From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Marday, Twenty-third Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Seventy-Fifth Day in the Trees
This place seems to grow cramped, more closed-in. Torne says it is no smaller than it was yesterday or the day before, but I still feel as though the trees are closing in on me, as though there was not enough air. The stale air seems too thick to breathe. I wish I had a wind, or some sunlight, or even another animal. We hear things, yes, we hear things moving, but never in reach of the lamp's light. Worse, we are beginning to run low of oil. If we do not find our way out of this cave of trees soon, we will be lost in the darkness.
Torne occasionally says some bit of doggerel and cracks a smile, but it is a fragile cheer, forced and artificial. He has not truly sung since the sun was banished by the thick, cursed branches that twist and knit themselves above our heads. We stood this morning for nearly an hour where a small beam of sun made it through the branches. When it vanished, blocked by branches overhead, we nearly came to despair.
Occasionally we hear the warbling yips of the eyeless creatures that haunt this place. Bats flutter around, occasionally catching in the loose webs that hang from the trees1. Their high-pitched screams take on a new intensity, then, until the spider arrives to end it. The screams kept me awake last night, as I tried to sleep. I would be almost asleep when I would hear them, and their fluttering as they tried to free themselves. I found myself hating them, praying the spiders would kill them quickly. What is this place doing to me?
I think my senses are playing tricks on me. Today, I was holding the lantern in front of me. On the path ahead, I looked at my shadow on the ground. It was a moment before I realized it should be behind me. Then, and I am sure that I saw this, it fluttered off of the ground and flew into the darkness2. Was this another magic, or some strange beast? Or am I going mad?
I also imagine I hear things muttering just beyond the limits of our vision. I can make out no words, just a low murmur. The sounds of an animal? I could almost swear there was intelligible speech behind it, if I could just listen closely enough. But they always move away before we can get close enough.