James’s Note: I’ve been in love with the idea of food forests from the time I learned about them. The idea of engineering every level of a forest to serve a single purpose just strikes me as badass. In this section, we get to see the Witcher Man take that idea to another level. We also get a glimpse of what his forest is meant to protect.
I leapt from the car and paused only long enough to grab my messenger bag and shotgun. A variety of shells were in the magazines clipped to its sling. Israel was right on my heels as we tore into the forest.
“So what keeps them from just following after us and ripping our heads off?” Israel asked, politely curious. He didn’t even have the decency to pant like us normal air breathers do when we have to run for our lives.
“Well,” I said, panting raggedly like a decent human being, “there’s a few things. First they’ve got to deal with the general warding. Unfortunately, on a property this large, the warding I can use isn’t that strong. Once one of the elder vampires pushes their way through, they’re going to be able to make way for everybody else. Then they have to deal with the hedge.”
“I saw that on our way in. It smelled amazing, but if they brought some hedge clippers, we might be in trouble.”
I smirked as best I could while breathing heavily and tearing through a darkened forest. “It’s not just a regular hedge, as I’m sure you guessed. It’s made of wild sour orange trees, all grown and spliced together to make an angry, spiky fence. All the spaces are interplanted with bramble rose. I awakened their spirits, and let me tell you they were not particularly happy about that. Of course, they’re not particularly happy about anything. What those vampires are going to hit is a living wall that hates them very much.”
As we made our way through the woods, you could smell the mingled scent of basil and strawberry as we unfortunately had to trample some of the undergrowth. When we broke into a different section, you could practically feel the change in atmosphere. These trees felt distinctly less friendly.
“Stay on the path here. The thorns on those trees aren’t just for show,” I called to Israel not bothering to look back over my shoulder.
This section of the forest was different. My food forest was special because every layer of the forest, every kind of plant that inhabits it, is designed to be food or medicine. Arctic kiwi and grape vines climbed the trees, strawberries and herbs covered the ground, and all the trees bear fruits or nuts. The entire food forest shares a single purpose.
This ring of forest, hidden in the center of the food forest, was the same in that it all shared one purpose. The difference was, its purpose was battle. My favorite of the trees were the black and honey locusts. They grow thorns on their thorns. The vines were all poisonous, or had gripping, hook like thorns. Kudzu covered portions of the ground, which is possibly the most hateful plant I’ve ever encountered. This was my war forest. Its job was to protect what lay at its heart. The forest didn’t give us any trouble as we tore down the path. The vampires wouldn’t be so lucky.
Israel and I quickly came to a clearing. The forest opened into a glade, and before us stood a great stone wall. It stood a good fifteen feet tall, made of rough unmortared stone. It had taken me a ridiculously long time to convince the earth to collect those stones from underneath it and help me form them into a wall.
The gate we came to was made of thick oak planks, bound with iron. The gate bore a brass plaque with the inscription, “Only Death Awaits Inside”