Three Scenes from the Wall of the Cave of Slumber
I am an ancient but Quickened oak, putting down my roots to drink the blood of our goblin foes from the soil as the others bind their wounds after days of endless battle. I am weary, but this nourishment will sustain me for yet another fortnight or so. “Sap seeps slowly, blood flows quickly”, goes the saying among my kind.
The others assume I am dormant while I sup, and it’s true I become very like my Rooted kin while linked to the soil, but I can still hear, my leaves catching the tiniest vibrations on the wind. Even the Sylvani woman who called me from my home wood to follow her does not know this. Tonight she plies her healing arts on the mighty warrior from the southern reaches. She spends more time on him than is necessary. Her long, slender fingers linger against his bronzed skin, so dark compared to her alabaster flesh. Her whispers linger in his ear, eliciting a laugh and a flicker of firelight in his dark eyes.
I do not begrudge her this dalliance, but I worry for her. This is not the first time she has grown close to a mortal, and I do not look forward to the decade of brooding I know will come following the human’s inevitable death, whether it comes in 5 years or in 50.
I am on Monster Island searching for the Fountain of Youth. I run into Morgan Freeman, who caresses the fabric of my shirt in a rather unsettling way, comparing it to that of his own suit. I escape his attentions to catch up with my partner, who has found us a guide, a kappa by the name of Kupo. The turtleish creature leads us to a small pool, and dives in, saying it’s the mouth of a long underwater tunnel that will get us to the central valley of the island where the Fountain is guarded by antediluvian terrors of every description. Peering down into that pond, I can see it is lined with every kind of slick and slimy aquatic ickiness I can imagine. Anemones and sea cucumbers and mossy corals, and no way in hell am I going in there, sorry, sorry, nope! Dinosaurs and Yetis and Jersey Devils I can handle, but slimy things in the water is where I draw the line.
My partner tries to convince me but I am having none of it. Finally she dives in and leaves me on the beach to wait for her return. Unfortunately it seems word of our expedition has leaked out, for I can see a task force on the horizon, aircraft carriers and battleships and attack boats full of special forces. But Monster Island does not suffer fools or invasions gladly, and a thousand titanic horrors arise from the waters to smash and sink and crush, tentacles and jaws and armored scales. The forest disgorges velociraptors and mammoths and pterosaurs and a pitched battle ensues, it’s not clear at all who will have the upper hand. I just have to hope my partner gets back with the goods so we can make our escape before either side wins and turns its attention toward us.
I watch as the Adventurer travels far and braves much peril to find the Temple of All Fear atop the highest mountain in the Utter East, where the Four Beasts wail at the Font of the East Wind so it carries their message of terror throughout the Bowl of the World. At great cost the Adventurer convinces the Four to wail a specific warning to the people of all kingdoms, praying it will reach them in time to prepare for what is to come.
When I hear the warning, my vision clouds over with frost and my heart stutters in my chest- it is not a warning for the world of the Bowl, but for our world- the one we wake to when dreams are done. It renders some common household phrase, or a child’s schoolyard rhyme, into a premonition of deepest dread- the specific words I can not recall, and I do not know if that is a blessing or a curse.