5.3

Nilien turned around one more time. The path behind her was clear. It wouldn’t be all that hard to find her way back, not from this point.

“I haven’t seen a wall,” she murmured, mostly to Ember. “And we came in through a gate, right? So we’re probably still on the school property.”

There hasn’t been a wall, Ember agreed. So…?

“So onward, at least for a little while longer. The path was here at some point, right? And it’s been all straight lines up until now…”

Except this giant tree. I do not see a tree being part of a path.

“There’s a whole garden of magical plants. I can’t imagine a tree couldn’t grow up faster than we’d normally think possible – can you?”

Well, when you put it that way… Ember huffed a little and began walking around the tree. Well? Are you coming?

Nilien sighed at her familiar’s back and followed Ember around the tree.

There wasn’t so much a path there as there was the place where perhaps a path might have been at one point, but now Ember was in the lead, and Nilien let it pick a route. The trees were growing up thicker and taller to either side of their thin patch of smooth forest floor and as they moved further into the woods, the canopy blocked out more and more light.

This is a lovely place, Ember commented. Watch your step, there’s some roots in the way ahead.

The roots, which Ember picked its way over, were thick and gnarled and seemed to give lie to the thought that there had ever been a path here. Nilien stepped over them carefully and looked around.

She could still see their route behind them, although it looked darker than she remembered it being. To either side, the woods opened up a little bit; on the left, because a tree had fallen down some time ago, clearing a path in its wake; on the right, because there was a low round foundation of stones that had not yet entirely been swallowed by the forest. It looked like it might have been another rotunda, a very long time ago.

“Somebody had a fondness for decorative architecture,” she murmured. “Little garden buildings… this must’ve been quite a castle.”

And now this is a very nice forest. Ember hopped up onto the stonework and sniffed. This one only smells of the woods and of animals.

“There are definitely worse things to smell of.” She walked slowly around the clearing, looking for another path. “If the path led here…”

Hsst. Ember hushed her at exactly the moment Nilien heard the noise. A stick breaking, some leaves rustling. She looked at her familiar.

Ember was looking just past Nilien, sniffing. It’s not the one you were hoping to trap.

2 thoughts on “5.3

  1. I keep thinking Ember is a he, and get thrown every time ‘it’ comes up. It’s interesting. I wonder if there’s more to it than preconceptions from my life.

    I find Ember annoying in maybe 2/3rds of its appearances. We’ll see where this goes.

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