In the eighth part of a regular series, Karen takes on Fantasy Life in a variety of 'lives' and documents her adventures.
At the behest of one of the forest spirits I got to know while summoning blasts of elemental energy and healing the scrapes I got from wearing flimsy but fashionable cloth armour as a magician, I decided to get back to nature in a non-destructive way and try my hand at felling trees. Every forest spirit and woodland sprite I’ve spoken to tells me that woodcutting is the best thing ever, and I'm still convinced that there are secret turf wars between unseen factions in the forest that I’ve just unintentionally signed myself up for. In all fairness, the trees in Reveria grow awfully fast — it takes about a day for a semi-majestic oak to sprout and push sunward in the East Grassy Plains, so with these alarmingly high reproduction rates constant and invasive selective logging may be the only way to save the forest for the trees; but I don’t discount the theory that the cooks are behind this unsustainably fast tree growth so woodcutters will have to provide them with a steady supply of the fresh pine nuts required for truly high-quality pesto. I swear, it’s always the sauciers.
The woodcutting Life master’s house looks, quite unsurprisingly, very sturdy. Heyho, whose insistence that my coming to him was half right and half wrong suggests that he’s one of those Life masters with a big story in his past, but since I haven’t even gotten my axe yet and he presumably has many it doesn’t seem right to pry. As if reading my mind, Heyho hands me an axe with nary a safety warning and sends me to find Forrest, the new but unofficial woodcutting master. As expected, I find Forrest in the woods accompanied by a pink-haired and gentle-looking girl. Recognising that my axe and vaguely confused expression means I’ve come to him from Heyho, Forrest sings a logging song and tells me that if I do the same I'll feel like a pro in no time; the only flaw with this plan being that in all my time in Reveria I have never been anything other than a silent protagonist with an agreeable and utterly guileless facial expression.
The young girl speaks up and introduces herself as Monika, Heyho’s daughter, novice woodcutter, and Forrest’s assistant. Just as Forrest starts breaking into another logging shanty Monika tells him to show me how to handle an axe. Suitably shamed, Forrest bucks up and teaches me the basics of axe use and care, supposing that it must have been the eager look on my face that brought out his inner teacher. I also expected to receive a flannel shirt but then I realised that none of the woodcutters I’ve ever seen in Reveria have a penchant for the black and red checkerboard look. The closest thing I ever made as a tailor was a highland beret, vest and kilt set, but this is another Life that I suspect is distinctly incompatible with exposed knees.
Forrest asks me to cut down some oak trees as my first task, which I do under Monika’s helpful direction. When we bring the logs back to Forrest he says that I did an excellent job and he's sure that the forest spirits give me their blessing — I’m just glad that I could feel like a pro without having to sing. My next task is to sell the logs and Forrest sends Monika with me to the lumber shop in the Artisan’s District. As I’m impressing the shopkeeper with the quality of my logs, Monika sees Forrest walk into the Castele workshop and she suggests we go tell him how my first lumber sale went. Once inside the workshop we overhear Forrest talking to one of the castle's minsters about procuring some rare elder logs to build a wardrobe requested by Castele’s royal family.
According to Forrest, the Forest Lady would know where we can get an elder log. I’m sent to the Crown, Castele’s finest purveyor of barely juice and drowned sorrows, to get advice from Heyho; Heyho being the current Forest Protector, and rumoured as the only person to have actually met the Forest Lady. On finding Heyho sitting at the bar he says that trying to find an elder log is a fool's errand with a 99 per cent impossibility rate, but that in a novice's case the odds are even worse. Inspired by my alleged look of naïve optimism, Heyho attempts to perform some sort of ancient ritual, but fails. Undeterred, I and my alleged look of naïve optimism set off from the Crown to find the Forest Lady, who's apparently just been summoned and finds herself stuck in the fountain outside. Suitably annoyed, she tells me that she had to answer the call of the Forest Protector and wonders how a novice woodcutter like me can even see her. As I approach the fountain I spy my reflection in the water and although I never thought of it this way during character creation, I suppose Heyho is right about my inspiring and irresistible fresh-faced look of unblemished innocence, and I feel suitably shamed for my earlier thanatological aspirations until the Forest Lady splashes water in my face and tells me to free her already.
After pulling the Forest Lady out of the fountain she leads me to the west Castele farm and points me to a tree sure to give forth an elder log, and takes her leave as a forest spirit runs up and introduces himself, telling me that I must understand and be thankful for the trees as I go about my work as a woodcutter. I fell the tree, not knowing if I'm carrying out some woodland sprite’s ordered assassination and suspecting that my new forest spirit friend is actually my caporegime as Monika runs up and says she's looking for her father. We go back to the workshop and present the minister with the elder log, who looks at my flawlessly angelic face in utter astonished disbelief before dropping a few coins into my hand. Monika and I find Forrest back in the woods singing more shanties and report our success. According to Monika I deserve a promotion but Forrest insists that only the official woodcutting Life master can bestow titles, just as Heyho walks up and declares me a proper wood sprite-blessed woodcutter. I’m just glad I managed to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to cut down the tree that saved the day yet again for the royal family, and all this without the glorious mezzo-soprano singing voice I know I would have if I had one.
Free to gently and appreciatively chop a swath across Reveria’s many landscapes, I ask Monika to join me in my adventures and get my dog Pepper for some fresh air and exercise. I hope Monika can sing the woodcutting shanties for me, but she doesn’t clue in and this sort of request is very hard to act out in mime. Combat is also clearly not Monika’s game as she halfheartedly throws rocks at enemies for maximum annoyance and minimum damage, but it’s perfectly fine as she’s a quite good healer and Pepper is a seasoned enough fighter to pick up the offensive slack. The trees of each Reverian kingdom each show their own unique character as I fell more and more, and once I reach lumberjacking mastery Heyho drags me a bit too eagerly back to the Crown to celebrate.
At the end of the day it’s absolutely clear that I’ll have to make carpentry my next Life after rather foolishly attempting to stuff well over one hundred logs into my reasonably sized but not huge room. I think I heard the sound of my existing furniture and decorations giving way to my latest Life’s bounty; and perhaps most disturbingly my cat Salt is nowhere to be seen.
Rank achieved: Hero
Useful for: Cutting down trees, skipping and jumping, hanging around in bars
Quality of Life: Pine fresh
Additional comments: Anyone want to buy some firewood? Cheap?