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Wilderness: Book One - The Forest (Chapter Three - An Adventure Underground)

Author: 
Colin Frayn
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
76

As the morning sun began to rise in the sky, the two friends eagerly made their way through the dense forest undergrowth. Despite the fact that Carek seemed to take this route quite often, it seemed so overgrown with coarse brambles and vines that one could well believe that no creature had ever set foot along it. There was an underlying hum of forest noise - creatures talking amongst themselves in their own tongues. They were most probably discussing the two intruders into their domain, giants by comparison. Occasionally one of these creatures would dart out from between the bushes, run startled across the track and vanish into the undergrowth the other side. It gave Tarok quite a shock the first time, and he almost leapt backwards in fright. Carek, however, was accustomed to almost all of the surprises that the forest could throw at him. Almost all.

Fortunately, the journey was not a long one, and they reached the salt mines just as the sun was nearing its highest point in the sky. As the trees thinned out, the two travellers were presented with a large clearing, deliberately felled. At one end was the mineshaft entrance, perhaps seven feet high and shelving away sharply into the darkness. All around the facade were the remains of the miners' outpost. There were a few wooden huts built haphazardly out of the rock face, now beginning to succumb to the encroaching forest vines. Some barrels of supplies, mostly decomposed and scavenged by rodents, stood inside. A number of rusty old carts lay strewn haphazardly around the entrance, and even the occasional pickaxe and shovel was to be found, badly rusted but still serviceable. The mines had obviously been abandoned for quite some time. Something had caused the miners to leave in a hurry, that much was certain.

Tarok suggested taking one of the mine carts down into the caves, and leaving their buckets behind. It would allow them to carry more salt back to the surface from the depths of the tunnels. Carek wandered over to examine one of the rusty contraptions. He tried pushing it along the forest floor, and with a considerable effort, managed to shift it a few yards over the dry soil. "I think we might just be able to use one of these if we push together," he declared. "I'm sure the wheels will loosen a bit when we get them moving."

The most serviceable cart was carefully rolled over onto the rails, and then the two young men pushed as hard as they could to get the wheels turning. After a few yards, the axles seemed to free themselves a bit, and the cart rolled more smoothly down the shallow incline into the mouth of the mine. Tarok took a deep breath as the mouldy odour of the caves began to fill his nostrils. Cautiously, they entered the shadows, and Carek lit his lamp to guide the way. The light flickered across the walls and crudely illuminated the jagged rocks, giving the place an even more menacing feel.

As the darkness began to part in front of them, they could see that the rails ran down along a more or less straight tunnel for as far as their limited torchlight permitted. Tarok peered carefully into the distance, then quickly ducked as two bats flew overhead. The place was probably full of them but Carek assured his nervous friend that cave bats would not harm the two explorers. He paused for a while. "Well," he pondered, "they haven't done so far. Best not to provoke them I suppose." He shrugged, and continued down the passageway. Tarok maintained his guard as they proceeded further down the track.

As the first side tunnels began to fan out from the main shaft, Carek showed Tarok the way that he had taken on his previous visits. "I suggest," he continued, "that we try somewhere else this time. The old tunnels are getting very dusty, and there isn't much salt left in them anyway."

Carek had of course been down them all before, inspecting the mine workings. He had made quite substantial explorations in the upper levels of the mine, but never really dared to travel any deeper knowing that it would become unsafe. The two novice miners proceeded on downwards along the main tunnel, pushing the cart ahead. There were no more bats this deep into the tunnels, only the occasional rat scurrying past their feet. Most were on their way out of this foreboding place. Only the agonising squeaking of the cart wheels broke the fragile silence of the mine. They were far from any civilisation, but yet still felt a little uneasy. It was not a calm, peaceful silence like that of Carek's home. This was something else. It was almost as if the walls themselves were craving to call out and bring this place to life, but dared not.

Carek decided to try a new tunnel off to the right, which lead into a region of the mines entirely new to him. This was further than his mapping expeditions had taken him, but he felt much safer now that he was not alone. The passage continued for thirty yards before it veered off to the left, and ended abruptly in a virtually untouched seam of salt. Tarok placed his lantern on the floor a few yards back from the passage end, and then they both dropped their backpacks down against one of the walls. They gathered their tools, and started to hack at the exposed face with some pickaxes that they had found at the tunnel entrance. A few lumps of rock salt detached themselves from the wall and soon built up into a mound by their feet.

Before long they had collected a fair amount of the crude salt and Tarok began to shovel it into the truck. They carried on for quite some time, pausing to rest every few minutes as the badly ventilated mine gave them very little clean air to breathe. This was exhausting work and they wisely decided to stop before the truck was completely full because they realised that it would soon be too heavy for them to push. Of course, the return journey would be entirely uphill!

Tarok was growing tired, and he decided to take a rest before they set off back to the surface. He took a flask of water out of his backpack, and began to drink. It certainly was refreshing after such hot and relentless work. He passed the flask over to Carek, who took a gulp as well. They began to wonder how the miners could ever have lived and worked down in those dark tunnels, choking in the dry, dusty air and ever yearning for the rejuvenating light of day.

After five minutes, the two workers felt ready for the long haul back up to the surface and so they set off again, keen to return to the outside world. The stagnant air in the tunnels was beginning to get unpleasant, and neither of them wished to stay any longer than they had to. They were eager to taste once more than now enticing forest air. Carek could only just remember the route back as the passages all seemed so similar, and their eyes were tired from straining to see by the light of one single lamp.

As they were nearing the surface, they turned a corner and Tarok, who was leading the way, stopped dead with a shocked expression on his face. Carek looked past in horror, realising what his friend had seen. The exit had been blocked by a rock fall from the tunnel roof. Clearly the two of them together had set off some kind of trap. Maybe the added vibrations of the rumbling cart had just managed to trigger some loose rocks. The old wooden supports were beginning to wear through and the slightest tremor could have been enough. Either way, neither Tarok nor Carek could see any way through and not one single shaft of daylight pierced the considerable pile of rocks and mud before them.

They scrambled over the rocks to the blockage, and began to shift some of the smaller ones, but it soon became apparent that the rock fall was too substantial and they were going to have to find some other way out. Tarok knew that the air would gradually run out and be replaced with more potent gases, which were not only unbreathable and poisonous but also would not support the burning flame in the lamp. They had to find a way out quickly, or risk being stranded forever in the cold darkness of the mines. Tarok shuddered at the thought of a slow, unpleasant death. He picked up a rock and hurled it at the blockage in desperation. A loud crash echoed throughout the mine tunnels and quickly died away into the distance. Once more all was still, but that same quiet had now become suffocating, and Tarok began once more to claw away at the rocks in front of him.

Carek suddenly spoke, "I have an idea. It may not work, but I don't see that we have much choice." Tarok stopped, and turned to his friend to listen to his words of wisdom. Carek continued, "I've been exploring in these caves before, and I remember going quite deep underground once. I never explored fully as I was alone and I did not want to risk becoming lost, or trapped. However, I distinctly remember feeling a slight breeze down towards the bottom of the tunnels. I guess that there must be some kind of way out somewhere down there. Maybe some other shafts coming down from the outside world. I had a brief look and found nothing, but it must be worth a try."

Tarok pondered for a while, and then replied, " Yes, I agree! To support a large party of miners down in the lower levels must have needed quite a lot of fresh air, and I can't believe that just one narrow cave opening would have been enough. It was barely enough for the two of us at these upper levels. I suggest that we follow the shaft downwards." "It doesn't really look like we have any alternative," replied Carek. "We must find a way out, and quickly!" He was correct, and they both realised that only too well. The hard work had sapped much of their strength, but they could not afford to rest now. They reluctantly left the cart with its hard-earned cargo of salt, and turned their backs to the blockage, heading downwards.

They set off downwards once more, towards the edge of the mineshafts - the furthest point ever dug. After a few minutes, they passed the tunnel that they had taken before, but this time they continued onwards further into the depths of the earth.

As they ventured cautiously into the darkness, the air steadily worsened. It seemed all the time as if they were being watched from ahead, and Tarok became increasingly paranoid, jumping at the slightest noise. The occasional side tunnel snaked off from the main shaft, but most of these ended after a few dozen yards in an untouched rock face. With each dead-end, the two friends were becoming increasingly frustrated, and they were both beginning to wonder if they would ever see the forest again.

After ten minutes of walking, the main tunnel began to narrow, and soon ended in a hard wall of rocks. There was a rusty metal spade and a broken pickaxe lying on the floor, and it seemed as if this was the farthest ever dug by the miners. The two friends looked around for any other tunnel to follow, and then stopped to see if they could feel any draughts. There were none.

Carek suddenly spoke, "Wait! Listen!" Tarok did so, but heard nothing. Carek smiled, "I can hear running water." He was silent again, listening hard. Tarok heard nothing. "Maybe there's an underground stream around here somewhere."

Tarok's eyes lit up. "Is it possible?" he asked.

Carek shrugged his shoulders. "It's definitely worth a look."

They separated and carefully checked the tunnel walls to see if any of them were weak. Suddenly, Tarok let out a yell as his arm disappeared through a wall of loose rocks. Carek helped him to clear away the rubble, revealing another, smaller tunnel heading off from the main shaft. They set off along this new tunnel towards the sound that Carek was now convinced about, and which even Tarok was beginning to hear. This tunnel seemed much less sturdy than the last. It was not supported with wooden beams, and the roof was much lower, forcing even Carek to crouch down at points to avoid the jagged rocks above him. They continued along for several dozen yards, eager to follow the sound of water, which was growing ever more audible with every step.

After a short while, the passage widened out, and the torch beams disappeared beyond the end of the tunnel walls. The splashing noise had grown much louder, and now seemed to be coming from just up ahead. Carek walked out of the tunnel and looked around. There certainly was a stream, bubbling and flowing through one corner of an enormous cavern. Way above their heads was a crystalline roof, studded with all types of minerals and stalactites. There were stalagmites on the floor, and pillars of rock, which appeared to be almost holding up the ceiling high above their heads. It was magnificent, and the pair stood for a moment just gazing at it. How could the miners have failed to notice something as beautiful as this? Tarok spotted a small opening in the far wall, and they decided to go over and investigate it. This dark hole in the cavern wall was only about four feet high and seemed slightly out of place in such a beautiful, natural place.

As they approached the entrance Carek suddenly stopped, blew out the lamp, and grabbed Tarok's cloak. He gestured to the wizard to be quiet, and the pair darted over to behind one of the enormous pillars, crouching down in silence. In the faint glow of the cavern's walls, Tarok could just pick out a faint pair of red eyes moving their way. He didn't even dare to breathe, though the loud pounding of his heart must almost have been audible at that distance. The soft, but unmistakable sound of footsteps slowly moved in their direction. Something else was out there, stalking them.

Carek reached for a stone on the cavern floor, slowly stood up and began to move round behind the pillar. The eyes moved closer, and Tarok began to sweat. He stood up to follow Carek, who gestured to him to stay where he was. Carek moved round even more, and out into the open, hiding behind some loose rocks on the cavern floor. Tarok tried to hide himself completely in the darkness, wrapping his cloak over his face, and crouching as low as he could manage. Whatever creature owned those eyes seemed to be about four feet tall, and moving his way. In fact, it was almost close enough to strike. Tarok could hear it sniffing the air, searching for the intruders.

Suddenly there was a crack and a thud, and the eyes vanished. Tarok could just pick out the shape of his half-elf friend walking out of the shadows. Carek's deep blue eyes lit up brightly in the darkness. Tarok breathed a sigh of relief, then glanced over at the peculiar creature, crumpled in a heap on the floor. He frowned. "What in the world was that thing?" "A goblin. There must be a clan around here. Come with me! We should be able to find their exit from these cursed mines."

Tarok seemed nervous. "Goblins? I don't think I would stand much of a chance against one of them! There must be another way out."

Carek shook his head. "There might only be half a dozen of them, and together we ought to stand a fair chance." He drew his knife, and the two friends made their way slowly to the opening they had spotted earlier. Passing the body, Tarok took a brief glance at the creature, which was lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. It had shrivelled green skin, and short, sharp teeth, which protruded from behind its thick gums. Its small, dirty hands still clutched a rusty dagger with which it had been hunting for its dinner. Tarok gave it a sharp kick, just to make sure it was not still alive. It didn't move, so he continued after his friend, glancing behind once more to make sure.

The two nervous explorers entered the small passage, and ventured forward, crouching down to avoid the low ceiling. This was clearly hewn from the rocks by goblin hands and was not really suited to anyone taller. They continued ahead slowly, knowing that any combat in the tunnel would put them at a large disadvantage.

As they neared the end of the goblin tunnel, they could hear voices, and could see faint glimmers of torchlight up ahead. They poked their heads out of the end of the tunnel, and slowly peered around. It was quite a sight. They were about thirty yards up a rock face, peering out into a large, natural cavern. A narrow set of steps lead down to the rocky floor below, and joined a path which ran through the middle of the goblin settlement. There were scores of small figures walking about, all of them goblinoid with their dark green skin barely visible in the feeble torchlight. There was a background murmur of chattering and arguing, with the occasional high-pitched cackle. It was a goblin town situated underground, illuminated by a hundred blazing torches. Dozens of little huts lined the cavern sides, and Carek could pick out the malicious creatures wandering around the cavern, going about their daily business in total ignorance of their two observers.

Fascinated, Tarok and Carek watched them for a while. A fight broke out in the main street, and a small crowd of jeering onlookers gathered round to see the two opponents tear into each other with their sharp claws. One of the two combatants finally triumphed over his weaker adversary, and hurled his victim into the corner of the cavern, where the others finished him off, leaving his body for the cave rats. This was a typical goblin camp, and the disgusting habits of the creatures appalled the two adventurers. Looking into the distance, they could see a large opening over to the other side of the cavern, which presumably led to the surface. There was a faint glimmer of light coming from that direction, so they realised that this was their way out. The only problem would be actually getting there.

Now it was obvious to them both that attempting to run past a hundred goblins undetected was not only impossible, but also probable suicide. They therefore made up their minds that the best plan would be to wait until the goblins went to bed, when they could sneak past them more easily. Carek guessed that night was not too far away because the goblins were already beginning to disappear into their flimsily built huts. Tarok decided that they should make their move when the last goblin torch went out to, therefore ensuring that they could remain mostly undetectable.

They waited there patiently, not daring to talk above a whisper. It seemed like two or three hours, but was probably much less. Tarok glanced periodically back down the tunnel, checking that more of the creatures had not hidden themselves in the cavern and crept up from behind. They were both worried that one of the goblins should try to climb up into the tunnel where the two of them were hiding. Fortunately none did. That one hunter must have been alone.

The goblins wandered around the camp, and made their way slowly in groups to various buildings. One by one, the lights were extinguished, and the cavern became steadily darker. Finally the last torch went out, and the two nervous comrades ventured down the treacherous slope to the camp. The cavern was lit only by the light from within the buildings themselves now, and the faint glow from the cavern walls, dimming noticeably with every minute. This was their only chance, and they knew it. They could not afford to wait until the cavern was plunged into darkness, because not even Carek's expert sight could match that of the goblins, and their fate would have been sealed.

The two friends eventually made it to the cavern floor, but not without a fair amount of difficulty and a few near accidents on the slippery steps. They hid behind some large rocks at the base of the cliff, catching their breath. Though the goblins had mostly retired into their buildings, there was still a background of chattering and cackling laughter, ideal for disguising the sound of heavy footsteps sneaking past. Carek ventured out first, and crept over towards the first hut. Tarok could just see him crouch down beside the wooden walls and listen out for any noise. Carek beckoned, and the wizard ran over to where his friend was standing.

One by one, they proceeded to make their way past the huts. Carek would scout out first, and check that their path was clear, and then Tarok would follow. Tarok kept turning around, looking out for goblins, and made sure that he ducked under every open window. Carek seemed to be a lot better at hiding in the shadows cast by the goblin buildings, but he was still alarmingly visible. Fortunately, it seemed as if they were going to make it undetected. They had reached the last hut, and Carek wandered out to check for danger. He began to creep round the side of the building when the door swung suddenly open. Carek pinned himself to the side of the hut as a tired looking goblin stepped out, and wandered out into the road, gnawing on an animal bone. Tarok crouched behind in the shadows, out of sight. A second goblin ran out after the first, and the two started arguing in the street. Carek began to edge sideways. A third goblin jumped from the door, and pounced on the other two. They were arguing about something. Carek edged further along the side of the hut, hoping to make a dash for cover. Tarok was still stuck behind.

Suddenly the goblins turned silent as one of them began to peer in Carek's direction. He started chattering to the other two, and drew what looked like a crude knife from his belt. His voice raised into a battle cry, and the three creatures charged towards Carek, their eyes aflame. They were yelling out in their own language, presumably alerting their neighbours to the intruder. Carek stepped out of the shadows, and drew his own knife. The goblins drew nearer, and then circled the poor half-elf. Three to one was not good odds. Carek swiped out in an attempt to distract the foul creatures. One lunged forward and Carek sliced at the creature's arm, cutting it. It reeled back, dropping its knife. The goblins closed in, just as a few more doors began to open further down the street.

Tarok seized the opportunity, and ran towards the creatures. He had his dagger in his left hand, and he was chanting some magical incantations. The goblins turned round to face their new attacker. Tarok called out frantically, "Carek, look away! Close your eyes and run!" Tarok's hand was beginning to glow. The first goblin charged at him, and Tarok shielded his eyes as a blinding flash of light burst from his fingertips. The goblins cowered away in fear; their vision destroyed by the wizard's magical attack. Tarok ran past them, pushing one aside as he charged through. Carek had already started towards the cave exit.

Suddenly the sound of a warning horn screeched out over the commotion. It was a puny, high pitched noise, but echoed round the cavern so violently that every goblin in the whole place must have heard it. Several of the creatures had now left their huts, and had spotted the intruders over by the entrance tunnel. They began to make chase, shouting and barking in their own tongue. Carek and Tarok ran as fast as they could, but they knew that the goblins were faster than they were and could fit a lot more easily into the cramped, crudely hewn passages. Once more, the two friends were in grave danger, and Tarok was beginning to suffer from the lack of fitness that several years of hard study had forced upon him.

The cold, dark passage wound through the earth and the war horns and cries of the goblins could be heard steadily catching up from behind. Tarok, who was larger and clumsier than his half-elf friend, bumped himself several times on the passage walls, and bruised his arm quite badly. Carek could run much faster, and was beginning to disappear in front behind the twisting passage walls. Tarok started to panic, as he feared being left alone in the dark, at the mercy of the advancing goblin hordes. He pressed onwards. The cries drew closer, and the clash of goblin swords could be heard above the approaching war cries. Suddenly a gust of fresh air breezed past him, and they knew that he was nearing the surface. A light appeared up ahead. He could see Carek approaching it now, silhouetted against the evening twilight. Tarok never guessed how relieved he would be to taste once more that familiar forest air.

The passage opened abruptly into the outside world, beneath a small cliff in the side of a tree lined slope. Tarok stopped and caught his breath. Carek was desperately trying to find a place to hide. The goblins were still closing in behind them, cackling to themselves and calling loud battle cries. It was no use hiding, because such a number of goblins would have no difficulty in finding them. They could run, but feared that the undergrowth would slow them too much. Tarok, being especially clumsy, would be easily caught. Carek drew his bow, and pointed it at the entrance ready for the first of the creatures to come out. The odds were not in their favour. Tarok had a better idea - his pyrotechnics spell. Maybe he could cause another rock fall, and trap the goblins inside.

The wizard turned to face the entrance to the cavern, and began to chant the ancient words. A group of red eyes had rounded the last corner of the passage, and Carek let one arrow fly, striking the first of the goblins in the chest and felling it. He drew another arrow. Tarok held out his hand, and pointed his finger at the opening to the passage. A flash of energy emanated from his fingertips, and struck the cave opening, just as the goblins were appearing. The roof slowly crumbled, and then began to fall in, crushing several of the greenskins and blocking off the rest in a cacophony of screams and guttural yells. Two of the creatures made it through, and the first was quickly felled by a second arrow from Carek's bow. The last one panicked and tried to run. Tarok picked up a rock and hurled it, striking the goblin in the head. Carek was impressed. "Good shot!" he cried, before running to the fallen creature and finishing it off.

Tarok sighed, and then fell down to the ground, greatly weakened. He felt dizzy. He had used every last reserve of his energy to cast that spell. It would take quite some time for him to recover. He had deliberately summoned more energy than he should have done in order to amplify the spell's effects. It was a dangerous practice, and could have caused him serious injury, but at the time it seemed preferable to the claws of the approaching goblin horde.

Carek congratulated Tarok on his quick thinking, and the two friends rested at the cave mouth for a while in order to get their breath back. Carek managed to lever a few larger rocks from the cliff face to further block off the goblin tunnels. He did not want to risk the foul creatures escaping and seeking revenge. They could still hear the enraged yelling of the goblin warriors behind the heavy blockage. That would keep them busy for quite some time.

The two tired friends had just about recovered a few minutes later, when they heard a gentle voice behind them. They swung round, and were greeted by the image of a small humanoid creature. It was male, perhaps three feet tall, and slender, clad in the clothes of the forest - a naturally woven cloak, and garments of bright, green leaves. Tarok gasped and drew his knife. Carek turned slowly, and spoke to his alarmed friend, "Don't be afraid!" Carek slowly approached the creature. "I think he's a tree sprite." Tarok was not one to disagree with Carek's undoubted knowledge. "Legends say that they are magical. They use their powers to safeguard the forest." The sprite smiled gently at them, and stared at Carek, seemingly fascinated but unafraid.

The sprite slowly spoke a few soft words, seemingly trying to communicate with them, but in some other tongue. The pair just stared at him - they understood nothing. Not even Carek knew this mysterious language. The tiny creature realised this, and instead beckoned them towards him. He pointed out in a direction and set off. The two friends followed him cautiously, not knowing what to expect.

After a minute or two they arrived at a small collection of wooden huts. A village, it seemed. The buildings were all rather perfect looking constructions, built of natural materials, and woven together with vines and twine from the forest nearby. The roofs were covered in moss, and ladders stretched up from the forest floor into the trees where several smaller huts were balanced precariously amidst the leaves, along with many more inquisitive sprites. Their guide seemed to be pointing out the buildings, in particular a few which appeared to have been badly damaged in some recent battle. He pointed back in the direction of the cave entrance and seemed to put on a more saddened expression. Tarok spoke, "Did the goblins attack your village?" The sprite looked a bit puzzled. Tarok thought for a few moments, and then crouched down, and put on a mean looking face, pretending to swipe at the air in front of him with an imaginary claw. He pointed again to the huts. Carek giggled, but the sprite suddenly understood, and nodded enthusiastically. Taking the two friends to a hut, they were greeted by two more similarly clad creatures who looked at the two newcomers, and then spoke amongst themselves for a while, pointing at the strange giants and staring with wide eyes.

Their faces seemed to light up with excitement as the guide sprite spoke to them excitedly in their own language. One of the tiny creatures rushed into a hut, and re-appeared with a small leather bag, which he handed to Tarok. It seemed to be made from the skin of forest animals, and was tied together at the mouth with a piece of string wound from strands of grass. The astounded wizard cautiously took the bag and peered inside. It was filled with gold! "There must be over one hundred gold pieces here!" he exclaimed to Carek. The small creatures all smiled. This was obviously a gift for blocking in the goblins. Those foul creatures were not going to be able to dig out for quite some time. The cave-in was quite substantial, and goblins were only very small creatures, lacking strength. The sprites would probably be able to reinforce the blockage to make sure that the attackers never made it to the surface. The goblins were all doomed to suffocate in their own caverns. This brought a chill to Tarok's spine. He was responsible for the fate of a hundred living creatures. He tried to calm his conscience a little. After all, these goblins were evil, and he had served the forest well.

Tarok now realised the valour in what he had done. He had saved the sprites from the goblin tyranny. He was actually, for one of the first times in his life, quite proud of himself. He had achieved something with his talents, which was an enormous change from the situation a few weeks ago when he found himself quite unable to cope with even the slightest pressure. What amazing progress he had made in such a relatively short length of time. He hadn't really learnt any new magical techniques, but had simply grown more confident with those which he already knew.

The two friends decided to stay the night where they were, and try to ask the way back later. Carek figured that they must have travelled about a mile in the caves, but no longer knew where he was in relation to the fort or the mine entrance, or indeed anything else familiar. He reckoned he could find the way back if he could get to the river. This part of the forest was in a valley, making it a relatively easy task to navigate from there.

It was not all for nothing then, the expedition. They hadn't got any salt, but now had enough money to buy some. Maybe the sprites had supplies - they would try to ask in the morning. For now, all they needed was a good night's sleep. They had a feeling that they would get it, as they were both very tired after a long day's work. The sprites provided two rooms in their miniature houses. With some difficulty, they crawled through the tiny doors, and bolted them behind. There was barely enough space for them to crouch up where they were, covering themselves as well as they could with the tiny blankets they had been given. It was uncomfortable, and their hearts were pounding, but there was something soothing and relaxing about this place. It felt unusual, but so very comfortable. It was almost as if they were drawing from the calm and warmth of the forest trees themselves.

Tomorrow they would return majestically to the forts, but for now they could think of nowhere that they would rather be.

 

WILDERNESS : Book 1 - The Forest Chapter 3 - An Adventure Underground © Colin Frayn

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