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A Voice From the Storm (Closed)

Started by Emily, December 10, 2018, 10:07:16 PM

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Rea

#20
Leeva sat in their mother's branches. They were the only sprite with a mother, since their father had been human. Mother had only ever spoken of him in tones of hurt, her branches quivering, her sap moving thickly within her, making her branches droop down. Leeva did not know a lot, but they had collected enough pieces to put together a story.

Father came into the forest a long time ago. Mother was curious, like Leeva was curious.

Mother had chosen a gender, one to complement him, because she loved him. She'd chosen a form to please him, and it seemed to, for a while.

But then he cut her, and the only way to save herself was to root herself to the ground.
So now she was a tree.

Leeva didn't know more than that. They didn't want to ask Mother, either, although they had been stuck here for hours and were very bored. They supposed, they could break away, if they wanted to, but they didn't want to hurt Mother more.

They remembered just a day ago, they had ventured across the Endless Meadow to the human woman Sine's house. Leeva's leaves fluttered with warm as they thought of her. She was very nice to Leeva, and had taken them back home to the forest when they were scared.

They went to that Dead Place together, but as soon as Sine had stepped foot on the ashen ground, Leeva had stayed behind on the comfortable grass.

Mother was not the only one who warned them of the Dead Places. When they placed their roots in the ground, they could not hear anything from the Dead Place. The earth did not speak, and there were no plants to converse with, either.

They were too frightened to go with Sine. So they waited at the edge.

A human appeared, the crazy man. Leeva wished, wished, wished to get closer, but when they touched the ash, pain shot through their root, and they flinched back.

It was hot, and they could no longer feel the part of the root that touched the ash. It had turned ashen grey, and Leeva's sap became thin, racing through them as they began to cry in terror.

None of the other sprites had been this stupid, so why was Leeva?

"Oi! Sine! Don't ye ken yer nae supposed tae play wi' fire?"


Oh Twigs and Filament! Who WAS this angry human? Leeva had been so busy being terrified they hadn't noticed another human, this one with wild hair and crazy eyes, and a bow and arrow. What could they do?!

Something grabbed them by their strong branch and dragged them into the forest. Leeva was aware of a thump—thump, thump—as the creature loped along. Its long fur tickled their leaves as they clung to it. They giggled, feeling very relieved.

"Bvercp!" they said in Tree. It wasn't out loud, like humans. Sprites and other creatures of the Kingfisher forest didn't need to use words, or noises of any kind. Silence was safer, anyways.

"Dangerous, little one," their friend responded. "Not go outside forest. Must not. Must not."

"I'm sorry," said Leeva, "but I wanted to know what was outside, and then I got lost—I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to hear the forest so well from outside of it."

"Must not, must not," he said, glossing over their explanation.

Well, no one ever said people spoke Tree descriptively. There was no need for curiosity, and therefore, no need for creativity outside of survival. But Leeva was half human. They needed more to stay alive.

Bvercp only stopped after they were both back in deep forest territory, by the trees he liked to roost in. He climbed up with his long, thick, hairy arms, using his opposable thumbs on his hands and feet to easily rise to the knoll almost at the very top.

For a not sprite, he was very good at climbing!

Leeva had thought he always looked slightly human, but hairier.

They'd been friends with him forever.

"Hungry," he said.

Leeva shook their head. They had spent plenty of time rooted and in the sun earlier. "A little thirsty," they admitted.

Bvercp offered them half of a big, rough skinned fruit. The humans called it an Orange. They took it and stuck their rooty fingers into the flesh, absorbing the juice utterly. They offered the dried remains to Bvercp, who took it gladly. He pulled the chewy remnants out and put them between his sharp fangs, his large mouth chomping noisily, lips smacking together as he hummed.

Leeva tried to copy his mouth's movements with their leaves, but they didn't have a real mouth.

I wonder what eating is like?


"Leeva hurt?" Bvercp asked, pointing to the grey patch on their root from the ash.
They looked at it. It hadn't spread. They smacked it against the tree branch they sat on, and the ashen part broke away and fell to the ground like dust. It didn't hurt. They figured that part of them would grow back eventually. They shook their head. "No, I am fine."

"Careful."

They cuddled next to Bvercp's hip. They had never experienced anything like that before, that pain, that burning. It still made them shake, to think of it.

"Must not," Bvercp repeated.

Leeva sat quietly, waving their leaves at his fur, which blew about splendidly. The sugar from the orange was getting to their head, and they began bouncing around Bvercp, extending branch after root to catch themself as they did, giggling madly.

Bvercp laughed at them, a deep, "Hoo, hoo, hoo!"

"LEEVA."

Leeva stopped bouncing around, suddenly feeling extremely guilty.

"Mother, worried," Bvercp said. "Stop worry now. Play later."

"Yes," said Leeva.

And so they'd gone home to their worried mother, who had been terrified, not just because Leeva had left the forest, and she found out from all the other snitching plants, but that once they had left, Mother could no longer feel them nearby.

It made Leeva feel even more guilty. They didn't know that would happen when they left the forest . . .

Trees could feel everything that happened. Of course, they were so old and so slow that getting them to focus enough to tell you anything was a challenge. That Mother had noticed so quickly, and yelled so loudly, proved how scared she'd been. So they sat in Mother's branches, thinking of their adventures, wondering what it all meant, as their mother whispered to them to stay, stay, stay safe.

But . . .

Leeva was already thinking about leaving the forest again.

Luca

Kaegan sat on top of a large fence post at the edges of the town square, squinting at the various villagers passing through, doing chores, business, or some kind of social networking. These were...odd people. Not entirely strangers, he was from the same country as them after all, but rather far away at this point. Everyone's accents were a little different, the way they dressed was a little different...and people acted rather oddly in a way he couldn't describe.

"How many days have we been here?" he thought.

One of the townspeople, who noticed his rather menacing look firing into the square, wandered away from the interaction he was having at a market stall to talk to him. In his arms were three large rabbits that he was trying to contain. Had he just bought them? Was he selling them? Kaegan had many questions and was equally disinterested in all of their answers.

"So, eh...you're with the circus performer? Are you bunch doing a show?" asked the old man with unfathomable levels of lazily trimmed white beard scruff covering the majority of his face. It didn't seem like he talked to many people he hadn't talked to for twenty years beforehand.

Kaegan...slowly...turned his head to face his unwanted conversation partner's rabbits, which were wriggling around in the man's arms to no avail. "No, he just dresses like that," he said flatly.

"Oh..uh, well. That's certainly different! What sort of far away land are you all from now?" his voice had a creak or maybe a whistle that sounded like an old floor board.

"Ustendelle," said Kaegan, seeming to be satisfied with that answer. The old man was locked in a state of endless nodding. He seemed to be expecting something more specific than simply saying the country they were both in. After a few awkward moments, Kaegan sighed. "I'm from Port Erin."

"Oh, that's very good. I bet you're going to be a fine sea faring lad like your father!" replied the man.

"No, it's completely land locked. But my father did say to me one day, "you must be the hero of legend, you're the only one in this village who is remotely attractive" so here I am."

Feeling that the conversation was concluded, or at least Kaegan's willingness to carry on the conversation being concluded, he hopped off of the fence post and wandered a safe distance away from the square.

"How many days have we been here?" he thought again.

Just ahead now was the inn, which he wandered back inside of, as night was beginning to fall anyway. The term "inn" was more than the building deserved. It was a small dinky thing, that happened to be the social gathering point for a handful of the townspeople who sat at a bar in a sunken floor platform some distance through the door. Five rooms, in various states of disarray were tucked in the landing above them.

Kaegan walked up to the bar and sat on a stool looking blankly past the counter to the wall behind. The barkeep at the opposite end of the table stared at the boy for a few seconds before getting up.

"Haven't seen you down here before. Doesn't look like you've come for the lively conversation, how can I help you?" asked the barkeep, sounding a little annoyed at the evening routine being broken up.

"What drinks are you serving tonight?" Kaegan asked plainly.

"Water. The same as it is every night," she responded tersely.

Kaegan looked down the counter at the three other patrons at the opposite end of the table. All of them, too, had glasses of water. He continued staring at the water for some time as if he had missed something in the distance between his eyes and the glasses that would cause this to make sense, but there seemed to be nothing that helped the situation mentally process. Kaegan stood up and walked away.

"How many days have we been here?" he thought. "It feels like a year..."
Next to the inn was the town hall, on the other side of the town hall, was the mayor's residence. That's where Kaegan needed to be right now.

Thwop-twhop-twhop

Kaegan bopped the soft side of his fist on the mayor's door, as you do. And waited like a stone, frozen in place throughout the ages of history. The cooling of the rock from a molten world, continental drift, convection, subduction, formation, emergence and weathering by the elements. A cold darkness falling as the eons saw the sun die and the world wither away to a frozen husk. Some twenty seconds after Kaegan had knocked, the door opened, revealing Eoin, the mayor of Ceadaichte Mòir.

"HelloithasbeenagesisagesisRizalihere" said Kaegan in one massive slur of words followed by a tremendous exhale.

"W-why...yes...Master Kaegan, would you like something to eat?" stammered the mayor with the puzzlement appropriate for conversing with a sixteen year old having a crisis.

Kaegan suddenly stared straight forward. "I will eat," he said in a flat voice. He blinked several times.

"Very good, I'll have Saoirse set aside some of what we had left over. Master Rizali is in the guest room, take the hall to the left and he's in the first door to your right."

Kaegan had no idea who that was, but that sound A-OK. Without waiting for or giving any additional signal, Kaegen moved with demonic speed down the hallway and into the room on the right.


Rizali had spent the better part of the afternoon reading the book he'd received from Síne, spending only a handful of minutes in the mayor's guest room before moving out into the main study area, where he'd wavered back and forth between focused reading and socialising with first the mayor's wife, and then both she and the mayor once he had returned from the day's duties.

It wasn't that the book was boring; the technical aspects of the writing were rigidly academic and prosaic, but the actual content was a font of interest. It was more that he couldn't get the thought out of his head that the way to get them out of here  -how many days have we been here?- was through building a strong relationship with the most influential people in the village. And those people were, primarily, Eoin and Saoirse. It was only once it was nearing evening that the elf returned once more to the room- he could feel certain magical weaves growing... thin, needing to be reinforced.

With very little room for exaggeration, four minutes had passed between the door to the guest room closing and that same door suddenly, and very violently, opening again. None other than Kaegan, the demon of Port Erin himself, stood in the doorway, just in time to see a pale, thin figure turn with shock, fortunately covered by the same robes they'd been wearing before. Now that the hood was down, Kaegan would not only see a long, slender pair of ears that gave Rizali away as an elf, but also a shape and form that would throw many assumptions into contention. "Kaegan what the hell are you doing?!" they asked, before very quickly waving a hand and closing the door behind him.

"WE MUST LEAVE," declared Kaegan attempting to hold open the door as though an incomprehensible force of nature might shut it and delay this request another minute. Alas, it closed anyway, scooping him into the room.

"Oh we definitely need to leave, this place is weird and I don't like it," Rizali replied, walking quickly over to the writing desk at the far wall and flipping their journal to approximately the halfway point. They produced a small bag of spell materials from the top drawer, then dropped a pinch of salt into their right palm.

"How did you know that food was coming?" asked Kaegan, entirely unaware of anything that required both salt *and* books.

"Saoirse is bringing food?" they asked, speeding up the ritual. If Kaegan was entirely unphased by their appearance, that was a small relief, but the same could not be counted on for farmers. With very quick, precise motions, Rizali spread the salt around their palm into a star shape, clapped their left palm against it, and then slid their palms apart. In that instant, he was the same Rizali that Kaegan had met before, and pulled up his hood. It wasn't a perfect weave, but it would get him through the night. "Why would you ever have one of them come in here when we have to talk about how to get out of here right now?!"


"There's a window?" said Kaegan. It was more of an observation than a recommendation for departure.

"That's a great idea, we can escape out the window and go talk about this in the tavern over a nice, calming cup of water."

"Okay, so let me stop you right there. I think there's something up with the water that makes everyone...like they are"

"That's a grand theory, have you brought it up with Lyndh yet?" Rizali's tone probably carried his sarcasm.

Kaegan mentally steeled himself for the question at hand. Took a deep breath of air and calmed himself to answer, in the most impassioned way he was able.

"No."

Rizali's eyes narrowed. "That's probably fine, then. There are two ways this can go, and I want your help deciding. Either we can go right now in the night, make camp a few kilometres into the woods, and then have a head start before anyone notices we're gone, or else we can wait until morning and possibly be stopped or pursued by these insane people. Both have their upsides, obviously; leaving in the morning means we have sunlight for as long as it lasts, but leaving at night means we might not end up disembowelled and at the bottom of a well."

"You did hear me say 'WE MUST LEAVE' right?"

"Oh yes, it was very big and dramatic, a fantastic icebreaker."

"Well, it's not like we haven't met before."

It was in this moment that Rizali realised Kaegan hadn't noticed what he'd walked in on. That was probably for the best. "You make a good point. Still, very big and dramatic, along with the door opening. Good work. So your vote is for tonight then?"

"WE MUST LEAVE," said Kaegan, bright eyed and full of the optimism of existing in a location that was not subject to rabbit man.

At that exact moment, a soft knock came at the door. Saoirse's voice resonated through the wood, "I have your food ready, Kaegan."

Rizali glared at his travelling companion and mouthed 'WE MUST LEAVE'. He then put on a happy smile, walked to the door, and opened it. "Thank you so much, Saoirse. Kaegan will be right out to enjoy that, we were just planning out our day tomorrow. Be only a minute." He gently closed the door, then turned back. "Okay, do we nab Cathal from wherever he's staying?"

"Who? Look, the last person that I talked to was a hobo who ran at me with a knife? I don't think we can take any chances."

"Very well, then let's do this right. I can do this with two people, but no more I'm afraid." Rizali tied the bag of ritual items to his belt, slipped his journal into one of the inner pockets of his robes, threw a larger bag over one shoulder, and grabbed Kaegan by the wrist. "Are you ready to leave at this very second?"

"I have literally no possessions in this world that I am not holding," Kaegan said appearing both dressed and empty-handed.

"I hope you're holding onto them tightly, then." Rizali said, closing their eyes for a moment before the world shifted around them both. Suddenly, they were in front of Lyndh, who was standing outside the inn. He was the only person outside, almost as if he had wanted to escape it all, which also benefited the pair that had appeared out of the shadows. "Lyndh, are you ready to leave at this exact moment?"

The barbarian grunted happily, shouldering his kora sword. The inn was close to the edge of the forest, which meant the walk wasn't too far. Before entering the forest, where he was mildly afraid that his magic wouldn't work properly anyway, the mage turned and wove a timed spell with the arm not holding his bag. When he was next able to appreciate it, Cathal would understand that Rizali had given him a mental map of where they were going and a heading leading him directly to them. But only if he wanted to use it.

"Alright, I have no more ties to this village, let's go," he said, turning back to his party.

Emily

The trees were thick as they passed into the wood, but not so thick as to block the light of the moon. Rizali imagined it had something to do with the habitual forestry of Ceadaichte Mòir, and that as they ventured deeper, light might become a distant memory.

The group passed silently through the night until the lights of the village could no longer be seen, when Rizali turned to them, lowering his hood and enjoying the feeling of air once again on his ears. "Now that we're out of there," he looked to the trees around them. "I suppose there are a few things we need to figure out. The village didn't have much in the way of travelling supplies, so we couldn't have been any more prepared than we are now, but I'm still concerned. As long as magic can still be woven within this place, I can keep us protected while we sleep, but I'm not entirely sure what to do about food."

He looked up at the trees surrounding them: tall, majestic, and full of life. Furthermore, there were no visible low branches that could be easily broken. A breeze came through at that moment, causing him to add, "Or warmth."

Kaegan stood in place, his eyes passing over the forest canopy. "It's not as if we're lacking things to burn..." His face remained slightly green from the travel through the whatever just happened, and the nausea competed with his desire to not seem at all bothered, although it wasn't a fully convincing display.

Rizali nodded, only seeming to half pay attention, as he pulled another component from the bag at his waist. He held it out to Kaegan, a small leaf that looked and smelled of spearmint. "Suck on this, it'll help with the after-effects of the spell. See, my main concern is a fire getting out of control, if we could light one in the first place. I don't see any dead branches on the ground."

Kaegan idly accepted the leaf and began chewing immediately. "I'm not sure that's such a bad thing right now," he mused.

"Perhaps." The elf seemed thoughtful, "Shall we spread out and search for dead branches? I'm sure there must be something nearby, even if the trees here are young."

Lyndh grunted an affirmation, then walked off deeper into the trees with a right-leaning tilt. For a moment, it was only Rizali and Kaegan standing together, until the elf shook his head. "Stupid old man. Here, take this." He moved his hands slightly, then cupped them together, and a small light floated out, attaching to Kaegan's hand.

Kaegan idly accepted the light and began chewing immediately. "This one doesn't taste as good..."

Rizali stared, wondering when they had switched roles and he had become the straight man of this comedy duo. "Huh," he said, then crafted another ball of light that stuck to the back of his hand. "Anyway, I'm going to go off in search of dead branches to the left. You go straight ahead into the woods, and we'll meet up when we find something? Then we'll make camp later on."




Kaegan blinked for a moment and began to wander forward into the wood. His mouth was beaming with an unknown light enchantment, the back of his head illuminating his posterior. The glow was actually less helpful than he had thought at first. His lit up cheeks blinded most of his vision with red. Finding any dead branches was going to be dificult-ish like this, he thought. With any luck the other two would have gone off and found three days worth of branches and have done everything up for him by the time he returned. Or was found, or something.

He stopped wandering. It was really rather dark now. He smiled and the light of seemingly five suns poured out of his teeth. The forest was now quite bright in the area immediately in front of him. Alas, there were no dead sticks or branches to be found here. Odd. Something about this forest felt like it defied reason.




Rizali watched Kaegan leave, shaking his head. It was a strange experience, travelling with Kaegan. The boy bounced between detached seriousness and all-out slapstick at a worrying rate. Regardless, he had a few things he needed to do while he was out here, and it would be better to accomplish them alone than when worrying about anyone else. They dropped their glamour and wandered deeper into the woods, directly away from the village, using their light to illuminate the path and to help them avoid any roots.

They walked to one of the trees, placed their hand on it, and closed their eyes. A great energy flowed through it, pure life and magic. In a serene whisper, they said, "Adahl urbeshalin, sathan sul'amas me an vir." Young one, please share with me a path. It was one of the ancient rituals of his people, back when the elementals lived beside them.

The tree was very young, not even twenty years since it had last been felled, but its roots were ancient. As they breathed in the night's air, Rizali too breathed in the knowledge the tree shared. It showed them where branches were nearby, but it also showed them how the children of the forest navigated, shared with them landmarks they needed to remember, and warned them of things unseen. In return, they shared with it some secrets of Elahána, the rituals handed down from those who had come before, the whispers of the trees. It took from them the images of their memory, and the two thanked one another.

The elf, feeling more at peace than he had in a long time, wove together another long-glamour, appearing back in the male character they had crafted. He knew where some of the branches nearby were, at least, and Kaegan would likely have developed a hell of a headache from keeping that light in his mouth.




"Kaegan," the elf said, approaching the boy a few minutes later with an arm full of dead branches, "let's go. Lyndh is itching to move." He waved a hand and the light inside Kaegan's mouth dissipated.

Kaegan felt significantly less important, but somehow much more equipped to see beyond the end of his nose. "where did you even get all of that?" he asked.

The elf shrugged, one of the branches from the top of the pile falling onto the ground. As he knelt to try and pick it up, two more fell. He groaned. "Ugh, can you get those? Thanks, I'll craft another light for you when we get back to Lyndh. I think he might have been seen. Anyway, he found all of it. I don't know how."

Kaegan blinked repeatedly "Might have been seen? Might have been seen by what?" he began looking around him and into the canopy of the forest looking for things that might have eyes.

"A villager, most likely. They definitely noticed we've left by now, and I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of them have come into the woods to look for us." The two were walking back in the direction of Lyndh now, who was carrying a pile of branches three times as large as the one Rizali carried. "It's hard to explain, anyway, we should keep going. Kaegan, lead the way."

A ball of light appeared in the Kaegan's hand again. After about thirty minutes of walking deeper into the forest, the group found themselves in a large clearing. There were traces on the ground of townspeople having possibly once camped in this area, but they had been faded by the elements in the time since then. A stone circle making up the outline of an old firepit remained off to their right. Kaegan stopped walking. "Behold I have led us to safety."

"Good work," Rizali said, walking over to the empty firepit and dropping his armful of sticks and branches in with a sigh of relief. He stretched his arms behind his back, then brushed the dead flecks of bark and leaf off of his robes. Lyndh sat his wood to one side of the camp with a grunt and left to take care of some business.

The elf looked to Kaegan, then back to the unlit wood. "Do you know how to... I never really learned the whole flint and steel thing."

Kaegan stared down at the pile of wood and tilted his head to the side. "Well. It's complicated," he said and picked up a nearby rock. He placed it under the pile of brambles and removed his rusty dagger that was once wielded by the late Local Emperor, Herbert Wallace. Kaeagan held the dagger firmly with both hands, considering the angle of approach, the strength, the intensity, the technique that would be used here.

He swung randomly at the rock maybe two dozen times, as sparks flew into the brush pile. Some of them stuck an embedded themselves in the branches dumped haphazardly into the pit. Eventually, they began to smoulder and caught fire.

"Nice work, you'll have to teach me that sometime," Rizali said. "Now I'm pretty sure I learned this spell correctly, I only looked it up when I knew there'd be camping, so this is... without any practice."

The elf closed his eyes and appeared to concentrate. With small hand movements, almost as if he was making shapes out of string wrapped around his fingers, he gestured to the four compass points of the camp, and then opened his eyes. "I think we'll be alerted if anything that isn't the three of us comes within a few metres of the camp." He sat down near the fire, pulling his robes close. "Still, I think that we should take watch shifts tonight."

Kaegan picked up a rock and tossed it a metre behind Rizali.

Rizali turned and looked at it, then looked back to Kaegan. He seemed to concentrate, trying to notice anything, then sighed. "I'll take first watch, then. Stupid spell."

Very proud of his own success, Kaegan went to bed immediately.

Rea

#23
They had never truly understood the meaning of sleep. Trees never slept, only Went Away, and their mother was a tree, father was a human.

So how did Leeva sleep?

Truthfully, it was mostly getting lost in their thoughts until they lost track of time or boredom. They never really lost track of their surroundings.

Still they sat in Mother's branches. There wasn't much interesting in the forest, and all of their friends were the type to Disappear for very long periods of time and desire much alone time between visits. There was always Bvercp, but he was likely asleep this time of night. It was night.

Humans have entered the wood.

The whispers brought Leeva back to the present. They raised their head branches. Humans? In the wood? they asked.

The forest answered, foolish, foolish. There was laughter in the leaves.

Knowing they wouldn't get any more detail than that, Leeva leapt from her mother's arms and dashed through the underbrush.

Where are they? Leeva inquired as they leapt around and under exposed roots of their kin.

Too far. Too far. Some laughed at the humans' misfortune, while others chanted with a kind of hunger,

Still awake, but once asleep,
their souls forever we will keep


Foolish, foolish, said the less bloodthirsty ones.

Leeva suddenly wondered if perhaps it was Sine. The woman was terrified of the forest, but had she maybe come here to see if Leeva was safe?

That was terrifying.

I'm fine as long as I'm in the forest!

They sped through the woods faster, to save Sine, if that's who it was, trying to locate the humans through the ground with every touch of their roots in the soil. It was difficult to do while running so quickly.

Leeva. Come back.

I'm sorry, Mother.

Leeva . . .

They focused on the way ahead, rather than behind, and their mother's voice faded.

A light ahead.

A human light.

Fire, said the willows.

Fire, came the angry growl from the oak grove.

They bring fire. Now even the somber trees were offended.

Who gave them branches? Leeva thought, Who provoked the bloodthirsty ones? But it was impossible to know whose laughter was the most impish, and nobody spoke about the troublemaker. Leeva stopped several yards away from the camp, watching the flickering gold light thoughtfully. They waited for more information from the trees, but the trees around the camp were eerily silent. They stepped to one ten feet from a tent, and placed their roots on the tree's bark. Who is there?

Curious youngling, the tree responded.

Why are you being silent? The rest of the forest is alive with laughter and haughtiness.

There is one who can speak to us.

Someone who could speak to the forest? Leeva wondered. But one the forest didn't trust, so from outside the forest . . . Leeva had never known anyone born outside the forest who could speak to the trees. The tree grew weary of their questions, but Leeva had one more.

Who are they?

We do not know. We are silent.

Leeva took away their roots. They jumped up to the nearest branch, then went as high as they could and stepped out lightly to the edge of it, staring down into the camp. There was a figure sat by the fire, illuminated in orange. Leeva slipped down to a lower branch, and then another.

Careful, careful, the forest whispered to them.

Leeva stopped. They were within just a few yards of the camp now. Of course the trees didn't tell them what to be careful of, so they had to look intently for several moments before they noticed the blue light. It was faint, and surrounded the camp like a bubble.

What is this? Leeva thought, regarding it. They turned their leaves side to side at it, but it didn't seem dangerous. It seemed quite silly, actually, and it reminded them of a tiny sapling trying to keep their mother away with their consciousness when they didn't want to Go Away. It was a spell, and it was rather ineffective, so Leeva dropped to the next branch with a laugh.

The figure below didn't move.

Leeva had sort of hoped they would, but the warning spell was woefully insufficient. The person may be able to speak to the forest, but they obviously had no idea how it actually worked. Still, it was charming that they tried. Or Leeva felt so. Satisfied there was no danger at all, Leeva stared at the hooded figure with burning curiosity. They sent their consciousness through the tree and underground, until it reached up right under the figure's feet and poked their boot soles.

The figure stirred, moving their feet away as if startled.

Leeva's roots fluttered and then froze in a gasp. They really can feel the forest! But wait, was it a fluke? Was it me they responded to or were they just moving? Their sap flowed so quickly through their veins they thought they might burst into flames--a common Tree expression, exaggerated in Human fashion. This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me! Did you feel it? Did you see where it came from? They wondered at the figure, but not in communication. I wasn't hiding. Did you tell where I am? They hugged the branch in anticipation, blue eyes peering down, waiting to see if the figure tried to reach out, to find and speak to them.

Emily

#24
Lyndh had fallen asleep first, living up to his reputation as a fearless wildman by being entirely at peace no matter his surroundings. After setting up the tent, he had laid on the grass inside and it felt like only an instant before his breathing had slowed. Kaegan had stayed up for a while longer, staring at the light of the flames creating monsters and strange shadow-puppets on the branches that intertwined above them. As he entered the tent, he had turned back to look at the elf, then toward the perimeter where he had thrown the rock, then back to the elf again. "You know, your magic really lived up to my expectations."

Rizali had spent the next few hours leaning against a tree with his book of notes open in his hand. He had written the magical formula exactly as it had appeared in the tome, had read it again and again on the trip out here, only to have it fail on the very first cast. It was aggravating, but he knew he wouldn't get the exact weaves of the spell down without practice. And they should have plenty of time for that.

He also spent some time recording the things the tree had said to him. He sketched the images of specific trees and ruins that the group would need to see if they were to cross through unscathed. He also wrote down some of the threats they would hopefully not come across. He sincerely hoped they could avoid harming any of the life of the forest; even if it was corrupted or grown through hostile magic, he had a bad feeling in his gut when it came to the thought of desecrating something he had been raised to think of as sacred.

When he had been attending the Inverted Spire, he had found a small grove of trees in Coxarif, one of the many public parks. It was one of his favourite places to study, when he had something that he could justify taking from the school grounds. Sitting beneath one of the massive, ancient oaks of the city with a book on his lap was one of his most treasured memories. Much like how sitting in an old library gives the feeling of being surrounded by all the knowledge of the ancients, so too did sitting in a forest give Rizali the feeling of being surrounded by all the knowledge of the natural world, a place where he belonged.

As his eyelids started to droop  -perhaps he had pushed his sleepless nights as far as they could reasonably be pushed-, the images of his time in that little grove began to distort and shift, carrying him into memories from home, the home he had left behind when he was still so young. The deepest reaches of the forest were so ancient that they made even where he now sat seem quaint. The trees there had been privvy to the changes in the air as the humans first tamed fire, as they settled and changed their surroundings to suit them better. They had known the elves as infants, remembered as they entered the safe domain of the forest. Some of them remembered even when the elementals who had come before were still young.

Their older brother, Radavur, was there, flowing black hair and the sharpest blue eyes possible. Their father had said once that his only regret was that he wasn't the eldest son, because Radavur was the best hope for the House of Air to become important again. Politics would keep him from taking his rightful place, and that was unfortunate. But Radavur didn't care; he was joyous, serene. Perfect. He had taken Rizali when they must have been no older than eight, into the forest. Holding them by the hand, he had explained all the things he had been taught. "Asa'ma'lin," he had said to them, the only one in the family they hadn't resented for calling them that, "dianas mar'inan."

They followed his instruction, feeling the world of sight close off to them as they did.

"Odheas, sildearas elvalaslin ar syl, siu'odhe d'lin'adahl. Ahn tu sildearas?"

"Durlahn," they had replied.

"Da'lan, fenoris tu var lethal. Sal me, sal babae. Sal savis babaela.  Felgaras tu soun, felgaras tu adahlen mith'ma, harthas tu is'el lah." He laughed, quietly, to himself. "Ni brithavanthe var vi'ssan'allem melahn felgaras pan ag na lein."

They felt a tickle on their foot, and a flash of excitement passed through them. "Silan sildearan!" they said.

Another tickle on their foot jostled them awake, and they shuffled backward, as shocked by having fallen asleep as the experience of being woken up. As the cobwebs of sleep escaped his mind, Rizali pulled his feet back and began to look around. He took a breath, held it for five seconds, then slowly released it, forcing his heart rate to slow. He placed a hand against the tree behind him, breathed in, and felt something they hadn't experienced since they'd left Elahána, when they'd met with the elementals of the other families. The presence of something that was not human, and was not elven. Their eyes lit up, the excitement sinking into their bones.

They first reached out in a whisper, not wanting to wake the people in the tent. "Vhallas me an elgar'adahl?" Is that a forest spirit welcoming me?

Casimir

#25
Wherein one encounters strange folk, and a glance of torchlight catches one's eye.


As Ramår was brushing through the tall grass of the plains, they suddenly noticed a wisp of golden smoke rising above from behind a mound yon northward, in striking contrast with the darkness of the night sky.
As they were eager to find shelter ere long, they started towards the source of the smoke with haste. As they approached it, they espied torchlights carried by people resembling hillsfolk and setting directly for the forest.

Wary of approaching the woods again, their wind having been put up by their first encounter with its edge, they elected to remain near the village, rather than go after the people nearing the forest; but they wouldn't enter the village either, as the burgh's people, they noticed, were nothing like themself. They were unusually tall for hillsfolk, and their skin was dark; they burned birch bark to make crude tar, their beer was made of barley, and the wood of their houses had been stripped of its bark, which reminded Ramår of a West Tsunna saying:

   'Only Hillsfolk, black and dark, ever strip an oak-tree's bark.'

Feart of faring near a village alight with such unkept fire (as the Tsunnas have a fear of flames over all else), and afraid of the people who might dwell there, Ramår stealthily made their way towards the village's wood pile, hiding in the grass behind the mounds, seeking to discern what those torch-wielding people were doing in the nightly forest.


The village's wood pile was kept nigh from the forest, since the townsfolk seemed to thrive on the harvest of timber from the woods' edge. They hid behind some birch-tree trunks as a party of lumberjacks passed close to them, having felled some mountains' worth of timber and bringing it back in the still of night. The lumberjacks, who had been soaking in taverns all evening, had a few hearty laughs as they carried the hefty trees past Ramår.

   Aye, sure, Fishie's bound tae have trouble getting am trees back up by mornin' so! one of them said.
   —Aye, Siànoin, sure we'll be faine laike! T'ain't laike we had'nt have rent more so 'afore!
   —Yae, she'll grow back sure, does every naight, can ever be done 'bout it nothin.


After eating some birch-bark from the felled trunks near them, Ramår recognised that they were beyond the unnatural, linear border of the woods. Their tiredness and the smoke surrounding them dulling their instincts, they neglected to hasten back into the plain, wierdly not experiencing the same visceral, instinctive reaction as in their first encounter. As they had been moving towards the forest, they had noticed the torchlight fading out of sight. Though their first instinct had been to hurry after them, their second one had been to stay and wait for the lumberjacks to leave, so as not to cause any trouble. When at last Ramår could come out of hiding, the light had long fallen out of sight, and their memory was too clouded to accurately recall whither they had gone.


Managing to muster enough courage to try and go deeper into the forest to follow the torch-wielding hillsfolk despite their tiredness and thirst, Ramår hasted into the brush, and came to a grove of oaks, the middle of which was a circular clearing with a faerie ring at its center. They looked around but, despite their eyes being accustomed to the forest's darkness, they could not manage to pierce the dense foliage to spot the orange light of the torches. They resolved to consult their enchiridion, wherein one could find a pharmacopeia, a concise handbook of botany, and advice concerning foraging and life in the wild. They tore out a few of the tome's pages, the title of the first of which was:

   'Whither one goes, when lost, to find their hearth.'

They quickly skimmed over the first few paragraphs, marveling at the phosphorescence of the lichen-paper which allowed for reading in the deadest of night.

   Aye, there she is. Sure the night's deep enough to find them. Nae where can I find a low branch, so?

After a bit of searching around, they found a branch low enough for them to climb on. Fighting to keep their balance, they managed to summon enough strength to carve some horizontal scotches to use as grips. They steadily made their way to the top of the oak, then paused for a moment and tried to pick up the smell of the torches' smoke nearby.

   Oth, that damn tar's too smoky to taste any other than ash here, 'tis so.

The smell of the torches' smoke being thwarted by that of the burning birch-sap, they sat down, their faint resolve at last dying out.

Then as they sat there, astride a branch, they noticed a glance of golden light, much like the one they had seen leaving the village not so long before. They jumped to their feet, and jumped from tree to tree to catch up with the light. A young and dynamic, yet unexperienced sylvan, they eventually fell through a piece of particularly dry foliage. They noticed some charred, cooled embers on the ground, and signs of a party of folk passing by. Now detecting the smell of smoke more particularly, they hastened through the brush, following the trail of ash, until at last they could espy, a few steps away from them, what seemed like a peculiarly sundry company of woodsfolk.
that is not dead which can eternal lie;
and with strange æons even death may die.

Rea

When the figure placed their hand on the tree, Leeva felt them. They seemed very curious, and alien. They had thought it was only humans here, but this person was . . . different. At first Leeva wasn't sure if they were intentionally sending their energy out, but then the figure spoke—

—In a language Leeva wasn't sure they understood.

They shook their head. They understood, but not exactly the words, because words weren't the meaning. They had expected the person to speak in Human, not Tree.

THEY REALLY CAN SPEAK TREE!!

There was one thing Leeva knew. This person wasn't dangerous to them. They collected their roots and swung under the branch they perched on, lowering themself until they hung right next to the person down below.

Leeva stared at the figure curiously from the blue lights of their consciousness. Their face was almost translucent, but strong featured, a forehead tattoo. In a way, it almost felt like they weren't there at all, or as if the tiniest wind could blow them away. It was like they had Gone Away, the way trees do.
Leeva changed the blue color of their consciousness to match the other's gray eyes, and instinctively shaped their branches and leaves into a humanoid face like the one they were examining. It was shaped differently from the humans they'd met. Pretending to use their new mouth, they spoke to the person, experimentally, quietly, "Hello."

"Hello," he responded, seeming unconcerned about this meeting.

"Who are you?" they asked curiously.

"My name is Rizali Corvus," he said. "I'm a mage from east of the forest. I apologise if our fire has caused upset or stress, I sought permission beforehand."

Leeva tilted their head. So they had heard the other trees. How much did they understand, though? "They're just nervous, they don't know you very well." Leeva dropped to the ground, briefly severing their Tree connection. They stood on their branches and looked up at the towering person who called himself a mage. Leaves sprouted from Leeva's head and other branches and fluttered over each other until they formed a hood around their head, and a cape, similar to the one Rizali wore, but in ridiculous miniature. "You're not human."

Suddenly Leeva remembered their manners. "Oh! I'm sorry. My name's Leeva." If they were human, they would have blushed. "Everybody knows everybody here. Inter, iteno, inroductorty . . . anyway, learning people's names is new to me."

They couldn't help but think Sine would be disappointed in them . . . but happy that they eventually remembered!

"Hmm," the mage said, seeming to think a little deeper about what had happened before. "I certainly apologise for making them nervous. I'm not human, no, I'm an elf. My people live in a forest far away from here, and have for a very long time. Everyone knows everyone else there as well, and the trees have grown to trust us. It was thoughtless of me to assume the same familiarity here. Anyway, it's nice to meet you, Leeva."

Leeva had never thought of another forest existing anywhere else. Or did he mean the same forest, but far away? There were definitely parts of the Kingfisher Forest they didn't know about. "Th-there are other forests in the world? Really?"

He seemed to get excited, leaning forward as he continued. "Oh yes, absolutely. The area around this forest is actually quite strange, because it has no trees. Once you travel a little way, forests start appearing again, including the one I came from on the far end of this country!"

The way his face lit up as he spoke of other forests made Leeva like him a lot. Surely they could trust somebody who loved forests this much? They let the message flow through their roots and through the ground to the rest of the forest. Then they said, in a wondering voice, "I'd like to see them someday." They felt the disapproval of their mother at the edge of their mind. Without thought, they scurried right next to Rizali's boot, considered, then jumped up to his shoulder, where they could speak without the forest hearing Leeva's thoughts. They covered both shoulders with their size. "You really shouldn't trust just any old tree here, you know."

"Why's that?"

"We ARE protecting something. We're not exactly trying to bring people inside. Some of us are more bloodthirsty than others, and most of the trees are so old or young they don't care anymore, but there is still much of the forest that won't want you here. A tree here might shelter you with its branches as its roots upturn your house."

"Fortunately we're not planning on living here," he laughed. "I anticipate we will cause as little fuss as possible as we travel to the other side. And I hope we reach that other side quickly."

Leeva sighed. He didn't get it. The trees didn't want them to find the other side, either. But that was alright. They leapt from his shoulder and landed on the ground again. "Just remember, every night before you sleep, find a tree who is friendly and shelter beneath them. They'll protect you from the other trees."

"I promise that I will." He leaned back against the tree once more. "So tell me about you, Leeva. What was it that brought you here? How are you able to move around but also communicate with the trees?"

"I heard the trees say there were humans in the woods, and, well, I thought it might be my friend Sine, coming to check on me, and I didn't want her to be hurt, so I came to see and take her home." They looked down sadly. "But it's not her." They brightened with a bit of confusion. "But that's a good thing, isn't it? She's safe! And besides, you're very nice." They fluttered their leaf cape happily, then started.
"Oh! And I can talk to any trees, better nearby, as long as there is earth between us." They reached a branch out and tapped his boot. "That's why I was able to tickle your root." They giggled.

Perhaps if they'd been connected to the forest outside the camp, they would have noticed or been warned of the impending traveler barreling through the tree branches like an ape.

As it was, Leeva didn't know about them until suddenly there they here, having burst out of the bushes to stand just a few feet from them.

The warning spell had, alas, failed again.

Leeva's response was to immediately find the tallest tree next to them, which just happened to be Rizali's head, eliciting a startled cry from him, but from there they jumped into the tree and hid in the tallest branches.

It was only when they felt safe in the company of the entire forest that they considered that poor Rizali was all alone at the base of the tree with the—

—well, the whatever whomever whichever it was.

They slowly lowered to the lowest branch again, wondering what on earth had just happened. The stranger and Rizali faced each other.

"Who are you?" Leeva asked the stranger.


People from outside the forest live with such surprise and suddenness! Sheesh!

Luca

#27
After falling asleep in the grass outside the tent, as you do, Kaegan awoke to the sound of distant rustling. Like leaves being driven out of the way by some kind of wind, or perhaps a mad, rushing boar. At first, Kaegan wasn't sure if perhaps he had been imagining it, after all he was in a new magical forest where anything could happen -- and wasn't quite, himself, awake. But this sound seemed to be legitimate. It persisted, but it was too consistent to be the wind. Woosh-woosh-woosh-woosh, it grew louder and louder. At last, it came to a crashing sound of tree branches being battered out of the way by a frantic hand or foot. Suddenly, a man burst through the tree line, clad in animal hides. He had clearly been running for at least three days.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm Scottish," he said before turning in the opposite direction and running with the same frantic speed.

"Ok, thanks," said Kaegan, who was not.

Emily

Riza woke up to notice two things: first, a single, unbroken stream of light was shining through the canopy and directly into their eyes. Secondly, Lyndh was standing over them hoisting that giant sword over his shoulder and staring suspiciously at them. It was an interesting experience, seeing tiny eyes over the edge of that gigantic bush of a moustache. Riza raised a hand to shade their eyes and grunted. "What?"

Lyndh grunted back, then pointed. Sitting up, Riza looked in the direction to find that a small pack of squirrels had crossed the line of where the wards should have caught them. The warrior snorted, then laughed loudly and walked away. Riza stood up, glaring after him. "Yeah yeah, okay fine the ward didn't work." They took a moment, attempting to shake some of the leaves from their hair, but found it wasn't working. And that's when they noticed Kaegan standing in the middle of some nearby trees looking confused. Well, if it wasn't literally everyone waking up before the person keeping watch. They approached Kaegan and looked in the same direction he did.

Kaegan continued looking out into the forest, unmoved. Passionlessly, he said "That guy was Scottish." He turned to Riza, "I guess he thought we should know."

The mage looked at Kaegan, then back out in the direction of where he'd been looking. "Yeah yeah, okay fine the ward didn't work."

Kaegan tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes. "Was it a ward against the Scottish?" he asked blankly.

"Primarily," Riza replied, "but I was hoping to keep out other evil spirits as well."

"Well, it seemed like a friendly evil spirit. I guess, considering we're not dead. Or stew."

Rizali began tearing down the tent while they talked. If evil Scottish spirits were about, they better make good time. "They always do, until they pick you up and throw you across a field. Some kind of competition, to see who can throw a person the farthest. Or they'll make you into stew, yeah. One of the two."

"Yeah. One of the two," Kaegan replied. He continued to stare into the woods in the direction the strange individual had both come and gone. Were it not for the large human-sized hole in the foliage, one could make the case that he had made up the event entirely.

"Hey Rizali?" Kaegan asked. "What are the Scottish?"

Riza stopped in the middle of attempting to collapse one of the little pole things that never seem to work properly, and looked into the middle distance. "I have no idea, but they sound scary. What do you think they are?"

Kaegan began to look for this things to pick up and start taking onward in the journey, but seemed to realise quickly that he arrived with nothing and would be departing in the same manner. "I don't know. He seemed like a normal person who just talked weird."

"This fucking," Rizali pushed the plastic thing to the side just as Lyndh came around to do it for him. How lucky to have someone else to do the narrative necessities while Riza and Kaegan talked. "Anyway, yeah I guess he might have just been someone from the village? Or some kind of crazed hermit. Did he have any crows with him?"

"Nope," Kaegan responded. "No clothes neither."

"Oh wow. Huh, how about that. We should probably keep going. I don't think we'll keep finding random people further into the forest, hopefully. Did he say anything else?"

"No. Also your big guy's done. He's a lot faster at that than you are."

Rizali looked over to see Lyndh had completed folding up the tent, and was carrying it over one shoulder like a pack. "Huh. You know, Kaegan, I wonder if Lyndh might be Scottish. It's been on my mind ever since I learned what Scottish people were two minutes ago."

Kaegan blinked a moment and considered the implications of the designation, then he said simply "Can't be, he's wearing clothes."

"Damn, you're right. Oh, by the way, did you happen to see any tree people?"

"Like Lyndh?" asked Kaegan blankly.

"Wha- no, like a person but made of wood."

"Like Lyndh?" asked Kaegan blankly again.

"What do- Kaegan, I don't think you're taking this seriously. I'm asking you if you saw a tree person."

"Like Lyndh?" asked Kaegan blankly again-again.

"I had the strangest dream last night."

"About the tree people..."

"Yes, exactly, about the tree people. I dreamt one came into the camp and asked such strange questions. Either it really happened and I fell asleep mid-conversation, which would be embarrassing, or I dreamt it. Dreamed it? Dreamted it?"

Kaegan inspected the camp for people other than the three of them, but they did indeed appear to otherwise be alone. "Well, they're not here right now, I guess," he responded.

"It must have been a dreamt then, that's good to know. Is there anything else you want to do in this part of the forest?"

"Leeeeeave it?" Kaegan blinked. As if the strangeness wasn't bad enough, it would clearly take more mental strength and patience to endure this place if Rizali wanted to come up with any other activities than just getting to the other side.

"That sounds like a great idea. Then we should make like a tree and leaf immediately."

Luca

"Kaegan, wait up for a minute, my shoe got caught on a leaf," Rizali said, attempting to catch up. The pair had been wandering for at least several minutes after what they'd come to call "The Scottish Incident," and were now, as ever, in the woods. The leaf Rizali had caught their foot upon was one of significant size and mass, at least the size of three leaves. No, four.

"You can't fool me again, shapeshifter," said Kaegan who had unstuck Lyndh from Rizali posing as a leaf on more than one occasion. Walking through the eternal and endless forest was sure starting to feel less like a figure of speech from unambitious explorers and more like a literal description handed out by more knowledgeable individuals with every passing moment. Fallen branches and foliage passed under foot, but still the forest found the capacity to give way to more.

"This would be easier if you," Rizali grunted as their cloak caught on another branch, "just took some time to enjoy this. You refused to do the alphabet game, which would have been easy enough, so I have to find something entertaining to do." The alphabet game, of course, involved finding each letter in the 84-character Ustendellian alphabet in order on various leaves they passed. It seemed like it would be easy enough, but no, it couldn't be done. So here they were, sticking to each other like leaves on shoes.

"Enjoy...enjoy...enjoy," Kaegan said. With every word, he gestured dramatically towards a piece of flora that they were passing as they walked. He paused in front of the trunk of a particularly large tree and stared up at it with arms raised: "I am expressing enjoyment. Tree."

"Tree!" said the tree.

"What the shit." Kaegan found himself having said. Well that was certainly odd.

"Kaegan, what's that over there?" Riza asked, having just caught up. They grasped to his arm and pointed to a nearby clearing, where people could be seen. Just as the people became visible, their voices became audible as well, proclaiming and loudly continuing on at length about something or other. Rizali started walking closer, hoping to make out what they were saying, barely hearing as the tree joyfully repeated, "Shit!"

Kaegan moved closer to the clearing. The people were dressed in all-white drapery, standing on various stone steps within a small amphitheatre half-buried within the ground, and leaning against stone columns half destroyed by time and weather. "It looks like some guys in bathrobes," he concluded.

Rizali nodded, "I agree, they're also speaking no language I've ever heard." One by one, each of the draperied individuals were speaking with wild gesticulations and increasing amounts of drama. It was all very big and extra, and unfortunately also very... "Time to boogie," said Rizali, who stepped into the clearing. "Hello, sorry for interrupting, I hope I haven't taken away from your big... whatever this is, I just wanted to ask for some directions. I'm Rizali."

"Τι στο διάολο?" came the response from one of the individuals on the steps

Kaegan blinked for a moment and continued a blank stare. One of the larger and balder individuals walked forward, his hands outstretched and menacing. His thumb landing in the middle of Kaegan and Rizali's brow, and his tubular fingers wrapping all the way around the back of their heads. There seemed then to be a distant metallic gong sound, followed by the quiet ambiance of the forest.

"Your evolution has now been augmented, and you can comprehend the great wonder which is the Greek tongue," said the bathrobed man. "I am Nikon," said the bathrobed man whose name was now Nikon.

"What the shit." Kaegan found himself saying again.

"Σκατά!" said the tree.

"Yes, very good, all according to plan," said Rizali, who had planned none of this and was increasingly concerned by the minute. They nodded to reaffirm this. They'd never heard of this Greek tongue, which made sense because they also hadn't recognised the words when they were being said.

"We have been debating, a classical tradition dating back millennia. It is truly the highest class of activity."

"What have you been debating?" asked Rizali, immediately regretting the question as it came out of their mouth.

"Why is it a table? Is it a table because we call it a table or is there some intrinsic table quality that makes a mere board a table? Or has it convinced us through the power of spirits that it wishes to be called a table?"

"Mephistopheles had just finished laying down a counterargument that the table, itself, has no care for what we call it, and therefore there is no sense or reason for it to be a table, indistinguishable from any other horizontal plane," said Nikon.

"It's bullshit!" interrupted someone from the back of the crowd.

"Yes, quite so," Nikon resumed "I should adequately restate that Mephistopheles has most recently just finished losing and failing to convince in his final defence of this lost cause he has championed."

Mephistopheles- or at least, who Rizali assumed was Mephistopheles- interrupted at this point. "I concede that I was unable to convince you all that the language we use imparts meaning upon objects. But isn't there more debate to be had, more nuance to introduce, more facts brought to bear? Perhaps that which holds us back in our debate is not merely the facts, but the form."

"The form?" asked Nikon and Rizali at the same time. Nikon shuddered.

"Yes, to properly gauge all aspects of this topic of debate, we must not limit ourselves in dialogue to this, the language we all understand to be the greatest thing to ever be created and that ever will be created. But now, we must reassess this topic in the second greatest language to ever be created or that ever will be created. In doing this, we will be able to consider with new eyes and new ears those things that might have been lost upon us before."

"You don't mean-" said Nikon.

"I do!" said Mephistopheles. "We must hold this debate again.


...

In Latin."

"No!" screamed Rizali, who had also never heard of Latin. But at this point they were invested and didn't want to be touched by the giant hands again to learn yet another language.

"Very well," said Nikon. "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum..."

"Kaegan, run!" Rizali yelled, and fled from the scene.