Illustrated by the artist Esther Rosenberg, the below image is a rather stylised imagining of another key scene from The Wyvern and the Wolf. It depicts a recurring dream sequence of the novel's young protagonist, Kiyoshi, where he encounters a mysterious ghostly woman and a terrifying beast in an otherworldly forest known as the Dhwerwood. The scene is described below...
Kiyoshi ran through a dark, tangled forest, chasing after his brother. Trees swarmed in the dense grey fog, swaying like kelp in seawater, and he was forced to dodge the undulating branches that reached out to snatch at him. When he dared to glance behind him, he saw the mist close tight in his wake, as coiling roots and slithering vines swallowed up every trace of his passage.
Somewhere ahead, he could hear the faint sprinkle of familiar laughter.
It was Keiichi.
He panicked, calling out for his brother to slow down and wait for him, but Keiichi only ran faster. Kiyoshi found himself struggling to keep up, and soon he could only catch glimpses of his dead brother’s white robes through the gaps in the twisting trunks. He shouted out Keiichi’s name in desperation but there was no reply. A moment later, he lost sight of his twin entirely.
He sprinted along a snarled path and swung around a bend, only to realise he had entered a small clearing among the black trees. He skidded to a halt, panting.
A narrow beam of moonlight—or at least what seemed like moonlight, even though Kiyoshi somehow knew it was not—fell through the contorting canopy. Standing in the circle of cold, mote-flecked light was his dead twin. Keiichi lifted an arm to wave, but his smile was somehow sad. Kiyoshi felt a stab of sudden dread.
Holding his brother’s hand was a strange silver-haired woman. Impossibly tall and thin, her figure glowed with an eldritch blue light. The faceted bones of her face were hard and sharp, like chipped ice, and her shining gown floated above the forest floor, trailing off at its hem into pixelised mist. As she gazed back at him across the clearing, it seemed to Kiyoshi as though her face was frozen in a kind of mournful longing. Or perhaps regret; he could not tell.
The ghostly woman did not utter a word. Instead, she turned to leave, tugging gently at his dead brother’s hand. They both began to drift deeper into the tenebrous shadows of the trees. In that moment, Kiyoshi knew with awful certainty that if Keiichi disappeared this time, he would lose him forever.
He bolted forward, yelling a warning. No, Keiichi! Don’t go with her! Don’t leave me!
Keiichi looked back over his shoulder. Kiyoshi could see a single tear roll down his brother’s bloodless cheek. Keiichi shook his head sadly and dissolved into the trees.
Wait, Keiichi! No…
Kiyoshi ran after him, calling out in despair. He sobbed, scanning the gloom for any hint of his brother’s form. Instead, out of the seething shadows something huge coalesced.
He saw the mighty, bunched shoulders first. Then the high, curved horns. Furred and muscular, its green hide rippled like moss on riverstone, while its eyes glowed a flaming crimson. A set of long, daggered teeth parted, dripping.
Kiyoshi backed away in terror. But as he went to flee, a root encircled his ankle and he fell, coming down hard on his back. The air was punched from his lungs.
A shadow fell over him. The monster loomed, growling.
Kiyoshi tried to scrabble backwards, wheezing his brother’s name for help. Something brittle crunched beneath his fingers. He gawped down in horror to see the entire floor of the forest was strewn with the twig-like bones of thousands upon thousands of tiny winged creatures.
And then, rising through the darkened hollow in the trees, the beast came into full view. It opened its mouth and began to laugh.
Kiyoshi screamed and...
[an extract from The Wyvern and the Wolf]