Forest Shrine

Writing Prompt: “You find an abandoned altar in the middle of a forest. You’ve read about them in class. Abandoned altars would mean someone – or a group – had abandoned their deity. Saddened by the betrayal of the worshipper to his worshipped, you clean the altar. You never thought the forgotten god would bless you.”

Dagny woke up early in the morning and quickly rummaged around the cottage. She grabbed an old, worn backpack from her room and began throwing supplies into it. Soap, brushes, and gloves all went into the bag. Then she went out to the shed and grabbed a rake and a wooden bucket 

After gathering her supplies, Dagny walked down the dirt road and toward the edge of the large, cedar forest. The late spring sun was already reaching close to its zenith overhead and warmed the back of Dagny. A cool breeze swept across the hills and the branches of the cedar trees shook a bit. 

“Hey Dagny! Where are you off to?” 

Dagny froze up a bit and slowly turned toward the voice.

There standing in the middle of the road was a boy the same age of Dagny holding the handlebars of his bike.

“Oh hey, Finn,” Dagny said. “I’m just…taking a stroll.”

Finn raised an eyebrow.

“You walking into the woods carrying a rake? Finn asked.

“Well…uh…yeah it’s for spiders,” Dagny said.

“Spiders? You seriously think I’m dumb enough to believe that you are walking around the woods swatting at spiders with a rake.” Finn asked. “What are you really doing out here?”

Dagny let out a sigh.

“I found something out there,” Dagny said.

This brought an excited smile to Finn’s face.

“Something? Like something cool or something you like?” Finn asked before letting out a laugh.

“Hey! It is something cool,” Dagny said as she stuck her tongue out at Finn.

“Better be better than spiders,” Finn said. “Mom says you spend too much time playing in the dirt and should spend more time learning to bake or sew.”

“Well maybe your mom should keep her nose out of my business,” Dagny said as she turned around and started walking into the woods.

“Don’t think I’m just going to follow you in there!” Finn shouted from the road.

Dagny didn’t respond. She just kept on walking.

“You better keep an eye out for spiders! Or wolves!” Finn shouted again, but Dagny kept her pace.

About ten seconds of silence went by before Dagny heard a metal bike fall to the ground and then quick footsteps across the forest floor.

“You’re lucky I have nothing going on today,” Finn said as he caught up to Dagny and the both of them walked through the woods together.

The scent of cedar was strong as they walked between large, towering pine trees. Beneath their feet was a thick layer of pine needles which had settled on the forest floor. They were slowly damp and there were still some small patches of frost hiding in the shadows of tree branches.

“So what are you dragging me out here for?” Finn asked.

“Dragging you out here? I was coming out here all by myself and then you just showed up,” Dagny said.

“Yeah but if it wasn’t for me, you’d probably get lost out here,” Finn said.

“Do you even know where we are going? Or how to get back?” Dagny asked.

Finn quickly looked around and saw that there were large pine trees in all directions. It looked almost identical in all directions.

“Uh..of course I could. No problem. Could do it blindfolded,” Finn said as he puffed out his chest a little.

“You are so obvious,” Dagny said with a laugh.

“I…I… what does that even mean?” Finn asked.

“It means that you try to act all cool but really you’re just like me,” Dagny said.

“What, a dork?” Finn asked with a laugh.

“No, curious,” Dagny said with a toothy grin.

Finn just rolled his eyes and the two walked further into the woods. It was about a five minute walk through the cedar forest until Dagny could see it.

In front of them was a stone structure which first looked like some sort of boulder covered in greenery. Once they got closer they could see that it was a carved stone altar covered in bits of moss and pine needles.

“Woah, what is this thing?” Finn asked, eyes wide and mouth slowly agape.

“Isn’t it cool? I found it,” Dagny said as she placed a hand on the stone and brushed some pine needles off of it. “I think it’s some sort of altar.”

“How long has this been here?” Finn asked.

“Not sure. But look here,” Dagny said as she motioned to Finn. “These carvings are some sort of markings or symbols. They look real old.”

“Really cool find, dork,” Finn said. “But uh… why are you coming out here with all that junk in your backpack?”

“Well look at it. This place has been abandoned. I thought I’d clean it up,” Dagny said.

“Dagny, this is a really old rock but it’s still a rock,” Finn said. “No point in cleaning it up.” 

“How can you say that? This is a really cool piece of history and it’s been abandoned.”

“And you’re going to clean it with a rake?” 

“I have lots of stuff in my bag,” Dagny said as she crossed her arms. “If you don’t want to help, you can just leave.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Finn said. “If you want me to go rake some leaves, I’ll flatter you.”

“Actually you can take this bucket.”

“And do what? Wear it like a hat?”

“You can take it and go over there,” Dagny said, pointing further into the woods. “There’s a small spring over there. Get some water and bring it back.”

Finn raised an eyebrow at the request.

“Water? For the rock?”

“Altar,” Dagny said, pulling out a sponge from her bag. “Now hurry.”

“Fine, whatever,” Finn said, grabbing the bucket.

As Finn walked off to go fill the bucket with springwater, Dagny started brushing pine needles off of the altar. She tugged at pieces of moss and pulled them off of the altar.

“We’ll get you fixed up and looking better than ever,” Dagny said to herself and there was a slight shine.

Dagny stopped and looked at the symbols on the altar. She could have sworn that there was a brief moment where it glowed. Getting closer to the symbols and they looked exactly the same. Just stone carvings.

“Huh, strange,” Dagny said as she went back to cleaning moss and pine needles from the altar. 

Soon Finn returned with a bucket of spring water that sloshed back and forth as he walked.

“Here,” He said with a grunt as he set down the bucket. “Your water.” 

“Glad to see you found your way there and back,” Dagny said.

“Yeah whatever. Last time I offer to help,” Finn said.

“Well hopefully that will be enough water,” Dagny said looking at the altar. “I have removed all the vegetation. Now we just need to clean the stone.”

“You can go ahead and clean the rock. I’m going to sit down,” Finn said taking a seat next to one of the cedar trees.

“Tired already?”

“You try lugging that bucket of water around through the woods,” Finn said before giving Dagny a dismissive wave.

Finn let out a small grunt as he titled his head back and rested it against the trunk of the tree.

“Let me know when you’ve cleaned the rock,” Finn said as he shut his eyes.

“Lucky I don’t dump the bucket on you and make you fetch another one,” Dagny said, rolling her eyes, but Finn had no response.

Dagny poured a little bit of liquid soap into the bucket and used an old kitchen sponge to stir up the water, making cold bubbles appear. Then she began using the sponge to scrub the dirt and grime from the stone altar. The brown muck gave way to dark gray stone which seemed to shine in the mid-afternoon sun. 

There was a slight warming of the rock which Dagny chalked up to the sunlight shining through the treetops. However as Dagny cleaned more and more of the stone, it began growing warmer and warmer.

“Finn, something’s happening,” Dagny said as she hopped back from the stone altar.

Steam had begun rising from the rock and Dagny felt this wave of heat coming from the rock.

“I think it’s volcanic!” Dagny yelled.

This made Finn open his eyes.

“What are you blathering about now?” He asked as he looked over at Dagny. “Woah.”

The stone altar was now glowing with a subtle white light as the small stone grooves and symbols began glowing bright orange. The winds whipped up around the altar and the trees seemed to shake violently.

“What did you do?” Finn asked.

“I just cleaned the rock!” Dagny shouted back. 

Dagny took a step back and fell backwards onto her back as the stone altar radiated more and more heat. It was like the hottest summer day Dagny or Finn had ever experienced localized within this cedar forest.

Then the wind began to die down as the sound of a horse whinnying rang out.

“Who has summoned me,” A new voice emerged as the shining light dimmed.

Finn and Dagny sat on the forest floor in stunned silence. Standing before them was a blond haired man with alabaster skin dressed in ancient norse armor. He sat on the altar using it almost like a throne. He was unnaturally tall and seemed to glow with a pale white light.

The man looked out toward the forest and then back toward Finn and Dagny.

“You two. Boy and girl. What are your names?” They asked.

“Uh…uh…” Finn stumbled over his words, his eyes large.

“I’m Dagny,” Dagny said with an unknown confidence. “This is Finn.”

“Dagny. Finn. Are you warriors or worshippers?” The man asked as he leaned over to examine the two of them.

“Neither,” Dagny said. “We’re kids. Preteens. Uh…I found your…your seat.”

The man looked down at the altar he was sitting on.

“My altar. Yes. A bit…hmmm.. A bit worn down,” The man said.

He then looked out at the forest again.

“I recognize the altar but not the place it sits. I believe I used to be able to see the sea from here,” He said.

“The forest,” Dagny said. “Maybe you don’t recognize it because of all the trees. These trees are about two hundred years old or maybe older. Maybe they weren’t here the last time you were…uh…here.”

“Who? What are you?” Finn asked, finally able to speak.

“Oh I thought you knew since you cleaned my altar,” The man said with a laugh. “I am Frey. Lord of the rising sun, harvest, summer, prosperity, and fertility.”

Frey then put his hand on his chin and stroked his golden beard.

“I felt I was in a deep slumber. Almost endless. But then I felt a warmth. A warmth I had never felt before. I smelt the cedar trees and I felt the coolness of the water. I felt a breath of life and I knew I must come here. You have restored this altar and summoned me here,” Frey said.

Finn looked at Dagny with a slack jaw.

“You..you summoned a god,” He said.

Dagny looked back at the golden man sitting on the stone altar who had a large grin across his face.

“I…I guess I did,” Dagny said, bewildered.


Header Photo Credit to Pexels.com
https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-foggy-forest-1367192/

Writing prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Ephoder

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