It was a long walk to the Loch. Grace Tenderstitch did not go there frequently. The way there lead through a place of Cedars that gently brushed the faces of passersby with fragrant fingers. The ground beneath your feet would crunch with the remains of many past seasons, the skeletons of many verdant springs and many blazing Autumns. The deepest part of the forest lay ahead. Poplars, and Maples mostly, and some pines. All with a deep bed of leafy compost underfoot, that left the trespasser slightly unbalanced as if walking on a sponge. There was no path. In summer there were ferns about and always in the moist areas that were darkly shaded, a Jack in the Pulpit. There were birds about. Goldfinch, Catbird, Starling, Redbird, Juncos. There were wrens that flipped their tails, and Brown thrashers that flipped through the leafy compost searching for dinner. As if to lead the way deeper into this place, the Crow's foot grew trailing its vining way along the ground. There were mosses here, grown on the spines of jagged rock, thrust through the leafy floor. Their fine green hairs were a lovely place to rest your face. A place for Fairies to have their secret tea parties. The fabric of this Forest changed its color with the seasons, but the light that slanted dappled through the branches added its own variations and added Magic. This was the Forest that Grace Tenderstitch Loved.
As the trees grew closer, there was at first a gentle sloping of the Forest, down to the edge of the Loch. That was the only warning before the slope fell off quite precipitiously to the side of a thickly wooden Hill that was deceptively difficult to navigate.There were vines and stones and tripping places that were so well hidden...that the uninitiated traveler could easily pitch forward and tumble end over teacup into the Loch below. The Loch was large and greenish black, and upon its oily shore were landed a troop of little rafts, masted with little sails, sailed by large Pie-Rats.
They scrambled, even now, upon the narrow shore, collecting and waiting for orders from their Mistress, whose name was Peg. She was a Pie-Rat. She had come for something...and it lay a distance up over that steep hillside and through that wood in a place called the Baggaraggs. Her people needed it, and she meant to take it. Meant to have it. That it did not belong to her made no difference to Peg. She would steal for her people, had stolen for her people. Winter was coming and they needed clothes, warm jackets and underdrawers. Peg meant to take the Thread Pusher called Brother. And she had a Plan.