Five sisters walked a path. Each sister had a special gift, which they needed to walk the path as it wound through an ancient magical forest. The youngest sister was only five, and possessed the gift of innocence. She trusted and loved all that came before her. The next sister was eight, and she possessed the gift of quiet, which let her hear the forest and understand all that lived there. The third sister was thirteen, and she possessed the gift of sight, which let her see far ahead of where the shroud of the forest normally stopped all vision. The eldest sisters were twins of seventeen, one was a master archer and never missed her mark, and the other was very magical and could cast many spells.
The sister with the gift of sight always led the way along with the sister gifted with quiet. The twins walked with their youngest sister. The five sisters were on a pilgrimage to find a new home for there’s had been burned to the ground by an evil warlock who wanted all the forest to himself. They had set out to defeat the warlock and force him to change his dark ways, but he lived in the deepest and darkest part of the forest, surrounded by many dangerous creatures.
The creatures of the forest weren’t evil, but they were old and unused to strange things in their domain. A great porcusnake hissed as it crossed the trail, but the sister with sight saw it long before they approached that part of the trail, and it didn’t hurt them. Many days later on their travels, a pack of tigerwolves began to stalk them. Their camouflage was perfect, so the sister with sight didn’t see them, and for hours the tigerwolves followed them, but as one of them crumpled a leaf, the sister with special hearing warned the others. The youngest sister wanted to find them and hug them, for she knew tigerwolves to be very soft and affectionate with cubs, but one of the twins scooped up their little sister in her arms. The other twin unleashed a great spell of wind, disturbing and scaring away the pack.
The sister who was a gifted archer would hunt for their meals, carefully hunting only the infirmed, sometimes leaving her sisters for days to find the right prey. They would pray and thank the forest for each meal before eating, and the youngest sister would lead them, loving every creature as she did.
They walked the trail for days and weeks, keeping each other safe until they reached a bridge. They stopped there, seeing that this bridge had been made by a person. It was old, vines growing on the pillars holding it up from the river and cracking through the stones. The stone was dark. The sister with special sight said it glowed strangely and the sister with special hearing said it made a pulsing sound. The sister who loved everything said it looked beautiful.
The twins insisted on crossing the bridge first, and as they took their first steps it began to shudder, rumbling and nearly knocking over the twins. They held their other sisters back as the bridge began to transform. What once seemed like old vines and broken rock, turned to stony skin and green sinew. A voice like scraping slate came from the mouth of the giant before them. “Who dares cross the bridge of the Warlock?”
“We sisters!” said the youngest sister excitedly. The other sisters held her back, as she tried to hug the great giant.
The twins stepped to the edge of the river in which the giant stood. First spoke the archer. “We are the sisters of the forest, and our home was destroyed by the Warlock. We seek vengeance.”
“The Warlock has set me to guard this river, and he cares not for your vengeance.”
Next spoke the sister of magic. “Then instead of vengeance we seek a new home. The warlock robbed us of ours.”
“The Warlock has no time to build little girls a home. He sits in the heart of the forest, solving mysteries of the world.”
Two of the younger sisters were afraid, though not the youngest, and they stayed away from the river’s edge, but the twins stayed brave. One knocked an arrow, and the other conjured a spell. Arrow after arrow was fired at each of the points where the vines connected the stone of the giant’s body, but that was not enough, and he charged through the river, attacking the twins. The archer’s arm was broken, and she cried out. The magician, though, uttered her spell and the force of the river came and rushed against the giant. At first he laughed until at each of the places the arrows were fired, his body began to fall apart against the power of the river. Before he could strike again, the water had washed him away and settled, returning to a calm place again. The sisters rested that night and tended to the injured arm of their archer sister. She was wounded in spirit, unable to use her bow, and no magic her twin possessed could heal her faster.
The following day, the five sisters crossed through the river, soaking themselves, but no further danger came in the river. They walked through the path into the cavern of the oldest trees. The sister with special hearing heard whispers and slithers as they walked, but in the darkness they saw nothing until deep into the forest lights glowed from a cave, lights of reds and blues and greens. They crept towards the cave and just before they reached the entrance, from nowhere slithered forth a great wyrm. It possessed no legs, but it boasted great wings, taloned at the ends. Its mouth was the size of the youngest sister, its fangs the size of arrows.
It spoke no words as it lunged forward, and before any of the sisters could react, the youngest jumped forward to embrace the serpent. In her arms, its illusion was broken. Leathery wings turned to feathers that fell aside, a terrifying fanged mouth turned to a simple beak, and a serpent’s body turned to a great beautiful bird, which let the youngest sister embrace it. “Aren’t you beautiful?” she said to it. It cooed, before walking quietly away into the depths of the forest.
“Even I couldn’t see what it was,” said the sister with special sight in wonder.
“Neither could I,” said the youngest sister with a smile.
Without another word, the five sisters entered the cave. Inside lay the Warlock. His lair was filled with strange and frightening artifacts such as dragon sinew and troll hearts. The pelts of tigerwolves carpeted the floor. The Warlock blinked in surprise at the sight of the five sisters. “Who are you? And how did you reach my lair?”
“We are the sisters of the forest whose home you destroyed,” declared the magical twin, who had lead them into the cave.
“Oh, yes, yes,” said the warlock. “Why have you come here?”
“You stole our home, we would have another and have vengeance upon you,” said the archer.
The Warlock sighed, and said only, “So be it,” before casting the archer to the ground. The other sisters cried out as she lay still.
The magic sister and the Warlock dueled. The Warlock was powerful, but the magic sister had her sisters, who gave warnings as they heard and saw the spells forming from the wizard’s hands and mouth. The magic sister was struck many times, but she never fell, for the love of her sisters kept her strong. And finally the Warlock fell to ground, his dark beard singed, and his pride and body wounded beyond recovery.
“How could mere children fell me?” he asked.
“Because we have each other, monster,” said the archer twin, who had regained her feet.
“Because we are powerful together,” said the magic twin fiercely.
“Wait!” cried the youngest sister, who ran forward between the twins and the Warlock. “You’ve defeated him, but where is our home?”
“It’s gone, sister,” said the magic twin sadly.
“The forest is our home, and the forest still stands,” said the youngest sister defiantly.
“But the forest is many homes,” said the archer twin.
“Sister, what do you see?” asked the youngest to her sister with special sight.
“I see a feeble man,” said the sister.
“If we destroy him, we are only doing worse than he did to us!”
The Warlock spat. “Do not pity me! Slay me and be done with it.”
The youngest sister grabbed the Warlock’s hand. He tried to pull away, but she was stronger than she seemed, and he was very weak after his duel. “It will be alright. Just as my sister’s arm will heal, so too can you.”
“I can never heal, not from this. I was unravelling the ancient secrets of this forest, clearing the darkness so that the light could pour out. You’ve undone it all!”
“Don’t you see?” asked the sister with sight. “There’s already light here. The darkness makes it shine brighter.”
“I wake to the sound of the birds singing, and the cubs and kits and hatchlings playing every morning,” said the sister with special hearing.
The Warlock looked warily at each of the sisters. “Many of those babes are stolen and eaten by the monsters of this forest.”
The youngest sister shook her head. “There are no monsters, only living beings who must eat and feed children of their own.”
“Why won’t you just end me?” asked the Warlock.
“Warlock,” began the magic twin, “Why did you destroy our home?”
“Because I knew you could be a threat to my purpose. And because you hunt and destroy in this forest as much as any other dark beast.”
“But so do you. You have the pieces of fallen beasts all around your lair.”
“I found each beast fallen already, and I took from it the better to understand.”
“You see?” said the youngest sister. “He’s no monster. He’s only a man.”
The sister with special hearing stepped forward to the Warlock’s side and spoke, which she rarely did. “I hear now what’s inside you. You only wish to fix the world. But the world doesn’t need fixing. It only needs healing where one can heal. You’re a great magician. You could heal much.”
“She’s right,” said the sister with special sight.
The archer twin nodded sharply.
The youngest sister embraced the Warlock. “We’re sorry we hurt you. You hurt us, and we were angry. Will you forgive us?”
The Warlock was perplexed.
The magical twin asked, “Can we forgive each other?”
After a long pause where it seemed they all held their breath, finally the Warlock spoke. “I think we can.”
And so the five sisters and the Warlock forgave each other and began to work with one another. Much as a broken arm cannot be simply fixed, it must heal back on its own, stronger than it was before. So was the world as they saw it, so they did what they could to help it heal.