Untitled Short Story

The mummified corpse of a great willow parted the swirling mists, its leviathan bulk looming over the iron-clad traveler. The primeval tree twisted and grasped at the grey sky above, petrified in its desperate reach for the sun. Rot claimed much of the willow, great chunks of bark sloughing off like meat from bone. Sickly, pale moss carpeted the grabbing roots of the tree, leeching what nourishment was left.
The traveler stepped forth, appearing from the swirling sea of fog as if from a dream. Age worn armour clattered as he approach, dents and scratches visible in the mist-bound twilight. A stained grey beard hung from a stained red helmet, tucked neatly into a heavy belt. 
The figure hobbled towards the great corpse-willow, his simple sword used as a crutch. The rattle of his armour and puffs of his breath were all that broke the silence of the fog. Pebbles ground under his feet, the ground shrouded in mist.
Standing at the base of the tree, the figure looked skywards, his gaze shifting over the knotted branches. He hummed, recalling the legends told to him by drunken wanderers and cloistered scholars of a mist-wreathed willow, sat at the edge of the world. “Fits the bill,” he mumbled, leaning his sword against the trunk. 
He turned, and sat against the tree. Bark scraped against steel as he got comfortable, unleashing the stink of death from the rotted timber. The traveler paid no heed, used to far fouler aromas. 
He pulled the helmet from his head, whisps of thin, pale hair falling free. He brushed it away from his face, and scratched his hooked nose. Amber eyes looked skyward, searching for a sun he had lost sight of days ago.
“Cheery place you found, Ivanson,” he mumbled, fiddling with the waterskin at his side. Once free, he took a swig, careful to drink sparingly. No stream crossed this shadowed realm, and what ponds he passed bubbled with some vile concoction. Nor had he had much luck with game; no living thing had crossed his path since he stepped through the mist. He had to make due with what few rations he had left.
Ivanson’s gut rumbled, his last good meal a pleasant memory. He pulled a strip of cured meat from his pouch, gnawing on it with fervour. He downed the leathery tidbit in short order, famished from the trek to the willow. The sting of salt overwhelmed his senses, forcing him to suppress the urge to down what water he had left.
His meagre lunch exhausted, Ivanson slouched, closing his eyes and resting his chin on his chest. The tree marked the final leg of his venture, the edge of the mist near. But that could wait. Now, Ivanson needed to rest.

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