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The Story:

It’s been three days since I’ve seen another human being, but this road is now winding its way alongside a river, so it shouldn’t be much longer. Towns always settle next to bodies of water, and I am tasked with discovering them and mapping out the kingdom’s new territory. It’s a great honor bestowed upon me by my king.

Ahead of me through the trees, I see what may be a town and even a fishing boat in the river. My pace quickens. The small dirt road leads me around a corner, and my progress is halted by the strangest of sights.

A large man is standing in the middle of the path with his arms stretched upwards. He appears to be holding up an entire tree. Aside from the how, I can’t imagine why a person would have this goal.

“Gracious, man, do you require assistance?”

I throw down my pack and run to help with his load.

“Back off! Find your own tree!”
“You… You aren’t burdened?”
“Ha! Is it a burden to carry thine own arms, traveler?”

I am beyond bewilderment. Releasing my grip on what is apparently his fallen tree, I back step to observe the situation in its entirety. It is only then that I notice the felled tree behind him with a corpse crushed beneath it.

“What happened to this man?”
“What? Oh… Forgot he was there.”
“Forgot! Now, see here, man, I demand some answers by order of your new king!”

The man growls and adjusts his grip on the tree.

“He died holding up his tree!”
“Do you own these trees as individuals, one to a tree?”
“No one can own a tree! They deserve to stand more so than we!”

He sighs and appears to find his patience with my questioning.

“Those who would be truly righteous among us would train himself to lift a tree one last time. His honor is to be crushed beneath it when he can hold it no more, so that his body may continue to keep it from the ground. There, they will rot together as one.”

His arms are shaking wildly.

“This is madness!”
“Madness to you maybe, traveler, but to us it’s an honor that…”

One of his arms snaps, and the tree crushes him into the ground. I don’t have to check to see that he is dead. Madness.


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