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Mark and the Witch of the Deep Forest - Part 1 by Shawn Arnham

Once upon a time in a certain farming village, there lived a boy named Mark. Mark's father was an adventurer, and whenever he came home, he would tell grand stories of the places he visited. Mark respected his father and retold the other children in the village his father's stories as well. For a child living in a remote village, adventure stories were very charming, and everyone took a liking to Mark's.

On one such occasion, Mark began recounting, 'Today, I want to tell you about the witch that my father met!' To the north of Mark's village lies a great forest, where a witch is said to dwell. His father told him that he had met this witch deep within the forest. The listening children imagined what the witch looked like and what magic she would use. They then began asking Mark questions. Mark faithfully answered each in turn, but one boy suddenly declared:

'It's obvious that this story is another lie!'

He was a boy named Ron who liked to pick fights. He always looked for faults in Mark's stories. Mark got angry when the credibility of his stories was disputed. 'There's no way my father would lie about this!'

'If that's so, then show us the witch. Bring her here!' Ron grinned. Mark grabbed hold of Ron. The two began to scuffle, bringing upon them the attention of the adults. While the physical fight was settled, Mark's anger was not.

That night, Mark mulled over his words and the reaction from that day, and he made up his mind. He would not stay quiet. He would show Ron! He would show that his beloved father was not a liar!

He fetched the torn cloak his father had left behind, put a loaf of bread in a backpack, and rushed out of the house.

'I'll find the witch, and bring it here! I'll stun him into silence!'

Relying only on the adventurous spirit he inherited from his father, Mark ran toward the forest in the dead of the night.

The night was eerie. Every tree rustled as the wind blew. Far in the distance, the sounds of howling monsters could be heard at times. Mark trembled as he continued.

As his father's story went, the witch would have a small hut somewhere deep in the forest. No matter how much Mark explored, he saw no signs of any huts. He started the journey bursting with energy, but his pace slowed as he became more tired. Eventually, he found himself lost.

'I wonder if the witch even really exists...' Mark's thoughts trailed off as he became more tired and lost.

'Is something wrong?'

Startled, Mark turned to face the sudden voice. There had been nothing there moments ago, but now there stood a black-robed girl. She appeared to be the same age as Mark, yet Mark did not know any kids from his village that looked like her.

'Wh-Who are you...?' Mark stammered. He thought it was very strange for a girl to be out here this late at night.

'I'm Anna. I'm a witch who lives in this forest.'