From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Chroday, Twenty-second Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Seventy-Fourth Day in the Trees
Three days in this place. It begins to grow wearysome. This place is like a tomb, a place where old ghosts linger. There are few things here to eat, and most of it is unpalatable. The fungus lives on the rotting leaves, the small worms live on the fungus, larger worms feed on the smaller worms, flying, stinging kreshli feed on the large worms, and the spiders feed on the kreshli. There are larger creatures like the eyeless thing we saw, but most of them remain far from us. But these are small things, minor dangers. We have learned that there are worse things in these woods.
I sometimes forget that Torne knows more about the dangers of these woods than I. Despite his sometimes cavalier attitude, he saved me once again today.
We had been walking for many hours when we came across a group of trees. Even in the dim light, we could see something was unusual about them. For one thing, they grew straight, like nails driven upwards from the ground. For another, they were small, stunted things with few leaves or branches. They seemed as though they had been damaged somehow, perhaps by disease, or merely by the absence of light. There were very few young trees in this part of the forest.
I was about to take a closer look, but Torne advised caution. There was something about the trees that he did not like. "Stay back from the trees, take care. There's more than your eye sees, beware." Staying well away from the closest of these strange trees, he took a stick and knocked one of the larger worms into the midst of them. It landed with a wet thump, muffled slightly by the everpresent leaf litter.
The closest tree split lengthwise along its middle, and a long, thick pink tongue shot out, hitting the worm with such force that the leaves around it flew up in a cloud. The tongue immediately retracted back into the tree, the worm stuck to its tip1. I wasn't sure that it could actually lift something of my size, but nor did I really want to experiment.
I noticed the way the path wound between them, but never passed near any one of them. Experimenting with more worms, we discovered that none of theses trees, if trees they were, could quite reach the path. Carefully, keeping as close to the middle of the path as possible, we walked through them. We held each other, in case the trees should take one of us, that the weight of the other might dissuade it. Occasionally one would snap, the tongue coming within a foot of us. Once, it startled me so that I jumped to the right, and was nearly hit by a second tongue from a tree on that side of the path. We did not move again for several minutes, hardly daring to breathe.
When we were at last through, my heart felt as though it had been held tightly by some invisible fist and then suddenly released. I almost collapsed. We decided to go a little further, and then rest. Once we could no longer hear the tongues slapping into the ground, we rested, feeling drained.