A Curious Conversation
You give it some thought and glance around, taking in the different choices you have before you as to how you could potentially proceed – you can go right, left, forward, or even back you suppose, but, then there’s the sign that tells you to knock for ‘help’ of some sort. You frankly don’t know what to expect from this, however, in the end, you decide to give that a shot, and so you do as the sign suggests: you knock on the tree.
At first, after you retract your paw, nothing happens.
Okay, so, I knocked, but… you think. I don’t get it.
And you wait as the quiet lingers. You shift around a little in place, feeling a tad unnerved, yet mostly confused by the lack of anything actually occurring post-knocking.
You frown. Am I supposed to knock again? Or am I not knocking on the right thing?
You look left, then right, then around for a moment to double check every conceivable direction. There’s no sound around you, no indication that something is happening, and you begin to wonder if the sign is a lie or a trick of some sort – you question if you’re just wasting your time or if this is some kind of trap, but before you can start to assume the worst of your decision, you finally hear movement coming from the tree in front of you, and the ground begins to shake a little, too. It’s loud and noticeably rumbling movement, combined with a sound that strikes you as akin to gears moving directly underground?
“What…?” you say.
You step back warily, and no sooner do you step back, you look on in genuine shock as the tree begins to gradually turn clockwise in place, almost as if the whole trunk isn’t even a real tree, but some kind of mechanism – this goes on for about a minute or so as the tree soon reveals a large hole in the back of the tree, one that’s person-sized.
Okay, that’s different, you think.
Then, the tree ceases moving entirely, and the sounds come to a halt, and from the large hole, a figure lazily emerges – it isn’t a person, of course, but rather, it’s a rather large owl. It looks like a horned owl the size of a small child, yet despite the large, round eyes, its eyes seem eerily human-like, just like the large vixen you spoke to earlier…
“Ah, a guest,” the owl says. It speaks with a soft, yet obviously masculine voice, and you detect an air of eloquence to it. The owl yawns and uses one wing to cover its beak, then shakes its head. “My sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you, friend. I was in the midst of a little nap when you knocked, and,” it yawns once more, “ooh, excuse me,” it shakes this away, “and I tend to need a moment to wake myself up.”
You blink for a beat, but, given what you’ve seen already, you suppose it isn’t too shocking to find yourself talking to a rather BIG owl that can speak perfectly as well.
“Oh, erm, that’s fine,” you say. “I kind of assumed it was maybe, um, a trap, or…”
“Oho, no, no,” the owl says. It appears to be more awake now as it gives you a brisk glimpse up and down. “Ah, so you chose the wind path, I see. A griffin costume… it’s been a good long while since I’ve laid eyes on someone that chose one like that.”
That gets your attention. “You know about the room with the costumes?”
The owl nods. “Of course, of course, I know of it, and I know of nearly everyone whom has come this way, whether through interacting with them as I am with you, or by seeing them with my own eyes. Ah, but, where are my manners? I should introduce myself.” It clears its throat, then bows its head to you. “You may call me Archimedes, if you wish.”
“Archimedes,” you say, more to yourself as you register the name. “It’s a pleasure.”
“You didn’t think I would have a name, did you?” Archimedes asks, looking amused. “It’s quite alright if that’s the case – I’m sure you’re still coming to terms with the reality you find yourself in, aren’t you? At the very least,” he pauses to eye you, “you seem to have come across something out of the ordinary, given your reaction to seeing me, yes?”
You nod. “When I first, er… well, when I landed, I guess, I spoke to this really big vixen.”
“Ah… that would be Rosha,” Archimedes says. “She didn’t introduce herself, did she?”
You shake your head.
The owl puffs his feathers up and scoffs with a shake of his head. “That is highly unsurprising. She’s a handful given her fondness for being vague on purpose. I’ll be honest, she can be a pain in the tail feathers if she’s in a tricksy mood,” he rolls his large eyes, “but, she’s far from being one of the… unsavory guardians within this realm.”
“Guardians?” you say, frowning at the word choice used. Then, it dawns on you. “Oh… she mentioned there were guides all around that could help out people like me.”
“Yes, indeed,” Archimedes says. He cocks his head to the side slightly. “Guardians or guides, I suppose either would fit, in a way. The semantics to describe our exact positions here are a tad strange, admittedly. You likely have questions to ask, do you not?” He gives you a look that seems to be the owl equivalent of a smile. “Do feel free to ask what you wish – I shall help as I can, without the vagueness Rosha likes to employ.”
Hearing that delights you. “Thank you.”
The owl gives a nod and waits.
“I guess there’s a lot on my mind,” you say after a pause, because it’s the honest truth when you stop to consider everything you want to ask. “I’m sure there’s stuff you may not know, either, but, are there… are there rules I don’t know about? Regarding what I can or can’t do, regarding what you can tell me, or, I dunno, stuff that sign didn’t say?” You blink. “Oh, I don’t know if you know about the sign. The vixen did, so, I figured…”
Archimedes chortles. “I know the sign you refer of, yes.”
You feel good hearing that much.
The owl goes quiet for a beat and seems to think over your question. He even uses the tips of his wing to stroke at his chin area as if to reflect the fact he’s deep in thought.
“It’s a difficult question to ponder when it’s so broad, I’m afraid,” Archimedes eventually says, “but, to try and give you some semblance of a response: there are rules, I would say, however, those rules are not really ‘concrete’ as they are mere guidelines to take into consideration. The primary rules are the ones you know of regarding your current form and the time limit you must spend within that form, but these are enforced already.”
Archimedes taps his chin a few times. “Now, if you’re speaking about rules for beyond that time limit, then, you ought to know that this,” he gestures to your body with one wing, “can only happen when you are here in this realm, or in a realm similar to this.” He nods along. “If you were to exit this world and return to yours while still wearing this or another ‘costume,’ as you see it, the costume would automatically dissipate, and you would simply be your normal human self until you return here and put the costume on.”
“I see,” you say. “But otherwise…?”
“Nothing else immediately stands out to me as being necessary for you to know,” Archimedes replies, and he speaks earnestly. “I don’t feel you need to be concerned over your own safety or fate, my friend. I feel if there was something of great importance, then I imagine it would’ve been placed on the sign you read when you first entered the area – it would be far too cruel to withhold valued information otherwise.”
You don’t respond immediately to this, because this brings up a few other questions.
Questions about the reality of this strange, magical world you find yourself in, about where it came from (if he even knows), and so on. But, you hold off from going that route, as you recall you were knocking on the tree to get help for where to go – so you take a moment to mull over whether or not you want to keep speaking to Archimedes on the things you’re curious about, or if you’d rather ask his help in what direction to go.
What do you prefer to do next? Archimedes grows silent and waits for you to decide.
Written by Hollowpage on 20 June 2021