81st Turn, Seventh Year, Twenty-Fifth Cycle, Rokday
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From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim

With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library

Rokday, Twenty-fifth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn

Ninety-third Day in the Trees

We have found the path. But we cannot reach it.

After the sun went down last night, we heard movement through the woods near us. Several creatures or people were walking near by. We huddled in the back of our shelter and stayed silent.

Soon, something approached and began pulling at the brush and branches Torne had piled in front of the hollow. We could hear its ragged breath as it tested the barrier.

I do not know why it made us so tense. We have encountered other predators before, other dangers. Perhaps it was only that we have been off the path. But I could feel my scales turn dark with fear.

After several minutes, there was a scream in the distance. The creature before us stopped, then let out a keening yell. It took off at a run as other cries answered it.

Torne and I spent a sleepless night, huddled closely, trying to be as quiet as possible. The sun was up for several hours before we dared emerge.

There were many tracks on the ground. The creatures had walked on two feet, and we could see that they had four toes on each leg.

Neither of us spoke as we left the hollow. Part of me felt like a silly conlin, frightened of shadows, and I felt a contrary urge to shout, to show I was not afraid.

But another part of me remembered that strange keening, and I stayed silent.

Torne determined they had continued in the direction we had been going. We turned to the left. Lost as we are, it was as good as any direction but back, and better by far, we felt, than meeting the makers of those tracks.

We wished to travel with both haste and quiet, but we were poorly served for either. Dense undergrowth, old fallen branches and twigs, and startled birds conspired to slow us down and make noise.

It was early afternoon when we heard that keening sound behind us. We looked at each other and broke into a run.

Heedless of thorns and branches, we hurdled over fallen trees and rocks. We slowed only when the other lagged behind.

It felt we had run for hours, but it was likely only moments when we broke the treeline into clearing next to a river.

Another time, I might have taken in the flowers in the field or stopped to look more closely at the river. But what drew my attention immediately was the wooden tower atop a rock base1.

The door to the tower was set above the ground, at about twice my height. Handhelds were carved into the rock leading up to it.

I helped Torne up to the door and he wrestled it open and disappeared within. I began to try climbing up myself, but the handholds were too small for me, and I fell back to the ground. I stole a glance back, and saw white shapes moving through the underbrush. I realized I was looking at white bone.

As the first broke through the trees, I could make out the hollow eyes of a predator's skull. At the same time, something fell on my shoulder, and I shouted with fear before I realized it was a rope.

"Quick!" Torne yelled. "It's tied off."

I scrambled up. A thin hand gripped my ankle, but fell back as I kicked against bone. Then I was in and Torne closed the door. There were scratching sounds at the walls below us, but we seemed to be safe.

The room was largely bare, with only a few small chairs and a table. Narrow windows had shutters closed tightly over them. A set of stairs led up to the next story.

We wrestled the table in front of the door, and put the tables leaned against it for good measure. Then, with a space to breathe, we opened a window and looked down below.

The white-bone creatures were prowling around the base of the tower. They are not simple skeletons; rather, each seems to be a collection of bones from many different skeletons. They walk on two legs, keeping their arms held close to their bodies. Tails of ribs and vertebrae stretch out behind them. Each has a different skull than the others; some predators like wolves or cats, some prey animals like camels or wild sheep. One skull, Torne tells me, looks much like his would, were he not using it.

The river flows swiftly, breaking white over the rocks. Occasionally bright silver fish jump out against the current2.

On the other side of the river, there is the path. As open and inviting as we might ever have wished. A bow could hit it easily with an arrow, but we cannot reach it without dealing with the creatures below, and then swimming across the river.

And so we are currently trapped. The creatures cannot seem to climb, but we dare not leave the tower while they are there.

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