5 min read

Clove & Moose 1: The Ferocious Forest

Orange text on a black background reads "Clove & Moose". Beneath it, in green "1: The Ferocious Forest"

When Clove left home looking for more corrupted magic, she hadn’t expected to find any so soon.

She’d hoped she wouldn’t find any at all. She’d hoped the corruption that had appeared in the town square had been the extent of it: a solitary event, tragic in its own right, but not repeated anywhere else. 

It wasn’t a hope she’d clung to very hard, considering the Cataclysm had turned the sky orange for ten days, ripped magic from the world, and left the land barren. If there was one pool of cursed magic left in its wake, there were probably more.

Now that she’d found a second one within a two day’s walk from the first, Clove had a feeling “more” might be a much bigger number than she’d anticipated.

“Well,” she said, staring up at the thrashing trees around her. “Could be worse.”

The trees could have actual claws, for example, instead of just stretching their craggy branches out to scrape at her arms and catch in her hair. They could have teeth in the gaping mouths that had opened in their trunks. They could be more than twenty feet tall. It could be the whole forest instead of this one grove.

“See?” she said to herself. “There’s an upside.” 

The downside was, the trees were cursed, and they were reaching for her with their branches and their weird mouths, and they were enormous, and everywhere, and she didn’t know how to get through them. 

Before, she would have simply cast a protection spell over herself, but since the Cataclysm, that was no longer an option. She’d never had to deal with this type of situation without magic.

She’d never had to deal with this type of situation at all. Before the Cataclysm, trees didn’t turn evil and try to claw her flesh from her bones. Her magic was for healing and art and growing plants, not for quelling curses.

Now she had no magic, and many curses to quell. 

She looked up at the trees, trying to find a pattern in their motion, some way to dodge and weave safely through them. But their movements were random; she couldn’t see any way to get past them other than ducking low and running like hell.

“It’s going to be fine,” she told herself, fingering the crystal in her pocket. “I can do this. I’ll run through the trees, find the source of the magic, and stop it. Easy peasy. I’ve done it before.”

She’d kind of done it before. When she’d found the cursed magic the first time, she’d stopped it from spreading any further, but she hadn’t been able to reverse its effects.

“It’s going to work this time,” she said, affirming it to the universe. “It’s going to work.”

Before she could convince herself to start walking, a small brown cat darted forward and down the path.

“Moose, no!”

She hesitated for only a fraction of a second before taking off after him. The branches stretched toward her as she passed, but she ducked lower and kept running. Twigs snarled in her hair, yanking at it before snapping off as she kept running. Stiff spruce needles scratched at her face and arms. The horrible wooden mouths couldn’t clamp onto her, but they gnashed and they howled and they screeched.

Clove clapped her hands over her ears and ran, eyes focused on Moose. He skidded to a stop at the edge of a small clearing; she slid down beside him and scooped him up into her arms.

“Moose, baby, you could have been hurt.” She held him close, pressing her face into his soft fur. The thought of anything happening to Moose was terrifying; if he kept running off like that she was going to have to find a way to keep him close.

But he’d led her straight to the source of the trouble. When she lifted her face from his fur, she was confronted with the orange glow of tainted magic.

Clove didn’t know what had happened. No one did. The Cataclysm came out of nowhere, leaving behind nothing but devastation. On top of the ecological destruction it wrought, it had also destroyed the natural flow of magic. The natural magic that powered the spells of witches like Clove had been sucked up, twisted, and spat back out to spread corruption.

The cursed area back home had started small but spread quickly. Clove had stopped it, but not before it was too late. While she couldn’t tap into any magic herself, she was able to guide the corrupted magic into a crystal to lock it safely away. She’d been thinking about the problem for weeks now, and she thought she’d come up with a way to reverse the flow of the magic to undo the damage it had done.

This was her first chance to test it. She looked around at the forest. It would be okay to fail here, she thought, as long as she didn’t make things worse. If the trees stayed like this, that wasn’t ideal, but it would be alright. Not like back home. 

Moose squirmed out of her arms, and Clove took that as a sign to get on with things. She pulled the crystal from her pouch and extended it carefully toward the swirl of magic. This pool only seemed to be affecting the trees, but who knew what might happen if she let it touch her or Moose. 

She spoke the words of the spell she had invented, tapping into the corrupted magic. At first, she wasn’t sure if it was working. The trees continued to writhe; the one nearest to her raked its twiggy claws down her back, and all around her, the shrieking continued. Clove grimaced in pain, but continued to mutter the spell, concentrating fiercely on the magic before her.

Slowly, the magic changed colour, from the bright orange to a ruddy brown, then a sickly yellow before turning to a vivid green. The swirling slowed and switched direction, flowing out and spreading its boundaries. 

Clove jumped back as the magic lapped at her toes, but it didn’t seem to affect her. Behind her, the clawing stopped and the shrieking faded as the forest grew quiet once more. Then the green glow faded and the crystal grew warm in her hand.

She straightened up and looked around, watching the trees for a few minutes to be sure. They stood tall and proud once more. Their only movement was the sway of branches in the breeze, and the only sound was the rustle of the wind.

“Yes!” she yelled. “We did it!” 

She stooped to pick up Moose and swung him around in her arms, which he tolerated for all of five seconds before planting his feet on her chest and pushing away.

Clove laughed and let him go. “Yeah, alright, buddy. Admit it though, I’m pretty great.”

She basked in the triumph for a few minutes, firmly directing her thoughts away from how different things would have been if she’d figured out how to do that the first time around. There was nothing she could do about it now.

She pulled the twigs from her hair, brushed the dirt from her clothes, and hiked her bag up onto her back. Moose was already sniffing down the trail ahead, ready to carry on their journey.

Clove quickly caught up to him, falling into an easy pace for travelling. “What do you think, buddy? Want to try that again?”