Chapter 4: Of roots and prayers
The treeman still had not uttered a word after an hour. Brin had attempted to engage him several times without any success. He did help himself to the roasted roots, sniffing them curiously before devouring them in two bites per root. When he ate the first one, his eyes opened wide in surprise and he made some sort of happy growling sound. The other roots disappeared into his maw shortly thereafter. He seemed to enjoy the warmth of the fire on his feet but had little use for the smoke which the wind would sometimes carry to his face. He would shake his head and make faces, as a child would, to show his displeasure. Brin had no doubt that the treeman was dangerous, but after close scrutiny he doubted that he was a cold blooded assassin. Still, he had no idea of what his next move should be.
It was too late to run. Looking at the Treeman’s frame, Brin could tell that he would make it all of four steps before he was caught – and hopefully not eaten. Communication seemed to be a wall as well. Either he was not interested in talking or didn’t know how to. Searching his surroundings he realized that there was nowhere to hide, either. Desperation seized him. Even if he made it to the Priests of the Sacred Grove, what could they do? Pray that his death was not overly painful?
Brin jumped back to his immediate surroundings as the Treeman stretched his arms out and cracked his back audibly. The reach of his arms was unsettling. The creature easily had twice the reach of a tall man with hands three times the size. After his back stretch, he reached down into the frozen ground in front of where he was sitting and came up with an armload of the mostly frozen soil which he unceremoniously threw over the fire, extinguishing the embers. Standing up, he caught Brin’s gaze and said in a low, rumbling voice, reminiscent of an oncoming storm:
“Excuse me good sir, but where are we going?” Brin cautioned. “I promise you that I harbor you no ill will and would never tell a soul that I have so much as seen you.”
“We go.” More thunder rumbled from his mouth, deeper now.
“But you see, I am a merchant on my way, overdue I might add, to pick up wares in a distant town. If I hesitate, even for a day, the seller will sell my goods to another. This is my livelihood, good man, and I cannot afford to…”
The Treeman took two steps forward; faster than Brin could ever imagined that it could move. It reached down with one long arm and swept everything that Brin had with him into one giant hand. His bedroll and provisions were dumped, unceremoniously, at his feet. The Treeman leaned over so as to be eye level with him. Brin could feel the hot breath exhaled from oversized nostrils. So close to his face, his curiosity about the creature faded and quickly became rapt attention mixed with fear.
The treeman blinked twice and put one of his enormous, heavy hands on Brin’s shoulder.
“We go. We go, see tiny gods.”
A giant smile opened up on his face. His eyes shone. He threw his head back and laughed.