After we left, part 4

I woke up in a strange place today. Strange in that I don’t remember getting to where we currently are. The forest is nowhere on any horizon. Gnoman and Shojin seemed pleased that I was finally awake. I came to find out that Shojin had woken up a day prior. The last week is mostly a blurred blank. I can remember bits and pieces of what happened but I had to rely on Shojin and Gnoman to fill in the blanks. So a lot of this is going to be based on what they told me and for some of it I just have to hope they weren’t screwing with me.

The day after my last entry we began towards the forest as we had for the days prior, but as we got closer a few things became clear, the land under and around the forest was barren of any greenery which would make sense if there was no light hitting the ground I guess. At our closest point to the tree a couple things became clear.

There was some kind of weird fruit on the ground that looked safe enough but when I tried to eat one Gnoman moved faster than should have been possible to smack it out of my hand. He didn’t know why we shouldn’t eat it, only that something inside him said it wasn’t safe. I’ve traveled with one Gnoman or another for a while now so I had no reason not to trust him. It looked pretty yum though. I slipped a few into my pack for… further study.

Beyond all that though something was wrong. Wrong with the forest. Wrong with the ground. And soon enough, wrong with me.

The forest wasn’t a forest as much as it first appeared, but was apparently just a single tree, gnarled and so much bigger than simply massive would even begin to describe. It made no sense how a single tree could get this big, but there is so much in this world that I do not understand I just accepted it for what it was.

The ground around the tree looked dry at first glance but it was something more. It was almost blighted in how it looked. Almost as if poisoned by something. It was also so littered with white sticks that it was hard to even see the ground around the base of the canopy. But it was clear that there were no sticks underneath it. As we continued closer it became clear that it wasn’t sticks but rather bones of varying sizes. The most prominent among them looked like some kind of humanoid with a skull that looked very much like a bull, only they were my size. And that was all we saw in both directions around the tree as far as we could see.

At this point we stopped moving closer to the tree. I guess as we’d been advancing Shojin was concerned about my behavior because I just started carrying on full conversations with both my birds and the Raven Queen.

As we started to make our way around the tree now, and I am only guessing at this point, our proximity to whatever malevolence is housed within it and I collapsed as we were making our way towards the seashore to circle around this monolithic tree.

I vaguely remember seeing a boat on the horizon I think. Small and swift as it glided across the waves.

After I was out I guess they initially tried to wake me and when that didn’t work they took turns carrying me. Gnoman seemed to know what needed to happen for us to survive and it appeared that the longer he was near the tree his strength was almost bolstered. That plan worked for a solid day before Shojin started getting weird. He spent most of the day talking to his mom and someone named Michael. It made me sad to hear about that because I wasn’t there for him when he could have used me. He’d never talked about a Michael before. Must have been from his time before we met.

Gnoman seems to be no stranger to loss, though it’s losses he doesn’t talk about, or can’t maybe, but it’s made him kind of wise. He was at least able to keep Shojin going in the right direction and he carried me. As they were making camp on the fourth day is when everything went sideways. Shojin was becoming more and more agitated as the evening wore on and as they were eating he threw his food down and charged toward the tree screaming some incomprehensible gibberish. Gnoman had to tackle him knock him out and tied him up to not have to go through that again. He had some pretty nasty rope burns on his wrists.

Gnoman could have just left us at this point. We were both useless for anything but taking up space at that point. But he didn’t, and I’m grateful for his compassion and tenacity here. He was able to fashion a stretcher of sorts and for a quiet day he drug us behind him.

After being out for all of the fifth day, Shojin started to come back to consciousness but was still out of it a bit at first. With the tree finally somewhat behind them and distance increasing his senses slowly returned throughout the sixth day. And so tree at their back and the southern desert Gnoman ahead of them they pressed on, again taking turns carrying me.

On the sixth night, they heard howls carrying on the cold desert wind but nothing came of it, at least not that night.

They continued travelling south as scrubby grassland gave way to sand. So much sand. And still they travelled on, which was honestly stupid. I was the only one who had any idea where we were heading and I was not conscious at that point. I guess they were just hoping that I’d wake up.

As they worked their way south they came across something in the sand. The sand had a crust of what they believed to be blood in the shape of a tusk. It was easily eight or nine feet long. Having no idea what it was or meant, they just kept moving.

As dusk started to roll in I started to rouse and that brings us back to the present. I don’t remember any of what was happening in the world around me while I was out but I did have a crazy dream. It was probably just a fever dream, but it marks the third time I have dreamt of dinosaurs. But this time the great lizard had a rider. A newborn baby with light projecting from his eyes. I don’t tell the boys about any of this.

And the man. Always the man. Why wouldn’t he just move.

As we took shelter from the night winds behind a large hill we saw something shimmer in the darkness. It looked like gold. After a little digging we found that it was a giant door. It took us several hours to clear enough sand to be able to get either of what were massive doors open. They were so worn by time and windswept sand that it was impossible to see what was carved on their doors but it was probably quite beautiful in its time. I can’t shake the notion that I have seen this place before, but I know I’ve never been here before.

There are howls on the wind which the boys say are the same as the past last night. Prevailing theory is that something is stalking us. We decided to take refuge in whatever this place until at least morning. But I mean hey, if we’re here already, might as well look around.