Förrgår, Part I


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Also Featuring

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Scene Title Förrgår, Part I
Synopsis Providence residents look into something strange in the Pine Barrens, and it's even stranger than they were expecting.
Date September 8, 2020

Pine Barrens

“There’s something weird with the trees.”

Those were the words reported by one of the residents from just outside of Providence. When pressed for details, she shook her head after a few attempts when it came to describing what it was she saw, what made her head to “town” and ask for help.

“You’ll have to see for yourselves.”

Now, as the contingent from Providence stand staring into primordial woods, they see what she meant.

The normally unrelenting forest formed of thousands — millions — of pitch pines appears almost dented in front of them, as if they had lost several feet of height compared to the others nearby. In the distance, following further along the arcing line that separates the “normal” forest, other trees seem taller, as if they’d shot up several feet above their brethren.

Their eyes cannot follow the arc all the way around, but it seems likely it’s a very large circle.

Finn Shepherd, for once, hasn’t spoken for a few minutes, ever since they came to this section of the Barrens. After a few minutes of standing and gaping, the tall man walks over to one of the trees at the edge of the perimeter, and looks upward, the dappled sunlight making him squint. “It’s… smaller on the other side,” he murmurs, pointing up.

The third of the pine that sits within the perimeter of the circle looks younger, less weathered, barely more than a sapling at twenty or so feet. On the outside of the circle, the tree looms, aged and gnarled, some eighty feet tall.

“That’s fucking weird,” he says, glancing over his shoulder at the others.

"What is this, a crop circle made out of trees?" From others, it might cut with a sarcastic air, but Kara's perfectly serious. It's an oversimplification of what they're seeing, too, to be sure. She lets the comment hang a moment longer, looking to Finn's discovery, then back to the inside of the ring.

She holds her ground, hanging back from it. Just in case.

"My gut feeling says manifestation accident— or defensive accident." Also to not touch it, if her hands-off attitude is any indication. She narrows her eyes at the partly-transformed tree, like study of it might reveal if the deaging was an effect that was slowly rippling back.

God, she hopes not.

Without the old, familiar devilry of her ability to lean on in these past months, Yi-Min herself has been leaning into the more martial aspects of her long-ago military training. At least in terms of garb right now, she is looking much more like a miniaturized version of the woman she is standing behind— Kara— than Dr. Yeh, resident chemist and snake of Providence.

The little Taiwanese woman radiates her usual prim but boyish vigor, one small hand resting near to, but not yet on, the closely-guarded resting place of a M1911 pistol. A shotgun in a scabbard crisscrosses the length of her back, and thuds lightly against her hip with the momentum of her steps as she moves up to join Finn in his mottled patch of sunlight.

Suddenly, 'touching' doesn't seem like the only bad idea here.

"So… Dumi. You know trees, right?" What is going on here? is the question she doesn't have to append after that, because it's fairly obvious. Hopefully their resident agrokinetic can shed any amount of light on this. Yi-Min's dark eyes flick backwards to him, just for a moment.

Something weird with the trees, they said.

And as it tends to be, trees are Dumortier's area of expertise. Illusions, however, are not. He stands there at Finn's side with an unsurprisingly bewildered expression, bright eyes alert and brow furrowed. Rene mutters something quietly to himself before moving onward to inspect just what Finn is pointing out. Before he decides what to do next, Yi-Min is dragging some of his attention from the tree.

"What he said. Kind of." A thumb jerks Finn's way. "One side is juvenile. It's… hm." Dumortier sidles up to the tree, peering up from the side where he can visualize just how different it is. "I've seen worse 'weird trees'." He lifts his hands to press them to either side, standing still with head tilted back.

Crunch. Crunch.

Doctor Harrison Carver is dressed for hunting. He's wearing a basic brown longsleeve shirt and black jeans with a good pair of hiking boots, along with a knife on one hip, a pistol on the other, and a rifle thrown over his back. He is not being particularly sneaky, however, in large part because he is not actually expecting to find whatever did this here… but one of his patients had made mention of something weird going on, and that seems like the sort of thing he ought to poke his nose into.

Besides. The hard truth of it is that every now and again, he gets bored.

Contrary to what Doctor Yeh had once thought, however, there is nothing wrong with Doctor Carver's hearing; the noise of the other group brings him to a standstill. He's far enough away that he can't make out what is being said, but the low murmur that he does get sounds… familiar.

Hrm. He's not the only one out investigating, then. He remains still for a moment, then starts to amble towards where he hears the conversation going on.

Finn knocks the tree on his side, a quick rap-rap to check how solid it is. He glances over at Kara, then Yi-Min, raising his eyebrows a little as if to say, ‘here goes nothing.’

He slides his hand around to the younger side of the tree, holding his breath as if he expects to disappear. Or lose his hand. Or possibly have his grown-adult hand shrunk to that of a prepubescent boy’s.

None of that happens, and he raps the other side of the trunk. Solid.

“Manifestation, maybe. That’s…” he squints, looking off in the distance, trying to gauge the mileage or acreage of the area they’re looking at.

He’s not good at guessing.

“A really fucking big range,” he finishes. The crunch-crunch of Carver’s approach is met with a hand to his hip - not on his sidearm, because that would be rude, as Finn studies the man and finds him vaguely familiar. “You know anything about this?” he asks, genially enough.

In the distance, somewhere deep within that circle, they hear the plaintiff sound of a canine howl, followed by the single report of a rifle blast.

Carver frowns. At Finn, at the tree, at the world in general; mostly at the last two, though, as he scrutinizes the tree.

He looks back to Finn. "Weird shit," he rasps, nodding once; this is his conclusion and diagnosis. With that out of the way, he looks to the rest of the group, and these are faces he recognizes more readily. He offers a nod to Dumortier, to Kara, and to Yi-Min — this last with a hint of approval to his expression. The last time he'd seen Yi-Min Yeh had been in the lab; while the proof is in the pudding, Doctor Yeh appears to have made the transition to fieldcraft comfortably.

Good on her.

Then, the sound of a dog howling, followed by the report of a gun. Carver's head turns like a turret, gauging distance and direction… and he's off. Now he's being sneaky.

Well, Finn didn't disappear or deage when he stepped into the circle. Even for all her general suspicion regarding the whole event, Kara can't frown at that. They needed to know, and now they know. She looks sidelong at Yi-Min for just a moment as she steps forward, having to content herself with the knowledge her partner is safe as she can be heading onward with them.

As safe as Kara would be, in her shoes.

The howl and the gunshot draw her attention instantly, keen on listening and seeing if they could figure out context from afar, potentially see what was happening over here. But there goes Carver, and with a tightening of her expression, so Kara goes after him, quietly following in his wake.

And contrary to what Doctor Carver had once thought, there is nothing wrong with Doctor Yeh's hearing, either. She picks up his rambling approach, the stolid crunching of leaf litter beneath his boots, well before she is able to make out the full effect of his words.

But once she does, that profile is unmistakable. Thank you for the assessment, Doctor Carver.

Yi-Min returns a perfunctory sign of approval, but it’s sidelong. As with the others, the combination of those two unexpected sounds snap up her attention as soon as they crop up.

Her pistol is clenched warily in her grasp now. With one small but communicative dip of a glance at those remaining, she steps off after Carver and Kara, lightly and lithely as a peculiarly well-armed cat. She does not ride their heels directly— instead, she deliberately picks a more circumspect path that threads the shadowy weft of adjoining underbrush, all the while being careful to keep the foremost two in her sight.

It wouldn't do to all blunder into the same clearing at once like a herd of lemmings, however cautious they were individually trying to be.

Dumortier is still palming around the trunk of the tree when he hears the shot, and only seems concerned when the others do. Hunters have dogs. Hunters have guns. Whatever. He watches past the side of the pine as they start moving off, chewing on the inside of his cheek and considering Yi-Min's angle. See, she's got it.

"We can't go fucking off looking for every damn redneck…" Rene grumbles, scowling just-so before slipping between trees to follow; at one point he just vanishes entirely, leaving the sound of boots on bark in his wake as he takes to going branch to branch rather than trekking after the lead lemmings.

“Helpful,” deapans Finn as Carver gives them all the benefit of his years of experience with that diagnosis. But then everyone is following him into the woods at the sound of guns and howls.

He looks over his shoulder, then forward.

“I’m not staying here alone,” he tells exactly no one, and begins to take his part in the strange re-enactment of “Following the Leader” by the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.

Despite the apparent youth of the trees, the forest is still dense, thick with pines and other bushes and shrubs. Sound is strange here, too; a single gunshot can echo and mislead, though following the sound of the howl might be more accurate, it might also lead them into danger.

After several yards of stealing through the tree-choked woods, Carver in the lead, and Rene swinging above, hear a sound that belongs to neither a marksman nor a beast.

Jagar Mats djuren?

It’s the voice of a small child, who steps innocently right into Carver’s path. She’s a tiny, impish-looking blonde with elfin features…

…and a dress that looks like it should be on display in the Smithsonian — a dark calico print in coarse fabric covered by a muslin pinafore. Her tiny feet are bare.

Her eyes widen and she squeaks when she sees the quintet — well, the quartet. She hasn’t looked up.

Arms suddenly wrap around her as a teenage boy steps out from behind a bush; he scoops the child up, angling her on hip and turning sideways protectively. His pale blue eyes glower at the investigators as if to demand an explanation of their presence.

He too wears nothing that looks like it was made in this century or even the last.

Carver stops in his tracks.

He's not sure what he'd been expecting to find out here, but… this isn't it. Then again, expected or not, this is what they've got. Kid and somewhat older kid, older kid wary or maybe even unfriendly. Neither appears armed, at least (which admittedly doesn't mean a whole lot in this Post-Midtown age, but given the circumstances he's willing to assume the positive.)

Carver raises a hand slowly, palm up — that, at least, is a sign that's relatively universal for 'we come in peace'. "I don't know that language. Do you speak English?" he asks, as non-threateningly as he can manage. He focuses on the kids — under other circumstances, he might be worried about his back, but he knows that Kara's back there at the moment.

Kara's eyes widen a tick, the hair on the back of her neck raising at seeing those children.

She remembers how she ended up in this world— one reality slammed over another. Who's to say that couldn't happen again? Happen here? With a tightening of her expression, she takes a step to the side to come up alongside Carver, stepping forward to put herself on the front line with him.

They're children, possibly from another era. Maybe they'll react favorably to a woman's presence as well. Kara doesn't smile, but she lets tension go from her shoulders, looking between the two. Were they speaking the language the Amish around here did?

Her lips purse together, and then she raises a hand in a small hello.

"Goedemorgen," she tries, because that sounds right to her.
Crouched in a pine's arm, Dumortier is close enough to both look down on the fair-haired children and hear the girl. Also close enough to hear the attempts by Carver and Kara at communicating. Well, there is an attempt. Both are fair shakes. Rene descends a few steps, holding onto an upper branch with one hand, feet carrying him boldly out onto the bow. It wavers some under his weight, but slows in its weakness. The others see him before the kids will.

What gives him away is his laugh; Rene isn't terribly high off the ground at this point, just out of reach. Blonde and blue and bright-eyed, aloft and as fae as ever when he snickers in the wake of Kara's greeting. Hello, kids.

"A little north, chere." Dumortier corrects quietly, more kindly than usual. His eyes are on the strange children, however, when he questions singularly. Make it easy, Carver. "Engelsk? Franska?"

Yi-Min is no more an expert on Scandinavian languages than she looks like, but she's heard enough odd codewords bantered around from her days with the Vanguard to identify the probability that this is the family the speech of these odd humans belongs to.

So, she exhales an extremely hard stream of air out of her nostrils when she hears Kara land on Dutch as her first resort, resisting the urge to murmur something incredibly dry under her breath in her own tongue. It nearly gives away her hiding place behind the spray-like appendages of a tall cluster of ferns, but she contains it, and continues to observe with the lightness of more than one shade of disbelief in her eyes— though she also isn’t particularly concerned about keeping herself hidden, anymore.

The teenager’s eyes narrow and he looks from one of the adults to the other. A brow tics upward as he looks up at Dumortier’s laughter, clearly not expecting to see people up in the slim trees that surround them. Kara’s attempt at a good morning elicits some understanding in his eyes; at Carver’s question, he looks to the child in his arms.

Släpp ner mig, Jepp,” the little girl says, looking altogether unafraid and kicking her feet until the lanky boy sets her down, but keeps a protective hand on her shoulder.

“I do, but Jepp does not,” she tells Carver proudly and solemnly, lifting her chin as she looks up at the bevy of strangers. The accent — Swedish, for those who can tell their northern Europeans apart — tinges her words, but there’s something strange underlying them, an odd formality not common for a child of her age.

She looks up at Jepp, then back to the others, head tipping as she notices the clothing they wear, her gaze lingering on the pants Kara wears, the weapons they all carry. “We need a physician,” the child says solemnly, looking up when the teenager taps her shoulder. She looks up, translating to Swedish for his sake, and he nods once, before surveying the group in front of them.

“Our brothers have a pox,” she adds, “another already died of it. Some say we’ve been hexed.” .

Finn’s eyes are wider than the little girls as he slowly slides his gaze over to look at the others. “Are we in the Twilight Zone?” he whispers. Super helpful.

It's Yi-Min who answers first this time, finally abandoning her impromptu hiding spot altogether and stepping out from the leafy array of ferns after privately arriving at a decision. At first, the children see her strange, tiny figure eclipsed by the intense greenery of the foliage she leaves behind. Her pistol has been holstered again, and her posture is straight and irenic and calm as that of a little queen, small hands exposed in a restful manner by her sides.

If they all wanted to find out more about the plight of these strange children, it might as well be she that extends the first proper olive branch.

"Carver may be able to help you with this," she offers to the girl once she is at a moderate distance, warily tilting her head almost as though in emulation of the girl's little gesture a moment before— though hers is meant to mollify, rather than to show puzzlement. "I am Yi-Min, and I may be able to find medicine for you, or at least make some, in time. What is your name?"

All the while, Yi-Min is doing her best to enunciate as clearly as she can. While her English is certainly fair, she knows that the unintentional distortion done to some of her words by her own Taiwanese accent might not help these proceedings.

Between the group of them, they figure it out. That the little girl is the one to handle the communication sets Kara slightly ill at ease, but it's something she keeps to herself. The use of terminology— pox, hex— it all speaks to confirmations of her suspicions that the kids may be ripped out of time.

Or… maybe not ripped. Maybe they did this on purpose.

Her eyes settle again on the girl in particular, making no attempt to keep her expression placid any longer. "No," is all she says to reply to Finn, doing so in a terse whisper.

The girl's words draw a slight tilting of his head. Pox and hex are not particularly modern wordings, anymore than her clothing is particularly modern. This whole situation is, as Carver said earlier, weird shit

…but he is a doctor, and if someone out here is dying of pox, be damned if he's not going to try to do something about it.

Carver's eyes flicker back to Yi-Min as she speaks, and he offers the barest of a nod at her words; he's got a few things tucked into his pockets, and he knows a few things more about medicine in the field, but having a chemist along for the ride will probably be an asset. Ditto someone who's got Dumortier's green thumb, if he's game.

"I'm a physician," he says, nodding once to the girl. "I'll do what I can to help your brothers." His eyes flicker to the others for a moment, searching for any sign of objection… and as his eyes meet Kara's, he gives the barest hint of a nod before looking back to the kids. Kara's on alert; good. If he's obligated to step in as a doctor, he's counting on Kara to pull duty as a soldier for him, if things end up going to hell.

The further this goes, the more seriously Dumortier seems to take it; he remains where he is, brow furrowing at a steady pace. The entire situation is bizarre, and from his perch he gives Finn a look of agreement. Yes, Twilight Zone. Absolutely.

Which is why between the others' decisions to help, Rene is stuck deciding if he even wants to get down. He's heard enough stories. He's seen enough too. This isn't right, and talking about hexes lands him with the very real question of how the two little Swedes will take a visible ability. Lip caught under his teeth, Dumortier finally looks up to Kara, then Finn, the two he's known longest. Alright.

He makes up his mind in those few moments, setting himself down onto the branch and swinging easily back to ground. It shades green under his feet, moss speckling the space around him. Small, first, if they're going to try and help. Can't help without the green thumb.

"Hope you guys have your shots, then." Rene cocks his head towards the others.

Both children’s eyes widen a little when Yi-Min steps out of the bushes; the boy — Jepp — tightens his protective grip on the little girl’s shoulder, and one hand goes to his belt, where a sheath clearly holds a hunting knife of some sort.

But then there’s promise of help.

Jepp tap the smaller child’s shoulder, and she looks up, murmuring to him in quiet tones of her own language what’s been said.

“I am called Elsef,” she says, when she turns to stare up at Yi-Min with wondering eyes. Carver earns a smile from the fae-like little girl, and she’s about to say more when she sees Dumi’s drop to the ground and she takes a step backward. “Är han en älf?

Jepp’s expression stays more stoic, and he studies Rene for a moment, before shaking his head, leaning to whisper something into Elsef’s ear. She nods once, whatever fear she had assuaged.

“We will show you the way,” she says, reaching up a hand to Carver as the designated physician.

Finn’s eyes are as wide as Elsef’s as he watches the interactions between the children, Yi-Min and Carver. “You sure?” he asks Kara. “I guess we’re going in? Do we… if we’re in the past, are we worried we’ll stop existing or something if we screw up the future? Are we going to open another parallel timeline? Shouldn’t we leave that to Richard Ray?”

But he trudges forward anyway. Kids are dying. He’s not going to let that happen if he can help somehow. “I think they called you an alien,” he asides to Rene.

"Pleased to meet you," Carver rasps gravely at Elsef's introduction.

The girl's sudden fear at Rene's arrival is met with a subtle tensing from Carver; thankfully her brother steps in to calm her. Carver nods to Rene. Under other circumstances he might remark on the älf bit — he's pretty sure that one's a cognate — but not now. Not while there's work afoot.

Carver isn't super keen on hand-holding, but he takes the offered hand anyway; Kara's here if any soldier work comes up, and he most definitely has his shots, anyway.

If they were suddenly thrown into the past- at least Kara and Yi-Min would be together in that predicament. It's the thought that stills any reluctance she might bear in following after Carver. They'd been so patient, gone through so much to get to their reunion— she would do nothing to jeopardize that.

"We'd have to really try hard to screw things up for ourselves to change our futures," asides Kara Prince, the Traveler of Space, Not Time. "But set off an alternate timeline? Any more than we have by doing things we have before? Sunspot? Coming to Providence?"

Even so, Kara looks back the way they came, to where the treeline should shift and become decades— centuries taller. Her reassurances aside, it dawns on her returning to their intended time and timeline may be harder said than done… should they do something that actually changes the future.

"I'm more concerned we haven't run into the source of those gunshots yet." Kara airs while she looks back.

Just like Finn, Dumortier has plenty of questions; some of them the same, some of them different and unvoiced. He lets the kids and the others take lead, ambling up alongside Finn to follow along, arms crossing to block the autumn wind.

"No, not alf, älf." There's a look lifted up Finn's way, wavering between uncertain and yearning for a momentary distraction from Timelines and the Past and whatever they might be walking into.

"She asked if I was an elf. I think. Close enough." Dumortier's shoulders shrug at the same time, his breath caught in a half-laugh. "If I'm going to help I'd rather be an elf than a witch." So there's that. They probably won't burn an elf…?

Despite her lack of hesitancy in committing to conversation with Elsef, Yi-Min appears a good deal more skeptical now. "I am not averse to helping, but this is a terrible idea," she murmurs, voice far from inaudible. A hair more emphatically, her gaze travels up and down the details of the girl's archaic garb again. "I leave this to you," she informs her partner very plainly, keeping her eyes fixed on the forms of the children. "If you decide to go along with whatever this is, I am coming with." After all, Kara was the one with actual Travel experience between the two of them.

But of course, Kara is also so much more than that to Yi-Min. To induce yet another possibly permanent separation between them was totally out of the question.

Finn lifts a shoulder at Rene’s correction. “Both have pointy ears, Legolas,” he says with a grin, but it fades after a moment. He looks from Yi-Min to Kara, then back over his shoulder to where they came from. “Just a sec.”

He looks around, finding a round, fist-sized rock. He strikes the pose of a major-league pitcher, winding up to hurl the stone through — to make sure it can get through that imaginary line that marks the trees’ generation gap.

The stone falls well outside the perimeter.

Maybe it’s watching the rock or the trees themselves, but Kara notices something in the air — a slight glimmer at that border. Undisturbed by the trajectory of the rock, it’s not a force field or anything that keeps people from passing in or out of the circle of trees. As she looks up, she can see it above their heads — for a second or two, like an iridescent lens has encapsulated the area — almost like they’re in a snow globe, but can come and go as they please.

Elsef turns back at the question she asks. “The men are hunting the beasts that killed Jepps’ Far’s — fcow last night,” she says solemnly. “They won’t hurt you. We won’t let them.”

Jepp glowers under his drawn brows as he trudges forward to lead the way.

Kara looks up uncertainly as the lens over the area goes and goes. She frowns to herself, just as skeptical about continuing forward as her partner is. But— she won't leave Carver alone to this. "Finn," she asides to him. "Call me selfish, but I'm hoping you and your luck will stick around."

At the same time, she'd understand if he didn't want to press forward with them. He had June to think of.

And whatever the hell was going on here… there may not be an easy road back from it. They didn't even know who caused the effect, still. Accidentally, purposefully, or otherwise.

Dumortier stays beside Finn even when he stops, arms tightening in the cross over his chest while he observes the other man's 'test'. Well, at least they know they aren't stuck. But risks are risks, and Rene is content to stay at the back if he can.

"Beasts? What kind of beasts?" The mention has Rene nearly stopping, giving the others a short and worried look. "Are they big, crawling beasts?" Just. Checking. "Should some of us go find the hunters? I mean— if those things are still hanging around— " One, the hunters are good as dead. Two, they aren't ready for that kind of encounter.

"We are under no obligation to chase after an old man with a death wish," Yi-Min points out rather flatly as she scans over the visual disturbance alongside Kara, knowing full well that her companions have a differing opinion. It isn't that she wishes any harm to befall Carver, but he is an old man, probably slated to die soon anyway, and they all have their own lives to think of.

She inwardly lays a curse on Kara's sense of duty, something which she had never done before. Yet if this is the road that they would go down, so be it.

One hill was as good as any other to die on, even if it was hundreds of years in the past.

Carver nods gravely at Elsef, treating the girl's declaration that she won't let them come to harm with more solemnity than it would seem to warrant… except, of course, that she is of the place they're going, while all of them are outsiders. Having a local guide can make all the difference when you're heading into a strange place; that is a lesson that Carver knows from experience.

Perhaps the same can be said of a strange time, as well. If that's truly where they're going.

"I appreciate that," he rasps to Elsef. "I'm Doctor Carver," he adds, resolving to take care of the matter of introductions while it's on his mind.

He tenses a bit at Dumortier's question — he picks up what the agrokinetic is driving at. It'd be weird for one of those awful robot things to be killing cows… but on the other hand, weird shit is still his going diagnosis for this whole situation. From what he's heard, those things aren't particularly discriminatory, though… so if it was a horrible robot, then it'd be kinda odd that they're only concerned about it killing a cow.

It's only at Yi-Min's comment that he pauses to look back, giving her a sharp glare. "If I had a death wish," Carver rasps, "I know which end of the gun is the shooty one," he says, glaring for a moment longer before turning his attention back to the path forward. "You're right, though — you're under no obligation to come with me. If you do, do it because you want to help," he rasps. Would he feel better with a competent escort? Yes. Is he going to ask them to risk their lives for his? Not a chance — he's old, they're not. He doesn't have a death wish, but it's not exactly going to be a terrible loss to the world if he takes a dirt nap now instead of a few years down the road, either.

In the meantime… there are kids needing help. "Your brothers," he rasps to Elsef. "Tell me how they are afflicted."

Finn angles a glance back over his shoulder and responds with a shrug to Kara’s question. “I’m game if you are,” he says with a grin that collapses into a thoughtful frown for a moment.

“Not,” he adds, “in the ‘quarry’ sort of meaning.”

Given all the talk of hunters and beasts.

Jepps looks from face to face of the adults joining their cause, eyes narrowing at each voice as they speak the language he doesn’t know. But he seems to get the gist of it as he starts to move in the direction of those gunshots.

“Fever, rash. Dangerous, not like the…” Elsef doesn’t have a word in English for what she means, and she shrugs. “I had a pox when I was littler. It was not like that,” she says solemnly. “Nils already died. Jepps’ other brother.”

Jepp’s expression grows stonier as they plod forward through the woods, picking up on the name Nils. “Det räcker.” He jerks his head to indicate a path ahead, stalking forward with his back to the strangers.

In the distance, a horseman rides by. As he turns to head deeper into the woods, they see the musket he wears strapped to his back. Jepp follows in the same direction.

When they break through the trees into an area of cleared land, they find themselves in a small village. The feeling that they’ve stepped back in time snaps into sharp focus as they see the buildings — cottages made of wood and stone. A blacksmith’s with a forge. A mill with a water wheel churning the water from the creek.

“This is Lilleskalla,” Elsef says, looking up at the adults. “The sickhouse is this way.”

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