When old and wisened folk speak of the Deep Woods, they always make sure to mention that it ain’t no ordinary place. The Deep Woods ain’t just deep in the woods, it’s Deep in The Woods. And while other folk might talk rot about how their sheep got carried off by black furred wolves that walk like men, the wise old folk of Scarough know better. Because that which comes out of the Deep Woods ain’t never so kind as to just take sheep.
Take the tales of Sister Thorn, a girl barely thirteen summers and even fewer springs. She grew up in Scarough, daughter to a mother who came from lands afar and sought to settle in what seemed like the perfect little town. Other children made fun of her for her tendency to talk to plants and squint at cats and how she never passed a willow without bowing. But little did they know that her strange little ways were more than just the imaginings of a lonely child. She could hear the quiet voice of the world.
Shortly after Sister Thorn celebrated her tenth birthday, she, and all the other children old enough, were taken out of bed and brought by stone faced parents to the town square. There, under a bright blue moon unblemished by clouds stood a woman the children of Scarough knew only as The Witch. A tall and imposing figure, even without her pointed hat, The Witch of Scarough examined the assembled children. Lit only by the light of the blue moon, she strode down the line, her every step accompanied with a tap of her staff. When she passed a child, their parents would breathe a sigh of relief as if some terrible fate had been avoided but even the most dull child knew not to break the silence that hung over the crowd.
The Witch stopped in front of Sister Thorn and turned to face her. She lifted her staff, waving her hand through the shimmering air atop it before crushing something unseen and letting the glowing dust of it fall from her hand. Then finally, after many long minutes of silence and fear, The Witch said;
Many moons passed as Sister Thorn learned to harness the power of her gift under Mistress Ashe’s guidance. From singing her first wand to life under the watchful eyes of the stars to learning the secret language of spiders, Sister Thorn was a natural. Never had an apprentice witch taken so easily to the shape of magic, so fully immersed themselves in it. So quick was she in fact that in just three short years Sister Thorn had been entrusted to gather on her own in places folks twice her years had never seen. The hidden valley with its mushroom trees; the castle hive with its guardian bees, Sister Thorn had freedom only the birds could compete with. But there was one place Mistress Ashe was strict she should never go. One place, no matter how well she knew the incantations for fire, ice, or stone that she should ever be. The Deep Woods.
“When the woods stop whispering and even the birds don’t sing no more, you turn back. No matter what the things that look like trees might tell you, if you can’t hear ash or birch or oak, you turn back.”