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Thane sat up, half-naked in the middle of a bright forest, scanning his surroundings to figure out just where he was. He sighed. He thought he recognized a large oak off to the side, but he was getting really good at dumping himself in the most random places in the forest. At this rate, it was going to take at least an hour to get back to the village.
He stood up and chose the most likely path back home. The sun was still low in the sky, so he had a good idea of where he needed to go; after all, his village lay on the east end of the forest. The way back was full of plants and vines, with no clear trail – making him wonder how in the world he managed to get out there last night in the first place – so that he began to doubt his estimate of one hour return time.
In fact, it was probably closer to two hours before he reached the edge of the forest and emerged upon the little village of wooden huts and dirt roads. As he walked between the buildings, some of the villagers emerged to watch him, particularly the five other young men of his age.
Every single one of them had a grin on their face. Personally, Thane would have been surprised if they hadn’t. He personally hated that this was the fourth time in the last month that he had ended up out in the middle of the woods, but he imagined for the spectators that it would be raucously amusing.
“Don’t you dare say a word,” he muttered to them as he passed.
“We’re not saying anything,” replied one of them, Martin, obviously trying to suppress a laugh. “We’re just glad we didn’t have to look for you this time.”
“You’d think you’d have memorized the entire forest by now,” added another, Julian.
“Let’s not talk about it.”
Within minutes he was back in his own hut and sound asleep. Despite the fact that he had just come from his bed on the forest floor, he knew that he hadn’t actually lost consciousness until early in the morning, and that even then the ground is a hard thing to sleep on.
Everyone quickly forgot about the incident, as they did every time. It was beginning to become a village joke, Thane and his search for the famous Trelos mushrooms. Not that they derided him for it – on the contrary, quite a few of the villagers thought that he was rather successful in finding them, but that he forgot every time he found them. But even they wondered why in the world he had such an obsession with them.
A week passed, full of hard labor as Thane and the rest of the village went to work at their various jobs, which largely consisted of agriculture and woodcutting. What else are you going to do next to a forest? Anyway, after a productive week, the village once again found itself on a free night, which many of them used to indulge in alcohol.
“I tell you,” Thane told his friends as they sat around the communal fire at the center of the village. “I’m going to find those mushrooms one of these days.”
“I’m sure you will,” replied one of his friends.
“But how will you know when you find them?” asked another.
“By the taste. It’s said they have a strange effect on the mind.” Thane took a swig of beer as he raised his eyebrows suggestively.
It wasn’t long before they were all rather drunk. They laughed as they talked, in a coversation that quickly turned into the other five teasing Thane about his obsession. He defended himself, but eventually, either due to the drink or his pride (likely both), he declared that he would set out this very night to find the mushrooms.
The others laughed and accompanied him to the edge of the forest, where he convinced them all to join him in his search. They descended into the forest, which was almost completely pitch black in the night. Only the firelight and the moonlight kept them knowing just where they were.
Thane quickly outstripped the others as he plunged into the forest, his head bent low in his search. His friends’ voices faded away, and then, nearly half an hour later, he finally stopped. There, on the ground, was a bright purple mushroom. Thane grinned and picked it up, tasting it. And then his world turned upside down.
Hours later, he sat up off the ground, blinking in the bright sunlight. He looked around, for he had been absolutely sure that he had found the mushroom the night before. But there was not a trace, and he couldn’t remember the night before for the life of him.