Unnatural thick mist had materialized from the slithering roots of the forest floor and slowly groped its way up the citadel's ivy covered walls. Such weather hadn't graced our lands for the better part of a year, and it amused me so that curiosity gripped me to abandon my hiding place amidst the thick blankets and sheets in my bed and filch a glance outside. I crept towards the balcony without upsetting the moaning floorboards beneath my feet and opened the sturdy doors that led outside.

It was almost like I had been struck when I came into contact with the fog; my body forced a cough out of me as I breathed in. Far too much time had elapsed since I had actually breathed in the outside air. It was overwhelming to me, though, that the preposterous notion of my own drowning by way of breathing seemed to humor me. One thing was for certain though: the air was tangible. I still can't recollect a single day in my life that has even come close to resemble that eerie eventide. I should have known that the weather enough was warning me of something sinister on the rise. But I could not. Mayhap the thick gloom was even slowing my thoughts…

I could perceive the water droplets that were hanging in the air, defying the forces that shed the rain across the ground day in and day out. They were weighing down my eyelashes and misting my cursed hair, caressing my bare flesh. I shook my head violently, releasing the beads of water that had formed at the crest of my brow and tips of my hair. Pressing my chest against the banister lining the terrace, I pushed myself onto my toes and tilted my head downward. A score meters or so below me was the moist forest floor. At least, what I assumed was the forest floor, for the jagged treetops of the forest canopy were the only things I could distinguish. The trunks seemed to have been swept from under them and were merely floating upon nothing.

From that particular balcony on a clear day, you could easily see everything to the east. I know because I would visit that same terrace on particularly clear days with the most sincere desire of seeing the white crests of the Lavin Sea. I knew how impossible it would be to actually see the ocean considering how far inland the castle walls confined me. But the childish thought that the briny water would kindly reveal itself to me someday urged me to that same banister every evening. Of course, the thick fog that eve hardly allowed me to see past the impasse's entrance, much less anything further.

Our citadel had been shrewdly built by my great ancestors in a ravine, formed to fit the impasse like two adjacent puzzle pieces. Because the majority of the citadel was nestled between the junctures of the valley, the only direction to view from Altreis was east, unless of course you traveled up to the lookout towers, which loomed above the valley's peak and enabled a view in every direction. As the valley continued eastward, the heavily wooded dell widened out and eventually merged with the forested woodland that was and encompassed Forthe. This was the Aare forest, distinguished by its cryptic antiquity. Its aged trees testified to that statement; the canopy of both deciduous and coniferous trees loomed high above the leaf-strewn floor beyond the horizon. Countless cascades gushed from the rocks. Streams and rivers cut coldly into the fertile land, which in turn emptied into the delta some three score miles east. The Divine One, Nao, was gracious in appointing such a land to mere undeserving mortals. This land in all its beauty was Forthe, the nation that I had loved from the moment I set eyes upon it.

The land that had rejected me with its entire being from the moment it set its eyes upon me.

This winding and cryptic wood was by far the best defense in face of our enemies. It had always protected us as a people, up until the night that I found myself in the hallway outside the King's sleeping quarters. That was the night that the forest had let us down. Or perhaps it was me that let the whole of Forthe down.