Note: Actually had trouble getting the “voice” in this one down, then all of a sudden I had it and I also have an additional page—this may develop into something a bit longer although this type of fantasy setting is hardly original with me. ——Jeff
By Jeff Baker
I jumped down to the lower branch and watched the men approach. When they were closer, one of them burly with a sword in his belt, called up.
“Ho, boy! I am Andiak of the Oaiod. What place is this?”
I nearly took offense; I was fourteen, no longer a boy.
“I am Ezidiah,” I said. “And this is the Great Forest.”
“We are cut off from our people,” Andiak said. “We seek refuge.”
“Only the one who lives in the Great Tree can offer refuge,” I said. “Follow me.”
I leaped to a branch of the nearest tree, heading deeper from the outskirts into the forest.
“Wait!” Andiak said. “We can’t climb trees like that. Come on down here!”
“I have only been on the ground twice before in my life,” I said.
“Then move slowly, so we can follow you,” Andiak said.
I smiled to myself, at the same time taking my role as guide seriously. One day I might be selected to be named In Care Of the Owl and to inhabit the Great Tree. In that light, I took my time as the two strangers on the ground followed my progress hopping from tree to tree above them, heading deeper into the forest.
Even in midday, the deep forest was dark and I could see the men reacting with surprise to the lights in the trees and people looking down from their homes amid the branches and thick leaves, staring with equal astonishment at the strangers walking on the forest floor. The men stopped and pointed at the system of pulleys and swings that we use to move items from one tree to another. We kept moving and I passed the familiar big lit branches of the shop where I bought nuts and occasionally fruit. In fact, I felt the money I had been saving in my coin-pouch for my next visit. For an instant, I let myself breathe in the shop’s smells but then I caught a glimpse ahead of the ancient oak, festooned with streamers, glittering in the light from the carefully pruned branches of the canopy of leaves stretching above it. I waved at the men below and pointed.
“The Great Tree,” I announced.