The Cottage

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Wondering through the woods of the Abyss is a surreal experience. The bark of the trees shines gold, iridescent with hints of other colours. The foliage around you rustle, each silver leaf scraping or ringing metallically against its fellows.

After the first day of walking you realize that the smoke you saw must have been further than you thought, and you settle down for a restless night. You volunteer to gather firewood, staying close to camp as you do.

Your arms are full of branches, loose ones from the forest floor, when you spot a larger branch, a perfect centerpiece for the fire. It’s still attached to its tree, but barely. Something knocked it loose a long time before. You tug at it but it doesn’t come loose. Dumping your armload and rolling up your sleeves, you apply yourself. Two heaves later you hear the snap, and you grunt in satisfaction. The branch comes away in your grip and sap drips onto your hand. It’s hot, but not burning. Confused, you try to wipe the near-white substance on your trousers, but to your growing alarm it has hardened to your skin.

Not one to waste effort you take a moment to gather your firewood before returning to the others. Someone sets up the fire while the others try to get a look at your hand in the encroaching darkness. No one knows if they will need to save their spells for the night, so you wait for the fire to take a closer look. Normally, a fire would only take a minute or so to light, but the wood from the golden trees refuses to catch. Finally, someone conjures a magical light.

The party healer stares at the substance that has dried to your hand, mutters to themselves, and looks closer.

“Well that’s odd.”
“What?” You ask, frustrated and the tinniest bit frightened.
“It appears to be… well, it’s teeth.”
“Teeth? What do you mean teeth? The tree bit me?”
The healer shrugs. “Beats me, all I know is that this,” they pick up your arm by the sleeve, not touching the white sap. “is teeth.”

The next morning you are fatigued. Understandably, sleep eluded you for the night. The patch of semi-liquid tooth sap is still clinging to your hand, and the skin beneath has started to itch. Naturally, you and your companions tried to remove it, using dozens of medical, experimental, brilliant, and tremendously unsafe methods, but to no avail. As it seems to be doing no immediate harm, you have all voted to ignore it.

Today’s hike is much like yesterdays, and you begin to wonder if you’re leading the party astray. Heck, it’s the Abyss, maybe the forest itself is moving. But no, around noon you stumble across the source of the smoke.

A cottage, built from wood of a rich brown instead of the local gold, sits snugly ahead, almost hidden in a small hollow. Smoke is still piping merrily from the chimney. As you start towards it, a hand stops you. One of your comrades is eyeing the forest nearer the house. They point and you notice a distinct line, circling the house. The wood ends at this line. Nothing passes, not even fallen leaves land within the circle.

The Cottage

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