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Chapter 8: Mail Deliveries

Saffron sends letters requesting outside assistance
An image of an envelope is overlaid with the text "Saffron and Bear" and "Chapter 8: Mail Deliveries"

Need to get caught up?

It was delivery day for Saffron, but she didn’t have time to linger at her friends’ homes the way she normally did. She’d spent all morning writing letters and then had to rush through her errands to get them all done before dark. She forewent visits altogether in favour of dropping letters and bundles in mailboxes or on doorsteps.

She strode through the village with quick steps with Bear hot on her heels. She was eager to get back home and get back to work. Normally she loved checking in on the townsfolk, but she had been consumed with research and study recently. There was a danger in her forest and she didn’t know what it was. She wouldn’t rest until she figured out how to protect her people from it.

In the meantime, though, life went on. The little spells and potions and protections didn’t stop needing to be done just because there was a bigger danger lurking in the distance. And so she hurried through town gradually unloading her satchel.

For Meg and Henry, a bottle of tincture to ease the aches and pains of aging joints, along with a note inviting herself to dinner the next week. She’d be happy to host them at the cottage, but it was such a long walk for Meg’s old knees. Much easier if she came to them, especially if she brought half the food.

At two houses she dropped off small rag dolls stuffed with protective herbs and discreetly marked with warding runes. She hadn’t seen Anna or Flossie since the day Anna ate the mushrooms, but after what she’d seen in the middle of the woods, she didn’t dare let the girls go out without protection. For their parents, matching notes warning them to keep the kids a little closer to home these days.

For the Shermans, a powder to calm a colicky baby--they hadn’t reported any problems but Saffron found it best to be prepared--and a soothing tea to relax Mrs. Sherman’s nerves, with a note to call her if there was anything they could do.

At the post office she mailed two letters: one short and one long.

The first went to the county records office a few towns over:

Dear sir or madam:

I am writing to inquire about old land ownership records. There is an old house in the centre of Emerald Wood. I am enclosing a map marking the approximate location. Who is the owner of this property?

I have enclosed a five pound note for your services.



The second, much longer, was addressed to a more personal contact: her old mentor at the Academy.

Dearest Professor Burton,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m sorry I haven’t written in many months but it has been a busy year so far. It seems the longer I stay here, the busier I get. I’m not sure if things are actually becoming more complicated, or if the townspeople have simply come to rely on me more.

I hope all is well at the Academy and the new students aren’t giving you too much trouble. Is old Gerry still chasing them around with an umbrella if they get into the shrieking lobelia?

I’m writing to ask for your assistance. I’m sorry I always seem to write when I want something! Have you ever heard of a mushroom that is bright orange with a lilac underside? They’ve been growing in the woods lately and are extremely toxic. I don’t remember learning about them at the Academy, and the only reference I’ve found is a hand-written note at the back of an old book that belonged to a local healer.

Also: Are there any large creatures living in the woods? Larger than a bear? I don’t know what it would be. I haven’t gotten a good glimpse. There are claws.

Finally: Do you know anything about the Queen of the Forest?

Something strange is happening here, but I don’t know what yet. I am trying to gather more pieces to the puzzle before it’s too late. Did you know, when you assigned me here? I can’t help feeling like this is another test. But for the first two years this was a regular town. How could you have known?

As for the matter we discussed previously, I’m still looking. I’ll let you know if I find anything, but at this point my hope is running out.

Bear sends his love. I know he misses sunny afternoons curled up on the rug in your classroom.

Thank you for any help and sorry again for being such a poor correspondent.



Her last stop of the day was at the town bulletin board. Bear sat at her feet and watched as she tapped a small nail through the sheet of parchment. This message was for all the townsfolk.

Who owns the house at the center of the forest?

What is the creature that lurks in the woods?

What is the orange and violet fungus?

Do YOU know?

Any knowledge is appreciated.


She watched her poster flutter softly in the breeze for a moment as she read over her words one last time. Perhaps she’d overdone it. She didn’t mean to alarm anyone.

But she needed to know. She couldn’t keep them safe if she didn’t know what she was up against.

She nodded to herself, deciding the wording would be fine. Maybe people should be alarmed. She couldn’t guarantee it was safe in the woods, not right now. Maybe a little caution would do them good.

She sighed and ran the back of her hand across her forehead. Though the sun was slowly starting to lower toward the west, it had been a hot day and she’d worked up a sweat hurrying around town. She was ready to go home and sit in the shade with a nice refreshing dinner of fresh fruit.

“Come on, puffball,” she said to Bear, who had wandered away to pounce at flies. “Let’s go home and get back to work.” She still had more books to read. More leads to pursue. More fungus to test.

Bear frolicked around her feet the whole way home, and Saffron couldn’t help but smile. A weight lifted from her shoulders as she watched him and she began to hum softly as she walked home.

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Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitter or instagram.