The next day the group of dignitaries left, not to return for another generation. Several weeks passed, then, one otherwise, normal, sunny day; it happened.
Calum had been studying some cumulus clouds through his telescope, when he noticed the sunlight glint off of some object near the top of his sight line. He quickly swiveled the towards where he thought he'd seen the object. He couldn't spot it for a moment and then it broke out from a patch of puffy clouds, the wispy air clinging to his body as he plumeted to the Earth.
Calum wrenched himself away from the scope, danced around the mess in his room, and raced down the stairs. He shouldered his way past a monk carrying a basket of yams, causing the vegatables to tumble down the steps. "Abbot!" Cried the distressed monk but Calum didn't excuse himself or stop to help. He hit the hall at a run and vaulted a bench, before heaving open the doors and hurtling out into the sunlight.
He frantically scanned the skies and brought his hand up to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight. Where was it, where was it!
"What seems to be the matter Abbot?" asked a sleepy eyed monk who was returning from the fields with a rake balanced on his shoulder.
Calum was about to answer when the loudest noise he'd ever heard slammed into his unwitting ears. He crouched with his hands thrown over his ears and when he turned to look over his back he saw a mountain of earth thrown into the air behind him.
A great beast of dirt rose from the depths of the forest. It hung in the air for several agonizing seconds; it didn't fragment and fall back to the ground in little chunks but rather slammed into a circular area around the impact zone like a great whale smacking the sea's surface. The ground quaked like one of the Shakings that Calum had heard happened in the East with pieces of the landscape jagging upward. Even some of the Forest's mightiest and oldest trees splintered and cracked under the falling leviathen of dirt. Huge sections of the trees were thrown into the air and spiraled off before whizzing back down to their home like meteors.
The dirt and rocks that were thrown up didn't thud to a stop on impact around the crater but flowed outward like a rushing river, carrying material outwards in a flood of perilous earth. Anything caught in the way of this wave was picked up and pounded into submission by the force behind the movement. Great herds of animals were sent fleeing for their lives in the face of their impedeing deaths. Pilgrims abandoned heavily weighted carts and wagons and tried their luck on foot. The animals that towed these vehicles were often not unleashed and their screams of distress and fear added to he hellish scene.
And where did this great mass of people and animals head to? Where instinct and logic told them to: high ground. And where was high ground? Everyone knew that. The Abbey-In-The-Woods.
The abbot realized this reality quickly and attempted to coordinate a response to handle the coming forced waves of migration. He found this task difficult in the turmoil of the disaster. Frightened monks and pilgrims were running into one another and tumbling to the ground in an attempt to find the safest place possible. Calum was about to shout and gesture until he could herd everyone into the abbey when a massive chunk of tree crashed like a missile through the roof of the building impacting the floor with a loud thud that could be heard from outside. Before he could react two more boulder sized pieces of wood smashed into the facade of the building, one into the bell tower that caused a rain of white bricks to fall on those attempting to get into the abbey; the other ricocheting off of one of the walls and into an unfortunate pilgrim removing the upper half of his body from the lower in a splatter of red mist.
It was as though nature was committing siege on his monastery and this concept froze Calum in his place. He was no military man, he had no formal training in either disaster relief or taking this sort of command in a chaotic situation. But still, he felt as though the burden of command was on him. Dozens of deadly wooden missiles continued to pelt the abbey and the surrounded landscape, with an improbable majority hitting the building itself. He would've stayed right where he was if not for the charging army that emerged out dusty mist of the tree line at the bottom of the hill.
A swirling cloud of dust rose up in the stead of the rushing mud and dirt and the brown haze obscured the view of the trees. The dust kicked up into the atmosphere joined forces with the puffy jaunty clouds in severely dimming the light of the sun. As a result the view was imperfect, half lit, but even in near dark it would be hard to not notice the oncoming stampede that faced them now.
A huge pack of wild boar tore out of the haze grunting and squealing, tossing their heads wildly. All they knew was that the trouble was behind them and that they needed to run away from the trouble. On instinct they pounded up the hill with disregard for anyone or thing that got caught in their path. One of the older monks who was caught gathering a pail of water was caught only a few seconds after he tried to get out of the way. His upper leg was hooked by one of the large, sharp tusks that rose out of the beasts faces like weapons of war. The protubence pierced his thigh and the poor man was trampled and dragged for a few horrible yards before he was tossed into the air and crushed by the following herd of hogs.
One fortunate woman was saved from demise when a frenzied boar that was gaining on her in his run towards safety was undercut by a falling tree branch. It's front legs collapsed on themselves and with a sudden and confused snort it plowed face first into the hill, with its final hook of it's head sending it's horrible tusks only inches from the womans ankle.
In what seemed like a miracle. The boars stopped and their ears pricked up. The tails flicked anxiously and then stood straight up in the air in unison. The monks and pilgrims, who had all kept running, stared at the strange scene from the top of the hill. Then all heard a low rumbling that grew and grew with the noise of snapping trees and rustling leaves, with terrified animal screams adding to the terrible orchestra. And the surge of earth cascaded through the tree line and started flying uphill losing little speed. The boars snorted in disbelief and the speed and will of the oncoming wave. Calum saw a small group of monks who were coming from the fields desperately attempting to outrun the earth, but it ran into and over them as though they weren't there, swallowing them into the dirt and pounding them into the ground. The abbot was not alone in his cries of shock and dispair, others prostrated themselves or tugged on their hair.
Some of the boars managed to turn and began to run before the wave overcame them but most weren't. The wave was tearing toward them but losing large amounts of speed the further it got. The abbot had feared the terrible force was going to crash against his abbey walls, but it now appeared it wouldn't even lick them. This did nothing to comfort the herd of boar who had by now each been crushed deep under the mass.
The rain of timbers had stopped, and the stampeding animals had themselves been trampled, the fleeing humans swallowed under the dirt. The dirt ground to a halt a dozen feet from where the people were gathered.
A less logical man would've said they'd been saved by a miracle of God, and one would expect a man in Calum's position to do the same. The abbot was banking more on the laws of motion and energy. The God's wouldn't have turned this beautiful, vivacious, forest into this hellish wasteland. At the very edge of the dirt flow a horse, undoubtedly from a pilgrim wagon, had been carried and smashed by the tidal wave of dirt. It was half submerged in the dirt and mud, its massive chest and forelegs kicked desperately to free itself. Its mane was caked with dirt and blood and rocks. Pieces of splintered wood had opened huge bloody gashes on the poor animals neck. It's eyes rolled almost completely back into it's head in panic, and its ears were flat against his head. The horse's mouth was frothing with blood that was somewhat choking the terrified shrieks and whinnies. Somewhat. If this was the part of the horse that was visible, Calum couldn't be swayed to see what the horses hindquarters looked like. He reminded himself to have the monasteries cook mercy kill the animal before any surviving predators or scavengers came across it. That is, if the cook was still alive.
The impressive foliage had wide gaps in it from the assault, perhaps three out of every four trees remained standing but all showed damage. It would take months to clear the hill of the multiple foot layers of dirt that covered it in some places, repair the damage to the abbey, and recover the bodies of those who'd perished. Many of his monks houses were buried under the mess. The dirt and mud had almost completely obliterated all their crop fields. Brother Gregory's flower beds would have to be sacrificed for beans and rice he feared. And the pilgrims would fall to a trickle, costing the monastery valuable tribute and supplies, with both the wave making travel difficult, and the trouble of overcoming the stigma of disaster.
The Forest had suffered damage before, though never on this scale. Calum had heard reports of the damage of large fires being quickly rectified by spirits of the Forest. Even if the abbot believed in such things, he hardly would've placed his confidence in them to fix this. How was he going to fix this? It was a job for the Gods, but he figured it would be carried out by humans. He didn't exactly have a wealth of space to put the dirt. He supposed the crater, but that would be a long trip for disposal. And he lacked shovels and other equipment. He would have to go see the Council, request and receive their help, and only then could he return. He would leave a small amount of volunteers to look after the abbey, and send the rest of them home to their farms, cities, or villages where they came from.
He would have those monks who were dismissed travel back in a group with enough supplies to get them through for reasons of safety. It wouldn't be as easy for him, he thought with a twinge of bitterness. He'd have to travel alone as per protocol for meeting the council and with few rations. He'd have to leave most for the two large groups, those going back home and those staying. He'd traveled through the Forest only once, and that was as a rather young man, and that had been in a large caravan. This time there would be no one to help fight agaisnt the bugs, weather, terrain, feral animals, lack of water and... if some were to be believed demons. Also, avoiding people falling from the sky would be a high priority. But first their were supplies to gather. And bodies to bury.
Author's Note: Hell of an entrance, huh?
The Crazy Talk Kid: Thanks a lot! I also am not sure why I don't have more review :) One of life's great mysteries. Hope you like it.