Bright light rose over the hills in the east, glowing so deep a fiery red that the hills became but a black silhouette. Slowly, the sun poked its head over the edge of the earth, throwing beams of golden light down onto the darkened world. Trees in the forests breathed to life, stretching their branches up and out as the sunlight poured down on their leaves. Cool winds wafted over the forest, the thin gusts of air stirring the stillness of the summer heat. For a good few miles in every direction, there was nothing but dirt roads and grassy or tilled fields. Birds were singing their morning songs, telling the world it was time to wake up. Cicadas buzzed in the trees, their humming a constant reminder that it was summer. At the foot of one hill, a whole quarter mile from the next house and from town, there was a small wood and brick house. For years the house had been vacant, standing alone and without attention in the vast expanse of the green meadow that surrounded it on three sides. It was big enough with two bedrooms, three if you counted the attic; a parlor; and a kitchen. Right outside the kitchen door, surrounded by a little fence, was a garden. Just beyond that fence, behind the house, was a wooden building that served as a blacksmith's forge and another that served as a stable. Also behind the house, not but yards away, was the woods. The town, called Esterwell, was well into the country. The woods grew up on the west side of it; and from the woods ran a stream that curved around the hill and ran in a beeline out past the town on the east side. There was one central road through Esterwell and went out of its way to go around the forest to the next town rather than take a shortcut through it. In Esterwell, there went an old tale about those woods. It was said that at the center of the forest, there was a great castle in which there lived a hideous beast. All who entered the woods were drawn to the castle and would be eaten. But those tales didn't stop the family that moved into the little house by the woods just over a month ago. "Bella, would you bring in some more firewood?" A woman's voice called from inside. "Sure." Bella called back over her shoulder as she stepped through the fence around the garden. She walked the short dirt path to the little shed that served as the stable. On the side of the shed was a wooden structure similar to a box with the top and side missing. She gathered as many split logs as she could carry and took them to her sister in the kitchen. Cutting wood was Bella's primary job since her family moved into the little house on the edge of town, along with tending the garden and grooming the horses. It was a job better suited for a boy, but Bella's brother-in-law and her father worked in the forge not too far off from the shed; her older sister did the cooking and cleaning of the house. "Thank you, dear." Her sister said with a smile as she took them and shoved them into the stove. Celine was older than Bella by seven years and liked to muse that she helped raise Bella. "Do you need anything from town? I'm done with my chores for now." Bella offered. Her sister thought about it for a moment before she answered. "Would you be a dear and take the thread I borrowed from Lucinda back to her? And be sure to thank her for me." Bella nodded and left the house, the spool of thread in hand.