Following the Fox II
You give it some thought, and weigh the options to see if anything FEELS best for you to take, since the vixen told you that your own whims may be reflected in this weird realm. That said, you don’t get a sense that one choice is worse or better than the other, so you figure that it might not matter right now (unless the vixen was pulling your leg).
She might be, you admit internally. She did say she was a ‘trickster’ guide, after all.
Plus, a part of your brain reminds you that for all you know, she could be lying entirely about being a guide at all – you’d have no way of knowing if she was being honest or not, since you only just met her, and she was a talking animal… a talking fox far bigger than what foxes should’ve been, too. And even when you add the fact you’re now a humanoid griffin after putting a costume on into the mix, it’s still a possibility, so…
Cripes, you think. What the heck kind of mess have I gotten myself into?
Eventually, you make a choice at last: you decide to go into the tree directly, rather than into the hole-slash-tunnel – at least in the tree, you hope to have a better vision, and you hope for more space to move around in, just in case you end up needing to fly.
Thus, you trek toward the side of the massive tree with the hole that leads into the tree, and as you approach it, you can tell that the interior of the tree is just as gigantic as the tree itself is on the outside – but more than just its sheer, fantastical size, when you step foot INTO the tree, you can’t help stopping and staring with wide eyes at what you see.
Whoa, you think. This is… way bigger and not at all what I was expecting it to be.
The tree’s insides look as if someone went in and carved out… well, you don’t know the right way to describe it. You swear it feels like you’ve stepped foot into a fortress, or a huge home crafted within the tree, or maybe even a dungeon from a video game; all these seem like fitting descriptions to define what lays ahead of you in the tree. It takes a moment for you to glance around and soak in the sights, and to process everything.
You wonder who would do this to the inside of a tree, or how, for that matter. It feels like something of this nature would take months on end for a group of people to achieve realistically, but you recall that it could be this way because of the strange… realm.
Even so, you think. How freaking epic… but it just leaves me with a ton of questions.
Where you entered the tree appears to be a kind of large chamber sort of room – it’s completely hollowed out, as there’s a great deal of space in every direction (except behind you, since that’s where the entrance is, of course), and it’s also completely smooth. The floor (or ground, you aren’t sure which it would be considered?) is mostly solid, soft earth instead of wood, whereas the walls are the inner linings of the tree, but other than a few small holes and divots here and there, it’s devoid of anything else…
Well, anything else but torches.
Wait, torches? You rub your eyes, but no, you’re not seeing things.
There are several rows of lit torches, evenly spread-out as they circle around the walls of the tree – there’s a row on ‘ground level,’ then another a few feet above this, and so on, forming at least five separate rows of torch rings. Altogether, they not only cast a warm glow upon the entire chamber of the tree, but they also illuminate even further above you, where you spot what appears to be another floor far above you. The torches emanate with soft crackling noises, the sort you expect from lit flames, yet they don’t seem to be in any danger of lighting the literal wood from the tree on fire, oddly enough.
Okay, but, how even… You try to wrap your head around this, because it’s just that strange to you. How are there torches inside a tree, let alone so many of them, all lit, all… burning without a care. And how does someone even light the higher ones?
You end up shaking this off, lest you get sidetracked with a hundred questions.
After you come to terms with the torches, you start to move forward. Each step you take casts a very faint echo of the sound made from heavy feet coming down on soft earth, yet besides this and the crackling from the torches, you don’t hear anything else.
At least I can see in here thanks to those torches, you muse. Less fog was nicer…
The immediate ‘chamber’ goes on for quite some time, but you soon notice a few things about it, including the fact in the very middle of the chamber there is a giant circular hole of all things – however, unlike the tunnel you saw outside (which you see no sign of in here), the hole actually appears to lead underground, as you see what amounts to be a winding staircase that goes deeper into the tree. You tentatively pause near the start of the stairs and peer over them, only to find it, too, has torches illuminating the path down.
You step back and wonder if anything – or anyone – lives in the tree. The presence of torches and wooden stairs spiraling downwards into some lower, underground level makes you think of video games where some dungeons would have such a layout, so you naturally wonder if maybe something dangerous lurks within this giant hollow tree.
You then glance around more, because you were fairly sure you also saw…
And you prove to be correct: other than the hole leading downwards, you find there is a wooden staircase far across from you that also leads upwards, likely to the ‘room’ you figure is above this main chamber. But, you also find there are several literal doors carved into the wooden wall of the tree, or at the very least, they look to be actual doors.
It’s giving you the vibes that this is indeed someone’s home, but you don’t see anyone, least of all any sign that the vixen was around here. Plus, it doesn’t FEEL like it belongs to a vixen, even if said vixen can talk and happens to be as big as a full grown wolf.
So then what lives here… you wonder.
Your mind cycles through the various possibilities, based on what limited understanding you have about this bizarre world where costumes turn people into hybrid creatures – the vixen said there were others like her, although you still don’t fully comprehend what she is besides a ‘guide’ for those like you. Perhaps the tree is home to something like the vixen, you think, or, maybe it’s a place where someone like you decided to live?
Trees make you think of birds and woodland creatures like squirrels or chipmunks, or maybe something like a bat. You also consider that a tree could be home to something like a badger, maybe, or a possum or a raccoon – but you don’t put a tree as the home for a fox. Granted, the interior of the tree is humongous, and since the talking vixen was obviously really large, too, you suppose that it could be possible she’d live inside here.
You rub the back of your neck as you ponder this conundrum. You feel lost.
It’s difficult for you to guess what the truth is, but you do recall the vixen saying that in some cases, there may be people wearing these costumes that wish to be left alone.
You halt in place. Mm. And what better spot to be alone then a giant tree, I guess. If I wanted privacy and space to not have to deal with anyone, a huge tree isn’t the worst spot to think of. Then again, you pause to peer about, that doesn’t explain how the tree ended up like this. Unless is looks like this because it’s what the person wants?
It’s still quite confusing for you, and really, whether or not that’s the case, it doesn’t detract from how eerie it feels to be wandering around inside this tree. It’s too quiet, and the presence of lit torches and doors and stairs makes you think too much of a video game where some boss monster is just looming in wait for you to drop your guard…
You swallow the lump that forms in your throat. Do you dare venture onward? You get that, being a griffin, you might not have as much to be afraid of as you think, yet you don’t know your limitations yet, nor do you know what else you’re capable of. You can fly, sure, and you’ve got claws and a beak that you’ve not used yet… but what else?
You may well just be worrying over nothing, yet even so, you want to hold off on automatically traipsing about when you’ve got no clue what lurks within this tree. You could explore, of course, by going through any of the doors or by using either set of stairs (or flying, since there’s space for your wings). Or, you could turn around and go.
I don’t know, you think. You’re leery given how little you really know about this tree.
What to do next… that’s the question. So, you take a moment to think, since you’ve got plenty of choices to pick from, yet you don’t want to rush into making a decision.
Written by Hollowpage on 14 June 2021