The way-stone had been there a long time and reserved the right to be held as something important in the forest. In present days it was covered in a moss which protected the stone and kept safe the magic it contained and which was known to only a few.
One of which was Manifest Margerbanks, the keeper of the stone.
Manifest had been in the job a long time and had inherited the position from his father who had inherited from his father and so on down the line of the Margerbanks family.
Manifest had grown up indoctrinated into the importance of being the keeper and the importance of maintaining the long-held family tradition.
But as he aged and he had no heirs, and he did worry about what would happen when he passed into the stone, and the stone would be left to its own devices. As it was, he had to keep an eye on it as it had a mischievous streak. For reasons best known to the stone if you weren’t watching it had a habit of pointing in a different direction which of course created all sorts of havoc and chaos in the forest.
So Manifest would daily make his observation of the stone to make sure it was in fact still pointing in the direction of the king’s castle.
Moving it got all the more difficult as he aged and arthritis set in, plus the strength needed to move the stone took its toll on his back. He was irritated by most things and nowadays spat a lot and mumbled obscenities as he watched the world pass by, happy travellers annoyed him more and more as he could see no reason why they should be happy when he wasn’t. He had on a few occasions moved the stone when he detected a particularly noisy group of happy travellers just to get up their nose as he put it. The trouble with such shenanigans was he had to move the stone back into its right position immediately they had moved away.
In the distance, he saw a caravan approaching. He spat anticipating another happy group approaching the castle, but as they drew nearer, he saw they were not as he suspected.
Here were poor people on their way to beg for help from the king, ragged children and a woman dishevelled with a baby at her breast with a man leading the oxen pulling their caravan. They looked starved and down on their luck.
There was one thing Manifest liked about the stone, and that was when such people approached there would appear at the base of the stone a hamper of food. How and where it came from was a mystery to him, but the stone seemed to sense the plight of the people who approached and wanted to do its bit to alleviate their suffering.
As he watched the family stopped and collected their hamper, grateful for their good fortune, and he wondered if the stone would afford him a kindness when his time came to an end.