Chapter II : The Oak Forest I

Chapter II : The Oak Forest

“ What Lies Beneath “

During the Age of the Sun, the World was almost a wasteland. Except for a few water sources, the planet consisted of nothing but boulders and dry ground. Then, something happened; some say that it was the Overlord’s doing while some say that it was the course of Nature. Either way, the World began to change back to the way it was before Apocalypse.

Errol led the group into the leather oak forest, a place greatly feared by humans. Amidst the massive desert of the World, this oak forest was the sole reason for mankind’s continuous survival. It provided shelter and changed the composition of the soil, making it arable. The leather oak was one of only two trees that evolved enough to survive through the Age of the Sun and into the new age. Stationary and similar to the Earth Age leather oak in appearance, it could grow very tall and their sheer number created a dense canopy that shielded the ground from harsh sunlight. The adult tree gathered nutrients from the soil, but farmers and gardeners knew that the leather oak was also dangerous.

“ Watch your step, “ Steel warned the young ones, “ Stay away from the acorns. “

But no one in the group knew what an acorn was, save for Steel, and little Errol who had been traveling most of his life.  The forest was so different from the Town, and even Thyme, a guard, only ventured as far as the forest’s edge. He’d never gone into it. Now that he was in this expedition, his mind wasn’t set on his role as a guard. His only concern was Rina’s safety. Armed with a spear made of porcupig quill, the guard watched the shadows. He was wary of anything that made an inhuman sound. Although he never ventured into the forest before, Thyme did hear stories about dandelions which swooped down from the sky and impaled their victims. He also heard stories about massive molds that could make humans and animals hallucinate.

“ Ow! “ the guard suddenly complained, “ Darn it. “

Something fell on his head, and it hurt. It was still there. With his gloved right hand, Thyme took the offending thing from the top of his head and, much to his surprise and shock; it was a roundish object that had spines. The spines were bloody.

“ Let it go! “ Steel yelled.

Thyme complied. He threw the acorn to the ground just as small roots began to grow from the spines. It seemed as if those roots were looking for something, but it did not find what it needed on the ground. The roots began to grow towards Thyme’s direction, but the guard stepped away from it. Without a food source, the acorn quickly withered.

“ You should patch that up, “ the farmer pointed at Thyme’s head, “ The spines injured your head, but it shouldn’t be a problem since you took it off before the acorn rooted itself into your skull. “

Rina looked worriedly at her fiance before she tended to his wound. The historian checked the other explorers to make sure that they weren’t injured by acorns.

“ And that’s why I’m wearing a hat! “ Errol pointed out.

“ If you knew, you should have told us before we left the Town, “ Thyme snarled. He didn’t like the snotty little brat one bit.

 “ I thought you knew, “ the black-haired boy shrugged.

An awkward silence followed while Steel, who wore a thick, hooded coat made of wooly cow’s hide, pulled another coat from his massive backpack. He then handed it to Rina. The historian offered it to Thyme, who refused it, of course. She put the coat on, hood up and all. Hunter had his own hooded coat made of growling sheep wool. It was lighter than wooly cow coats but also more difficult to make, since growling sheep hate being touched by humans.

“ Hey, where’s your pet? “ Thyme asked Errol.

While waiting for the little boy’s reply, the guard improvised his own headgear by tying up a thick layer of bandage on his head. Errol did not seem to be worried.

“ Puppy travels underground, “ the more experienced historian simply said, “ And we need to move faster. The scent of your blood will attract trouble. “

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