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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2021 Elisa Menz

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review. For more information, address: elisa.menz.author@gmail.com.

First edition January 2021

Cover design by Elisa Menz

Cover picture by iira116

Illustrations by PickmanArts

Servicio Nacional del Patrimonio Cultural, Gobierno de Chile

Registration No: 2020-A-3822

ISBN 979-8-5776-2371-5 (paperback)


For Rod, the first one to hear this story.




“It is said a mysterious Path crosses the Forest. A Path that does not start anywhere known to man, and its course is a secret even for beasts. The spirits roam in silence and with gentle steps, avoiding the mortal beings walking beside them.

“This Path leads to deep starry caverns. To the magnificent halls of the Elven-kings. To the steep peaks of the northern mountains, inhabited by dragons. It runs across the villages of the half-breed, from the wild tribes of the north to the houses of the wise river folk.

“Fairies, deer, korred, and squirrels trek their winding routes, minding their affairs and in complete harmony. The trail leads to majestic waterfalls, impenetrable groves, and perilous cliffs. If you’re lucky, it guides you to soft hills covered with fragrant flowers. Their existence leaves a pleasant warmth in your heart, even if the Path does not allow you to return to that wonderful place.

“Because as every creature in the Forest knows, the Path has a mind of its own, and it will prevail over all others. If the Path finds you, it speaks with your soul and guides you to the place you should be, even if it’s not the same you wanted to reach.

“But it is also unpredictable, and if you don’t watch your steps, it’s impossible to know—”

“All right, children. It’s time for bed, both of you.”

The story was cut short, her mother’s words hanging on her lips. Finn and Maeve turned to their father, who frowned at the scene.

Dinner had ended long ago. While he smoked his pipe, sitting in a bulky armchair in front of the fireplace, they listened to the legends of the Forest. The siblings loved those stories. Curled up on the rug, they enjoyed the comforting heat of the flames and her mother’s soothing voice.

Both children huffed, not ready to end the night, but their father’s tone left no room to protest. The rest of the story should have to continue tomorrow. “Just a little longer!” Finn pleaded, but his father remained quiet, giving him an impassive stare. “Our property is at the edge of the Forest. Since we’re not allowed to get close, we can only learn about it through mom’s stories.”

Finn is not smart. Maeve thought.

Her older brother had a natural talent to persuade others, and he usually got away with what he wanted. But his petty trick never worked with his father before, and it was beyond her understanding why he kept trying.

Maeve also wanted to keep listening. Unlike Finn, she obediently rose and kissed her mother’s cheek, who returned a sympathetic smile and pinched her nose.

Groaning, Finn stood and crossed his arms over his chest. “Mom, please! I want you to tell us about dragons.”

“Finn, I will not tell you again. Go to bed now.” His father was a reasonable man, but his patience had limits.

“If the Forest is so dangerous, shouldn’t I learn as much as possible about it? How am I supposed to defend myself if—?”


Her little body flinched at the commanding voice. Eyes cast down, Maeve grimaced when the huge armchair creaked under her father’s shifting weight. He stood in front of Finn, and the boy lowered his gaze, arms falling by his side.  Beside her, her mother kept an eye on them with a gentle smile.

“The only thing you need to know about the Forest is that it’s dangerous and you should never enter, under any circumstances. It’s the territory of wild creatures and magic, and men are not to deal with those ever again.”

Her father’s voice turned grave. “It’s a crime, Finn, and if the king finds out, I’ll be severely punished.”

Finn looked at him, not understanding what he meant. Why would their father be punished if he entered the Forest?

“You, little one, will be busy roasting in the cauldron of an ogre.” Maeve gasped, covering her mouth. The thought of her brother being served as a monster’s lunch horrified her. With no idea how an ogre looked like, her mind quickly conjured one. A child eating creature couldn’t be nice. Fat and mean, like a giant toad with sharp teeth and a mighty roar.

The argument had been settled, and her father pointed toward the door. Defeated, Finn kissed his mother and joined Maeve before heading to their bedrooms.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her father wrap her mother in a tight hug, kissing her cheek and making her giggle. Lord O’Riordan was a stoic man and could be stern with his children, but nobody could deny he loved his wife. It warmed Maeve’s heart to see them so happy.

The walk through the halls was silent; each child lost in thought. Most of the servants had already left for the day, to rest in their

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