Benson Wood was still wreathed in its summer finery, even though the year was lurching ever closer to the fall transition and the cold deadness of winter. The morning was warm and clear - the sun only shared the sky with a few wispy clouds and the ghostly half disk of the moon.
It was a morning much like any other, Zyn Emerling knew, but she couldn't shake the expectant feeling that had been with her since she woke early that morning. The fact that she woke early was odd enough - the rare occasion that it happened her father always told her, only half jokingly, that the Devil must be shivering his hooves off in Hell.
As if the signs and portents of her sleep cycle weren't bad enough, another strange happening that morning lead Zyn to believe that the day was cursed from its beginning, and that maybe she should have heeded her lazier instincts and simply stayed in bed for the day. Once she had dragged herself out of bed and dressed, she opened the drawer of her nightstand, looking for her locket. It had been a gift from her father, after her mother's passing thirteen years previous, and Zyn wore it every day without fail.
Today she went to put it on as she had every day for more than a decade, when the clasp snapped. Zyn was so surprised that when the locket fell, she wasn't quick enough to catch it. The locket flipped open, revealing her mother's portrait, which her father had paid a local artist a fortune to render in such minute detail.
Her father had offered to take it to a friend of his, the jeweler who had made it and carved the intricate floral designs on the outside, but Zyn declined. She didn't want to be parted from it, and she didn't have enough time before she was supposed to meet Laurie on the trail to take it to the jeweler herself. She'd planned on taking it herself once she and Laurie got back to town. In the mean time, Zyn found herself constantly patting the pocket of her dress where she'd put it for safe keeping, just to make sure it was still there.
If Laurie noticed her friend's new tic, she didn't say anything. But then for Zyn, and anyone else who knew her for that matter, that wasn't much of a surprise. Laurie's powers of observation weren't exactly legendary, after all.
Even so, it baffled Zyn that the woman couldn't feel the oddness hovering in the air. Maybe it's just me? Zyn wondered. Yet the forest was silent, save for the rustling of leaves and pine needles in the spare breeze, Laurie's voice, and the soft shuffle of the pair's footsteps on the dirt footpath worn by centuries of feet. No birds sang, and there were no small things scuttling among the tree branches or through the brush. It was as if the small things of the forest knew something was coming, and they were hiding until it passed.