This is an excerpt from ForestWalker, a novel I wrote quite a few years ago. It is the tale of a man whose mind becomes lost in the fantasy world of an online video game called Everquest. The story picks up in this chapter at a cabin in the woods. Sean, the protagonist is already mired in his own confusing reality; and Kate is trying to get them both out of danger, for danger is coming after them.
“Sean, get the poker, we’re leaving.” Kate’s voice was shaking as she gathered up the printouts and stuffed them into her bag.
“Your, uh, your sword, your scimitar, you know. Hurry, please.” She packed up the ENS into a trash bag, throwing some of the bubble wrap in for padding.
“Where are we going? Lesser Faydark? We should tell Selyn TreeKeeper before we leave. And I cannot find my pouch. And Kaeril…”
Grabbing Sean by the arm, pulling him toward the door, Kate replied frantically: “We don’t have time for this. Utak, please just trust me, ok? We have to go now.”
His confusion resolved into a simple answer: “I trust you, Emmalea. We will go.”
The storm was a furious downpour of driving wind and rain, stinging Kate’s face and drenching her the moment they stepped off the porch into the swirling floodwaters. She tried to shield the printed directions and read them by flashlight, but it was hopeless. The ink was already running off the page and the page was a sopping mess. Then she remembered something… She pulled Sean over to the car and knelt with him beside it. “Utak,” she yelled over the torrent. “Do you remember the way back?”
“Yes. Back. How did you get here?”
“Yes, Crushbone. Can you take us there now?” Kate felt like she was slipping into Sean’s insane fantasy world but she knew no other way. If he still remembered how he had gotten to Bill’s cabin that first night, maybe, just maybe, that memory was intact and Sean could lead them to the village and safety.
Utak felt disoriented, afraid, and unsure of himself, unsure of everything. Ever since gating back to Kelethin with Kaeril his life had been a confusion of thoughts and emotions, as if he were being torn apart by forces from two different worlds. He needed to speak with Selyn - she would understand. But that would have to wait until after the journey to Crushbone. Emmalea needed him now and he must follow his heart, even if he did not understand why. He looked around in all directions, looked up into the driving rain, and then into Emmalea’s eyes. “Yes, I know the way. Follow me.”
Crushbone was north of Kelethin but the blinding rain made Utak think twice about cutting straight north through the forest. Even with his keen druid senses, they might yet get lost. He found the westerly path, now a river of muddy waters, marked only by a parting in the trees. This they would follow until they passed the ruined stone circle, an ancient druid ring, or so he had heard. The druids had great power in Greater Faydark, and even sloshing through the knee-deep water, Utak felt that power guiding him unerring to his goal. The path joined a larger trail and Utak stopped.
“What’s wrong?” Kate pushed the hair back from her face.
“Something is different.” Reaching down into the water, Utak retrieved a signboard and read it aloud: “Almost Heaven. What does that mean?”
Kate looked at the sign. “That’s the sign for Bill’s place. I remember now. He’s a John Denver freak. We’re on the right track. Now which way?”
Closing his eyes, Utak looked up into the rain. “Tunare will guide us, Emmalea. She protects those who guard her lands.” Putting his hand to a tree trunk, Utak listened to the whispering, heard its tale, understood its meaning. It was a sad tale, of an elf warrior who had died in battle many years ago in a great war with the Golems of Frost. The warrior, Gwindara, had been faithful to Tunare and his god had looked kindly on him in death and granted him his last wish - to become one with the Forest and help those in need of guidance. Now he was thankful that the Orc sign that had been nailed to him for years was gone. “We go this way,” Utak said to Emmalea.