From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Chroday, Thirteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Into the Trees
So much has happened today, I am unsure where to begin. I am almost tempted to leave this entry for tomorrow… But then, that will simply mean more to write about.
I suppose I should begin with Twisthorn's other guest. Early in the morning, no more than an hour after I awoke, Twisthorn returned with a strange bird creature, dressed in fine silk clothing. She was extremely small, barely coming up to my knee. Her feathers were red as rust, and her clothes were a pale green with darker patterns across it. Her curved beak was yellow, with red designs painted on it. Twisthorn introduced her as Rising-whistle-two-clicks. An odd name, but it is apparently the closest approximation of her name in the trade language1.
She is a stargazer, like the priests among my people, watching the comings and goings of the stars2. She was visiting Twisthorn on her way to the Desert, in fact. Twisthorn had been making certain she was safe. There was mention of some minor difficulties with bandits, but she seemed none the worse for wear. Twisthorn had a cut across one gnarled hand, but he was in high spirits. We quickly sat down for tea, and Rising-whistle asked me to tell her of my people. I obliged, paying special attention to our knowledge of the heavens. Fortunately, my second-father taught me a great deal. He was always disappointed that I lacked the mindset to become a priest. Still, I was able to tell her what I knew of the skies, and she was very excited. Her people have been studying the skies nearly as long as mine have, and she was hoping to trade knowledge for knowledge. I know that she will have great success, for my people love the stars. Learning something of stars in other skies would be knowledge truly worth having.
After we were done discussing my people, Twisthorn changed the subject to my quest. He said that he had an idea that might help me. It was dangerous, he said, but it might be worthwhile. I told him that I was not afraid of danger, and I am not. It is only failure that I fear. Failure, and growing old away from the Baro. I could take death far easier than that, I think.
He reached into a chest, and pulled out a flute. It was beautiful instrument, made of black lacquered wood, with stars etched along its length. He raised it to his lips, and he began to play. The music was beautiful, and I almost missed what happened as he played it.
Mice began to move out from corners around the cottage. They came from under papers, from behind chests, and from holes in the walls, eyes bright and alert. They did not scurry, like mice usually do, but moved in a strange, rhythmic motion. After a moment, I realized they were dancing. They formed into groups, and began to dance together, pairing up to move around the room in graceful patterns. I have heard of these sorts of dances, which they do in the larger cities to the north, but I had never actually seen one, and certainly not performed by mice. I leaned over them to take a closer look, but they did not panic. They kept up their dance, and ignored all else.
Finally, Twisthorn stopped playing, and the mice ran back to their hiding places. He explained that he had picked it up in his travels. It was only an amusement, but he hinted that he had held more powerful objects in his time. While he no longer had them, he knew where to find them, or ones like them. This was the best news I'd heard. While the flute wouldn't be too useful to us (we keep specially bred sarlifins3 to keep mice down), it showed a kind of magic that an ordinary person could use. He mentioned a flask that contained a never-ending supply of water. We always need water in the Desert. I asked to know how I could find such things.
He told me to travel a league to the north and three leagues east. If I travelled there, and if I was meant to travel to the strange lands he'd visited, I'd find something. When I asked what I would find, however, he refused to tell me. Rising-whistle spoke up, saying I would know it when I saw it.
Twisthorn helped me gather my things, and gave me some of his tea. He also gave me a sharp troll-made dagger. It is plain, but forged well, with a good balance. I tried to turn it down, not feeling worthy of such largesse, but he said that I would need it. All he asked in return was that I try to return one day to tell him of my travels. I agreed, and I hope to keep that promise. Though, now I am less sure if I will be able to…
After I said my goodbyes to Twisthorn and Rising-whistle, I set out. It was still morning, though the sun was already high above the horizon. I followed Twisthorn's directions as best I could, walking up and down the grassy hills. I did not see any goatherds, and now I suspect they avoid the place. The grass had been very high, not cropped by animals that I could see. I couldn't see anything but stones.
It was midafternoon when I'd gone as far as Twisthorn had said, and I began to explore. There were a lot of rocks around, but not much else. For lack of anything better to do, I explored the rocks.
Like the other rocks in the downs, they were dark grey. Rough and cracked, they made for difficult footing. I nearly fell several times, but I managed to catch myself with my walking stick. There didn't seem anything remarkable about them, compared to the hundreds of others I'd seen since leaving the Desert, but there was nothing else of interest I could see.
Finally, I came to a larger outcrop. It was composed of three different stones sticking out of the ground like crooked teeth, leaning together. They were tall, and formed a crude tripod. I didn't think much of them, until I saw a bird swoop out from between two of the stones. What made it strange was that I hadn't seen it fly into the stones. Now, it could have been hiding there, but it had been moving very quickly. I decided to look more closely.
I walked under the stones, and I did not find myself on the other side of the stones4.
I was surrounded by trees. Not small little trees, like the stunted ones that dot the Farlands, or even the trees in the oases or by the Trescu. These were giants of trees. They stretched far above my head, so very far. I could not see the tops of them, and very little sunlight filtered down to me. However, tall as they are, they do not grow straight5. Their branches twist and turn like snakes, and even their trunks have odd bends in them. How they stand, I cannot say. I have trouble understanding how anything so tall could be possible, let alone something as twisted as a bandit's loyalties.
I was on a path, one barely wide enough for two Baro to walk abreast. Bushes lined either side, laden with brightly colored flowers and berries. Butterflies flew from flower to flower, and I heard birds singing around me. More flowers grow on vines that climb up the trees, and small plants in the crooks of the branches. Little lizards scamper from tree to tree, almost too quick to be seen. A gentle, warm rain tickled me as it filtered through the branches above.
I am now a little ways off the path, in a little glade. The rain has stopped, but I am still in the forest. I am unsure how I got here, but I will continue to explore.