The Trees of Timberwood

Started by Emily, November 14, 2022, 10:00:21 PM

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It started, as it always did, at the library steps. Breath caught in Kethis' throat as their foot hit the first stair, and they were back - just for a moment, only ever for a moment, such a long moment - ten years younger, walking up these steps to a building that felt so much larger and smaller all at once, back before the technomantic installation; and then in reverse, walking out the doors for the last time for the thousandth time, warm rain slicking the steps and hastening their disbelieving retreat, trying to understand how and why and should they have-

The taste of blood jogged them from the thought, and they gingerly separated tongue and teeth as they found themselves in front of the door. At least nobody seemed to have noticed. Grabbing the handle, their thumb found the same old groove in the metal, the reassurance of familiarity getting them inside before a second thought could hit.

New hires at the desk again. Hard to be surprised, they thought, with the way this place is managed. At least it always made things easier.

"Hi, I'm looking-"

"You checking out?" The technomancer was blank-faced but his words seemed to sneer, to say without saying 'I know you're not.'

"Ah, no, I'm here to tal-"

"You want that desk." He pointed across the room without turning.

"Oh, sorry about that, thanks," trailed out before Kethis realized the man was already back to his machine.

Maybe not that much easier.

Let's try again. Hi, how can I help you?, the girl at the counter would say, and they'd explain, I'm here to see the librarian, could you tell me who's working today?, and she'd reply, Lynue is on today, but she's tied up with a meeting, and they'd say, Oh, thank y-

"A meeting?" That wasn't in the plan. "Do you, ah, know how long it'll be?"

A yawn. "Nooo, it just came up. You can wait around though, she shouldn't be too long."

Kethis gingerly took a seat at one of the long tables, trying not to draw any attention. It was a slow day, which meant the patrons were likely the chronic regulars - a glance towards a bookworm making a stack of biographies served as confirmation. Five, ten, eleven minutes must have passed with fingers softly drumming on the tome, until their nerves began to calm, and they wandered back into the shelves looking for some reading to kill the time.


The wind drops, and Hanne snaps out of her thoughts to realise that the coffee is no longer in the cups and is now all over a person.

"Oh shit," she exhales, "I'm so sorry." Thinking fast, she rifles in her bag - "Look - I have a shirt you can borrow if you want to change, there are bathrooms in the library, erm, the cafe can pay you back if you have serious injuries..."

This was a bad start. Ericales had made it barely twenty metres down the street before six floating cups of hot liquid floated up to him and then abruptly and messily ceased floating. This felt a bit unfair to him -- *one* errant hovering cup felt viable. A full cupholder was a little hard to believe. Still, at least it got on his clothes, saving him from being burned. Although... he didn't really have any other clothes, did he? He had just walked out of his house with this outfit and some money. Maybe he wasn't cut out for self determination.

He was mollified somewhat by the reaction of a nearby woman, who was possibly to blame for the incident, although it might just as well have been malevolent coffee ghosts.

"Oh," he said, "I was going there anyway, I suppose."

Well, Hanne thinks, at least Nhysalynn isn't getting anything out of those coffees. Ooh, even better - maybe people will see and think wow, Summittens's advertising has finally gone too far.

She examines the - kid? Youthful face, but reminds her of people she's studied with - could be just a few years younger than her. Let's go with kid for now, for simplicity. Might be enough of a snob to try legal action, which would be fun. Or maybe his parents are. Hmm. "Alright, uh. Well. I work for Summittens so it's on them, y'know. I'm sure I can get you a pretty hefty discount."

The pastries lie on the ground like roadkill in the puddles of coffee and Hanne briefly considers picking one up because she's starving but thinks better of it. (But they are individually wrapped, so maybe later.) Sighing, she opens the library door with her shoulder, holds out her uniform shirt to him - black with a white-embroidered icons, two gloved hands forming a heart as they wrap around a coffee mug - ushers them both through.

"Oh, I should get your name, I think?"

Ericales wasn't quite sure how the woman was managing to blame her place of work for the incident, but he wasn't a confrontational type. Arguments were such an energetic activity, far too close to actual work. He followed her through the doors of the library.
"Ericales," he said, still mildly bemused at the whole situation, "And you?"

"Hanne," is her instinctive response, but then she remembers that he'll probably need it for the insurance claim, " - Hannaryn Pfauregard," she adds with a nod. "Are you around here? Wait - " there's an alarming amount of hope in her voice - "you aren't injured, are you?"

"No, no, I'm not injured," he responded, unsure why Hanne seemed so keen on that scenario, "The only casualty was the shirt. And I live down the road," he waved his arm behind him vaguely. Lived might have been more accurate, but he probably shouldn't go around telling coffee wielding strangers his state of homelessness.
"I'll uh.. just change," he said, and headed to the library bathrooms. He took off his sodden shirt, which was unpleasant, and put on Hanne's, which smelled only slightly less like coffee. He left to find Hanne still nearby where he had left her. "Thanks for the shirt," he said, still feeling a bit bewildered.
In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this. - Terry Pratchett


The day started, as every day had lately, with rain. And like every day lately, the rain didn't look like it was going to stop anytime soon.

Derrin didn't mind rain, really. It made her job as a nature mage easier; at least the ferns, moss and fungi were much more amenable to letting her use more of their soil or clippings for her various potions when they were well hydrated. And as any nature mage worth their fertiliser could tell you, a gift given freely by nature made a more powerful brew. The earth didn't take kindly to those who prodded and pulled at plants, and spells and potions using reluctant ingredients had a way of fizzling out, or backfiring on the user to make them miserable. Between this rain and the time and effort she'd spent getting to know this part of the forest over her lifetime, she'd get some powerful magic in her next several creations. No, the rain itself wasn't a problem.

The problem was that living deep in the forest, as nature mages did, her only real interaction with anyone else was her weekly trip into the nearby town of Summit for supplies, or when others visited her to buy spells. And when it rained, the paths between town and her little cottage became too muddy and dangerous for either type of journey. At this rate, the only company she would have until this weather passed would be those so desperate for help they would risk their own lives coming to visit her. It wouldn't cause too many problems, Derrin was always prepared for weather conditions that confined her to her cottage - she had plenty of firewood and food in the storeroom for times just like this. It was just a pain that she couldn't bottle up friendship and save it for these rainy days.

Well, she couldn't just sit at the window all day. Staring at the rain wouldn't make it pass any quicker, and it would be another long day without any visitors, so she had better make the most of all this time. Reaching for her favourite notebook and pen, she began to take stock of what she had, making a mental note of which of the most popular spells she was low on, and which ingredients she'd need for some of those emergency spells, just in case some poor soul needed to make their way out in this weather. It was starting to look like a long list, but staying productive would be the best way to keep her sanity intact until the rain finally passed.
Good morning friends and foes


Lynue sat at her desk, having somehow taken plenty of time to arrange and organise the office without the Councillor arriving. She had even taken the extra steps of colour-coding the various papers on her desk, from yellow to off-white to white that was slightly less off. And now she'd become so accustomed to arranging things that she was constantly rearranging her own thumbs... or perhaps that was just fidgeting.

She was a bit nervous at the prospect of meeting with Councillor Alanganin, especially unannounced. It wasn't the type of thing that usually happened. No, it wouldn't do at all, there was no world in which someone would drop by a library to meet with a librarian when they had an office. She wasn't even the head librarian, she was just in charge of balancing the books. And right now, they were about as stacked as they could possibly be without the whole operation toppling over. Lynue glanced over at the precariously-stacked tower of hardcover tomes, and began to sweat.

She stood up, took a couple steps out from behind her desk, and then hesitated. What if he walked in right as she was about to open the door? She would look impatient, that would be so unbecoming. Oh fiddlesticks, the whole world was topsy-turvy today, and she didn't know what else there was to do. The librarian glared at the book on her desk. "This is your doing, you beast," she muttered to herself, "I know it for a fact."

A curse upon her lot in life, she could wait no longer. Lynue approached the door and opened it a crack. The crack was much too small to see anything, unless her luck had placed someone within the narrow band of sight it afforded her. No, she would have to open it further. And in doing so, she found that there was no Councillor in sight. No, just a very confused Constable Constabulary looking from one side to the other.

"Psst," she hissed, trying to get his attention. He noticed and walked over to her, scratching his head. "Where is the Councillor?"

"I swear I left him right here, Lynue, but when I left your office I couldn't find him. I've nearly turned the library upside down trying to find him." The boy shrugged, "Nothing doing though."

"Hm," she stepped out in to the hallway and stroked her chin. "Perhaps he was offended what with being left alone without wine. That's a government official's lot, right? They faff about places and the small people give them wine?"

"Oh fye," Constable Constabulary said, slapping his own forehead. "You're right. I apologise, this was all my fault. I really beansed this one right up."

"Consider it a learning experience, lad. If he's no longer here, I will take my leave, however. I have to deliver something-"

"Oh right, you can't do that! There's another person here to see you!"

Lynue could barely give a constrained smile. "I suppose organising my office won't have gone to waste, then. Please see them in presently- and," she added with a conspiratorial grumble, "if they have also disappeared, please let me know before I pull my hair out waiting again."


It had been six weeks of this rain, but finally, finally, it was over. It was the kind of weather where the sky is so grey that everything else takes on a particularly dark, dull hue as well, and Derrin was delighted to once again see the blue of the sky reflected in the small river that ran near the cottage again, and the bright joyful greens of trees whose leaves have more energy than they could want from sunlight. More importantly, she was relieved to be able to see more than the four walls of her home again.

It was a lovely home, if she said so herself. When it wasn't raining, it got plenty of sunlight, and she had furnished it over the years with plenty of bright, cosy things that made her happy. There was the quilt her grandfather had made on the bed, her favourite chipped mug from the Summit Tourist Information Centre sitting by the sink, shelves full of books and knick-knacks filled every available space on the wall, and a cosy chair by the fireplace. It was a comfortable space to spend a rainy day - but nature mages were not ones to be stuck indoors for so long.

It was good fortune that the rain had cleared up a few days before Market Day and so the many paths which ran through the forest, while still fairly muddy, were at least solid enough that she wasn't going to be at risk of losing a boot or slipping. She put on her hat, and checked that she had all of the things she intended to sell at that day's market in the small, worn leather backpack that she'd once got from a mage who could manipulate space-time and had used that skill to make all sorts of useful bags that were bigger on the inside. This one carried precisely 100 items (it did not seem to matter what size) and was perfect for bringing her pre-mixed potions, and a mixture of dried and fresh ingredients to town. Stepping out of her cottage, she sighed happily, taking in a deep breath of fresh forest air. The neighbouring trees greeted her, gently waving their branches to rustle a soft hello, and she called out a cheerful good morning to them in response, setting off through the well-worn path that would lead her into Summit and towards the market.

Perhaps she'd also go to that lovely coffee shop near the library, it had been so long since she'd had a proper cup of coffee. You just couldn't beat the deep, warm flavours of one made by an elemental mage, heated to the perfect temperature.

Good morning friends and foes