logger and I need to find them before it’s too late,” said Arden. He looked up at the person with hope. 

“Yes, of course I’ll help you find the Woodies!”

Arden was filled with glee! Surely his search would go faster with some help. Before he knew it, a whole group of wonderful people formed a search party and were out searching for the Woodies. They searched high and low, and for a long time there was no sign of his friends. Even so, Arden and his new friends would not give up. 

Arden traveled the world, staying with kind hosts who even took photos of him out having what was turning out to be a rather wondrous adventure!

Finally, one day after everyone’s diligent efforts, the clues led Arden and the search party to a small group of his Woodie friends! Although they were a bit shaken, they seemed to be unharmed. 

“Arden! You found us!” 

“We found you! These are my friends who helped me search. We've been looking all over the place! But where are the others?” asked Arden.

The Woodies looked sad and one of them said, “Well, it’s a bit of a long story.”

Arden - The Lonely Woodie

Willow

It was getting dark and all of the Woodies were bundled together on the back of the logger’s truck. They were feeling so wilted, tired, and scared. 

“Oh Willow, I didn’t see you there,” said Laurel. “You’re so little.” 

Willow was wriggling between between Douglas and Laurel. She was smaller than the other Woodies and had been making her way around the truck throughout the day. 

“Have you seen Arden? I can’t find him anywhere. I don’t think he’s here or he would’ve responded when I called for him” said Willow, sad and anxious about her best friend. 

“No, I haven’t seen him, but I can’t see much from here to be honest. I can’t move around like you can with your thin, bendy branches.”

Those words gave Willow an idea! She was the only one limber enough to maneuver herself to the back of the truck where she could squeeze through a gap in the truck's gate. She could go back to the forest to find Arden and the two of them together could get help and save the rest of the Woodies! The other Woodies tried to talk her out of it. She’d surely get lost, or run out of sap, or trip and become a fallen log, but Willow was determined and very brave! She had the ability to help, and so she must. 

“I’ll get a good look at the truck once I get out! I’m pretty sure there was a picture on the side of it. I’ll use that to find you all!”

They said their goodbyes, Willow wedged herself through the gap, and as the truck sped off, did her best to remember every detail about the picture on the side of the truck, which happened to be just like the Logger’s face! 

With that image burned into her memory, the search began. Willow followed the road until she came to a place where it split in two. She’d have to pick a direction. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one, and Willow soon got lost. She wandered, searching for Arden or the Woodies until one day she decided that the best course of action was to stay in one place. Surely Arden was looking for her and the Woodies by now too. She’d make herself as easy to find as she could, leaving notes about her location scribbled on leaves and passing messages along to forest friends. 

A lot of time passed, and though she hadn’t completely lost hope, sad and lonely Willow set up a neat little home for herself, doing her best to hide from hikers and unfriendly creatures. One day, however, she was caught off guard and was spotted by someone walking the trail. She was scared at first, but then the person smiled wide before turning back and yelling—

“ARDEN! Arden, come quick! I’ve found one of your friends!”

Arden and Willow were thrilled to be reunited. They sat outside giggling as Arden shared stories of his search party adventures, until the time came for Willow to tell him of that dreadful morning the logger arrived.

    “It was still dark. His rusty old truck woke the others and me. He smiled at our forest and then lifted a gleaming, heavy axe. He was chopping us down! He was methodical, strong, and fast, as if he’d done it a million times before.

    “Thankfully, Merkle knew we were in trouble through the root network. She told us we would be alright. As each of us fell from the logger’s axe, her magic took over. We were transformed into Woodies!” Willow said. “We tried to run away, but our legs weren’t ready.”

    “He was about to swing at you, but realized you wouldn’t fit in the back of his truck. We were piled high, tied down and held in by rails to either side. The logger put his axe in the back, and closed the gate. We all rumbled away, out of the forest. That’s all that saved you. He’s a bad, bad man, Arden.”

    Arden couldn’t believe he had slept through all this. He was even more surprised to learn that Merkle, the mother tree, was also the one responsible for his transformation, when the forest friends cut him down.

    “If not for her magic, you would have become a log instead of a Woodie,” Willow said. “Oh, Merkle Tree! I can’t hear her anymore. I’ve tried to connect to the root network but I can’t understand. Can you?”

    “No, she hasn’t spoken to me since the Logger came,” Arden replied, thinking back on that lonely time.

    “She was probably weak without the energy we normally send to our roots,” Willow said.

    Arden perked up with a newfound motivation: “We’ll go help her once we find the others!”

    “Yes! There’s so much to do! I think catch up time is over, Arden. Hey, Woodies!” Willow hollered. “Can you come out here?”

Hoping for more clues, Willow convinced the found Woodies to finally share details of their escapes. A revelation came: Willow’s brave escape from the truck made enough room inside for another Woodie to wiggle their way out, then another, and another after that. However, they didn’t know how many had escaped.

    “Even if everyone escaped, we still have to find them,” said Arden. “They may be camping near the lumber yard.”

    Each Woodie added details and landmarks to the collection of clues on the Logger’s whereabouts. Together with their search party friends, they narrowed down the area of the lumber yard until finally there was a lead. One of the search party members discovered the Logger’s website with a nice colorful picture of the Logger himself.

    “That’s him!” squealed Willow. “This is it! We know where to find them!”

    They hopped up and down in an excited huddle, and Arden shouted, “Let’s go save the Woodies!”

Willow

The Logger

The search party took a caravan toward the Logger’s lumber yard in a small mountain town. It was far away in a place they had not yet searched. As predicted, they found more Woodies along the way! Most of them had escaped the truck but a small group had made it all the way to the lumber yard that night.

One Woodie told Arden the story. “When the Logger opened the door a bunch of us jumped out of the truck and ran into the woods! He immediately slammed the gate shut and plugged the hole with a piece of wood board he had nearby, trapping the remaining Woodies in the truck. The Logger was so surprised. We’d still resembled logs when he’d last seen us.”

Before they ran into the surrounding forest, they managed to see endless piles of logs and stacks of wood sheets and planks from different regions the Logger had visited.

“Oak Arrow stopped running and told a few of us to find the escaped Woodies and get help. They were going to save those trapped in the truck. We eventually found some escaped Woodies, but never found the lumber yard again,” said the Woodie.

The caravan finally arrived at the lumber yard. A painted wooden sign by the driveway read “Exotic Woods and Furniture”. All four tires on the Logger’s truck were flat and there were no Woodies in sight. The cut lumber was still there but only a couple of piles of logs remained. The Logger was outside sanding a raw edge tabletop with a large dog lying beside him.

The search party approached through the forest, careful not to make noise, but a single twig snapped underfoot. The dog ran toward the forest barking and gnarling his teeth. The Logger spun around and picked up his axe. 

 “I know you’re out there. Show yourselves!” yelled the disheveled Logger with madness in his eyes. Everyone stood still. The dog stopped barking and the Logger returned to his work, grumbling.

“Psst.”

Arden and Willow turned to see some masked Woodies step out from behind some trees, including one tough looking Woodie carrying a bow and arrows.

“What are you doing? You’re going to ruin our ambush!” whispered the Woodie, removing their mask.

“Oak Arrow? Is that you? We’re here to save you all! Who are you ambushing?” asked Willow.

“The Logger! We’re here to recover the last of the logs!” said Oak Arrow, looking suspisiously at the search party. “Who are they?”

 “They are my friends. They helped me find everyone. Who are they?” asked Arden, looking at the unfamiliar Woodies. 

“They are my friends. They’re from the other regions. They’re helping me steal all the logs back from the Logger. Merkle and the other Elementals have been working to revive the Woodie spirit from each one,” said Oak Arrow.

“That’s wonderful! What can we do to help?” asked Arden.

“Just stay out of the way. We’ve got this planned. Ok, Woodies. Ready? ATTACK!”

Arden and the search party hid as the masked Woodies charged into the lumber yard. Oak Arrow and some others went toward the Logger and the dog. The rest went to the log piles.

“No! Not again! I won’t let you take everything away from me!” shouted the Logger, swinging his axe at the Woodies. They fought and circled around him, harnessing the dog and avoiding the axe while the others carried the logs into the forest, prompting everyone hiding in the forest to run over and help. 

Willow and Arden were halfway to the log pile when they saw the logger’s axe strike a Woodie, immediately turning her into a log. 

“No!” yelled Willow. 

The logger turned to glance at the woods, and the Woodies were able to knock him down. 

He got up and ran toward his house but Arden blocked his way. 

“Stop right there! You hurt my friends! You destroyed my home! You are a monster and I won’t let you get away with this!”

Arden charged at the logger but he was much too small. He fell back onto the ground. The logger picked up his axe over his head and stepped over Arden, ready to swing his axe. For a moment, Arden was terrified, but then the whole search party and all of the Woodies ran up behind him. 

“Enough, Logger!” shouted Willow, as she helped Arden stand.

“Put the axe down, man!” added one member of the search party. 

The Logger stood in the middle of his lumber yard, completely surrounded, with Oak Arrow’s bow aimed at him. He slowly lowered his axe, still grimacing.

“Fine. Take all the wood! But know that I’ll just get more. I’ll cut down every rare forest I can find, little tree man. Now get out of here. You’re all trespassing!” shouted the Logger, as he hurried over to his house and slammed the door.

The search party and the Woodies left, taking the last of the logs with them, including the one struck by the Logger’s axe. Oak Arrow led them on a long journey to the big camp, where all of the rescued and revived Woodies had been living. 

There were so many Woodies, they almost looked like a forest; A short, fidgety forest with feet. Merkle and the other elementals still had many logs left to turn into Woodies, but for now, they were found, and safe. 

Arden sat beside Willow and some search party members in the camp. “Willow, I’ve been thinking. I don’t think I can live in the forest anymore. There’s this whole world out there, and I don’t have roots anymore anyway. I need to help protect other forests from the Logger and others like him. I think I can convince one of my search party friends to let me stay with them.”

“I’ve been thinking the same thing, but we can’t just go live with them,” said Willow.

“Sure you can!” said one person.

“You can absolutely stay with me,” said another.

All the search party members were in agreement. They would adopt one or more Woodies and take care of them! 

“It’s settled then! We’re going to live with our new friends!” said Arden.

So the Woodies went to live all over the world. They go on new adventures, learn all sorts of new things, and teach everyone they meet about caring for nature and each other.

The Logger

The Mask Maker of Muckshire

The bogs of Muckshire are filled with soggy mud and rotting plants, but also where the rich earth is perfect for new growth. These constant cycles of life and death, beginnings and endings, are overseen by Yanu, the mischievous earth spirit who lives in the peaty land.

Like other spirits, Yanu can take on a physical form, but he particularly adores shape-shifting. He spends his time sourcing vibrant clays, minerals, and other natural pigments to use as paint on enchanted masks he crafts for himself. On any given day, Yanu skips around playing pranks and scaring the animals by embodying the creatures they most fear.

There was only one being who could keep him in check, and she was on her way to Muckshire. He could sense her approach through the root and fungal network that permeated his earthy domain.

He and Merkle butted heads often as they worked closely together over their shared tasks of decay and rebirth. He hid, planning to frighten her when she arrived.

“Yanu, I know you’re there. Come on out,” said Merkle as she materialized into her physical form and stood on a squishy patch of moss. Yanu emerged from the murky water, wearing a complex mask with horns and hypnotizing eyes.

“Ruining my fun again... What brings you to my abode? Have you brought some truffles for your dearest old friend?” asked Yanu in a mocking voice. He shook like a dog, spattering mud on Merkle, but she was unfazed.

“No nonsense today, please. I need your help.”

“Oh! What a glorious day it is. Merkle finally admits to needing little ol’ me! Follow me to my hut. I need to paint this beautiful scene on my walls,” gloated Yanu.

“There’s no time. You know if I’m here then it must be serious. Something terrible has happened in the Wondermist Forest.”

“I don’t care,” said Yanu, who was now picking bright red berries and putting them in his pouch.

Merkle rolled her eyes. “I know you don’t, but your land is in danger too. Have you seen a man with an axe wander through here? Likely exploring off the main roads.”

“Maybe.”

“Look, Yanu. This man chopped down an entire forest, leaving only one tree. I managed to turn the trees into Woodies to save them, but there are thousands of other logs at his home! My magic alone isn’t enough to save those that aren’t freshly cut.”

“What’s in it for me?” asked Yanu.

“If you don’t, I’ll release the branches that dam the river and have your water drained into the Samacaha Swamp. You should also know that all the other spirits are on board so you will end up helping us,” said Merkle.

“Threatening me already, Merkle? You’re skipping the nice part where I get the things I want first. Maybe you could owe me a favor...”

Just then, a downpour of rain fell only on him, washing his dirt away. “Hey! Who invited you?!” he yelled at the water spirit from Samacaha. “You lousy liquid— Aaargh!”

The rain stopped as a forceful gust of wind whistled through the bog, drying him off. In its hiss, Yanu heard the voice of the air spirit from the Aurumis desert. “I will dry out all of your quicksand patches, Yanu! Now come. We’re wasting time.”

The wind stopped and Yanu switched his mask to an angry looking one and plopped down in the mud like a petulant child.

“Fine. I’ll come, but I’m not going to enjoy it and you’ll have to carry me the whole way.” He faded out of his physical form and became part of the earth. Merkle pulled a jar from her pouch and scooped up some mud before also fading away. She reentered the root network so she could travel to The Logger’s home.

Once at the lumber yard, Merkle released Yanu from the jar, pouring the mud onto solid ground in the woods, just out of view of the Logger working outside.

“How dare you?! I can’t believe you put me in your pouch you rude wretched—” Yanu shouted, stopping when he saw the endless piles of logs in the lumber

yard. In one corner near the back were several large piles of trees he recognized from the western side of Muckshire.

“Well, Merkle. It’s been fun tormenting you but I’m afraid you’re no longer my least favorite being,” said Yanu.

“Thank you, I think,” she responded.

“This vile human doesn’t know what’s in store for him. I’m thinking elaborate ruses to scare and confuse him. Strategy, armor, masks... I’ll need to make a lot of paint,” he said as he pulled out the berries he’d found earlier.

So Yanu, for the first time, willingly worked with the other spirits to help save the fallen forests. For weeks he made mask after mask, enchanted with protective powers of stealth and trickery to help the Woodies fight against the Logger and rescue the logs. Suddenly one day, he was nowhere to be found.

The Mask Maker of Muckshire

Merkle the Mother Tree

Merkle remembers the terrible moment the trees of Wondermist began shouting for her. 

“Not again!” she thought as she raced through the root network. The Logger had been causing so much destruction. He used to farm his own trees, but recently he had taken to chopping down the most diverse, old forests.

    Merkle watched from a distance as the Logger swung his axe at the first tree. She had been practicing a new magic — one that could save her tree friends — and it was time to see if it would work. 

    She managed to send her magic and a message to the tree, just before the last swing of the axe. “Don’t worry. You will be alright,” she told it as it fell. Her magic had traveled through the roots to its trunk and branches just in time. It hit the ground, but something incredible was happening within. The tree was becoming a Woodie!

    “It works! I can save them,” she thought, but she had to be faster. One by one, she sent her magic to the trees just before the logger swung his axe. “You will be alright, my beautiful forest!” she assured them, but her energy was draining fast. 

    She called out to the other elemental spirits, hoping they could come help, but her energy was low, and her message didn’t travel far enough. 

    Although she didn’t know what would become of her if she used the last of her magic, she was the mother of the forest and had vowed to protect it. She couldn’t let the Logger win again. With all her might, Merkle sent her final bit of magic to the last little tree in the forest just before the Logger went to chop it down. Then all went dark and hazy. She did not see the Logger leave the tree behind. All she felt was the rumble of the truck’s engine pulsing through the ground.

Merkle followed through the roots. She was feeble and losing speed. The truck got further away. Eventually, she reached the end of the root network. The ground became rock just ahead and she lost track of the truck. She was depleted and could no longer travel, speak, or take her physical form. So there she stayed inside the dormant bulb of a daffodil, at the edge of a field, at the base of a mountain. 

    Several days later, there was a light rainstorm. The water soaked the earth around Merkle. “There you are!” said the water spirit, materializing on the grass. “I’ve covered every region in rain trying to reach you. Even Aurumis got a drizzle! What happened?”

    With the drink of water, a bit of Merkle’s energy was restored. The water spirit summoned the others and all except Yanu came to Merkle’s aid. They shared any energy they could spare, and she was able to recount what had happened to the forest.

    She thought that between all of them, they could likely find the Woodies. She was right! Using their unique abilities to interact with nature, they found all the escaped Woodies as well as the fallen logs at the lumber yard! They formulated a plan to recoup the logs in hopes that they’d be able to convert them into Woodies as well. 

    Merkle couldn’t take her physical form, and was now unable to communicate with the Woodies from the roots, but she made it work, and did her best to help from where she was. After what felt like ages, Merkle became strong again and could once again take her physical form. It also turned out that she was able to speak to the Woodies this way! The celebration was cut short because now it was time to try out the hardest magic any of the spirits had ever attempted.

While she was used to creating new life, Merkle had never restored life. She stood over one of the logs from the Verdantu region. It was drying out. She couldn’t send magic through the roots, so she needed the help of the other spirits to help her magic reach every cell of the plant.

    They laid the log on a slab of rock for support from the stone spirit. The water spirit soaked the bark. The air spirit rushed through the cracks. The flora spirit from Verdantu made buds sprout along the branches. The light spirit from Himmelriver energized the tiny new leaves and the fire spirit of Embersteppe warmed the cold mountain air around it to the temperature of Verdantu.

    It didn’t work. Despite their best efforts, their magic wasn’t enough. Merkle knew there was only one thing that could help them. She had to go to the bogs and convince Yanu to join them.

    Merkle had come back from the edge of death, and now the spirit of earth and decay no longer seemed a threat. The fate of the forests depended on her and she would do whatever she had to in order to bring the fallen logs back to life.

Merkle the Mother Tree

Tuuli, the Air Spirit of Aurumis

   The Aurumis desert is a vast expanse of golden sand dunes warmed by the scorching sun. When seeking refuge from the heat, the desert’s resident creatures are limited to a small oasis amidst one single grove of odd desert trees. The wind whistled as it blew through the landscape, shaping the dunes.

    It was several days after the Logger had cut down the Wondermist forest. There was what appeared to be an animal skeleton partially buried in the sand. Several birds were perched on top of it watching something strange happening in the distance. Storm clouds approached, dampening the parched desert. Several droplets landed on the skeleton-like structure, and it rose up to stand. It was Tuuli, the air spirit of Aurumis, whose physical form was that of a spindly wooden figure which served as a perch for the birds.

    “Odd time for rain. What are you doing here?” asked Tuuli.

    “Oh, Tuuli! I’m sorry for the intrusion, but it’s an emergency. Merkle is missing!” said the water spirit of Samacaha. 

    “How can that be?” asked Tuuli, alarmed. “Surely she’s around somewhere. I’ll help you search!” 

    Suddenly a hundred birds flocked to Tuuli’s skeleton. They fluttered around like bees on a hive forming a solid mass of feathers. A gust of wind came, whistling instructions, and the birds took off in every direction. Tuuli’s body dropped to the sand and faded away as Tuuli took their form as the air.

The birds searched the world from high above, looking for any sign of Merkle. They scanned the plains of Embersteppe and Himmelriver but didn’t see any sign of her. The wind weaved between the trees and rocks in Samacaha, Muckshire, and Verdantu but she was not there either. When the birds flew above Wondermist, they saw the freshly cut forest. 

    “Oh no,” thought Tuuli, more worried after seeing part of Merkle’s domain destroyed. The birds were on their way to the mountains of Nevenia when the rain came and the water spirit said they had found Merkle. Tuuli traveled to the base of the mountains and materialized into their physical form again, relieved. That relief quickly vanished as they listened to Merkle’s tale of the Logger and the Woodies. 

    “I didn’t see any truck like you described as I flew around the land to look for you, but I hadn’t yet searched Nevenia. I can start there!” said Tuuli. Birds once again approached for instructions before taking off toward the mountains. 

    Searching Nevenia was tricky. The air was thin at the higher altitudes of the mountains, but eventually, through the eyes of a sharp eyed sparrow, Tuuli caught a glimpse of the lumber yard. 

    Thanks to Tuuli, the spirits and Wondermist Woodies were reunited. Their combined efforts to rescue the fallen logs led to the creation of thousands of Woodies from all over the world. Even long after the Woodies were adopted, Tuuli still made sure to keep an eye on them with the help of their trusty birds.

Tuuli, the Air Spirit of Aurumis

Oak Arrow

Oak Arrow was a gruff but loveable tree with many rings in his trunk. The forest friends enjoyed spending time under his wide and lush canopy in the center of their grove in the Wondermist Forest. Whenever the saplings asked him how they could also grow into such a large tree, he’d tell them it came down to patience and protection. He had failed at protecting the Woodies that morning when the Logger came though. He couldn’t just run away after escaping the Logger’s truck so he had gone back and was kneeling behind a boulder in the woods by the lumber yard, watching the logger pace around.

    “Snap out of it,” said the Logger to himself, trying to comprehend what he had just seen when the Woodies jumped out of the truck. “I drove all night and all day. Sleep will fix it. I’ll come back out tomorrow morning and all the logs will

be there, because logs don’t have faces, or feet…”

    Oak Arrow watched him go inside his house where a large dog greeted him at the door. The door shut and Oak made his way to the truck, picking up a metal rod to pry the board off the gap in the gate. The board hit a pail as it fell, and the dog started barking. “Oak Arrow!” exclaimed the Woodies inside the truck. “Quick! You have to run. Go deep into the woods and get away from this place!” said Oak Arrow as he helped the last Woodies out of the truck. 

   The Logger ran outside and froze as he watched his dog chase the Woodies into the woods. He locked eyes with Oak Arrow who still held the metal rod. Then came a shriek from the woods. Oak had to get the dog away from the Woodies! He started banging the rod on the pail, all while holding the Logger’s incredulous gaze. The dog sprinted back to the lumber yard and charged right at Oak, who swung the rod at it.

“It’s ok, Bandit! It’s just a dream,” said the Logger to his dog. “I’ll wake up any minute now,” he added, talking to himself in a daze as the dog ran back to him.

   Oak took his opportunity and ran into the woods where he eventually found a large group of Woodies. They set up a camp, and spent the next couple of days searching for others, but the cold weather there was a bit too intense for them to stray too far.

The elemental spirits found them soon after. They were fascinated with the little mobile creatures Merkle had created with her magic. “We thought Woodies were just a myth. They’re amazing, Merkle,” said Tuuli. “I figured the myth must have come from somewhere so I tried to see if I could figure it out. I’m so happy it worked!” Merkle said. “But we need to find a way to save all those other logs you mentioned, Oak Arrow.” “We can go back and bring the logs to you. Even if it takes time, at least they won’t be with him anymore,” replied Oak Arrow.

   A group of warrior Woodies, led by Oak Arrow, went back to the lumber yard. The Logger knew by then that the Woodies were real, since his truck was empty the day after they escaped. He was not going to give up easily. The warrior Woodies had to fight and dodge and work together to keep the Logger occupied while the rest carried logs into the woods.

The day Yanu arrived was a big help to the warriors. Yanu outfitted the Woodies with masks that had magical protective powers. He taught the rock spirit to make magical armor out of metal ore as well. Oak Arrow and Yanu got along well as they planned their raids of the lumber yard. Yanu gave Oak a cloak to set him apart, so the others would see him easily to follow his lead. He even got the rock spirit to make a special clasp for the cape. “This is to remind you that even though you have protection, you’re really soft, squishy, and vulnerable underneath,” said Yanu, not completely in a mocking way. He pinned closed the golden snail clasp while putting the cape around Oak Arrows’ shoulders. “Nothing soft and squishy about me, Yanu. Patience and protection, however, are the tenets of the slow moving snail and of myself,” replied Oak Arrow.

“Don’t move too slow,” warned Merkle. “That Logger’s swing is dangerous. You’ve all been very lucky so far.”

   The warriors continued their raids, now efficient against the Logger, despite his attempts to keep them out of the yard. The eight spirits together were able to revive the fallen logs, and some of those new Woodies even joined Oak Arrows’

warriors. All was going very well until the day Yanu left. Oak was upset that he would just leave them without a word. He’d noticed that Yanu had been getting a bit grumpy and more fussy than normal, but he thought they were friends.

   That day at the raid, Oak Arrow was distracted. The Logger managed to take a swing at his head. The top of Oak’s leafy head was cut right off, leaving behind a clean and flat top. Stunned at losing his canopy, Oak fought back with anger. He got too close, and the Logger managed to get his axe lodged in Oak’s head. Oak Arrow stumbled backward, a bit woozy as the Logger stepped

backward toward the house, realizing he no longer had a weapon. Oak took off running into the woods, eager to get the axe away from the Logger. The other Woodies managed to retrieve more logs than normal once the Logger and his dog retreated into the house. There were now only a few log piles left behind, along with a piece of metal shoulder armor that had fallen off one of the

Woodies. 

   Oak Arrow ran back to the camp, thrilled at their progress. He had almost forgotten that Yanu was gone. “Is he back?” he asked.

“No,” replied a Woodie, staring at Oak’s head with concern. “You’ve got a…a thing… in what’s left of your head,” she said, reaching for it. “Leave it. I’m fine,” said Oak Arrow, frustrated that Yanu had not returned, and not at all concerned about the axe in his head. He approached Merkle. “I think we can get the rest of the logs in one more raid. Will you be able to revive the logs without him?” “I think so,” Merkle said. “It’ll take longer, but I think we know enough now to make do without his magic.”

“Did you see? I got the Logger’s weapon,” Oak said, proud of himself as he pointed to the axe. “He’s unarmed now.”

“I saw. Let’s get that off of you,” she said, reaching for the axe.

“Don’t touch it!” growled Oak Arrow, hurriedly turning away to go inspect the newly recovered logs. The fire spirit leaned over to Tuuli as they watched Oak from a distance. “Ok, so he’s just keeping the axe?” “Looks like it,” replied Tuuli.

“That’s really weird. He must not be thinking clearly.” “Your head is literally on fire,” said Tuuli.

“Touché,” replied the fire spirit. Merkle approached the group of spirits. “Can you maybe make him a bow and arrows out of twigs and stone so he doesn’t need to get so close next time?” she asked the rock spirit and the flora spirit. “But he’s already got the Logger’s weapon,” replied the rock spirit. “He’ll surely get another one. We can’t let our guard down,” Merkle said.

“It’s a good thing we’ve got Oak Arrow though. He’ll always fight, no matter how long it takes. That I know for sure.” 


Oak Arrow

Rosie

It had been a couple of weeks since the great escape from the Logger’s truck and Rosie the Woodie was feeling lost even though she was surrounded by her friends at the camp. 

    The spirits had begun restoring the poor cut logs that were discovered at the lumber yard, but Rosie, like many of the other Woodies, was mostly just waiting around not knowing what to do. Everything about their lives had changed overnight, and they were still adjusting to the new world outside their forest.

    Although they were safe from the Logger and had Merkle and the others around to help, there was a nervous energy everywhere, and Rosie didn’t like it. There was only one thing she felt would make things better, and that was to help. By helping, she thought perhaps they could get back to the Wondermist Forest sooner.

    Rosie asked some Woodies if she could help with running things at the camp but they said the roles were filled and they didn’t need anyone else.

    She asked Oak Arrow if she could start training with the Warrior Woodies but he said it would be too dangerous for her since she was still a young tree and therefore easier to cut through.

    Rosie continued around the camp looking for a way that she could help but there didn’t seem to be a role for her. Finally, she went to the area where the spirits were working. The rock spirit and the fire spirit were huddled around a glowing red rock with colorful sparks flying off it in all directions. She couldn’t really see what they were doing so she inched closer, hiding behind a bush as she watched. 

    The bush whispered, “I like to sneak up on others and scare them too.”

    Rosie jumped, startled by the voice. The bush stood. It was Yanu, who had been taking a nap.

“What are you doing here?” he asked her. The rock spirit and fire spirit stopped what they were doing and looked over. 

    “I want to help,” said Rosie.

    “With what?” asked the fire spirit.

    “With anything. What are you doing with the fire? I can do it too,” she said.

    “No, you don’t know how,” said the rock spirit.

    “Neither could you, until recently,” teased Yanu. He turned to Rosie. “I had to teach them how to make enchanted clothing, you know. Everyone needs the amazing Yanu.” 

    The rock spirit and fire spirits rolled their eyes at him. Rosie approached them. “I can hold something, or find you things you need.” She pulled a little backpack off her shoulders and started to rummage through it, pulling out a bottle cap and a piece of wire. “Look! I actually have all sorts of things I’ve found in the woods and —”

    “No. You’ll slow us down. The warriors need this armor for their raid tomorrow,” said the fire spirit as he turned back to the metal ore that had now cooled. 

    Rosie kicked the dirt and walked back toward the camp. Yanu scurried up behind her. “You know what I do when someone tells me I can’t do something?” he asked.

    “What?”

    “I don’t listen.” 

    “Don’t you get in trouble?”

    “Oh yes,” replied Yanu, with a sly smile. 

    She stared at Yanu, confused. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”

    “Then don’t. Just prove them wrong.”

    “I shouldn’t be talking to you. Merkle said you’re a bad influence.”

    “That’s not a very nice thing to say,” said Yanu.

    Rosie walked away from him as he hollered after her. “There is a difference between saying you shouldn’t do something for your own good, and not believing in your abilities.” 

    “Why are you being nice to me?” asked Rosie.

    “I’m not. I just think it’ll be fun to see how this plays out. Good luck,” he said as he vanished into the dirt.

Some time passed and the rock and fire spirits began to notice things going missing. A chisel here. Some metal shoulder pads there. They thought they were misplacing things and constantly blamed each other — to Yanu’s delight. Soon after that, the Warrior Woodies began to commend them on their new armor. 

    “The straps on this vest made it much easier to move. Thank you!” said one Woodie. 

    “I love this shield. His axe barely even made a dent!” said another. 

    “I didn’t make that. Did you?” the fire spirit asked the rock spirit, confused.

    “How would I have made that? I need you for the fire,” replied the rock spirit. 

    They heard Yanu laugh to himself, eavesdropping from a short distance away.

    “What did you do, Yanu?” asked the rock spirit.

    “Who, me? Oh, nothing at all. I always get the blame. So unfair,” said Yanu. 

    The two spirits were now sure there was someone else stealing their things so they decived to stay up all night to watch their work area and catch the thief.

    That night, they saw a Woodie with strange glowing eyes walk up and grab a helmet they had finished that day. They followed the Woodie to a little camp with many tools and missing armor pieces lying around. The pieces were theirs, but each had been modified beautifully. The sun was rising and they watched as the Woodie worked on the metal using a hand held canister of fire. After a few minutes, they hopped out of the woods, startling the Woodie. 

    The Woodie removed the glowing “eyes”, which were really just goggles, and put them on its head. It was Rosie!

    “Rosie! You’re the thief? Why would you steal from us?” asked the rock spirit.

    “I haven’t stolen from you. I’ve given everything I’ve taken to the Warriors, as it was intended. I just made some modifications,” said Rosie.

“What about those goggles? And that container of fire?” asked the fire spirit. 

    “Oh these?” she laughed. “Yes, I stole these, but I took them from the Logger’s shed! He deserved it.” 

    The rock spirit and the fire spirit couldn’t believe that Rosie had been sneaking into the Logger’s yard on her own and experimenting with their blacksmithing and welding methods without anyone knowing. She had observed them until she understood how to work with the metals. It was dangerous, but Rosie was brave, smart, and capable.

    “Rosie, we underestimated you. Please come back to our camp. You can help us,” said the rock spirit.

    “No, I won’t help you. I think my armor is better and so do the warriors. I’ve heard them talking about it. So I’ll go back but it’ll be you who will help me! It’ll go much faster with your magic,” she said, smiling.

    The spirits agreed, as did Merkle when she learned that it was Rosie’s armor that had helped the Warriors fight better, allowing them to rescue more logs. So Rosie earned her place as the official Woodie blacksmith, helping to create the magic metal armor that would protect the warriors from the Logger’s axe. Until the day came when the magic armor wasn’t enough…

Rosie

The Water Spirit of Samacaha

   The Samacaha swamp was the the sloshiest, wettest place in all the land. It was the home of many slimy, slithery creatures that loved the water and persistent rain brought about by Irvet, the water spirit. 

    Irvet was happiest in her scummy swamp full of lily pads and dew drops but her work meant she traveled frequently, distributing life giving water in the exact quantities that each region needed and desired. Verdantu got a lot of rain that quickly evaporated into humid air. Nevenia liked to collect its water as snow, and although Tuuli was Irvet’s dearest friend, they didn’t like Irvet visiting the parched desert of Aurumis. When Irvet wasn’t traveling as a raincloud and its precipitation, she was in the rivers, streams, and ponds, checking on the aquatic life. 

    One day she noticed the runoff from a new culvert had been flooding a low lying area. This was causing root rot in the nearby trees. This was the sort of thing Merkle would have brought attention to immediately. Irvet thought it was strange that she hadn’t heard from her on the matter. 

    The land didn’t need any more rain that day so Irvet took her frog-like physical form, hopped into a stream, and took a little swimming trip to Wondermist. 

    When she arrived to Merkle’s grove she was concerned to see that Merkle was not in the spot where she normally lived as a tree. Irvet turned to a salamander that was basking on a leaf nearby. “Have you seen Mother Merkle around?” 

    The salamander just stared at her.

    “Oh I almost forgot,” she said, as she held her finger over the salamander and a droplet of water landed on its head.

    The salamander smiled. “Hi Irvet! Nice to see you again. No, I haven’t seen her for several days. She left suddenly. Something urgent in a nearby grove.”

    “She never returned?” asked Irvet.

    “No.”

Irvet was concerned. She had a gut feeling that something was not right. Most issues could be solved through the root network, so whatever business Merkle had at the grove, it was serious. She thanked the salamander as her body became clear water, splashing down into a puddle that ran into the stream. Overhead, some clouds began to form. 

    As the raincloud, Irvet could move faster through the land and soon enough she was over an empty field of stumps where a forest had recently been cut down. It was a terrible sight that the spirits had been encountering more often. 

    There was no sign of Merkle. Only a single little tree remained and it was looking droopy and withered. It wasn’t lacking any water, but Irvet gave it a little sprinkle anyway before continuing on her way. 

    Irvet grew into a larger network of clouds and made her way through the lands, searching for Merkle. Unlike her friend Tuuli, she couldn’t see as she traveled in the sky. She had to feel things by soaking into them as rainfall. This made the process slower since she had to recoup moisture from the air. She was going to need help, which meant paying a visit to Aurumis. 

    Tuuli helped her look for Merkle, but thankfully Irvet found Merkle soon after her visit to the desert when she rained at the base of the mountain where Merkle rested.

Everything changed for Irvet that day. She jumped at the chance to help Merkle and the Woodies, but she still had to provide the water for all of the regions. After some trial and error (as evidenced by soggy cacti and some dry, shrively plants), Irvet learned to balance the care of her water tasks with helping Merkle. 

    After each raid, Irvet would soak the recovered logs so that the wood was soft and the life spirit could cause buds to grow, which would create leaves to collect energy from the light spirit. She loved the challenge, and loved working with Tuuli even more. The two of them would find the balance between the wet and dry, so that the wood would not rot, much to Yanu’s dismay.

    Irvet had to keep a close eye on Yanu, because despite his efforts to help, his instincts toward decay caused him to take logs and hide them in dark places any chance he got. He was caught most times, which earned him a smack upside the head from Irvet’s long froggy tongue. 

    “Merkle,” said Irvet, “I’m concerned about Yanu’s behavior lately. It seems he’s trying to sabotage our efforts here.”

    “You know Yanu. He just likes to pester,” replied Merkle.

    “No, this is different. I sense that he is not happy lately. Even when he’s tormenting us,” replied Irvet.

    Irvet knew her gut feeling was telling her something important. Sure enough, Yanu disappeared soon after that. And just as she had done before, Irvet stepped up and took the lead on the search for a missing spirit.

Irvet

To be continued...