The first of Gape’s chronicles. This character lives in a small village in Abundanti, where life is simple and serene. He’s helping me to flesh out some world-building elements.
It’s a first draft, so bear with me on the typos and such. I’m preparing food and trying to keep this fire hot enough to cook on as I work tonight.
~1100 words, 5-10 minute read for most:
Before the harvest season, things were always busy, but I still found time to take frequent walks in the woodlands surrounding our village while the others finished their morning meal. I hoped to one day find a wood nymph that would grant me wishes, and bring an abundance of grain to my family.
“Gape,” my father would call if he spotted me leaving. “Nymphs are a myth. You’ll never find one, and even if you did, you would never catch it. Silly boy, chasing fairy tales. You should spend your spare time with the woodcutters.”
But it wasn’t his decision. Soon, I would build my own hut and become my own man, and my mind sought more than the mundane reality of harvesting field grains and roots. It had rained two days prior, and the ground was still soft and moist. Once the sun had lit the sky, I departed. I carried a simple splint of wood as a spear, and was always on the lookout for rocks that would make a fine point to top it with.
The forest floor mirrored the forest as a whole. Small plants were the trees of the tiny realm, scattered sparsely like their larger cousins, and between them tiny bugs and insects that mimicked the rodents hiding in their holes. The world of the tiny was the same as the regular world, and I often wondered if there were larger trees, and if one day I might find one. A tree that made the entire forest look as blades of grass or spring daisies.
I think most of all, I liked the tranquil visits to my favorite trees. One of the pines was so large that I couldn’t place my arms all the way around it, but I tried daily, getting a tiny bit closer each time. I was sure that when the time came that I should succeed, I would be grown enough to take a partner from one of the village girls I quite fancied.
My time in the woods was my time. Not harvesting grain or raiding for insects, or gathering wild foods in the woods, nor hunting or splitting winter firewood, nor any of the other chores that came and passed through the seasons. Out here, I was alone. I wanted to see the nymph that inspired the great Gregor to accomplish his feats.
It’s said that the secrets of magic are hidden in the plants, but nobody in my village knew more than that. I plucked a sweet weed and smelled the heavenly sweet aroma from the crushed leaves, each as wide as two fingers with narrow ridges along the edge that resembled barbs, but contained no sting. I gathered a bunch of them, leaving enough for the shrub to continue growing, and carried on.
The first light of the sun through the treetops is stunning. I would stare east as I walked, finding certain places where the fiery light would blaze through on opening that reached all the way to the sky. The plants around it appeared to glow from the beam, and the warmth added a refreshing spirit to the spot, a place that nymphs might fancy.
Such a fragile thing it was, however, and in a moment or two, the light would again disappear behind a leaf or branch or trunk or other obstruction. I caught myself staring too long, and realized that time had stolen itself away from me, as the smacks of stone axes echoed through the forest. I darted toward them with speed, hoping that I would arrive on time.
It was in that haste that I happened upon a large tree I’d never seen before. It was a stone nut tree, for certain, but as wide at the base as my arms could stretch. I skidded to a stop under the low-hanging limbs that hovered just over my head. It was as if the whole forest cleared itself to let this one tree consume the area.
The ground underneath was soft and moist, covered in mosses of several shades of green. Just to the right of the trunk were tiny red bulbs hovering above the ground.
Could it be?
My name rang through the trees as my father called for me, but even worries that I would be late could not outweigh the bounty that lay before me. I approached cautiously and knelt. Each one had a white stalk, and the round read balls that topped them were as big as my fist. They were scattered sparsely over the small area. If anywhere a nymph were to be found, this was the place. Such treasures were to be found. I would make it part of my daily journeys from then on.
The white puffballs on the ground between them were not fully grown, so I left them, hoping that they would sprout and send out their seed, and keep the little wondrous mushrooms beneath this magic tree. The tree had to be magic. Perhaps Gregor’s meditations began with finding such a tree full of bounty and life. Furry critters raced through the branches overhead as birds chirped angrily at them from their nests.
I gathered and armful of the appellas, and paced hastily yet cautiously through the woods back toward my fathers voice, which grew angrier with every passing moment, yet I was not afraid.
I emerged near the miller’s hut. My father was fifty paces off, staring and stomping, his fists braced against his hips. But as I approached his tone changed. He spotted the bounty in my arms. I must have been carrying three pounds of mushrooms, and each one of them would fetch one to two pounds of grain.
“You found appellas?”
“A bunch of them.”
Father knelt as I stopped before him, and leaned toward my ear. “You left some of them growing, I trust,” he whispered.
“I did,” I whispered back. “And I know exactly where to find them after the next rain.”
He smiled. There was work to be done, mostly plucking weeds from the grain fields, but even he couldn’t resist the warm feelings that rise within from the mere sight of an appella mushroom. We saved nine of them for ourselves; father, mother, and I; and distributed the rest to the other villagers, who divided them evenly and paid us with two large sacks of grain seeds. It wouldn’t last forever, but it would be enough to get us through the winter without worry.
I never told anyone of my secret tree in the woods, and they were kind enough not to follow. From then on, every second or third day after a strong rain, I would leave for my walk in the morning, and come back with an armful of fresh appellas. I never found that nymph, but I considered it a fine compromise.