Mirrortac meets the Faugs …
The erfin’s eyes flashed open and he gasped for air. With growing alarm he realised that something had really happened to him – he could not see, nor move nor cry out; the soft thread of the tree had grown over him in his sleep and he was trapped. He thought of the words used to tame the leeches but his mouth was gagged tight by the tree’s bark and he was unable to utter a sound. He felt the fabric of the tree reaching through his fur and attempting to digest him alive. The tree suddenly shuddered and the muffled thud of an axe could be heard being flung against the trunk. The tight thread of bark binding him loosened with each strike of the axe and the familiar grunts of the winged creatures could be heard nearby. As his hand was freed, Mirrortac tore at the bark and heard again an excited chorus of grunts as his rescuers snatched their first close glimpse of an erfin. He disentangled the bark from his body and stepped out to greet whatever intelligent creatures had freed him.
Standing before him were three tall beings, easily one and a half erfin-lengths high with faces like those of gibbons. They were each cloaked in large leathery wings of mottled green and one of them was holding a double-bladed axe made of stone that had been chiseled and honed to a fine sharp edge. The beings scrutinised him with as much surprise and suspicion as he did they, muttering to each other in grunts and gnashing motions of their teeth. Then one of them addressed him. He could not understand the strange sounds it made.
‘I do nought understand your words,’ he shrugged. ‘ My name be Mirrortac; I come from Eol beyond the mountain. I am grateful that you rescued me.’
There were more grunts and the beings exchanged perplexed grimaces. Then one stepped toward him and grabbed him with its bat-like fingers, tugging at his arm and motioning for him to follow. Mirrortac followed them into the forest a short distance before each of the beings began to climb the trunk of one of the giant trees.
Mirrortac hesitated as he looked up into the heights of the trunk and foliage above. ‘Up there?’ he said, pointing up into the branches.
The beings nodded and urged him to climb with them. Climbing trees was not an erfin-preferred activity but he knew the process for the times when an escape from a predator necessitated it. He clung to the trunk of the tree and pulled himself upwards, gingerly clawing his way behind the bat-beings who managed the climb as a matter of course. They scrabbled past vines and branches, higher and higher until they had reached a bough where the three beings now stood, waiting for the erfin. When he crawled onto the bough, one of the beings took wing, gliding across the dizzying space until it alighted on a neighbouring tree and awaited the others. Mirrortac glanced at them then stared at the yawning empty space above the cross matting of foliage and branches below. He gestured to them, anxious and alarmed.
‘I cannot do this!’ he shouted. ‘Look!’ he indicated his furry arms. ‘No wings!’ he waved his arms and wobbled precariously.