A mushroom poem (inspired by Duskrest‘s long dozen):
Open reach within
Land to hold us up, sky to cover us, vulnerable
Clouds drifting with time, to remind us there still is some left
A long dozen poem:
The stone spire,
still visible through wisps of stinging snow:
A peak never traversed, never claimed, never beaten.
A map, with a note attached:
Avoid Cold Lake and its prodigious marshes to the west after sundown. But those heading south on the Cliff Road will know they are coming close to Hedda’s Farm when they smell the fragrant embers of the Ever-Smoking Cave.
A cairn, telling the following story:
I think I found out a few more clues regarding the origin of the tower ruins, just along the western edge of Poplar Isle. Heading north of the ruins, there’s a winding path that zig-zags its way northward, along the coast. Perhaps a quarter-mile along this path, a raised clearing with a few of the sloping northwestern coastline sports a crumbling limestone cairn: a marker for storytelling, though it seems the latter part of the tale is missing.
Apparently, some time long in the past, there was a chieftain of a tiny island village. All around him were small, unremarkable islets, each with their own settlements of discrete clans, perhaps a dozen in number. These were spread throughout what I assume was most of what makes up Polar Isle now.
I was led to this conclusion because the story told in the stones is that there was a long period of rains, lasting weeks or even months without and respite. The water rushed down the mountains, forming what we now know of as Trout River. As the rains fell, many of the islets were swallowed up by the rising waters, and this chieftain was taking in refugees into his village, already crowded with wearied loyals.
The chieftain knew this could not be a permanent solution, and there was no sign the rain would be stopping soon. He grew desperate, and the consulted the village medicine man. The medicine man promised to seek council with Others at the foot of the Indomitable Mountains to the west.
After consultation with the servants of Nature, across the river at the base of the mountains, the medicine man returned with news that he had struck a deal with the Bramble Children. All the chieftain needed to do was plant a bramble sprout at the foot of his tower, and the next day they would see the results. Fearful of his desperate bargain with the servants of Nature, the chieftain did as he was told, and the village was ensorceled by Nature magic and the villagers fell to sleep where they stood.
The next day, the chieftain awoke, somehow back in his tower chamber, a warm fire crackling with embers next to him. He rushed outside, and was shocked to find a forest of unnaturally-large thorn-bushes roiled and twisting through the rains. The medicine man knelt next to where the sprout was planted the day before, but instead of a small, fuzzy twig, it was now a broad, woody taproot easily too big for four men to reach their arms around. The rest of the villagers, and the refugees, were nowhere to be seen.
Yet, the Bramble Children fulfilled their end of the bargain. The winding brambles thirstily drank all the falling water, and their clinging branches dragged the islets together until they were all massed into a single broad island. The single river branched into two further to the north, only to rejoin once again to the south, beyond the influence of the Bramble Children.
The rest of the cairn’s tale is lost to oblivion, and we can only speculate as to the fate of the chieftain – and the medicine man. This must have happened some time ago however, since the island itself is now covered with broad-leafed trees and not brambles. Within the understory however, one just might happen upon the crumbling foundations of cobblestone houses and – oddly enough – what can only be fishing piers. Now who would have ever expected to see those in the middle of a forest?