Rienna awoke from a deep sleep with an earthy taste in her mouth. She was lying under a strange tree in a small grove. There were maybe ten trees around her? She couldn’t tell, her head hurt too much. She could, however, tell that she was covered in dirt and so were Xio and Xia who were sleeping right at the base of the tree. She could somewhat remember running from a witch and suddenly being underground and falling, but she was too tired and everything was sore from running and falling. She tried to get up but her legs hurt too much, so she just collapsed onto the soft grass. She closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the open air and clean grass. It was so peaceful, lying there in the shade of the tree, listening to songbirds chirping softly, feeling warmth on her skin that she hadn’t felt since the weird squirrel first caught them in a loop, a warmth that she hadn’t even felt while within the Suppression. It was wonderful. So wonderful that it wasn’t long before her tiredness overcame her and she fell back into dreamless slumber.
When she woke up again it seemed like no time had passed at all; the Sun still shone above and birds were still talking above her. Only this time, Rienna no longer had a headache and could think clearly. Xio and Xia were no longer at the base of the tree, meaning they had woken up since Rienna had fallen asleep the second time.
She looked around her, taking stock of her surroundings. There were indeed ten trees forming a small grove in which Rienna was the center of. She did not know what type of tree they were, but they were round and had strings of leaves that hung down that, if longer, would form a curtain around the grove. The tree that Rienna was under was on a slight hill, making her lie at a bit of an angle.
Beyond the trees was a hilly region of green grass. Scattered about were the same kind of trees that Rienna was lying under. Right outside the small grove was a tall hill that she could not see the top of. She was, however, able to discern that the hill didn’t go that much higher since she was able to see shadows of trees coming down the hill.
All of a sudden, a cat landed on her face. Fortunately the cat was Xia who had quickly decreased her weight as she fell. Apparently she had been in the tree that Rienna was sitting under when she had fallen off a branch for some reason. Xia got off of Rienna’s face just in time for another cat, Xio, to fall on Rienna’s face.
“Sorry Rienna! I saw a weird goat!” Xio apologized.
Rienna pushed him off her face, “You saw a goat so you fell on my face?” she said skeptically.
“Technically, I saw a weird goat, fell off my branch and knocked Mom off of her branch onto your face then tried hard to get stable then failed and fell onto your face.”
“So essentially you fell on my face because you saw a goat.”
“I guess. But that doesn’t matter anymore! We need to see that goat! It was obviously a goat of great wisdom. It can tell us how to get home!” Xio said excitedly.
Rienna pondered a moment. “I guess a goat could be wise. And if it is wise it can probably guide us back to the Suppression.” Rienna said uncertainly.
“Exactly! Let’s go!” Xio mewed and then bounded quickly out of the grove and up the hill.
Rienna quickly ran after him, not wanting to lose him. It was in that way that they were very quickly at the top of a hill and standing in front of a goat. There were indeed trees, but very few. There was one tree much like the ones at the foot of the hill and two others that seemed like orange trees, although there was no fruit to confirm. The goat was sitting at the very top in the middle of the three trees. It was relaxing in the shade, its goatee waving as it chewed thoughtfully.
Xio climbed onto Rienna’s shoulder and whispered in her ear. “Ask it how to get home.”
Rienna hesitated. The goat wasn’t even looking at them. It was just starting off into the distance and chewing. “Um… Hello wise goat… um goat of this hill… could you… direct us to… um… the Suppression?” She said falteringly. The goat did not acknowledge her. “Um… Mister goat…? Could you … tell me how to get home please?” Still there was no change in movement from the goat. “Hey goat! Could you just point me to where I need to go?!”
The goat grunted and stood up on its cloven hooves. “Meh eheheheh.” It bleated and turned towards the grove of trees that Rienna and her cats had come up from. “Tha-a-at is t-the dire-e-e-ction you must ta-a-ake to ge-et to where you ne-ee-ee-eed. Meh-eh-eh.” It then grunted and sat down beneath the trees again.
“So that is where I need to go to get home?” Rienna asked.
“Meheh.” The goat bleated. It then turned its head away from her and started chewing its cud once more.
“Uh… thank you mister goat… we’ll be on our way now.” Rienna said and turned away from the goat.
As she, Xia, and Xio walked down the hill she continuously kept looking back towards the goat. It never looked back at her, so she just continued walking down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill Rienna turned to the cats, “Can we really trust the goat that this way is home?”
“Of course we can! It’s magic and wise!” Xio said enthusiastically, “Plus, we don’t have any idea where we are in comparison to the magic barrier, so we might as well trust the goat and hope for the best.”
“I… guess. Maybe. … Fine. Let’s go…” Rienna said, “Just look for food along the way, I haven’t eaten food in… well, I guess I don’t know how long, but I am very hungry.”
“Okay! Also water would be good. Let’s go!” Xio bounded off and out of the grove. Xia looked at Rienna with a confused look on her face before running after her son.
Rienna hesitated a moment, not entirely sure that she wanted to go the direction that the goat had indicated, but she didn’t want to keep the cats waiting, so she ran after them.
They walked for many hours across the hilly region, talking very little. They found no food or water on their journey and had to take many rests later on due to their hunger, or rather Rienna’s hunger, who wasn’t quite hungry enough to eat a dead rat. As they walked they watched the gradual transition from the type of trees in the grove to more pine like structures. What was the gentle light of the sun that warmed Rienna’s skin was now a blazing heat from above that made her burn. It was a feeling she hadn’t experienced before and it wasn’t one that she enjoyed.
“Can we stop under that tree over there?” Rienna asked her cats, “I think that I am burning.”
“Yeah… I think … yes! I am… so… tired…” Xio said from behind her.
“MEOW!” Xia said suddenly. Rienna didn’t understand what she said but from Xio’s reaction she could tell that she saw something.
“What! What is it?” She squinted her eyes and looked into the distance and gasped, “Is that all made of plants?” Far out into the distance a wall could be seen, it looked green and uneven, perhaps like it grew that way, but it was too far in the distance to tell. It looked somewhat ominous, but the sun was in the right position that the wall cast a large shade against the ground that could be seen all of the way from where Rienna was.
“You know what, let’s go there. The shade made by that weird plant wall is probably cooler than any trees’.” Rienna suggested. The cats agreed enthusiastically.
They walked for another half an hour and did stop for a rest by a tree anyway. But when they arrived at their destination they collapsed onto the cold grass. They didn’t even observe the strange wall until they had cooled down enough.
When Rienna had finally rested enough she looked at the wall towering above her. It was indeed made of plants, vines in fact, and was taller than some of the trees that were nearby. The vines reminded her of a story that she was told when she was younger about a beautiful maiden who had been cursed by a witch to fall asleep forever when she turned sixteen as a baby. The vine wall resembled the barrier that was made by the witch except they weren’t nearly as big and weren’t at all thorny. There were even orange flowers and leaves at the top of the wall. The few trees nearby stood, at highest, at the height of the wall. Their trunks were short and quickly branched off into long, but also stable, branches. The trees all looked like the perfect climbing tree with their many thick branches that could easily be used to stand on.
Rienna looked at her cats, who had fallen asleep, and decided to climb a tree and try to look over the hedge. The trees were not hard to climb, but most of them were not tall enough to see over the edge. It was after climbing three trees that she finally found one tall enough. She climbed to the highest branch that she easily could and then looked around for the next branch. It wasn’t hard to find, but it was definitely hard to get to. She tried to swing onto it from a higher branch, but she almost fell, so she tried just stepping up and onto it, but it was too high.
She finally got onto the branch by stepping on a little nook that was sticking out of the tree. She looked forward at the hedge, only one more branch and she would be able to see above it. But an orange tube shaped flower from the hedge swayed gently in front of her face and she felt compelled to smell it. Its scent was faint but sweet and Rienna felt a wave of relaxation flow gently through her. It was quite nice, and with the urge to smell the flower satisfied, she climbed to the final branch of the tree.
She looked out and over the hedge and gasped in amazement. Before her lay a town of a sort with a fortress or castle sitting atop a hill near the center. There were small plots of farmland and many neighborhoods with thin dirt roads connecting them. The area was a little more than a town, it seemed more like the combining of several small villages with somewhat different style housing separated into quadrants.
To Rienna it looked like a fantasy and she called down to her cats, “Wake up! Xia, Xio! There is a kingdom out here! They will have food and water and people!” The cats, being light sleepers, quickly woke up after she had yelled at them a few times. They looked up at her just in time to see her sway although she was dizzy and fall off her branch and onto the other side of the hedge.
Rienna looked down as she was falling and realized that that entire side of the wall was lined with a thick pillow or foam like material. Then she drifted asleep while falling, much like how she had when the ground had opened up beneath her when she was running from the strange witch.