I wrote a scene disconnected from the main story about Artur and Borussa going mushroom hunting together. The whole point was to have an awe-inspiring encounter with a pair of Dryad type characters — forest spirits — but my first attempt turned out to be a flop. It’s really hard to put into words exactly what you had in your head. I want to revise this chapter heavily.
In any case, here’s the chapter about Mushroom hunting…
In the early autumn, Artur wanted to go hunt for truffle mushrooms. One day he got up extra early and took Borussa with him to go search for some. It didn’t take much persuading, as Borussa loved mushrooms even more than Artur. So Arthur slung a basket over his shoulders and belted on a sword, and the two of them set eastward from Zootaloot Farm across about three miles of rolling farm and grassland until they reached a bit of forest. The Maples, Birches and Beeches leaves were turning, and with the rising sun the tips of the treetops were like a fantastic fireworks display of orange, yellow and brown with the orange sun and pink sky above.
The air was crisp and chilly, but the birds still began their morning song with enthusiasm.
Here the comes the sun again
to shine upon the beasts and men
Evil things go into hiding
the morning sun brings happy tidings
The deer are nibbling in the field
the farmers harvest their summer’s yield
the Troll has left, no one to sack
maybe the stray sheep will come back
And here comes Artur and his pig
I suspect they’ll make their bellies big
with berries, roots, shrooms and nuts
those Pigs are quite gluttonous!
Artur was disturbed to hear of a troll so close to home, but trusted the singing birds. He suspected the troll ate the stray sheep and went off for easier pickings. All the same he was glad he had his sword, just in case.
The two entered the forest, and their feet crunched on some dry fallen leaves, and the earthy smell of fallen leaves filled their nostrils. Borussa immediately began snuffling on the ground, and crunched on acorns for a while.
“Son, we’re supposed to be hunting for truffles.”
With a mouthful of crushed acorns, the pig replied, “Oh yes. I’m keeping my nose open. I just need a little breakfast.”
“I thought being hungry would make it easier to find them.” And with that, Borussa got down on the ground, and rustled in the leaves, and sniffed around the bases of maple and birch trees. He had found truffles on his own before, but it was pure luck. The odors at ground level were far too complex for the untrained human nose. It was said that some of the Horse tribe spent their whole lives learning to find mushrooms by scent, but Artur never observed this.
Satisfied with his breakfast, Borussa began snuffling about for mushrooms, and before long he found clusters of puffballs, and oyster mushrooms, and Artur split these with his son, taking half for the basket, and letting the pig eat the other half. He pat the great boar on back, “come on Borussa, Truffles!”
So Borussa snuffled, and wiggled his curly tail, and while he did this, the sun rose higher and the forest lit up with the tint of yellow and orange reflecting off the leaves. They came upon a family of gray squirrels eating acorns on a flat rock, and the squirrels startled, leaving piles of broken shell. In a birch tree above Artur, a Squirrel threw an acorn on him, and began to curse him out.
“Damn humans always disturbing our meals! Pigs stealing our food!”
Artur merely looked up, “I have no problem with you, go back to your meal.”
The squirrel chittered at him a while longer, then leaped from the branch to another tree, and went to find a quieter place to eat. Meanwhile, Borussa was now digging at the base of a maple tree, and the scuffing of his trotter got Artur’s attention.
Artur took out a little spade and began to dig, and there they found not one but two fist sized truffles, and Artur took one, but let his son eat the other.
They went about their morning this way, with Borussa finding truffles and each partner took half for his own use. It was one of Artur’s favorite times of the year, for he got to get out with his porcine son and have fun, and enjoy the fresh air, and escape the monotonous toil of the farm and military training. They didn’t speak much, except when Borussa found more truffles. Artur cherished touching the pig’s mind, and feeling what the pig felt, and appreciating the world from a pig’s point of view. A world of smells and sounds, not unlike a dog, only with more things to eat!
After a couple hours the basket was about half full, and they reached a swamp. Artur sat on a fallen hemlock to relax and let Borussa do his thing. The pig wandered for a bit, and just as Artur felt a nap coming on, there was a crack, a crash, and a loud squeal. In Artur’s mind he could feel Borussa’s broken leg, and he sprung to his feet.
There was another squeal, and Artur homed in on it, and ran as fast as he could over the mushy, rooty ground until he found a hole. Someone had dug a pit and covered it with sticks and leaves, and Borussa was in the bottom some seven feet down. “Father! It’s a trap!”
From the north and the east came the sudden rustle of leaves and the crack of twigs, and then heavy rapid footsteps. Artur drew his sword and looked about, and saw several hairy, apeish, pig faced looking orcs charging through the foliage. They wore animals skins, and had crude spears and clubs. Their elongated yellow canines seemed to glint in the spots of sunlight. Their cries were not unlike pig squeals, but a mockery of pigs.
Artur prepared to meet the oncoming creatures, and quickly counted them. He could see five. He charged the lead orc with a roar, and let his sword fighting instincts take over. It was Artur’s fight to lose, and he didn’t. He slew four with relative ease, and the fifth managed to dodge a decapitating blow, but tumbled headlong into the pit. Borussa sunk his teeth into the creature’s neck. It lost its bowels.
“Father I’m in a pit covered in orc shit.”
“That rhymes.” There was a distant crack, like someone stepped on a thick, dry branch.
There was another crack. Artur spun about, scanning around the swamp and the forest, and then an arrow whizzed by his head and stuck into a pine tree. Then another arrow from another direction. Then there was a great roar, and from all sides came another dozen orcs, some firing arrows from crude bows, and others twirling their weapons. Some emerged from the trees on the other side of the swamp, slowly slogging their way through, and others from behind distant trees.
Five were doable, twelve were not. Artur whirled about, trying to pick targets, and dodging arrows all the while. “Father, go now!” urged Borussa from the bottom of the pit. Artur could not bring himself to leave his son, and could not fight all the orcs coming from all directions.
No harm in calling for help when you need it, he thought. So he did. “Help me!” he shouted, and the orcs replied, “Oh we’ll help you to your grave, warrior!”
Suddenly the plants in the swamp grew longer, and entangled the orcs, and pulled them down into the water, drowning them. The trees in the forest bent over and plucked weapons out the orcs hands. Bewildered, they lept and snatched at their spears and bows and clubs, but to no avail. Pines, and hemlocks, and birch trees all ensnared the orcs and choked the life out of them. All but one, who remained far away, and bolted for his life.
Artur was bewildered but grateful. Never had he seen such a thing. So he looked about, and said “Thank you?”
There was a sudden ripping sound, like ripping roots from the ground. “You’re welcome.” said a masculine voice. Artur whirled about and saw a man looking creature about his height, with bark-like skin, and long hair and beard like moss. He had antlers like a deer, and was naked. Artur didn’t feel threatened.
There was another rip, and Artur whirled about again, and there was a naked female figure, with a darker, bark-like skin, and long hair like curly dried red and orange leaves. She smiled, gently, and her amber eyes met Artur’s.
Borussa called out, “Father! What goes on?”
Artur felt mesmerized for a moment, and then called over his shoulder, “it’s okay. The orcs are gone.”
“Well get me out of this pit then. This orc stinks!”
The male figure said, “Don’t worry Artur. I will help your son.” And he walked over to the pit, and his feet seemed to make no sound at all. There he got down and began to whisper, and the roots from the trees pushed through the sides of the pit and under the pig, who panicked again.
“It’s all right sweet pig.” And suddenly Borussa was calm, and the roots lifted him out of the pit, and then he lay atop a bed of entangled roots. Artur ran over to him, dropped his sword, and shoved the dead orc off.
“Oh Borussa, I’m so sorry.” And then Artur looked to the man thing, and said “Thank you…sir?”
The male chucked. “I haven’t been called sir in ages. All the same, you’re welcome, Artur Zootaloot.”
“How do you know my name?”
The woman now approached, and put her hand on his shoulder, “We heard the animals speak of you. And we’ve seen you come year after year to collect mushrooms, and you only take what you can eat. So…we like you.”
Borussa winced with pain as Artur studied the broken leg. There were two breaks. “Don’t worry, Artur,” said the man, who then scooped up some clay from the ground and molded it into a bowl. He breathed on it, and the clay dried instantly. He then gave the bowl to the woman, who squeezed a nectar from her breast into it, and then put it to the pig’s lips.
Artur held a hand out, “Stop. What is that?”
“Come now, Artur,” said the man. “We wouldn’t save your lives just to poison you and your son.” Artur hesitated, but he let the woman proceed, and Borussa lapped up the nectar. Suddenly the pig convulsed, and he squealed, and then Artur could hear a crack as the leg snapped itself back together.
“Why, that feels better,” said Borussa. “Thank you madam, and sir.”
The man laughed, and his mossy hair seemed to rustle gently. “I’ve been called sir twice in one day. You can call us Moss and Leaf. We’re Guardians. Though I think you figured that out now.”
Indeed Artur had heard rumors of the forest Guardians, but never met one, or known anyone who met one. He stood, and Borussa rolled over and got up on all fours, and grunted contentedly as he walked about the forest floor. “I’m in your debt,” said Artur to the two Guardians.
“Nay,” said Moss. “There is no debt. Let us be friends.” And Moss held out a woody textured hand, and Artur took it.