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Sam has been in this town long enough to know there is just enough money to get by, but even then the winter here is unbearable. Around the beginning of autumn; everyone goes into the town across the woods to get set up for winter. The thing is, these woods are old old, basically ancient. There's been more fuss about it in the past two decades than ever from what he's heard.

People saying there's a monster, spirit, demon or sam's personal favorite, a fucking tree god. everyone goes through those woods every year and no one has ever gone missing or been killed. Sam knows it's just a story parents tell their kids so they don't go wandering in the woods by themselves. And sam doesn't blame them, even if he thinks there's really nothing out there those woods always gave him an eerie feeling, like there was something out there. Watching him, Waiting to tear him into tiny bloody pieces.

But no. it's just really humid, there's animals and the trees look ominous. Sam's gotta admit, living by himself is scary and difficult at times. Everything scares him he wishes he could just crawl back into the hole he made living comforted and oblivious to the world with his parents. Every family member he knew is dead, parents never had siblings so no cousins and no siblings of his own.

Everything feels ten times harder than it was before, he barely turned twenty-three three months ago and he has enough money to get by on his own. He's a little proud of himself though he's passed the past few years without his parents relatively fine. This is his fourth winter by himself, he's got everything ready for the trip to the palace. He doesn't need too much, considering he can't afford more than necessities.

The only thing he really has left that isn't "needed" is his mother's ring. He doesn't ever wear it out of fear of losing it, instead he made a necklace out of it with old yarn and hung it by a small mirror in his home. As if he even considers this a home anymore, everything looks dull and less lively without more people in it.

"Sam?"

Gabriel stands outside his door, leaning on the door frame. Gabriel usually comes around every other day to visit sam and try to take him out, saying he "spend too much time cooped up in that house, open a window or something you're making me gloomy just sitting in there". He appreciates gabriel's efforts, he really does.

"That guy I was talking about is back with his food cart and he's selling chocolate this time you have to come with me"

"Gabe i was planning on just-"

"I know I'm going but before we go you have to come with me this is important"

"Your chocolate??"

"Yes now come on" gabe tugs on sam's arm and sam lets him pull him forward. This happens everytime gabriel sees the poor guy in town. Not that sam minds all that much, gabriel is good company.

When they reach the food cart gabriel's pulling out his money from his pocket, counting the coins, probably making sure he has enough for what sam can only assume is his usual one of each plus the chocolate. Sam has jokingly said a while back that gabriel has the biggest sweet tooth he's ever seen but good god does gabriel hold up to that.

The vendor looks up at them, grinning in gabe's direction

"One of everything?" The guy says and gabriel replies right ahead "one of everything. Oh but i also want that chocolate"

"And your friend?" He gives sam a pointed look

"Oh no, I don't want anything" sam says politely

"That's a shame, i don't come around here often enough, blonde over here is half my income"

"Oh really i'm flattered" gabriel says while the man wraps up his treats for him. Gabriel hands over his money excitingly taking the sweets from the guy's hand. He digs in the bag and breaks a piece off his chocolate for sam.

"Thank you" sam says taking the piece of chocolate and biting into it. It's dark chocolate and it's delicious.

"Wow, this is fucking amazing, definitely keep thesenin stock everyone's gonna love these" gabriel says through his mouth full. Sam nods, smiling at the baker. "Uhm, what's your name?" Sam says

"Benny" the guy smiles at them, clearly pleased that people like his food. He knows benny must not come around here often and the fact he can bring all his food here. Sam's pretty sure he's seen him riding here in a horse drawn carriage so he must be from the palace, and that explains everything. This has to be sam's favorite vendor though, he's met some others but benny seems nice and according to gabriel he "keeps his prices reasonable, what in the fresh hell do these people expect from us. Only reason i was able to afford this was because he doesn't sell a single cookie for five fucking dollars."

Sam is well aware gabriel works really hard to have enough spare cash to buy his snacks. He might complain about it but sam always reminds him that he got himself into it and it's gonna be worth it in the end. Mostly because he likes hearing when gabriel tells him he's right when he's angry. He's a lot shorter than sam and to him he looks adorable when he's grumpy, like a child when they don't get what they want. He just wants to hold his hand. Wait is that normal?

Sam has his bag slung over his arm and his hood on. It's big enough to fit everything he has for the cold and maybe some food. At least his little town has a way to get their own food, there's farmers and fishers but as soon as falls starts most things and people start cutting down on supplies. People have to get what they can because once it snows there's nothing left.

The path to the palace is straight up ahead. He already sees a couple people ahead of him and others behind. He's already a couple feet into the path and it's probably gonna take about an hour or so until he reaches the lip of the palace. He can see a few people ahead of him. Gabriel said he was going to leave a little while after him, most likely putting away his food. He remembers gabriel's mix of foods, he feels cavities forming just thinking about them.

Sam turns his head around and he can see the blurry figures of other people walking behind him. There's a fog rising up which is pretty normal in these woods considering the amount of rain it gets but it's thickening up faster than sam thinks it would. He keeps walking down the path, albeit a little faster, the fog's getting heavy like crazy, when he turns back around to look at the people that were behind him he can barely see them.

The trees are blurring and blending with one another and if it wasn't for the sound of his rapidly increasing heart beat sam would've thought he was hallucinating. The fog's getting thicker and thicker and with every step more and more of the forest disappears into the white of the fog. Sam can't see the path ahead of him anymore and the dirt is blending with the fog now. He slows down and tries to look around again, there's no one in sight. He's about to call out when he hears light trampling.. a deer.

Well at least he's not completely alone, although it's not really helping the situation all that much he can't see 5 feet ahead of him and the fog is still getting heavier. At this point he might as well stay still and wait it out but when he looks down he can't see his own hands. This is just his luck honestly he can't see anything and he can only hear that deer running. The running slowly starts fading out and sam realizes rather horridly he's completely alone. Sam has the small thought of maybe following the sound of the deer but quickly disregards it.

That would probably be worse he already doesn't know where in the woods he is, he would only get more lost than he already is. It would be better to just stay put. The stands there the more he thinks about his maybe two options, Is that really worth staying here and waiting it out he doesn't know how long this will last, but on the other hand if he does follow the sound what does he really have to gain, the chance he'll maybe see a deer if he could see in the first place. He's rooted to the spot until he hears a loud thump cut off the deer running.

Sam contemplates if maybe now is a good time to move when he hears a high pitched screech from the deer. Okay getting lost doesn't sound like all too bad of an idea it's not like he has any other option. If he stays what ever got that deer goes for him and same outcome if he moves he still can't see. He hears more screeching and whining from afar and sam's not really thinking when he does this but he follows the sound. He keeps his hands in front of him and tries to walk as smoothly as he can but he keeps stumbling over things on the ground and he figures he must be far off the path.

The sound of the deer is getting louder and he can hear something else too. His first thought is a wolf or maybe another person is there but how could anything see? The fog is starting to clear up a bit the more he walks towards the sound but it can't be enough to properly catch a deer can it? His growing concern and confusion only gets worse once he sees the blurry figure of something lying on the ground.

Sam stops walking and squints taking a couple more steps forward as the figure of the deer clears up but so does something else. Sam stops dead in his tracks and just stares. This thing is huge. From what sam can see it's ripping chunks out of the deer's belly and it's still alive. Sam flinches every time the deer whimpers when a piece of its flesh get severed from its body. The fog starts clearing up slowly and sam's panic starts rising and his heart sinks to his stomach. The darker figure is gonna see him plain as day and he can only hide behind what few trees are near. He's sure if he breathes too loud he's as good as dead

His hands are shaking and he's looking around at his surroundings but he can only run so far until this thing knows he's out there, it's still eating and the deer's whimpering and sam's eyes are watering, he can't breathe and-

He takes a step back and the black figure's head snaps up. The fog's cleared up enough that sam can see the shape of its face and the large black horns framed on the creature's head. Its skin is dark as charcoal and looks almost ghostly. its eyes are completely black; they don't even have pupils but sam just knows they're looking right at him. This is where i fucking die

Sam's eyes look around frantically for a way to leave with all his body parts intact but he can't even move. The creature's still looking at him and sam's heart feels like it's about to beat out of his ribcage. The figure's hand move and Sam's entire body shakes, he screws his eyes shut and just waits for the inevitable pain but it never comes, sam doesn't even feel a breeze. Matter of fact he can't feel anything, maybe he's already dead? Sam slowly opens his eyes and is met with a giant black paw holding out one of the deer's legs. He tentatively looks up at the creature and it's looking right back at him, never blinking. He looks back at the leg and the paw is still holding it out towards him. That's when Sam realises the creature is offering him the leg. What the everloving fuck is going on.

This is far from what sam imagined would happen and he's stuck being between being relieved or suspicious. What if it's just trying to get him closer? What should he even do in this situation, just half an hour ago he didn't even believe in a monster in the woods and here he is, standing right in front of it still breathing, although difficult; he's still calming down because there's a ten foot monster, sitting mind you, eating a deer right before his eyes.

Sam is still rooted to the spot when the creature puts the deer leg down in front of him and continues eating the rest of the corpse, not paying him any mind. Sam thinks it's a good a time as ever to escape but what if it's a trick? The creature keeps eating away at the deer's body, chewing through flesh and bone, the bones easily breaking under the pressure of it's teeth and jaws. That could be him right now so why isn't it, is this thing actually sparing him? But why, is it already full? Sam's no expert but he's pretty sure with a body like that you need a lot of food to sustain yourself and one deer probably isn't going to manage. Maybe it already ate before this one? Sam honestly shouldn't care as long as he's being spared, that creature can eat whatever it wants as long as sam's not in its radar.

Sam slowly starts walking backwards only for the thing to snap its head back up and look at him again. He doesn't dare move but the creature stays right where it is. They stare at each other for a couple seconds before the creature turns back towards the deer. There's not much left and it hasn't tried going after sam when he took a step back, what if it's saving him for later and not worried about sam leaving since sam's not moving already. Sam slowly starts taking more steps backwards and the creature keeps eating the remains. He sees its eyes roll like an animal's eye would turn to look around, a chill goes up sam's spine knowing it's looking at him but the thing isn't moving, still eating the deer remains.

There's basically scrap left that the thing is licking up and it's eyes roll again. Sam takes this chance to walk a little faster before he practically starts running backwards before turning around and booking it. He doesn't think he's ever run this fast in his life, and he turns around to see if the thing's chasing him and it's thankfully it's not, sam doesn't think he can handle having another heart attack at this point. he's surprised he even finds the path or that he didn't trip but he keeps pushing it until he runs out of breath and feels like he's three seconds away from passing out.

He realises he somehow managed to keep his bag on his arm and of course he didn't get anything from the palace, he'll have to go back another day. Oh god he's gonna have to go back to the forest, what if he gets caught again and this time the monster's not giving out free passes for lost civilians. No one's going to truly believe him if he tells anyone, there's been plenty of stories over the past twenty years and no one's ever done anything. everyone goes in those woods, parents just use it for stories to teach lessons, Gabriel's probably going to think he's crazy and then what. What the hell is he gonna do.

Chapter Text

His insides are churning and coiling, about to burst out his chest and pour down his lifeless body, sam doesn't know how far he can keep running like this, For his life, his short short lived life. He hears heart stopping growling and howling and everything's out in a flash.

Sam wakes up abruptly almost jumping out of his bed. It's getting colder and he knows he has to go the palace but.. That thing Sam didn't sleep well this night tossing and turning and seeing things in the dark. He hasn't been this scared of the dark in years and back then he had his mother to comfort him and wrap him blankets. He feels like an absolute baby. But can he really blame himself, the moment he falls asleep, probably early in the morning, he has a nightmare. He knows the creature didn't chase him or try to hurt him, he saw it.

Sam rubs his hands over his eyes and threw his hair, he doesn't feel like getting up but it's not like he'll be able to go back to sleep. Maybe I can go to gabriel's home for a while and calm down, he doesn't have to know about any of this, he's always been a good friend.

Speak of the devil he hears knocking on his door and a loud cheery

"sam, open up!" Sam grudgingly gets up from bed, going over to the door and fixing his hair up a bit on the way

"Well you're looking good this morning" gabriel smirks looking at the bags under sam's eyes

"Shut up" sam replies lamely and turns to the side inviting Gabriel inside. "Anything you wanted?"

"What I can't visit now?"

"He still has chocolate doesn't he"

"Yeah" gabriel replies looking down and rubbing the back of his neck and lowly grumbles "sorry I didn't know looking for excuses to hang out with your best friend was bad" he pulls up one of sam's chairs from his tiny table and sits down. Sam smiles sweetly and his heart warms up but he replies with

"i never said it was bad," he laughs "but gabriel i'm exhausted, you go ahead I'll catch up with you later"

"What happened?" Gabriel asks, eyeing sam's appearance again

"Just..couldn't sleep," sam says rubbing a hand across the side of his face, he's not exactly lying "do you know if the library has books on the history of our town? Maybe old fairy tales?" Sam asks

"You couldn't sleep at time cause you had night terrors about your favorite book being out?" Gabriel Responds jokingly, raising an eyebrow

"Gabe."

"I'm not sure sammoose but it's probably open right now so you can go check it out" gabriel said rising up from his seat

"I'll go later i'm kind of hungry- no i'm not eating chocolate for breakfast" sam replied seriously, stretching his arms out and yawning

"Suit yourself" gabriel gave sam a teasing grin and was on his way out the door but not before giving him a small salute and a wink Sam internally sighs and starts setting up his breakfast which consists of a few slices of breaf and a single egg, research never hurt anyone before, hell he's gonna go into town and asks some of the old folks what they remember about the woods. He has a forty year time frame and there's no way he's going to pretend like there isn't something there. The fact he's still alive has to mean something, he needs to know if it's safe to go into the woods. This raised up so many problems and not many solutions, freeze to death or get eaten by a creature, that's one way to go out

 

 

The libraries in their town are old and maybe a little bit outdated in some accepts, but sam's looking for anything within the past forty years so nothing needs to be updated, this should be easy. Fuck was he wrong, it took sam hours to find books on the forest and mythical creatures. He found all of them which where, of course, only 3 because that was just his luck. One being of the town's history, the biggest one and possibly a lot more useful. He's sure the palace has more books with longer pages and better stability but just thinking about the trail.. Sam ignores the chill that runs down his spine and the goose bumps that form on his skin, pushing back the memories from yesterday to the back of his mind for now. Too many questions and still no answers, that's why he's here in his tiny kitchen with the new books covering the table. He's had to reread the same paragraph three times, still not being able to get the image of that dear out his head, but he'll be damned if he doesn't learn one thing out of this

 

 

He almost forgets to eat, caught up in the second book, so far he's got two things down. One, the woods are old, two, the town is old. Sam exhales and he feels like all the air is leaving his body and honestly that doesn't sound like such a bad idea right now, he already knows those things but he's hoping the book on the town's history will give him the insight he's hoping for. He didn't know what he's expecting to be honest, no one knows that it's real, so obviously there's no documentation but you'd at least expect some mention of people beliefs written in here. Thank god he can talk to the other townsfolk, that's where he heard about this tale in the first place, if any of their stories match up with what happened to him they have to be true in some aspect. Sam wants to know about the creature peacefully, it didn't hurt him so it probably hasn't hurt anyone else, there's no need to tell anyone else to bring negative attention to it; whether they believe in it or not. It didn't even try to chase him, sam wants to trust he'll be okay but he has to make sure

 

 

Sam's talked to everyone he could remember talking about the creature in the forest, picking the parts from their stories that line up with his. The first person he talks to is ms marion. He remembers her talking about myths, legends and ancient creatures and everything in between. Sam used to think she was a bit odd if maybe a little crazy, what with all the tales, but she's a very nice lady, happy to share. She's one of those people full of stories to tell, decorations on her lawn and a tiny flower patch in the spring.

" what brings you here dear?" She asks cheerfully, opening the door for him.

"I wanted to ask you something if it's not too much trouble" he smiles, looking down at ms marion.

"Course not, come in come in i just finished making some tea" she puts on a big smile and steps aside letting sam walk into her tiny house. Marion lives by herself, she's got a cozy home, sam wishes he could have the same feeling about his home. Everything feels empty where it used to be full of people and memories, sam stopped crying about this a long time ago but it stills leaves an ache in his heart.

"Thank you, marion" he replies trying to get himself together. He came here to ask about the forest and get some much needed answers if any at all. "I was wondering if you could help me," he takes a seat in ms marion's small kitchen when she gestures to her table "do you know anything about the forest?"

"Oh I know lots about the forest, it's a wonderful place really" she replies getting her kettle and cups, setting one in front of sam Sam really doubts that but nods his head anyway, memories of yesterday playing in his head

"i'm sure, but you still think that even with all the.. you know" he gestures vividly

"Of course i do, i've heard all there is to hear and my view hasn't changed one bit," she says, pouring tea into the two cups and setting the kettle back on the stove "it's just nature"

Yeah i bet "you sound really convinced of that" He says gently, taking the cup in his hands. His mother used to make tea in the morning when they had enough to spare from the day before. Sam liked his father's and mother's close friends, they were wonderful people and they didn't take their deaths any better than sam did. He wishes he could see them again some time, he hasn't seen bobby in a long long time, but he guesses that's what happens when you lose someone.

"Samuel?" Marion breaks him out of his short daze

"I'm sorry marion, and please call me sam, samuel makes me sound like an old man" he tries changing the mood, not liking the concern written on marion's face. She offers him a small smile

"Had me thinking I said something wrong" she laughs lightly sipping out of her small cup

"No no, but um could you repeat that?" Sam's really embarrassed now, he's just witnessed the most horrendous thing of his life and he spaced out. That thing has all the potential to be much more dangerous than a house fire.

"I said I'm sure because those woods have been here for much longer than you and I and they've been prospering, legends or not. I truly believe there's a creature in those woods."

"How can you be so sure?" Sam replies, trying to act calm and collected, this is something everyone has probably asked marion before.

"One of my closest's friend's uncles was visiting the town over about 8 years ago," marion leans in slightly, almost like she's trying to tell a secret "he took the path everyone takes to get here and on the way he ran into this thick fog, he said he couldn't see anything but could hear the sound of animals dying from far away, he tried to wait out the fog but he said he heard dragging and trampling and then silence," she speaks lower and lower leaning in closer to the table between them and sam finds himself mirroring her actions "and then he saw it, the monster" sam stays deadly still, waiting for some kind of description. Maybe this man was scared enough to start booking it after that. Not that sam wouldn't get enough information as is, it doesn't really show him if the creature is harmful or not but it at least tells him he's not alone. But then marion continues "he said it was huge, he could see its eyes glowing from the fog, he said it was as tall as the trees and didn't stay long after, said it was an act of the gods he survived that day"

Sam doesn't know how well he believes in gods but this is a lot more information than he thought he would get, even if the guy didn't stay. The only thing not lining up is glowing eyes, sam never saw that. Granted sam was practically having a seizure but he remembers, burned deep into his retinas, the creature's eyes being pitch black. He stays silent for a moment longer and then manages to breathe out a strangled "thank you for telling me marion"

"Of course, you did ask for what i know" she smiles and sits up straight again taking her cup in hand

"And you truly believe this," Sam asks questionably, he believes it of course, it matches up almost perfectly with his experience "I mean did the creature even try to get near him?"

"As far as my friend has told me from his story, no, it just stood there, watching him. It's not like anyone would wait to find out if something like that is dangerous or not. Personally i believe it's dangerous, there are friendly beautiful things in that forest but i could never stand to go near that thing" she shakes her head for emphasis "although maybe those are just instincts talking"

My instincts must really suck then sam can't believe he's actually thinking this but he might just actually go back out there and try his luck, he can't beg his way through the entirety of winter, he can't go around either, the grove has long overgrown where people used to walk around before the path was made, even then the trip was miles longer than betting your chances of getting  lost and going through the trees back then. As far as he's seen and heard, he hopes and prays he'll be okay. And if he does run into the creature again there's not much he can do but hope.

God his luck really fucked him up this time.