Field Trip Pt 3

From the Story Arc: Hope is the Thing With Feathers

Previous Story in the Arc: Field Trip Pt 2 by Victoria Victrix (Saturday, January 10, 2009)

Next Story in the Arc: Field Trip Pt 4 by Victoria Victrix (Saturday, January 10, 2009)

(posted Saturday, January 10, 2009)

The scent of the forest spoke to the instincts of long, long years and a past that stretched into the dark times before man walked the earth.

"Would you believe this is only forty or so World-Above years old?" Vickie asked conversationally.

Red didn't answer for a moment. Coming through that portal had given him a slim boundary between night and day. Before, a controlled forest of symmetry, and now...

This is what he pictured a forest, a real forest, to look like. Fangorn was a violent growth of creeping vines and trees that looked like they could crush you simply with the weight of their years. Here, nature had invaded completely, had brought life to every crack and crevice in the earth that it could. And it seemed to have done so, with an almost malicious glee.

"No," he said simply, unable to tear his eyes away from the spectacle, his head turning this way and that to drink it all in.

Vickie smiled. Neither could she, actually. And if truth were to be told, it was only that "young" in its incarnation as a copy of Fangorn Forest. It had been the dryad Domain, once the dryads were driven out of Greece and into involuntary exile something like...fifteen hundred years ago. And before then, long, long before then, dryads had lived here as a colony from the World Above. So the forest was authentically ancient, just...not like this.

She'd seen images of it from that time, captured in memory-globes. Very....Grecian. Not a lot of undergrowth. Ancient trees, with moss-covered rocks. Small open glades, each containing at the least a shrine to the resident naiad, larger glades with temples in various states of repair, to Artemis, Hecate, Bacchus, and Pan. On the whole, she liked it better as the role-player's paradise. No one got ripped to tiny shreds by crazed Maenads here now. Which on the whole was a good thing.

"Care to meet the neighbors now, or would you rather wander a bit?"

"Uh, sure," he replied, still scanning his surroundings.

Vickie smirked. "Which?"

"Huh?"

"Neighbors or wander?"

"Oh, I'm good to wander for now. Though, in the general direction of Ents would be good..."

"Right, but, uh, Red? You might want to tone down the fire..."

Fire? Oh, right... He concentrated for a moment, and the flames from his eyes subsided.

He wanted to wander. She wanted to see an old friend again. He still had his spurs hanging from his belt, but hers were on. She put both hands to her mouth and whistled.

It was Fangorn. She knew, showboat that he was, exactly how he was going to appear. With an internal sigh and headshake, she waited.

Good grief. He even brought his own effects-crew with him.

Bursting through the trees, with a follow-on spot of god-like light, was, for all intents and purposes, Shadowfax.

"Holy Mother..." Red breathed.

"Take it easy, babe. Roleplayers, remember?" she cautioned. But only after he'd had a good long moment to savor the experience, because she was, by god, not going to ruin it for him. Then she raised her eyebrow at her Elvensteed.

"Nice entrance, Sunshine," she said ironically. "Now how about if we remove the Halloween costume so Red can see what you really look like?"

"Sunshine?" Red's brows both rose.

"Hey--" she spread her hands. "I did not name him. That's his name, translated from the Elvish. It just sounds so much more...appropriate...in English." She pondered a moment, as the 'steed pawed the ground and looked sheepish. "Although 'Spotlight' probably would have been even more appropriate. If he'd known when the filming was going on, he'd have tucked the movie Shadowfax into a pocket dimension so he could grab all the camera-moments."

The 'steed shook his head indignantly and a feeling of I would NOT followed by a moment of okay, maybe once or twice permeated the clearing.

Sunshine shook himself all over until he blurred. The "effect" sunlight faded, and after a moment--

Well, he was still drop-dead gorgeous. He was just a lot lighter and smaller. Instead of a warhorse, he was something along the lines of an Arabian, with a flowing mane and tail of the sort you only saw on movie-horses, and in color, he was a warm amber-gold with the mane and tail being a lighter golden color.

"C'mere, you," Vickie said softly, and he stepped over to her. There ensued a long moment of very private communion as Vic and 'steed stood with their foreheads pressed together, Vic's hands slowly scratching behind the 'steed's ears.

Red gave them a small smile, then stepped back and looked again at his surroundings. It was odd, how he felt, like he was home in the calm and serene majesty of the wood. The slight wind, gentle rustling of leaves... it seemed to cover something. A deeper, darker feeling of malice and malevolence.

Roleplayers... he thought. Nothing's dangerous here, but damn if they're not doing a good job. Everything here's throwing me bad vibes, wanting me to leave...

He grinned again. Perfect. What fun!

He was so engrossed with the feeling of forced terror, that he failed to notice the vines slowly wrapping themselves over his ankles. With a snap, they tightened. He was almost able to cry out, but with the ambush in place, the rest moved with lightning precision. His wrists, his waist, his entire head found themselves wrapped with thick, knotted tendrils. And they were dragging him down, down...

His first instinct was to ignite himself, to fry everything around him.

Stupid, stupid... you might get Vic, Sunshine... and have one incredibly brassed off patch of Fangorn on your ass. Think dammit!

His head was completely covered, his sight obscured, without even enough time for a quick gulp of air. And from the cold, it felt like he was already waist-deep in mad, gripping earth.

Fire... fire... concentrated fire... He almost laughed. Your sword... But it was too late. The earth had claimed his hands too, smothering any attempt to unleash his blade, or his blasts. Breathe! No, can't breathe... no air... and no fire now... you SUCK Red...

And when he was lost, and defeated, he heard a deep, rumbling sound from the earth. A tremor, an... earthquake?

No. That was the earth LAUGHING.

With a violent heave, he was spat out in an explosion of earth and rock and dead leaves. He gave a high-pitched yelp as he landed unceremoniously on his knees, and collapsed choking.

He heard a tight, angry voice. "That. Was not. Funny."

He managed to look up to see Vickie standing there, aura blazing, foot tapping angrily. She was staring at a spot just past him, and offered him her hand, not taking her eyes off that spot. "Red," she said, sotto voce, "Now would be a good time to put up the 'no kill I' sign in visual range."

He took the hand and pulled himself up, and concentrated on that aura.

I'm a knight. Safe passage. Guardian. He closed his eyes a moment, and felt it. His aura, brilliant, growing...

"May I remind you--" she raised her hands "--that you are guests in this place--" power blazed around them "--and guests can be booted out on their asses?"

She clapped her hands together, and with a roar that Red knew very, very well, he sensed something erupting from the ground behind him.

He turned, to see the oak behind him enclosed in a cage of stone, and at the top of the stone, the face of a delicate woman with green hair, her body encased in stone as his had been encased in earth, her face frightened.

Vickie gave a little twist to her wrists, and the stone crumbled to dust.

"You get to play 'Old Man Willow' only with the sidhe and sidhe-folk," she said, her voice still tight. "Those are the rules. We mortals are as fragile as we are powerful. Now clean him off. Nicely. And apologize. Properly."

There was a sound very like that of an elephant coming through the trees from behind both of them. No, not an elephant, a herd of elephants. Red turned.

Not a herd of elephants. A herd of Ents. The foremost of them, his wooden face a mask of rage, stepped past them and seized the young woman in a branch-hand, hauled her up into the air, and shook her like a baby shakes a rattle. Still holding her, he turned to Red.

"Your pardon, Guardian," it said, in a deep, slow voice. "This one is new, and young, and escaped from the World Above. There are still some few of us there. She is Canadian, I believe...her forest is being cut down..."

"Fellow Canuck," Red coughed. "How are yeh then?"

The young dryad stopped her squirming, and fell still. She looked at Red almost defiantly, and groaned as her captor gave her another shake.

"My... my apologies, Guardian," she began in drawn-out entish tones. "This rage and fury are new to me, I have never before felt them. Yours are the people who destroy my home, my friends. And my thoughts burned as hated fire, as vicious as murderous steel. Your pardon."

Red met her confused look with compassion.

Christ, she's just a kid.

"Of course," he said. "It's fine. It's done. My condolences to you."

The other ents surrounded him, using the twig-like ends of their fingers to brush him clean. But there was also a subtle glow going on, and the dirt seemed to be vanishing with suspicious ease, as if it was being--erased?--repelled?--from his clothing.

He cast a glance over at Vickie, who was standing there with her arms crossed and eyes narrowed--and one single finger glowing. She caught his eye, and winked.

He gave her a tight grin. He could have burned the debris off, of course, but fire had no place here. And this seemed an act of penance, of respect. It was something that needed to happen, and so he let them.

"Well," she said quietly. "Meet the neighbors."

He nodded, the limbs continuing to brush and fret over him. "Touchy feely bunch, no?"

She chuckled. So did a couple of them. "Here, no one uses 'tree-hugger' as a derogatory term, let's put it that way." She patted the bark of the nearest. "This is my old and dear friend Aldercrown. And next to him is Oakmoss."

"Red Djinni, or, ah, Sieur Djinni now, I guess. A pleasure."

They nodded slowly, and Red was introduced to each of them in turn. A dream, his dream, fulfilled. He had to smile. They spoke in formal words, but there was humour there, and compassion. He told them of his desire to see their wood, to see them, and in turn they spoke of their nature, their roots.

And finally, Red turned to his young assailant.

"And what is your name?" he asked gently.

"Oheo Numees," she said. "It means 'beautiful sister'."

"Well," Red said with a slight smile. "It's nice to meet you, Oheo."

She blinked, and gave him a curt nod.

It's a start, he thought.