Below is an excerpt from my fantasy novella, The Eyes of Greenwood. This book is the first installment in my Reyairan Spirits series. The following is the book’s prologue. The book in its entirety is available for purchase on Kindle now. I may release it in print format some time in the future, but as of now it is a Kindle exclusive.
The village of Greenwood sat between two sections of the Greenwoods of the village’s namesake. “The Greenwoods” was the name of a vast forest, spanning over a thousand acres and reaching up hundreds of feet. Greenwood Village was near the westernmost portion of the forest, sitting in a clearing that was carved out before living history. Most say it was a troop of lumberers that had used it as a base, and after cutting out so much of the area, they brought their families and settled in. There were paths that lead to the village, but it was a long and arduous journey from the outskirts of the forest to the little town.
For the reason of its reclusiveness, Greenwood rarely received any outside visitors, but instead relied on sustaining itself through hunting and agriculture. When something was needed from outside the Greenwoods, a group of the men from the village would make the travel themselves, as they knew the way in and out of the woods without becoming lost or falling prey to the forest’s predators.
Amongst the predators of the woods were large wolves, greatlizards, and ogres. There were also tales of the “tree men,” humanlike creatures covered in mossy, brown hair, who swung from tree to tree, whispering to children to come to them, entrancing them with their emerald eyes, stealing their prey in the night, but many claimed these were only wives’ tales. In addition, Forin the Nightcat was said to roam the woods. He had been challenged by warriors for years, but he always defeated them. Wise-seers of the Glass Crypt said that the Nightcat was hundreds of years old, gaining immortality from the warriors’ souls he consumed. The people of Greenwood avoided crossing paths with Forin, and offered a strong, fat ox to him each year as tribute to avoid his wrath.
One visitor the inhabitants of Greenwood did expect each three moons was a cleric from the Glass Crypt, who brought news of the world outside the forest, various medicines, and blessings for the newborns of the village. It was a different cleric each time, though Cleric Griebor was the favorite of the children. He brought candies from the finest candy makers of the king, told stories of knights and dragons, and performed beautiful light tricks on nights where the sky was black and clear. Griebor came at least once a year, and during these times, the entire village brightened up and came out in a festival of sorts, feasting and drinking and partying all through the night. The other clerics were usually friendly and welcome, with a few exceptions, but none were so well received as Griebor.
Life in Greenwood Village would seem almost a moment frozen in time to one unacquainted with the lives of the villagers, save the aging of the citizens and livestock and the growing and harvesting of the crops.
Men of the village grew up either to be farmers or hunters, though often participated in both activities. Farmers raised the aforementioned oxen, chickens, and sheep; their crops consisted of corn, wheat, and cabbage. Hunters tracked deer, moose, and boar, and were tasked with escorting Forin’s offering to the place of sacrifice each year. Both hunters and farmers learned to fight to protect against invasion from wolves or greatlizards, but another class of men was trained specifically for the warrior’s purpose. The militia was bred of the strongest men and women. The male offspring were trained by their fathers, who were trained by their fathers before them and so on, to fight to defend the village, and kill only when necessary. While the militiamen were the most physically intimidating of Greenwood’s inhabitants, they were often the most pleasant to interact with, being brought up on perfect etiquette and having outlets in the training grounds to take out any negative inhibitions and stress.
Women of Greenwood had a similar role. Like men, many grew to be farmers, or gatherers who accompanied the hunters to gather forest fruits such as apples and berries. There were also the tanners and cooks, who skinned the hunters’ kills and slaughtered livestock to make cloth and leather, and cooked the animals’ flesh and harvested crops for the village. Livestock and crops were communal: everything slaughtered or harvested was shared for the entire village. Some women became hunters, though it was often very rare, as those who were not mothers of future militiamen were tasked with raising their children from home.
Children were brought up to fit into the roles they chose, unless they were future militiamen. The basics of farming and hunting were presented to them at an early age, and each child learned these skills at their own pace, though all were expected to have matured into a role by the time they reached the age of eighteen so that they could begin working. Naturally, many boys started out drawn to hunting, wanting to be strong and brave, but many found that they were more suited to and preferred the farmer’s life. Girls were conditioned to desiring the farmer’s life, but like the boys, found themselves switching sides at times when they grew up and became more independent from their education. Some boys became tanners or cooks, but this usually was a job women took on, like hunting was to men. Future militiamen were a bit different than the other children. They were primarily raised by their father, not their mother. At three, they began the first steps in learning to be polite and chivalrous. Manners, kindness, and courtesy were among the first things they mastered. They were taught to be humble: proud of their duty, but not boastful. While some militiamen assisted in hunts, they were taught that it was not their primary job, and they should not interfere with the experts at the craft. While being a righteous person was important to militiamen, they were warriors. The most integral part of their faction was to fight, and fight hard. From the age of five and on, combat training was a daily affair for the future militiamen. When Griebor came to Greenwood, they were not allowed to his festivities until all their training for the day had been completed. The discipline was often extremely strict, but good warriors, and good men came of it.
All in all, Greenwood was a relatively peaceful village, where the days were long, but always pleasant. Rarely did a sad or disturbing event plague the villagers, and when it did, it was soon forgotten for the contentedness of their lives. Trouble was a foreign concept to them, even if a cleric brought news of the kingdom being at war or a monster rampaging through a town outside the forest. Greenwood Village was untouched by the outside world, so what were the trials of the kingdom or other villages to the inhabitants?
Cleric Griebor had come to visit on the day when life in Greenwood began to change. He came like any other time, bringing the same stories and candies and tricks he would at any other time, but this wasn’t any other time. The villagers of Greenwood did not know it yet, but the forest had begun to turn into something much, much different.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed and buy the book, please leave me a review on Amazon, it’s much appreciated!
Copyright © 2016, Vincent C. Russo. All Rights Reserved.