We have arrived in Ariana, Gateway to the Grasslands! I do not understand this name, because it is in the middle of a forest. Apparently, the town is “famous” for its raspberry jam, but they’ve been having difficulty finding the raspberries. While Niki and I took the opportunity to seek out masters of our crafts, Minami set up a market stall to sell the goods we’d found along the way. Minami’s already a master, clearly, as the townsfolk nearly rioted trying to buy some of our raspberry jam. It didn’t help that San was whipping up the crowd.
We seem to have picked up a little fox somewhere along the way. It’s a curious little thing, with very strong opinions. San, naturally, wanted to kill it.
Raika, meanwhile, met a young shepherd named Sakura, who is on a Journey of her own and got left behind, I think. I’m not very clear on what happened, exactly. I’m sorry, story dragon! Hopefully it’s not an exciting story. Sakura asked if she could come with us, and we all agreed it was the more, the merrier, except for San.
Late in the afternoon, we noticed some hunters arguing with the local shrine maidens. We found out that the forest was created by a grassland dragon that made a nest nearby ten years ago and refused to leave in all that time. That would explain why the so-called Gateway to the Grasslands isn’t anywhere near the grasslands. The hunters say they have orders from the local lord to go and kill it, while the shrine maidens want to convince it to leave so the town can recover. San interrupted and told them both they were weak for not tolerating the forest that’s choking their town.
I’ve decided San’s kind of a jerk.
In the inn that night, Raika’s radio, the one that Theo built, started picking up a signal. We managed to tune it with the help of that curious little fox, but the only thing we picked up was a voice constantly repeating the word ‘stay’.
The hunters have already left! If we want to stop them from killing the grassland dragon, we’re going to have to go out in this weather! I hope it’ll be okay.
A list of things to watch out for in what I have decided is called the Unwanted Forest:
- Bloodvine: this smelly vine attracts stinging insects. If it bursts, its juices get everywhere, including all over your skin. It is terrible.
- Rain: it will not stop raining in the Unwanted Forest. My umbrella is wet inside somehow, and I haven’t had time to fix my raincoat.
- Leaves: they are everywhere, and when it is constantly raining, they are very very slippery when on the forest floor
- Curious foxes: they can navigate by smell and have fur cutes and more feet and aren’t as heavy, so they serve as effective navigators. At the least, I think it was better at it than Raika has been
- Trees: as a magical forest, we’re pretty sure the blasted trees keep shuffling around behind us
- Rocks: obviously they are everywhere and they have a right to be whereever they landed, but I wish they wouldn’t be directly under my sleeping bag no matter where I shift
- San: not so tough now are you
- Kineko goblins: please let me know if they still exist
- Story dragons: maybe we should get the nearest fox to lead us to one so we know this isn’t all for nothing
- Niki: HOW are you enjoying this
- The Unwanted Forest: I WANT TO GO HOME BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION THAT IS
The rain is starting to clear up, which I’m happy about. We didn’t get much sleep last night, so we were taken by surprise when a strange vine monster attacked us. It very nearly ate me, and I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, Hiro was standing over me, forcing some bitter magic brew into my mouth. It was a very tough fight, and Hiro ran out of his healing magic, but we managed to prevail, in no small part thanks to San.
We decided it was best to get out of the forest, and we managed to make it up to a rocky plateau before sundown. The grassland dragon’s cave is at the top. Hopefully, we’ll sleep a little better tonight.
I still want to go home.
The problem with our very useful pack animals is that they’re not so useful when climbing up a steep rockface. This goes double for Minami, who is even more useful and a worse climber. He managed to find a path up that wound around the mount, but while we were waiting, we saw a flash of blue emerging from the forest. We’d beaten the hunters here, but not by enough.
A few of us snuck into the dragon’s cave, and almost immediately ran into a terrible smell! San snuck in all the way and discovered the grassland dragon was nursing what seemed like a baby dragon, but there was something terribly wrong with it, like it was sick. San wanted to kill the baby right there and then, but we convinced her that the mother dragon would become furious and would squash her flat, and the hunters would fall on the mother dragon in her grief and kill her easily. Instead, we’d take the baby dragon and lead the mother dragon out of the cave, out of the range of the hunters; once we got the baby into the sun and had a good look at it, then we’d decide what to do. San started to argue, and then, volunteered to lure the dragon out of the cave.
At that point, the hunters arrived, led by a woman named Ravenna. We quickly convinced her that we were there to help kill the dragon, so we all snuck into the cave. Then, San pounced, snatching the baby dragon and running for the mouth of the cave. The mother dragon roared, and tried to give chase, with the hunters leaping onto her back (but not for long, because we had a sleep spell handy!). Ravenna shot San, one, two, three times, but she still kept running! We wrestled Ravenna to the ground, and San leapt onto an ice toboggan we’d made to get her all the way to the bottom. Once she got down to the bottom, San took one good look at the baby dragon, and before we could stop her, she dashed it against the rocks, then collapsed.
The mother dragon tried to attack San while she was unconscious, but we managed to get down quickly enough to make her think twice. She wouldn’t leave the body of her child behind, and curled around it, grieving. We moved San away while Hiro tried to bring her back awake. Ravenna, the huntress, saw us, and told us she’d take her squad and leave, and that the Emperor (whoever that is) would hear of our interference. I figured I should write that down in case we ever do run across an Emperor, even though I’ve never heard of an Emperor and I doubt we’ll meet any Emperors. Every little bit helps the story, I guess!
San told us, when she came to, that she thought that the little dragon wasn’t sick at all, but dead, and had been a long time. Once she’d had a good look at it, it was obvious that whatever had made it keep moving and chewing and breathing wasn’t right, so she made it stop the quickest way she knew. San can be very abrupt, but I guess without San we’d still be talking over what to do, and I imagine things would be very much worse. We’d have to work out how to get the mother dragon to move on tomorrow; she would be grieving for a while.
Niki woke us up because she’d heard something over the ridge, where the mother dragon was. We snuck over, quietly as we could, to have a look. There was a blue dragon there, of a kind I’ve never seen before, sitting next to the grasslands dragon. I don’t know what kind of dragon it was. Maybe it’s a dragon that heals? The mother dragon didn’t seem to be as upset with the blue dragon around.
When we woke up this morning, we’d been moved a great deal higher away from the forest! Or, maybe, the forest had moved away from us. We went to check on the mother dragon, and to our surprise, it had disappeared, and in its place was a sprawling raspberry bush. Niki and I got to work making jam, while Sakura found a piece of radio equipment at the base of the bush. It was Theodoric’s work!
This was a very difficult adventure, but I’m worried. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that Theo and the others passed through her at the same time as this mother dragon settled down to nurse its dead dragon child. I think something bad happened on that last trip, and there are things that need to be set right. First stop: back to Ariana.