Light. Dark. Light. Dark. Light again. Still light.

Jagil Hullan did not doubt that the monster was waiting for them to come out. There was only one hole into or out of the wulla dead stand and that was the lightning wound nearly a stoola length above them. The musty decaying heartwood hid their smell and without being able to see them the monster would lose interest.

His tail pushed aside wood dirt to curl around his body. Bugs and creeping things scattered. Breathe deep, in and out, slowly Jagil worked to calm his nerves. How long would they have to stay here?

Jagil felt Dak Hamee shift to stand, causing a new wave of woodlice to crawl into them both and felt a renewed sense of anger towards Dak. Dak Hamee the seer. Dak Hamee who was special. Dal Hamee who would one day show everyone something New ...provided he lived that long. Jagil Hullan did not hate Dak Hamee. Normally he enjoyed Dak Hamee's weirdness and goofy companionship. In fact, Jagil was Dak Hamee's only friend, not for lack of trying on Dak's part. But it was times like this that proved why Dak Hamee had only one friend.

"Dak Hamee hears nothing," Dak Hamee said watching the entrance with his full attention and beak pointed skyward. Jagil could see Dak's ears flared in the dim light. "Maybe we-"

Jagil shushed Dak with his foot. His patience was worn out for today with all of the near-death experiences. "No. We wait. Not hear leave."

Dak mumbled a question around the toes clamping his beak shut. Jagil knew his friend well enough to interpret it. "Yes, stay twice trouble. Get rooted by mothers? Probably. Get rooted better than get dead."

He let go of Dak Hamee's face. They were quiet for long enough that the sliver of light moved up the wall two lengths.

"Jagil Hullan is mad."

Jagil sighed, "Jagil Hullan does not like being eaten."

"Dak Hamee fine alone, if Jagil Hullan scared."

Jagil snorted and rolled his eyes, "Dak Hamee alone? Dak Hamee dead fast. Fast fast. Jagil Hullan just want Dak Hamee listen maybe when Jagil Hullan say 'no! Bad! Danger!'."

"Dak Hameeā€¦ will try. Dak Hamee sorry, not think about Jagil Hullan's feelings. Bad friend. Sorry."

"Forgiven. Dak Hamee not bad, just dumb."

Dak blew cucumbers at Jagil's smug face and tossed him a strip of ringwood and they ate in less tense silence. The ringwood was mealy and riddled with woodlice, but that was expected given that the tree was rotting. Jagil suddenly imagined both he and Dak too bloated by the extra protein to fit through the lightning scar above and started giggling. At Dak's head tilt, Jagil mimed being puffed up with gas and gestured up at the thin crack of light. Dak snorted and started laughing as well.

The light from the crack migrated further up the shaft and changed from yellow to a hard to see brown on the brown wood as day turned to dusk. At long last, they heard, or felt rather, the vibrations of something large jump off of the dead stand and distantly impact a different tree. Finally, they could leave.

The pair bolted for the tribe's home tree and did not stop until they touched down on the main platform. The sky was the deep purple of night and the paper lanterns were already lit. And waiting for them was Dak's mother, Zed Hamee, and Jagil's parents, Janu Yorick and Zaba Hullan. They were not happy. They were even less happy when the pair told them that they'd been playing close to the mist and got chased and trapped by a monster. Jagil's father Janu was even doing that thing with his eye that Jagil also did when stressed. No, there was no victory today.

They did, in fact, get rooted. Rooted and condemned to babysitting the younger kids who were in that size that were too big for their parents to keep carrying them around but not big enough to be trusted to wander alone. For a whole week even.


But eight days later they were free to do as they wished. Jagil just hoped that Dak would keep his word and start listening to him about weird dangerous stuff. Hopes that were slashed when a weird egg fell from Mother Sky and Dak just had to get a better look at it.

Call him a coward but Jagil Hullan had a bad feeling about what came next.