*Mild suggestive suicide theme at the end. Read at your own risk.*
"That was a short quest," Riddle spoke to himself. "And rather harmless. I should be in more danger and excitement than the possibility of being trampled for half an hour." He giggled. "Should I go back into town and find another quest?"
Riddle stopped at the sudden echo of shouts far away. A murder of crows had cried out in the far distance, flocking away from the trees of the forest nearby. Even more hushed, the swaying of trees in no wind. The young boy blinked. Whispers flowed toward him, beckoning.
The puffy-haired boy pondered at the commotion and changed his direction, strutting across the field and toward the trees. Away from Kettle Town, and away from home. He marched through the silence of the field for near twenty minutes until he reached the very edge of Kettle Town - as well as the very edge of the forest. Its border was marked with a simple fence of twisted wire and wooden posts. Sun gleamed through the leaves with an orange afternoon glint, which warmly illuminated the forest bottom and the flecks of dust and tiny bugs in the air. It appeared welcoming and silent. Ahead, however, Riddle heard the very faint clank of metal and creaking somewhere in the woods. Another whisper even, but no wind.
Riddle pondered, one hand clutching a fence post, the other wrapped around his treat. "Something's in these woods," he sneered. "It could be a giant gastol, or a monstrous snake, or even some vengeful seeker lurking about in a hidden lair!" Riddle reached for his bag and pulled out a thick pocket book; Secret and Not-so-Secret Creatures of the Luether World. He ducked and strode underneath the wire border, crossing into the unclaimed territory that separated two towns by hundreds of miles.
One page after another, Riddle flipped through his book and plodded through the woods. Each page held information of all sorts of creatures. Many of them were animals Riddle had seen, or knew to exist, but others were labeled as mystical or magical. Only "real adventurers" who have traveled to treacherous places could say for certain whether they actually existed.
"If I could find a real life legend, the town would see me as one of the greatest adventurers of Leuther!" Riddle slapped the book closed and peered at the ground. No footprints or trails to be seen. He walked and walked, roaming deeper into the woods.
He looked back once, at the disappearing openness of the field a good distance behind him. The woods weren't thick, but the trees were large and looked the same. A tiny voice in Riddle's mind told him he shouldn't get turned around in them. His thoughts, however, were interrupted by a sudden voice that stiffened Riddle. It started out as a whisper, pulsating in the empty woods, but soon grew stable and loud.
"Leave... without a trail of crumbs...?"
Just as it had come, the voice died out in a breath of air. Riddle pursed his lips, glancing wide-eyed at the motionless space around him. It was a rough, provocative whisper. He couldn't tell if it was far away or right there next to him-- it seemed to be everywhere at once. He glanced down at his loaf cake. Was someone watching him?
Riddle shrugged off whatever tension he felt and continued through the woods. He heard no spooky words whispered at him, but he did hear the creaking and clanking metal grow closer. In fact, it seemed much sharper and faster than before. More deliberate. He followed it deeper into the woods.
"Oh!" Riddle looked down. He had stumbled upon a trail of several footprints, quite possibly recent. They led into a small clearing ahead of him. His curious nature stepped in and examined the area. Whoever was camping there had a harsh encounter... Dirt had been kicked up and slashed through by blades. Hot coals from a fire had been scattered across the clearing, and belongings were ripped into the brush. Thick marks in the dirt and sand appeared as if several people had been dragged away while they were still struggling.
The young boy rubbed an arm and bit the bottom of his lip. He thought, perhaps, wandering into the woods wasn't the best idea, after all. "Something seems awful wrong..." Riddle thought. "I could fight a dragon, but not some creepy killer in the woods."
He turned around, ready to head out of the woods and back home. Yet the whispering came back. It didn't sound like words, that time. Through it, another voice nuzzled through.
"Hey, k- H-Hey ki- kid," a dry voice uttered. Riddle gulped and peered behind him. It was a person, and they sounded like a broken record. It mumbled in a lower voice, to which Riddle could only make out the words cute and hurt. Riddle whirled around.
"Y-You need some help?" The person groaned. Riddle clenched a fist. "Saving someone from injury is just as courageous as defeating a dragon," he gave an abrupt nod. "I'll help you! Just gimme a second and I'll find you."
Riddle pranced into the opening and listened for the voice, which seemed to have come from ahead; The scrape marks in the dirt pointed the way. Riddle huffed, then charged forward to follow the voice. Whoever it was, they seemed very happy he was on his way. Given the strange, whispery, shriek-like chuckles, Riddle felt proud he was doing something to help a person in need.
He ran closer, and closer, and closer, until he was suddenly thrust into something he had never seen before. There he was, face to face with six familiar adventurers, dangling from their necks in the light of the afternoon.
The voices dropped and left Riddle to silence.
*End of chapter 4*
*Illustrations may be added*