“What’s that noise?” Jax said, pushing aside a branch and stepping through a clump of grass to get to the clearing. A low rumble, almost more felt than heard, seemed to make the leaves of the forest shake.

“I’m not sure,” Birch replied, stepping into the clearing a moment later. She looked around and put her nose up to catch any scents on the breeze. “I smell ritual pipe smoke and, yuck, cooking meat, and something else.”

Jax raised his nose and took a long sniff. “Humans,” he said after a moment. “That last scent is human bodies.” He made a face and spit.

The sound of something crashing through the bushes made them scramble out of the clearing to hide behind an oak tree. The smells intensified. Two tall bipedal shapes stumbled past them a moment later, both laughing.

“Goddess forbid,” Birch whispered, clearly shocked. “There are humans in the fair woods.”


Expand that.

“What’s that noise?” Jax said, pushing aside a branch and stepping through a clump of grass to get to the clearing. A low rumble, almost more felt than heard, seemed to make the leaves of the forest shake. Their feathered brethren and the small forest animals appeared to have fled.

“I’m not sure,” Birch replied, stepping into the clearing a moment later. “It almost sounds like music.”

Jax fluttered his gossamer wings and crossed his arms. “Music? That’s not music. Listen to the shrillness of it.”

Birch kept her wings still but put her hands on her hips. “Listen to the beat of it.”

He starred at her for a moment and then opened his arms. “Okay, it’s music. But not music to my liking.” She nodded in agreement. They moved around the clearance, listening. Birch looked around and put her nose up to catch any scents on the breeze. “I smell ritual pipe smoke and, yuck, cooking meat, and something else.”

Jax raised his nose and took a long sniff. “Humans,” he said after a moment. “That last scent is human bodies.” He made a face and spit.

“How do you know what a human smells like?”

“I just know.” His wings fluttered again.

“Really, Jax. How do you know?” She insisted.

He shushed her.

The sound of something crashing through the bushes made them scramble out of the clearing to hide behind an oak tree. The smells intensified. Two tall bipedal creatures stumbled past them a moment later, both laughing. One had dark skin, like a walnut tree, and bush-like black hair. She wore a piece of leather tied across her chest that showed her belly and a pair of blue embroidered trousers. The other had skin like the golden birch tree like Birch’s name sake. She had yellow hair tied back in a tail that hung past her shoulders. She wore a white blouse with yellow and pink embroidered flowers and a pair of very short trousers, almost under things, which showed off her long golden-tan legs. Both wore leather sandals on their feet.

“Goddess forbid,” Birch whispered, clearly shocked. “There are humans in the fair woods.”