The dappled sunlight filters through the pale green leaves above the path as you walk through the quiet woods. A wall of roughly hewn stones lines one side of the path, partially covered in moss and vines, and flowers peek from between the blades of grass on the forest floor. Birds sing above. You pause for a moment in a beam of sunlight to allow it to warm and caress your skin. This break from your busy life is long-anticipated and well-deserved.
As you turn a corner in a path, around a copse of willows, a bright flash of reddish-orange catches your eye. A rust-furred fox with a fine white muzzle hops upon the wall and fixes you with a keen stare. You freeze in place, not wanting to frighten away this woodland creature. You both stand, watching each other, as the leaves rustle in a light breeze.
Scents of grass, flowers, and growing trees rise from the forest around you as you and the fox remain, locked in a staring contest. After a small eternity, the fox bows its head to you and drops something from its mouth. The object catches the sun and flashes as it clatters to the worn stones with a gentle "clink." The fox then disappears over the wall and vanishes into the trees. You approach the spot and find a large, old fashioned key of brightly polished bronze. You stoop and pick it up before continuing onward, searching the woods for any sign of the fox or where the key might've come from.
Continuing down the path, you find the trees growing further apart with more flowers now sprouting up between them. Ahead, a tall green hedge takes the place of the low stone wall. Within this hedge is a wooden gate, slightly ajar. Above the gate hangs a wooden sign with painted letters, and through it, you catch a glimpse of familiar rusty red. You pause at the gate to examine the sign and look for the fox. The sign reads simply, "Welcome, traveler. Come inside." You hesitate. That sign couldn't be meant for you, could it? Still, the fox came this way. Perhaps he had gotten the key from somewhere beyond the gate. Perhaps someone is looking for it. Calling out, "Hello?" you walk through the gate. Beyond the hedge, a garden opens up brimming with flowers and herbs. Bees buzz about the patches of fragrant lavender and bobbing, bright-faced daisies.
Through the trees and rose bushes, you spy a cottage nestled between garden beds of flowers and vegetables. A small, stone courtyard sits before it with a fish pond in the center. A bench faces this with a table beside it, bearing a plate of cookies and sandwiches and a single unlit candle. You call out once more before walking to place the key upon the table.
You sit upon the bench for a moment. In spite of the peculiar way you ended up here, you feel completely welcome, as if the sign on the gate had been directly addressing you and as if whoever tends this place has prepared it just for you. The fish chase bugs upon the water's surface, causing ripples that reach the stones at the edge of the pond by your feet. Lilies bloom upon the waters, and the fragrance of cool, clean earth and growing herbs wafts around you. The sky drifts from blue to gentle lavenders and pinks as shadows stretch across the garden. You know you must soon leave. A light flares beside you. The candle on the table is suddenly alight, its gentle glow pooling around you and reflecting off a pair of eyes once again watching you from the bushes. The fox emerges, nods, and strolls down the garden path, back towards the gate. Taking up the candle to light your way, you follow. You will soon be home, but you now know the cottage is waiting. You fully intend to return.