The boy went walking.
Beyond the castle was the garden. Beyond that, the meadow. And past the meadow, the forest.
There were paths through the wood. Some the boy knew. Others were a mystery to him. He stayed with a path he knew.
Presently, his path crossed that of someone he knew.
“Hello, teacher.” Said the boy.
“Hello, boy.” Said the teacher. Then: “Are you heading somewhere in particular, or wondering?”
The boy paused, for just a moment, before answering.
“I’m just wondering, to nowhere in particular.” He said.
The teacher smiled.
“In that case, I am wondering too. Might we keep company?” The boy hesitated. The teacher added: “For just a short way.” This received a nod.
After a short way, with pleasantries exchanged and polite conversation about studies and families and such, they reached a fork in the road. The boy stopped walking, hesitant to show his intention. The teacher looked down at him, noting his anxiety.
“You know, in many languages, including the one we speak, the word ‘secret’ shares origins with the word ‘lie’.” The teacher said.
The boy turned to look at him, guilt in his eyes. The teacher continued.
“However, in other, distant lands, they don’t have a word for ‘secret’ at all.” He smiled. “And in my favourite tongues, ‘secret’ means almost the same thing as ‘mine’.”
At this point, the teacher noted a furtive glance from the boy, along the easterly fork in the oath. The teacher nodded silently, unseen by the lad.
“I think I shall wonder this way today.” He said, and pointed along the other branch of the path.
The relief on the boy’s face was clear.
“I intend to go in this direction.” He said, pointing east.
“Then we shall regretfully part til we meet again.” Said the teacher, bowing his head and heading off.
“Is it true…” Said the boy, stopping the teacher in his tracks, making him half turn. “The people beyond the woods, no matter how kind they seem… Is it true what people say? That they are monsters? That they belong to devils?”
The teacher smiled at him, gentle and reassuring.
“It is true that people say it, son. That much is certain, and not much more.”
They parted. The boy walked on along the path he knew.