The Camp

Julie sighed deeply. "Alright," she said. "Come on then. Let me introduce you."

She walked past another couple of boulders and stepped into the greenish firelight. The flames arose from a small pile of mushrooms. Around the fire, three low boulders were situated. Nearby, a few piles of dirt and sand the size of graves sat just beyond the direct glow of the fungal embers.

There was a woman sitting by the low burning flames. Her features were barely visible, so dark was her skin. Her nose was wide and flat. A thick mushroom was growing from her left eye socket, lighting her face. Her hair was short, growing in thick little curls. She had a curvy figure, and was wearing what looked like it had once been a rather pretty . evening dress, but which had become dirty and torn beyond the point of recognition. Her age was impossible to estimate in the gloomy flickering light. She seemed to be in low conversation with herself as they approached.

"Ellen, Gorrister. I was right. It was people who fell into the lake." Julie stepped over to the woman, who looked up with a frown. "Hey," she said without much enthusiasm. "I say is nice to meet, but many people in bad place, not so nice. I Ellen." Her voice was thick and strangely strangled. That, combined with her thick accent, made her hard to understand. She lifted an open hand to her side. "This Gorrister."

It took a moment to understand what she was pointing to. Then the boulder next to her stirred slightly, and Brian gasped.

It was a man. He was lying on his side in foetal position, his face to the fire, his head the only part of him that moved at all. The only part that could move; his body was encased, or had turned into, a substance somewhere inbetween wood and stone, moss and mushrooms sprouting all over it. The man's face looked old, worn, and tired. Yet despite his condition, he turned his face toward the newcomers the best he could and smiled wearily. "Be welcome, travellers. Excuse me for not sitting, I'm sure you can see why." His voice was weathered and aged, but his speech was fluent, almost melodious. "I'm Gorrister. I'm sure you have a lot of questions. I'll answer what I can."

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