Chapter Six of Shattered. Madison's first exploration of the Black Forest.
|The early morning was crisp and refreshing as Madison used her app to navigate the streets of the city and find her way to one of the entrances to the forest. There was a cabin-looking building where guests were to check-in. The friendly forest ranger working the desk gave her a map showing various hiking trails, points of interest, paths that led to buildings and facilities, and a list of rules. She was not supposed to wander off the well-marked hiking trails. Not a problem, thought Madison. She was only here to try and get a lay of the land and see what she was going to be dealing with. |
With determined steps, she decided to try one of the moderate hiking trails. The forest was several degrees cooler and Madison wished she had brought a lightweight jacket with her. The air was laced thick with spruce and pine as well as a rich earthy smell. The trail was well-worn and easy to follow. About two hours into her hike, she came across what looked like an outbuilding. As she got closer, she decided it must be a ranger-type station. Seeing no one when she entered, the first thing she did was hunt for a restroom.
"Kann ich Ihnen helfen?" came a deep masculine voice making Madison jump a bit. She spun around and came face to face with a boy she guessed was at least a few years older than herself. She fumbled with her phone and poked the app for google translate. When she typed in her response and hit play.
"Wo ist die Toilette ?" The automated voice on her phone said. The boy looked confused for only a moment but then pointed her in the right direction. After she had finished in the restroom she retraced her steps and her pulse quickened at seeing the boy was still there, only now he was behind a service desk. She typed into her phone and approached the desk and hit the play button when he looked up at her.
"Sprechen Sie Englisch?" Said the automated voice on her phone. This time the boy smiled. Oh, he has a cute smile, Madison thought. He was tall, muscular, and had sandy brown hair, and she was pretty sure green eyes.
"I am Rolf," The boy said. "You are?"
"Madison," she replied. Nervously, she tucked a wayward curl behind her ear.
"Finding everything you need Madison?" The boy asked with a grin. Or, was he smirking, Madison wondered.
"Do you have any vicious animals here in the forest?" Now, the boy was definitely smirking.
"Some random wolves," Came his casual reply. "But, if you are worried, I am also a guide. I can guide you on the trails and keep you safe."
Madison slowly nodded.
"Good to know," She said in response. He could possibly be useful, she thought as she purchased a bottle of water and sipped at it.
"You know your way around the whole forest?"
"Ich kenne diese Länder sehr gut." He said and watched as she pretended to know what he said. "My father would bring me here when I was a child. I've spent nearly my whole life in this forest."
"Could you show me where some of the ruined battlements are?" Madison asked casually.
"I know where all of them are," He said boastfully. "But they are not easy to get to. You must venture off the main paths." Madison drank from her water bottle.
"How many battlements are around here?
"Three within a few days hiking distance," He responded. "But, it is not allowed that visitors should go beyond the mapped out hiking paths. There are many dangers in the forest."
"I'll have to think about that," Madison said as she swallowed the last of her water. "You here every day?" The boy bobbed his head. Madison nodded hers and left Rolf watching her march down the path.
The hike back to the entrance then, the walk back to the hotel was longer than she remembered when she set out early that morning. By the time she was back in her rented room, she was exhausted and her feet felt like they were covered in blisters. She sat on the edge of the bed and kicked off her boots then stripped as she made her way into the bathroom. A nice hot bath sounded heavenly, she decided. She didn't often indulge in baths, but if ever there was a time for a hot soak, this was it. When had she gotten so out of shape? Madison rummaged in her toiletries bag and found the small travel-sized bottle of bubble bath. Once the soap hit the hot water, the small room filled with the calm, soothing scent of vanilla and lavender. Madison let out of soft sigh as she eased her tired, achy body into the hot, fragrant water.
Suddenly, she was lost in a very dark forest being chased by a very large predator. She wasn't sure but she thought it must be a wolf or something equally as vicious. She was startled awake by the sound of gnashing teeth and strange, haunting cries of something in what must have been horrible pain. The water was now cold and Madison shivered. Quickly, she left the tub of water and dried herself with one of the large, fluffy towels. Once fairly dry, she wrapped the towel around her body and padded over to the table where her laptop was still on the charger. Before she had left Grandmother's her grandmother had given her an email contact address. Madison had been shocked her Grandmother knew all about emails. She typed out a note letting her Grandmother know she had arrived safely and found the entrance to the Black Forest. She described her day's findings but left out the part about meeting Rolf. Grandmother didn't need to know everything!
Still worn out, she decided she would order room service. She found the restaurant's menu in one of the bedside table's drawers. Bringing up google translate she typed in the first item on the menu.
Maultaschen. Google said that meant dumplings. Next on the menu was Labskaus and google said that was herring, so a fish dish, Madison realized. She skipped a few and randomly typed in Königsberger klopse. Google said that was meatballs. Meatballs sounded good, Madison thought. She googled the word for iced tea and wrote down Eistee. Taking a deep breath, she called the restaurant and ordered meatballs and iced tea. While she waited for her food, Madison opened her laptop and read about the popular cuckoo clocks made from the wood that comes from the Black Forest.
She had just finished slipping her sweatpants on when a knock at the door announced her dinner's arrival. She thanked the server who insisted on coming in and setting her tray on her table beside her laptop. With a flourish, he lifted the silver lid to reveal a hot plate filled with perfectly formed meatballs in a white creamy sauce dotted with capers and a wedge of a lemon garnish. Madison barely noticed the server leave as she settled in the chair and took a bite. The meatball practically melted in her mouth! There were buttered noodles and a bread roll as well to help sop up the creamy sauce. She devoured every bite and was thankful she had on stretchy pants!
Now, all she wanted to do was sprawl out on the comfy bed. She settled into the bed, tucking the thick spread around her, and picked up Berdine's diary. Reluctantly, she thumbed through the pages. As she did so, something fluttered out from the back pages and landed in her lap. But as she was about to pick it up, something else caught her attention. The diary had opened to a page near the back, and at first glance, it looked like a drawing. Madison took a closer look and was surprised to see it was a very crude drawing of a map! A map to what though? As she pondered that, she picked up the brittle piece of paper that had fluttered out and gently unfolded it.
It also was a map of some sort. She couldn't make out anything on it. It was not only written in German, but it also just looked like a bunch of trees and rocks and what might be a river or creek or something. Nothing seemed clear to her. How significantly had things changed between when this had been drawn and now? Madison picked up the diary and read the notes next to the map drawn in the book. It too was in German and it took her well over an hour using google to translate everything. The map in the diary was showing how to get from a ruined battlement to what she thought must have been where Berdine and Gerhard lived on their farm. It relied heavily on visual landmarks such as specific trees, rocks, and other landscaping elements. What if none of that still existed? What if those trees had fallen or the river/creek dried up? Frustration rose up in Madison.
She turned her attention back to the loose paper. Again, she had to painstakingly use google to translate most of the words. It was a description of the battlement. It had been where Gerhard had been stationed. On paper, it was drawn to look a lot like a castle found in fairytales. Today, Madison was sure it would look a lot different.