Book II - Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5

 

I had wondered what perks might be associated to Elves.

Race, class, starting abilities, other things like that.

Monsters start out with a couple, at least in my experience. I don’t think I’m different in that respect, other than not being devoured early. Live long enough, and you’re going to find some weird perks popping up here and there.

Humans have a boatload of them, clearly, so I don’t see why it would be any different for the rest of this world’s inhabitants.

Other monsters, Elves… I’m pretty sure they’ve got to have a few.

Like

[Tree Locator]

The legendary passive skill, that helps the user find trees.

Large trees.

Small trees.

Withered and almost dead trees, out in the middle of nowhere.

Yes.

[Tree Locator]

I made up that title. [Voice of Gaia] still isn’t working- but I think I’m pretty close to whatever Imra’s skill really is.

In front of us is a particularly nasty looking example of what might have once been a willow tree… or, whatever species in this world looks like what I mentally associate to be a willow.

One than root in the grave, just like pretty much everything else we’ve seen so far. Only, somehow, it still has some leaves. They’re all yellow, mostly dried out, but they’re still hanging on.

Kind of impressive.

This reminds me of a nature documentary I watched once. Pretty sure that was a broken-down sofa and a take-out Chinese food, night… right?

What was it… Desertification of the Sahara?

Probably…

Having trouble remembering, for some reason.

“Where are the others?”

Well, well, well. We’re on speaking terms again? You run for hours without responding to a single word, and now we’re just “cool,” huh?

“What happened here?”

Here? Like, to the other trees?

“You are the last…”

I’m the… oh, come on.

The tree?

Imra is talking to a tree.

Ssss…

Now, she’s listening to the tree.

Great.

Just great.

Go ahead and stare at the bark, sure. Heck this this, I’m finding some shade.

Big ol’ tree like this has got to have some roots, or something.

“No rain… for how long?”

Sss…

At least she’s asking good questions.

Pretty clear to me: this area used to be a lot livelier. Add that with the sun, and complete lack of dinosaurs has me thinking there’s no way we’re near the Forest, either.

So… we got relocated, somehow.

Probably, a good distance from where we were before. This would be the much-preferred assumption. I can mentally cope with being relocated.

Magic’s a real thing in this world. Weird shit can and does seem to happen on a regular basis. Giant undead skeletons wandering around, humans that swing swords heavier than small Hondas…

Then again…

If I’m going to go there, and open the can of weird on the back shelf of the potential possibility pantry…

Time Travel…?

No.

Nope.

Absolutely not.

I’m not made for that sort of life. This has all been stressful enough without getting fourth dimensional on me.

We got moved somehow.

Magical stuff happened, went wrong, and now we’re here.

I’m not about to throw a thumbs up in a vat of magma.

Not happening.

"A place of tragedy..."

Imra is still going.

[Lorax] skill, or something.

Either she’s completely lost her marbles.

“Great One, we have been so terribly betrayed.”

Yeah.

Well, I’m used to it.

Besides, betrayal might be a bit of a harsh term, considering the situation that brought it to come about. Bit fuzzy on the details-

"The Chief and Elders: what could have misguided them so?"

Yeah… see, you say that, but I think they probably had a valid point-

"And this horrible voice!”

… You ever going to let me talk?

“It haunts me, slipping through my mind!”

Are you talking about the tree?

"Is it mocking me? Great One, it follows my every waking thought. It murmurs madness!"

Wait, do you mean MY voice?

“Was I corrupted by the old ways?”

Seriously?

What about the whiny tree over there? That’s thing’s voice is okay, and mine’s not?

“The madness… it must be the madness. The old magics, slowly corrupting my mind…”

Imra, listen, you need to calm down.

“Why did they do it? Altering the magics of our ancestors. For what? Misguided desire? Jealousy of your greatness?”

Imra. Stop pacing. We’ll figure this out, just keep your cool-

"God, where are your great spirits of flame? Where are your empowered gifts of Earth? Why do you not speak to me? Do not lose yourself to sorrow God! I will serve you! Even in madness, I will!"

Oh boy.

Pretty sure she could hear me before, but I might as well be talking to the damn tree right now.

“Ask… the tree?”

For real.

That’s the one line that gets through to her? You have got to be f-

"This voice… it does not leave. Forgive me God, the ritual must have shattered my mind. All I can remember were the screams, the fire, and terrible, terrible laughter."

Okay, okay…

Just sit down and talk to the tree, Imra.

Stop talking, sit down, and let me figure this out.

“I’m mad. I’ve gone mad.”

You and me both, at this point...

Good, she’s finally stopped pacing.

Sitting down… alright. I think she’s talking to the tree again.

Progress.

Yes.

I’m going to have to take point here.

Captain Snake, and his mentally unstable first mate, sailing through the deserted lands of who-the-fuck-knows-where.

Where.

I already figured that the Sun’s position is different. That means something.

If this world is a globe, like my last life- that means we’re closer to the equator. That’s a solid point towards relocation. Time Travel probably wouldn’t… well… huh.

No. Screw Time Travel.

I don’t think it would.

So, we’re by the equator. Probably.

You know…

Unless of course the world is actually flat… and there’s some elephants… and a really was a large turtle involved.

Ug- no.

No.

No time-travel. No flat-earth.

I’m going to assume we’re on a planet.

Big, round, floating in space somewhere.

For my own sake, that’s what I’m going with.

So that probably means relocation. Long Range.

Teleportation?

I’ve never seen any of that yet, but magic is real. Can’t rule it out.

If we’re not anywhere near the Forest. Humans or something that farms lived around here, sort of recently. There don’t appear to be super dangerous monsters roaming everywhere- no dinosaurs spotted.

Some big lizards, but no dinosaurs.

I’ve never seen a map of the world, but if we were on the Northern Continent before, I can guess we went relative “South.”

The East or West thing isn’t clear.

Terrain is so different though…

Ssss…

Think. I gotta think.

I’ve poked around with [Voice of Gaia] for hours and hours before all this. Every time I had a bad case of mana-crystal stomachaches, I just asked questions. Lots and lots of questions, so there’s got to be something it gave me that can clear some of the situation up.

Right?

For all the time I spent on interrogating that weird spell, you’d think I must have something useful to show for it.

Humans… language.

Ah, there we go.

Great Forest was North, on the Northern Continent. Miss Paladin spoke that dialect.

There was a Southern Continent, language options, but there was also another one. The hell was it called? I didn’t buy it when I had the chance, it was too expensive.

[Old Tongue] or… something?

That doesn’t necessarily prove anything. Could be useful.

Sheesh, my head’s killing me.

All that healing gave me a migraine for some reason.

Maybe it’s sun-stroke?

What the heck is the plan, here?

Imra just ran a marathon, magic’s on the fritz, and there’s nothing but dirt and sun for miles in any direction.

If we run back out into that, we’re going to have Elf jerky.

Snake jerky, too.

No.

No way we’re getting answers today.

Calling it here, right under this root.

I proclaim this as Tiny Snake Camp [Dust Bowl]