A Curious Conversation III
You soon come to your decision, and, go from there. “Do you know where Rosha lives? I wanted to try to find her since she offered to help me out more.” You glance about, peering back toward the thicker fog. “So that’s the reason I ended up in this… area.”
Archimedes chortles. “Did she run off without telling you where she lives, I take it?”
“Bah, again, unsurprising,” the owl replies dryly, rolling his eyes again. “She’s both a trickster and a bit of a ‘sink or swim’ style figure, although how extreme she can be depends on her mood.” He shakes his head. “Regardless, if you’re seeking her out, then you’ll want to go down the path located to your left, and my immediate right.”
He points with one wing to the path that doesn’t have dead or dying trees. The fog is still noticeable that way as it was when you first peered toward it, but again, you swear you can see a faint bit of sunlight in the far, far distance, a flicker of a sunny-colored gleam.
“Thank you,” you say, feeling relief at having a sense of where to go next.
“Oho, you’re welcome,” Archimedes says. “I don’t blame you for not knowing, especially when this whole domain is quite difficult to get through. This fog is a constant presence, but alas, that’s due to the nature of the biome as a whole. Fortunately, you’ll find the fog will lessen the further you go down that path – it will lead you to a lush, open woodland eventually, which is where you’ll find a good number of denizens, Rosha included.”
The owl pauses for a beat until something appears to come to him. “Ah, and, you can fly going that way, too, in case you’ve grown tired of being grounded.” He gives you an affable, encouraging nod. “Trust a fellow winged being, my friend, you don’t need to worry about poorer visibility in this area. The trees aren’t as densely packed together, and since you can see a little easier, you’ll be able to glide onwards without fear of crashing into something or hurting yourself. I always try to inform those with wings.”
“That helps a lot,” you say, and you give the owl a nod of thanks. “So you mean this whole area is always drenched in thick fog? I can’t imagine many things live here.”
“Mm, a few do, yes,” Archimedes says. “There are approximately five humans like yourself whom have taken on ground creature costumes that actually are around, but they prefer to keep to themselves, so you’re less likely to run into them. And did you see the giant tree at the center of this whole biome? You likely poked your head inside?”
You blink and nod slowly. “I, uh… yes, I did briefly go in there to look around. It was… a little too silent in there for my taste, so I ended up exiting not long after I checked it out.”
“Oho, I don’t blame you,” Archimedes says with a chuckle. “The tree is meant to give off an air of tension to those that venture within – it’s partly because of who lives in it, though.” He rolls his eyes. “At the very top of the tree is the nest of another owl, but she is a great gray owl.” His eyes narrow slightly. “She is… a tad more on the aloof side of personalities, if you catch my meaning. Not cruel, no, but, not an easy creature to make contact with. I believe the tree interior is home to several more humans, yet they live in the lower regions of the tree. As a whole, they’re very wary of any new interlopers.”
“So it IS home to someone,” you say, and you glance back toward the direction of the massive tree. “I thought it was given all the lit torches, but I didn’t hear anything inside.”
“Yes, they are a very elusive bunch,” the owl replies, and he gives another shrug along with this. “Now, had you gone underground, you would’ve had no trouble running into someone – that tunnel leads to the home of a badger like myself – he’s gruff and a little rough around the edges, but, much chattier. At the very least, this part of the domain is peaceful enough. You wouldn’t have to worry about danger, at least not immediately.”
“What’s that way?” you ask, indicating the other path with the dead trees.
Archimedes goes quiet for a beat. “That is… it leads to a foggy wasteland, one I seldom venture toward because even I find it unnerving. It’s beyond deathly quiet that way, and from experience, I know it houses several of the… less civil sorts that now live around here. Most are predators, and last I saw, there were three different groups locked in a constant feud between one another over control of that entire portion of the biome.”
“Wait, really?” you say. “I didn’t expect to hear people were fighting here.”
“This realm is an escape for humans that find it,” Archimedes says. “But how they choose to utilize it varies between individuals – some see it as a haven for solitude, others use it to live a wilder life while exploring and making friends, and then,” he shakes his head, “there are those who embrace the darker side of the abilities they gain. There are no laws here, my friend, as I said, and when you give certain people the freedom do what they wish without true punishments… well, you can imagine.”
You nod slowly as you absorb this. “I’ll keep that in mind, thanks. What about due north, beyond the tree you’re, uh, living in? Is it more of the same foggy domain or different?”
Archimedes turns his head almost completely around for a beat. “Oho, wondering about that direction, are we? It’s funny, I don’t get asked what lies forward very often.” His head turns back to you. “It’s the same as what you passed, I’m afraid, at least for a while, but it does eventually open up into a more manageable, visible domain. Except whereas to your left leads to the woodland domain and to your right leads to the, for lack of a better term, ‘deadland’ domain, going straight ahead takes you to a desert.”
“Indeed, indeed,” the owl replies. “You’ll find that the more you go in any direction, the biome will gradually evolve into something new – there are many, many different domains scattered about this realm, including some where the weather is constant, like how this biome is always gloomy and foggy. But, being an owl… that suits me fine.”
“That’s understandable,” you say.
For a moment, you soak in all you’ve learned and heard from the friendly owl, until you feel you’ve grown to comprehend all you’re likely to for the time being, which is enough.
“Thanks for the help, Archimedes,” you say, and you truly mean it. You never expected to get advice from a talking owl the size of a child, but, you’re grateful nonetheless.
“Of course, of course,” Archimedes replies, and he offers you a sincere smile (or the owl equivalent of a sincere smile). “Feel free to return should you wish for a chat, I’m always happy to oblige.” He yawns and returns to the large hole in the tree. “I wish you a safe venture and a safer flight while you’re in a form with wings, my friend.”
You give him a nod of appreciation, and watch as the owl slinks down into the tree. Moments later, the tree trunk begins to turn slowly counterclockwise, the same sound of moving gears and the ground echoing around you – when the tree has returned to its previous position with the sign in front, it ceases moving, and silence falls once more.
I wonder why it makes that noise, you think, but, you shrug it off in the end.
You turn your gaze toward the direction Archimedes has pointed you toward, and although you do question if you have a purpose going this way – or a purpose in seeking out the vixen, Rosha, since you’ve learned a lot from the owl as it stands – you suppose it doesn’t bother you since it’s actually been kind of fun to explore this world.
That said, you do feel you have new options to take into consideration. Namely, those are: do you want to fly now, since Archimedes has said it’s clearer for you to move through the air with your wings, or do you want to keep going on foot at your own pace?
It isn’t a massive deal, you feel, but, either way, you ponder what you wish to do.
Written by Hollowpage on 24 June 2021