by Cyanide

Late morning lit the town of Tisatop, banishing the mist from amongst it's buildings. It was a grand day for a stroll, and as much as Dafid enjoyed one, he trusted the ground very little. It was his third day in Tisatop and he'd not set foot outside the inn he'd decided was the safest place to spend his banishment.

It wasn't really much of a banishment, more a subtle nudge out the palace doors with a pack and a royal command not to return until he'd found a wife. Three weeks later he came to the border that ended what was to be his kingdom, and started the Forest of Caves. After long hours of decision, pondering his romantic future, he decided he would venture where his countrymen had rarely dared. Just for a look, mind you.

The short journey into the Forest found it to be as thick and dense as hearsay told. Ferns and vines wrapped one like swaddling clothes only a few hundred meters in, impassable but for the few cavernous holes cut through the vegetation. Dafid had wandered into one of these, curiosity getting the better of him.

He had spent a full day in the Forest of Caves before being rescued, when a rope ladder fell in front of him, long after he thought himself lost for good. A concerned but chipper crowd had lifted him up onto the planks of Tisatop where he had blinked for minutes before becoming accustomed to the light.

Many hundreds of years before, this had been a wood of a sort most ordinary. Legends tell of a dryad who had fumbled in the spell book of a wizard passing through. In joy she found a spell of fertility for the land. The wizard, perhaps, could have told her that the power of such spells sprung from both the caster and the land itself. Such was the dryad's affinity with the soil that it brought forth not just new saplings and bushes of berries as she hoped, but instead, all plants of the wood grew to her call. Underbrush became almost solid in an instant, trees towered taller and stronger than ever, forming a massive canopy so dense, eventually one could walk from tree to tree without fear of falling to the ground. One could almost build a town on it.

Eventually they did.

Tisatop was a town of the tree people. It was said that perhaps they had some of the dryad's blood in them, certainly they wove plant magic powerful enough to rend branches into paths from one end of the Forest of Caves to the other. Tree tops sprouted through the town, and flowered vines were pruned in what became the gardens of the populace. The town was almost as a bunch of rafts upon a green sea, buildings and roads made of platforms of planks resting on the canopy itself. Vines had been coaxed into railings to stop rogue children falling to entanglement below.

Below, where Dafid had crawled for a day, the wood was a somber place. Light had long ago vanished, and saplings and brush that had first sprung up to the call of the dryad, now formed the deep layer of rot that fed the forest above. The rot was also of a spiritual nature. Many of the brothers, sisters and cousins of the new forest's creator had perished along with the light. Much was said about their fate, and certainly the deep darkness of the lower forest was not to be ventured into for any whimsical purpose.

Dafid had seen very little of the caves before he'd been pulled up. Fortunately he had only wandered in the perimeter of the forest. Had he wandered further in, where the trees were taller and the rot thicker, his panicked cries would not have been heard by the forest people above. The caves, of course, were not stone, but a maze of wood.

He pondered his adventure and shuddered at the tales of what he'd missed. He was not keen to wander out onto the planked streets, scared that he might come to an opening to those dark depths, even though he was told that all had been sealed up for miles around the town.

However, there was that one lithe lady that might draw him out. Perhaps he could convince her that his promised kingdom held a better future for her than the bright town above the forest.

To be continued...