This tells the story of a hunter sent on a seemingly impossible quest to find a girl who went missing many years before.
7 YEARS AGO
The couple had been searching for hours. The sun hovered only a few blocks above the horizon now, painting the sky red and orange. There was not a cloud in sight.
Where had the time gone?, thought the raven haired woman. She cupped her hands around her mouth and from her stomach she shouted, "Sophia!" The word came out hoarse and muffled and the woman fell to her knees into a coughing fit. Her husband appeared by her side and lifted her back on her feet.
"Naya." His voice was a worried one. He looked into her tear stained face; she looked years older than she had five hours ago. She looked to be on the verge of crying again.
"We can't," she cleared her throat, "we can't leave her out here, Wesley." He wiped a tear from her eye.
"I know that Naya but we have to go back and gather a search party. We're useless out her alone." Naya lowered her gaze. Of course he was right. The two of them didn't know a thing about tracking. Wesley was a stonesmith for Notch sake and she just a schoolteacher. Wesley put an arm around her shoulder and together they followed the markers they'd set up back to their camp.
The local fauna had long ago raided the leftovers in their picnic basket, which was torn to shreds. The blanket looked much grimmer than it had been earlier that day. The entire clearing felt like the scene of some atrocious crime. How could she have let it happen? Why did she let Sophia "go explore"? At the time there didn't seem to be any harm, the day was sunny and this part of the woods not so thick. One moment Sophia was laughing and playing amongst the trees and the next she was gone, as if she were magicked away.
Naya scooped the blanket into her arms and tied it around a low hanging branch. Then with a stick she carved an arrow into the dirt pointing the way back to town. Wesley watched in solemn silence. Then she started and climbed onto the hiking trail, sprinting toward Addenbrook. Wesley ran after her.
The search party scoured Faeldon Woods for a little over two weeks, but no sign of ten year old Sophia Morchova was ever found. Naya Morchova died three years later, leaving behind an eternally mourning widower.
There was something that Mikael always found charming about towns with red bricked roads and Addenbrook was no exception. The stark contrast between the weathered white timber-framed houses with their yellow and blue and red steeped roofs and the vivid maroon of the streets brought the busling little town to life. It was sunrise when Mikael arrived, the silhouetted houses cast long, moody shadows. Even on the other side of the town he could hear the babbling brook the town was named after. The atmosphere was pleasant but slightly foreboding.
As he walked down Main Street few other people were out and about but he could see in the storefronts that shopkeepers were setting up for the day. The Lucky Goose tavern where he was told it would, in the center of a large town square. It was a tall and skinny building. As he stepped inside, church bells started ringing.
The Lucky Goose was a sprawling establishment. From the outside it didn't look like much, but the interior was surprisingly difficult to navigate. He had the ask the innkeeper several times how to reach his room. When he was alone he pulled the letter out. He read over it once more and memorized the address at the bottom: 5 GOSSEBERGA STREET. He wasn't expected there for another five or so hours, so he took that time to sleep.
Mikael woke to the sounds of laughter and clinking tankards. The townspeople evidently didn't have any qualms with drinking in the morning. He checked his bag to make sure nothing was stolen, finger-combed his messy rust colored hair and then made his way down to the bar. Several men were gathered around a table drinking and discussing a recent sighting of Creeper herd some miles north. Mikael made a note to offer his services after he completed the assignment he had been requested here for.
5 Gosseberga was easy enough to find with some direction. It was a skinny building near the center of town squeeze between other skinny buildings. He stepped up to the door and knocked and was startled when it was immediately pulled open. In the doorway stood a tall middle-age man with big arms and a lined face.
"You must be Mikael," he gestured for him to come inside, "you're not as tall as I thought you'd be."
Mikael laughed as the man shut the door, "Well being small has it's advantages, especially when you're tracking a wary buck."
The man smiled, "Please take a seat, I'll fetch some tea." He walked into another room where Mikael could hear him fiddling around. The man's home was sparsely furnished. The living room only consisted of a loveseat, coffee table and two armchairs, no carpets covered the wooden floor. The fireplace was unlit and didn't look as though it had been in quite some time. The house itself was lovely, white birch walls and dark pine frames. You only found architecture like this in the south.
The man returned and laid a platter of tea and sweetrolls out on the table. Mikael helped himself. They sat in silence for a moment before the man finally spoke up.
"I brought you here under false pretenses."
Mikael gave him a quizzical look, "In what way?" The man pursed his lips and sighed.
"Let me tell you about something that happened seven years ago," said Wesley Morchova.