The Queen Of The Waste
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The Journal of the Walk, Tuesday, December 9th

After three weeks of trekking through frost-bitten plains, today I came upon a vast forest, still humming with green life. From within, I heard the calls of a hundred creatures, humming, chirping, screeching. The sound the woods made was almost hateful in its fullness, mocking the barren yellow plains through which I had just passed.

I considered attempting to pass around it, to avoid whatever things may have dwelled within. But I remembered that as I first came upon it, that the green seemed to reach to the horizons. I looked at the black clouds following closely on my tail, and chose to brave the forest rather than risk being caught in another storm. As I entered, I noticed that it became much warmer. Going from biting winter winds to lazy spring air in an instant is a disconcerting feeling.

I made my way through the woods, but it was slow going. There was no trail of any sort, and the trees grew closely together. Between the trees were strewn thick vines and biting thorns. The forest seemed to have gone out of its way to be impenetrable.

As I struggled through the obstacles of the forest, a large assembly of birds gathered in the trees above to watch me. They sang, and it seemed as though the canopy was alive with harsh laughter at my difficulties.

I made my way through for several hours, when I came upon a clearing. Eager for a chance to rest, I rushed towards it. It was not until I was within that I noticed a woman standing in the clearing as well. It was plain to see that she had once been a woman of status. Her clothing was of fine silk, but had become tattered and torn. The few pearls that still clung to her dress hinted at once intricate designs. She sat upon the ruins of a fine throne.

I greeted her and asked who she was. She replied that she was the Queen of Kibuzan. I confessed that I had never heard of such a place, and asked her where it was. "It is here," she replied. I noticed that the birds had grown silent.

"When I came here with my fellows, many, many years ago, this was a forest, as it is now. But then, it was much smaller, much less malign. We had been traveling for some time, and chose to found a kingdom near the forest. I was chosen as queen, and we built a wall around the kingdom, stopping at the edge of the forest. The trees were so thick that it was declared waste land."

She began to pace around the clearing. "In time, Kibuzan grew and became a thriving kingdom. We outgrew the walls in all directions, and soon my domain reached to the horizons. But still, we did not build in the forest.

"After many hundreds of years, we reached our limits, our kingdom having reached the boundaries of other states in all directions. But still our population grew. There was nothing left to do but to build in the wasteland. We cut down its trees to build our homes, and to fuel our lives, and for a time all was well.

"But within a few months, the forest began to return. Overnight, families would find ancient trees, the planks of which formed their very homes, standing in front of their homes once more. Vines began to encroach upon the city wall; we could not uproot them quickly enough.

"If the forest could not live with us, then it could not live. So I ordered the forest burnt and the ground salted."

She gave a sad laugh. "The forest did not care for that. Within hours, the trees had grown back, greater than before. The woods expanded, and within days, the entire kingdom had been consumed.

"My subjects have all abandoned me, leaving soon after the forest overgrew Kibuzan. Most left the forest, some died in the attempt. I am the only one who remains."

I asked her why she did not leave. Silently, she moved to the edge of the clearing. As she neared, the trees edging the clearing seemed to grow thicker, finally blocking her way altogether as she reached the edge. She moved side to side, and the thickness somehow followed her, making a rustling that sounded almost threatening.

"That is why I remain. Because the forest, this wasteland, wishes me to."

I nodded, and not knowing what else to say, offered her a piece of bread. She accepted and we ate in silence. After a time, I got up and said that I had to be going. I told her I wished her luck, and hoped that one day she might reclaim her kingdom. She said nothing, but moved to the opposite end of the clearing. The trees grew thinner on my end, and I passed through with little difficulty.

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