From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Chroday, 15th Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Eighteenth Day in the Trees
I am glad, today, that Torne was with us. I still find him somewhat irritating, but I cannot ignore the fact that I would have been much worse off without his advice.
We were walking down the road when it curved around a strange field of flowers. It made a half-circle around the field before entering the woods again on the other side.
The field was filled with flowers, all of one kind. The blossoms were yellow, with red markings on the petals. They were quite fetching, and the jewel-like hummingbirds flying from flower to flower completed a scene of innocence. Occasionally, the hummingbirds would alight on white rocks that were scattered among the flowers.
It was my intention to walk through the field to the other side. I thought that it would be pleasant to walk through the flowers and smell their perfume. However, as I was about to step off the path, Torne shouted a warning.
I stood there, one foot raised, keeping perfectly still, unsure what he warning me of. I wondered if there might be a snake, or perhaps a small wyvern near my feet that I could not see.
Torne told me to step back, and I did so, still wondering what was wrong. I did not see nor hear nor smell anything that seemed to represent danger.
He took a stick, and lightly brushed one of the flowers. He pulled it back, and I saw several black specks on its length. Looking more closely, I realized that they were ants. They were normal sized, as ants go, though they had strangely large jaws. They had bitten into the stick, and were curled so that their stingers were pressed into the wood. There were only a dozen on the stick, though, and I wondered why they were so dangerous. Then I glanced back at the plant Torne had brushed, and it was covered in the insects! They moved all along its length, and a few were even venturing onto the path, making Torne step back1. I did the same.
"'Round little cousins of the bee, mark your footsteps carefully," Torne said. "They would strip your carcass bare to fertilize those flowers there. Nothing left except your bones, used by birds as stepping stones."
I realized that what I had taken for white rocks were in fact the bones of other animals that had made the same mistake I had. If Torne had not warned me, I
Well, I suspect I would have been all right. I have a very tough hide, and it would not have taken more than a few bites before I would have realized what happened. It still would have been very unpleasant, and I am glad that he was there.
We passed the field over after that. I wish that I had dared to pluck a blossom from the field. Those flowers were so very pretty.