81st Turn, Seventh Year, Seventeenth Cycle, Skyday
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From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim

With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library

Skyday, Seventeenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn

Twenty-Eighth Day in the Trees

We are lucky to be alive.

We were walking through a rather sparse area of forest. There wasn't a great deal of underbrush, and the trees weren't very close together. They were all of the same kind, which Torne called oaks. Among the few plants beneath them were blue, downward-hanging flowers I did notice that there were a lot of old stumps, many of which had younger trees sprouting from them. I did not give much thought to them, however. There was more sunlight, and we were in high spirits.

Then I noticed that there were no birds singing. I cannot say exactly when they stopped, but there was no noise around us save the wind moving through the leaves above us. There were no insects around us, no mosquitoes buzzing in the air. Our voices seemed unnaturally loud.

The silence weighed down like lead on our tongues, and we did not talk. Torne glanced nervously this way and that. Souja huddled close to my ankles. We were all on edge.

The rustling among the leaves picked up. I began to glance around as well. I wondered what had driven all else to silence. What had they been so afraid of?

Then the wind died. The rustling did not. Belatedly, I stared up into the leaves, and we saw gnarled, hairless faces, like Torne's but greatly twisted. Their eyes were dark and full of hate1. The branches moved around them, and then the barrage began.

Sticks, leaves, and other debris rained down on us. At first it was nothing, but as the branches moved faster and harder, it became worse. Soon, branches were breaking off and falling at us. One hit Torne in the back, and he nearly fell over. I picked up Souja, and we ran as fast as we could. The creaking, cracking sound of moving trees was all around us. I saw one pull its roots from the ground, and it seemed to walk on them towards us before it fell. The little faces in the trees scowled, and I heard their harsh, high-pitched voices screaming at us.

Torne tripped as a root ripped through the surface of the path, and he fell behind me. I turned, and picked him up with my free hand, setting him on his feet ahead of me.

We did not stop until we could no longer hear the trees moving or see an oak. We caught our breath, waiting in the very center of the path. To my amazement, Torne began to laugh.

When I asked why, he said that he was glad. I did not understand why. We had only barely escaped dying. He said that was it. He was happy to be alive.

I stared at him for a moment, and then I began to laugh as well. It was good to be alive. Since beginning this quest, I had begun to lose sight of that.

We are truly lucky.

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