With your preparations complete, you set off on your daily sortie.
“Hey kid, do you know anything about plants at all?” Eustace asks you.
“A little. I know some flowers that are good for tea, and some spices, but I’m unfamiliar with the plants that grow on this mountain.”
“Alright, I’ll tell you what to look out for. For starters, stay away from the mushrooms. Most of the shrooms that grow on this mountain are poisonous, so, I’ll be the one picking out the good ones from the bad. You stick to the berries and the roots.”
“Okay, and how do I know which berries are good and which ones will kill you?”
“Simple: if it looks appetizing, don’t pick it. It’s the good-looking ones that will send you to the latrine on this mountain, or put you beneath the ground. Go for the ones that are darker in hue; those are safe. And for roots… ah, here’s a good example.” Eustace walks up to a nearby tree and starts digging at the root. After a while, he pulls out a muddy greenish root.
“Look at this. This is what we call barkroot. Ever heard of it?”
“No, I haven’t. What does it do?”
“By itself, nothing. But here’s a fun story my granddad told me when I was your age. He found that if cut these open with a knife, some green, sort of gooey tears begin to drip out. Now, being the experimental type, my granddad tried sucking them up to see what it tastes like. Pretty brave of him. Luckily, he wasn’t poisoned, but he did spit it out afterward. As it turns out, it’s extremely bitter.”
“Ok, and how does this help us?”
“I’m getting to the good part now. He had a cut in his mouth from gnawing on some bones the day before. The barkroot coated that cut and remained in the wound. Later, when he sat down to have lunch, he drank some blood soup made from cattle blood. Once he finished, he felt something hard in his mouth. He fiddled around with his tongue and felt that his cut had hardened up, as tough as a tree’s bark. Being a simple man, he thought nothing of it, but by the end of the day, the ‘bark’ in his mouth dislodged and fell out. He felt around with his tongue and he couldn’t find the wound anymore. So turns out, if you mix this root with cattle blood you can make yourself quite an effective medicine!”
“Hmmm, most interesting plants you have here. And how do I recognize these barkroot trees? They all look the same to me.”
“By the wrinkles in their bark. Most of the trees have wrinkles that go straight down, but the barkroot tree’s wrinkles go across the tree instead. That’s how you know where to dig.”
The both of you continue your foraging well into the day, until the sun begins setting in the west. You only manage to fill up your bag halfway; the situation is much the same with Eustace. It seems that the mountain is not bountiful this day, and with nothing more to do before the sun sets, you head back to camp.
During your walk back home, both of you remain silent. The eve is a critical moment, as that is when the night animals come out to prowl. Seeing as both of you only have a seax to defend yourselves, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll fare well in the event a dreadful beast pounces on you.
Unfortunately for the both of you, something even more wicked appears – a patrol of the baron’s guards! You first hear them by the sound of their armor as they tramp through the forest. Luckily, no hounds are with them today that you can see or hear.
Eustace whispers to you just one word. “Hide!” And with that, he springs into a ditch by the road and covers himself in leaves. What will you do?