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Endurance


Evangeline Anovilis
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The village of Weirwood is a rather peculiar place. Most people don't even know that it exists. But who can blame them? Weirwood, for all intents and purposes, is right in the middle of nowhere, Faraway, right next to similarly unknown villages like Elmwood and Aulderquay. Places that maybe aren't even on a map, for noone cares about this part of the world much anyway. It suffices to say, that Weirwood is a small, but growing community. Nothing outstanding and most likely, had I not been living in this village for several weeks now, I would not even know that this place existed myself.

 

Weirwood is one of the several villages founded by the recent immigrants to the region, which had settled after the the decline of our homeland. Though, to a good few of us, this land is becoming a new home. Most houses are simple in their construction, made of wood. The people who came here, we haven't exactly been wealthy or organised. It seems, most just came here seeking a new life, escape the general decline, and construct a new existence in these forests and fields. Fertile soil and plentiful waters have caused many of us to come here, into this unclaimed wilderness, of which there is plenty.

 

However, the people are few and so are the supplies. While our people settled in the Littoral, to seek the establishment of a new homeland, it seems that such plans are not coming to fruition much, as long as the situation remains rather triste and stagnant. And despite my assignment to the help in the exploration of ancient cultures in the region, we have to yet find anything.

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After telling Uncle that I'd be on my way, I closed the door of our little house, which also serves as the local outpost of the Pasirung Exploration Committee. It isn't really an outstanding building, a blockhouse, just as so many others in Weirwood. Actually, it might be that all other houses in Weirwood are blockhouses. We are however getting bricks over time, which hopefully will allow more durable buildings.

 

As I walked down the short path to the village center, in the shade of tall birches that flank the narrow road, my mind wandered off, wondering what news there would be in the village. In the morning I had seen a number of lorries arrive from my window, so it was fair to assume that finally some supplies had made it to Weirwood. Most likely, it was the delivery for autumn, but we better make sure it lasts longer than that. At times, there are shortages. But this was life in Pasirung. Not that it had been better in the old homeland. After the war and decline, there is just not always enough. Such is life in this new world and era...

 

In the village everyone seemed quite excited. And understandably so. For the first time in a bit over a month, there was meat and even fish from the coast. Weirwood had run out of surplus livestock that could be slaughtered and hunting also didn't deliver proper results. Especially after they had run out of bullets for this year. But this wasn't all that was sold on the market this day. After getting some fish for dinner and securing some meat, both fresh and cured, for the next few months, I went over to the less expensive, but still necessary goods. Among other things, I bought for the moment some vegetables and a couple packages of flour, so I could bake bread in the coming days.

 

With the delivery of supplies, however, also came a few letters adressed to us. One of them even was from headquarters, which could mean there'd be problems, or some new project, or some developments, in any case, it meant work. Taking the letter and thanking the drivers that had brought us the wares, I shouldered my purchases and headed home. There, once everything had been taken care of, I could read the letter.

 

[hr]

 

Once I found the time to sit down in my room and read the letter, it had become evening. Thankfully I knew that the caravan would return at the earliest tomorrow, so a reply could still be given to them. They still had to sell the remainder of their wares, buy some local products and most of all, they needed to rest after the troublesome journey it was from the coast to the villages in the hinterlands, such as Weirwood. At times supplies did not come, just for the simple fact that the road was blocked or destroyed by knocked over trees or landslides, and pavement... The next pavement could be found at headquarters at the coast.

 

The letter was quite interesting. Apart from the usual formulations and formalities, it pretty much was to inform me that there had been new developments in regards to settlement plans, that there was a need to coordinate supply policies and thus, for the Weirwood-Elmwood branch, they wanted me to come to headquarters for a meeting. As the letter mentioned supply policies, but no increase in supplies, it seems as if there'd be a shortage and winter supplies might be a bit meager. It seemed that this winter we will go hungry...

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Travelling to the headquarters is kind of troublesome. The road is not maintained or secured, except for clearance if it really gets blocked. It does take quite some time to get somewhere, even if one is using a comparably fast means of transport. After telling Uncle that I'd be at headquarters for a few days, due to the assignment, and that he'd be alone during these days, I prepared for the journey. It was kind of unpleasant, to leave this soon after supplies arrived, so I told Uncle to not abuse my absence to feast on the meat, as he likes to do. I guess, he still is a man who grew up in a time of plenty. But if there really is a supply shortage, the current stocks are very important. Maybe I can organise some bullets, so we can try hunt again.

 

In order to get safely to headquarters, I got up early. It was a nice fair day, which gave me one less reason to worry. In my travel clothes, I walked down to the village square, in order to talk to the supply caravan. While most seemed to still sleep, one friendly man was already up, so I approached him on taking me with them on their way back. For a small sum, he agreed, given the village's stocks weren't that much either, so there wasn't much to transport in the first place. A small additional income was seemingly not unwelcome.

 

As I helped the men load their cargo onto their lorries, I was approached by the old lady running the local grocer. She is quite nice, but honestly, she complains a lot. But naturally, I didn't tell her that and when she told me of the issues with this years wheat prices and the potatoe harvest, I smiled and agreed. Wheat actually got cheaper compared to last year... Sometimes, I really wonder what these people are thinking. I guess they just love to complain a lot, but well, if it does help them remain content. Inevitably, the grocer woman also asked me of my reason to be in the village at this time, so I explained that I had been asked to return to headquarters for a short while. The possible shortage I kept secret. I will get enough complaining on this, once the shortage is here. But she is a quite nice lady otherwise.

 

Once all was said and done, we loaded my suitcase on the back of the lorry and I sat down right next to it. Due to the cover of the lorry's back, not much could be seen, but I got still a few glimpses at how Weirwood vanished behind the trees of the forest, as we slowly drove along the narrow street.

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Travelling across the wilderness of Pasirung is not necessarily the most interesting of adventures. Certainly not in the back of a lorry. While pristine woods and fields surround us, there is only so much of it you can watch in half a day, before becoming used to it. Though, to be fair, watching our surroundings has my mind wandering off to some other matters anyway, occupying itself with the troubles I am having, big and small. I guess, looking at nature is less about nature... It is about looking at something that allows you to calmly think over things without adding to the problems you are thinking about. Rather, it is a quiet, calm and refreshing place, untouched by civilisation and free of people.

 

While I had brought with me an exemplar of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", I never came to read it, as the road was just too covered in bumps. And after a good few lines, I came to the conclusion that reading this work in these circumstances is not going to be worthwhile an academy, compared to just watching the landscape and having thoughts of my own. Most likely, thinking on my own now, will be better for reading it sometime later.

 

As the column of lorries finally arrived at the town, I of course still had not become enlightened, but at least I felt that there was no better use of my time anyways. Coming to headquarters always is a more or less bothersome experience. Vernewood may not be large by old world standards, but it still is the largest of settlements. Located at the river Verne, it is close to the coast and its harbour, Verneport. Overall, it looks however just like a larger version of the villages further within Pasirung, but as the centre of the settlement effort, it kind of fulfilled special roles, such as hosting headquarters and coordinating supplies. Naturally, being summoned here most often meant problems, because otherwise, there was little that justified the journey.

 

The meeting itself was rather underwhelming. After reporting in, I was asked to give an account of Weirwood's situation and any potential progress we had. The utter lack of noteworthy progress was frowned upon, but expected, as overall, not much was happening and I was only there for a few weeks yet. Thus I only got reprimanded with a few stern words about doing my job and taking things serious. On my inquiry to be given ammunition for hunting rifles for the autumn and winter season, I was naturally asked why we had wasted our assigned amount already, but after explaining that we had no marksmen and had to train from scratch, the ammunition was approved. Again, I was given a few stern words on not to waste the limited supplies. Once all regional representatives (which were about two dozen) had gathered, we spent our afternoon in a conference room, discussng the actual problem - a supplies shortage.

 

Seemingly, the amount of goods provided from the outside had dropped drastically, after nothing of great value was produced in Pasirung. For this reason, we would have to make do with what we have. Somehow, it was not that surprising, yet it was something people had not thought much about, it seemed. One person said we'd have to start producing our own goods and supply ourselves. Given the difficulty of this proposition to be implemented, it did not go far and was immediatly shot down, as could be expected. While people started to blame each other for not producing enough or squandering supplies, I wondered how to tell the others in Weirwood about this. Surely, there would be quite some frustration and they would not be very enthusiastic about this. But what could I do about it? After we spent the day in the meeting and everyone had grown tired, people approved the most prudent of plans - We were going to start produce our own goods to make up for loss of outside supplies. This decision was finalised and we were allowed to go home the next day. Overall, I found the outcome to be pretty much to be expected and merely noted that the point of meetings seemingly is not to find a solution.

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Once back in Weirwood, I was welcomed with curiousity. People had noticed my absence and were wondering what was going on. On the way back I had already thought about how best to communicate the lack of supplies. In the end, I decided to be honest and tell the villagers about the end to supplies from home. While disheartening, Weirwood would get used to it. And really, if I tell them then, their anger and frustration will be towards something not present. If they find out a couple months later, it will be against me.

 

Over the following days, the mood in the village was quite low. The prospect of meager supplies over winter dampened earlier euphoria over autumn supplies. In these days I stayed at home, working through the records of my predecessor, who had helped set up the village of Weirwood. As I found that frustration is contagious, I guess it is like with spoiled apples. Throw one spoiled apple into a barrel of good ones... and they'll all start rotting. The reverse is not true. And just like that, one miserable person will cause more miserable people, rather than one happy person causing more happy people...

 

From the records, it seems, Southern Pasirung had been large uninhabited, when the first settlers arrived. I am quite surprised about that, as it is quite habitable land. Why would the people of Northern Pasirung not simply settle in the South? That was a rather good question and despite tryng to find it out, seemingly, my predecessor had no idea what the cause of this phenomenon was. For obvious reasons, I had none either. But this seemed to be quite the interesting matter. I prepared to investigate this further, both to avoid further reprimandment and the villagers, until they were in higher spirits again.

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I've now been wandering these woods for days. The panorama of the forest and the mountain range is beautiful, but I have not encountered many people. In fact, I encountered only one person. She was a bit of a strange person, but I guess you have to be strange to come out here. I have not found anything of value yet, which is somewhat discouraging. Traces of natives also are scarce and the few that I found could as much be traces of past settlers. It looks as if noone ever was here in the past. As if this land has never been settled at all. But why would this much fertile ground go unnoticed? This close to Polynesia, who settled the many small islands. It remains a mystery, I guess...

Still, it feels like I'm not alone here. I have met one other person in these woods. Our paths have crossed no less than four times now in the last two weeks, since I left Weirwood. I feel like I have seen her before, or that there is more to her than seems. At the very least, she seems to be meeting me deliberately. Meanwhile, to be honest, I have no idea where I am. This forest is rather confusing. While I do not think I have come far, I cannot exactly recall where I am and this is rather worrying. Sleeping in the wild is also becoming uncomfortable whenever it starts to rain, which it does quite a lot in these hilllands. I try to mak down my position on a provisory map, using the sun to assist me in determining direction, but I cannot make sense of any of of this charted territories. I really hope I get home without issue, because food is also in short supply.

 

I really do wonder though, what this person wants of me. Do they know something?

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The further I go, the more confusing this land gets. The woods are in a primeval state, thick and only at times interjected by open meadows and plains. I have lost my way weeks ago and honestly, I got no idea how far I have wandered. If it weren't for the bountiful nature of these lands, starvation would have killed me already. But this only solves one issue, it does nt help the fact that I am trapped in this near-endless forest. And I am not alone. Watched by a now familiar gaze from still unknown eyes. All attempts to make contact have failed. I guess, the sole way to get into contact would be to wait till they wish to approach me.

 

They do not seem hostile, however. I get the feeling, that they are also kind of watching over me in their own way. Or I am just incredibly lucky. What my books on survival in the wilderness taught me, has pretty much helped me survive these past few weeks, if not months. But the fact, that not one dangerous animal crossed my path, not one existential hazard has been encountered, it is quite strange. At times, I find myself trusting these unknown forces to guide me to safety, especially in the face of gathering clouds, heralding rain and thunder, when mysteriously, semblances of paths guide me to safe shelter.

 

Still, I wish they would talk to me. In the absence of hunger and thirst, I guess it is the lack of interaction, that takes its hardest toll. I think, it is the hope for there to be some sort of contact, that keeps me going, instead of breaking down. I did not plan for this to be an excursion of months. What keeps me company is my notebook... my own thoughts. And the feeling, that someone is out there...

 

[hr]

 

Maybe, I'm losing it now... I think, I have caught a glimpse of another person. In the trees above, eeriely watching me with her vermillion eyes. Like a fairie, she sat on a branch, carefree, dressed as if going for a tea party. How she managed to get up there, twenty metres in her dress, I do not know. It remains a mystery, one of many mysteries. Maybe, I have snapped.

 

My shouts seemed to reach her, yet, she did not reply. Her eyes merely watched my actions. I even tried climbing the tree, but all attempts to get even just to the first branches were futile. It seems, I cannot help it, I need to go on, wondering... In due time, maybe I will find a way to talk, a way to get home... or maybe it is the first signs, that I am lost in more way than one now...

 

[hr]

 

As I woke up today, for a moment, I did not realise where I was. It was neither home, the comforts of Weirwood, nor was it the wilderness, the neverending forests of Southern Pasirung. It was, a garden... filled with crimson azalea, in sharp contrast to green grass stood the blood-red flowers, and inmidst the faerie, carefree, extenting a hand. Did my mind finally break? Was this the end? Hesitation and fear is what I feel, rather than the relief of meeting with the one whom I wanted to meet for so long. What had up to now been an elusive fairie of the forest, out of my reach, was now a powerful presence right in front of me, right in my grasp... or rather, I was in hers. While there was little I knew about this existence, its aura of mystery inspired a creeping discomfort, a natural, instinctual feeling, felt towards the unknown, merely because of its quality of being unknown...

 

And while her appearance was more akin to that of a faerie, somewhat dainty and delicate, these vermillion eyes were those of a predator, confident of her superiority. And the refined aura did mask the nature of a being that had observed me from a distance for such a long time, commanding the engagements, seemingly navigating this forest that had me trapped, with ease. Meanwhile, myself, I was the mess that one is after so long away from civilisation, equipped with nothing that could not be carried in a bagback, worn out and exhausted.

 

"You seem frightened. Don't be.", the faerie stated, with a giggle. "No harm is going to befall you..." After taking another lok around, which left me as clueless as the initial impression of this place, I adressed the two most burning questions. "Who are you, and what is this place?" Reluctantly, I took her hand and with a pull, stronger than one would have imagined, I was standing in frnt of the stranger, who now, actually was quite a bit smaller than me. Somehow, the faerie looked even more like a faerie now, as she was surely at least a full head length shorter, though it seemed to make little difference to her confidence. "Good questions. Though, I do wonder... would you understand the answers?" For a moment, I had no reply. Mostly, I was speechless, feeling an uncomfortable feeling of annoyance arise. Less irritation, than exhaustion. "I wouldn't know, I guess. But you could give it a try?" A broad smile appeared on the faerie's face, though I did not understand why, really... "Truely, an interesting one. For now... call me Hanobel. This here is my garden."

 

While I nodded, I did not really know why I'd nod. Maybe, because there was little there was to say, really. Not like the faerie had said much either. "And why am I here?" She turned around, walked a few steps, before stating. "Because you show promise. And you are entertaining. I wouldn't want you to be lost in this forest forever..." For a moment, I was surprised... "Does this mean you'll show me how to get home?" The faerie nodded. But her friendly expression quickly turned oddly mischieveous, as she added. "For a price..." It was quite unsettling, but what could I possibly do? There was not really much of a way to get home by myself, at this point such was obvious. Reluctantly, I agreed and just as I did, the faerie handed me a strange book, bound in dark brown leather. It seemed quite expensive, but upon opening it, there was no real content. Its pages were white and empty. "Take this... Use it for the studies that await you. Make me proud of having entrusted you with this and you'll find the answers to the questions you asked before." Not really all too fascinated, I asked yet another obvious question. "And what if I don't...?" For a moment, the faerie smiled, before stating with utmost confidence. "You won't fail." Suddenly, she swung one of her arms and the garden was no more... my vision went black...

 

When I came to myself, I was on the street to Weirwood, just outside the village. I wondered, had this been a bad dream? But bad dreams raely come with this kind of headache... and then there also was still the book...

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When I returned to the village, uncle was shocked. I had lost quite some weight in the last few weeks and was in a rather bad shape, it seemed. Also, he berated me for having been away so long, most likely losing my way due to being careless. Overall, he must have been quite worried. The villagers too are relieved to see me back and some came to visit me, during the days following my return, when I was forced to stay in bed and get back to health by uncle.

 

Sadly, despite my condition, there was still work to do, as I had to report my findings to headquarters. Though, would they believe such a thing? Faeries? Or whatever else that person was? What was she actually? And what was that garden? It seemed far more frightening than a fairie, though... have I ever seen a faerie? Not really. Maybe faeries were supposed to be frightening... Apart from findings on plants and a highly inaccurate map, I thus mostly had one artefact that could be presented - the book I had been presented with.

 

When I had opened it back then, it had been completely empty, without a single written line. It seemed, this was still to be filled. As I inspected the book, it lacked a title, or any outer indication of its purpose. This could as well be a diary or a book of cooking receipts, a romantic novel or a book on floristry. However, as I reopened it, it seems, the faerie had left me some words on the first page...

 

"The first step to success is to understand the problem. The first step to failure is to underestimate it.

 

In this new age, ingenuity, wit and endurance ensure survival. Meet the challenges ahead, or join History in its End.

 

I bestow upon you the burden of destiny. Do not repeat our mistakes, but find a new way.

 

Trust in yourself and do not despair, for we shall be with you..."

-Hanobel

 

I doubt I can present this to headquarters too. What to write now?

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