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"Into The Forest" - Personal Log, SD 201802.05
Lt. Cmdr. Relok
. Twelve-year-old Relok set out from the village he called home into the steaming forest of Chetozoplan. On his hip he carried a canteen filled from the cistern in the town square. Tucked into the crossed bandoliers on his chest he carried a hardened steel dagger. Tucked into his long hair were several flopping feathers of bright colors, and emblazoned on his forehead and cheeks were ornate symbols in a thick paint. He had nothing else.
. He walked a well-established trail for half an hour. He'd traveled this path many times in his childhood, usually with other children, often enough with teachers. Once he'd gone hunting with older boys to observe techniques but he wasn't allowed to carry a weapon and hadn't made a kill. This time, he was alone. He heard only the calls of birds in the distance, the steady drip of water falling from the mist-shrouded canopy a dozen or more meters overhead, a distant howl of a howler monkey echoing off the mountains. He could smell the fragrant blooms of the plants, the thick scent of the peat moss. He saw the glistening leaves of the ground ferns, an enormous web spanning nearly five meters in diameter adorned with countless pearls of condensed water droplets in which waited a shiny, dark green spider larger than his outstretched hand.
. He had been told that he would need to gather and dry out some of the peat moss for a fire, unless he found some exposed sulfur or other flammable mineral. He also knew that it would take quite some time for the peat to dry enough to catch a spark. And he knew he would need to find a piece of flint or other hard rock to strike such a spark from his dagger. He turned off the trail and began descending a ridge, hoping he would find such rocks in a stream at the bottom of the valley.
. As he descended, however, he caught a foot in the root of plant and tripped, falling head over heels and then tumbling down the slope, flopping like some rag doll for a half-dozen meters or more until crashing into a gnarled and twisted cluster of thick tree trunks, shaking the tree and causing a torrent of collected water to fall down on him - as if tumbling through the glistening ferns hadn't already soaked him through. Moaning with pain he righted himself, wishing for the first time that he was back home with his mother. He checked to make sure he still had both canteen and dagger and sighed with relief when he found both still where he'd placed them.
. Rising to his feet, gripping the trunks of the trees that had broken his headlong tumble, he noted there were grey rocks in the stream below, likely one of them would be flint or something equally useful, but, soaked as he was and as everything around him was, what could he possibly burn? Then he remembered. The sap of some of these trees was highly flammable. With enough sap, even damp needles would ignite, and with a log or two of the same tree, with sap still in it, he could make a hot, though smoky and sputtering, fire.
. With his dagger he scored the trunks he'd crashed into and nearly smiled when he saw sap ooze out of the cut like blood from a wound. He reached up and gathered some of the dead needles caught in branches and live needles of the tree - they'd be the most dry, exposed to what little wind there was in the valley. He daubed the needles with as much of the oozing sap as he could, then strained to break off a limb or two from the tree, dragging them down the slope with him to the stream.
. A quarter-hour later, with sore hands sticky with tree sap, he finally had a small fire popping and smoking on the banks of the stream. He'd completed his first major task. He had fire and was drying out his clothing. He drank from the stream rather than his canteen and wondered how he'd get food for the next day. As he thought his belly rumbled, but he dismissed the discomfort as an emotional distraction. He would not truly hunger for another day at least. It was even possible he would not need to eat at all for the four-day duration of this journey. But, logic could only do so much. It didn't fill his belly.