The Paths We Take - 1

Hello there. Been a while, hasn't it? Why don't you come take a walk with me?

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We have quite the path ahead of us.

Description

Within Level 730 resides a picturesque forest hiking trail. The skyline always sits at dawn, and the weather is a refreshing 24°C/75°F. The songs of unknown birds make for the ambience on your travels here. Take a deep breath in, and then out again. Allow yourself a moment to relax; to breathe. You're okay. You're here. You're safe.

It's been rough for you recently, I take it? I hope this can take your mind off of things, even if only for a little while.

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We all have to start somewhere.

When you first arrive here, you will have stepped out through a crack in a giant, hollow tree. It stands big and tall amidst the rest of the forest. This is where everyone starts.

Fresh water trickles down a winding river here. Are you thirsty? Go ahead and have a sip, it's safe to drink. There's a log stump you can rest on. I can only imagine how far you've come to be here now.

Feel free to wait here a while. They'll come meet you soon to take you on your way.

I wasn't keeping you waiting too long, was I? I do apologise for my delay, I got distracted during my exploration today. No matter, we have all the time in the world while we're here. We're in no rush.

After this point, the path is up to you. Where will you go? What will you explore? The forest is vast and stretches wide. The path shall go on for however long you need it to. Most importantly, you're not alone for this walk. The guide will make sure you're safe and out of harm during your journey.

Want to climb up to the peaks? Wade down the streams? There's some nature playgrounds scattered about, and many more little gems to find. The guide knows all the nice places to visit here, so feel free to ask them to show you around!

Oh, how have I been? Well, I've been doing alright, as usual. Doing the same as I always do: watching over the forest and this land, waiting for new arrivals from the tree. Don't worry, I'm not one to be bored so easily. I find ways to occupy myself!

The Guide

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An artist's interpretation.

The guide is the only other soul in the forest. True to their name, they travel with the wanderer from the start of the path to the very end. They hold a wealth of knowledge on nature, and remember every face they meet — as well as their story. Sometimes, its as simple as travelling off the beaten path of the Backrooms. For others, its narrowly escaping an untimely death.

Everyone gives the guide a new story from a different land: a shaded glade in a valley of flowers, the corner of a quaint bookstore, a mass of charcoal within an endless pit of fire, a city of alleyways, a sea of rooftops where they'd slipped and fallen right into the forest's entrance hollow, and many, many more tales of wild and wonderful locations the guide could share for hours on end.

As well as a travel companion, they also act as a counsellor. They have heard troubles of many kinds during their time within the forest. They will happily listen to a wanderer vent their frustrations — even encourage them to do so.

The guide knows a wealth of meditative exercises, and will gladly teach them to those who care to learn. In spite of their alien appearance, they are an excellent teacher — somehow, the techniques settle easily in the minds of even the most forgetful and careless students. This tutelage is, perhaps, aided by an anomalous power concealed within the guide's mysterious seeing-eye hand.

Please, there's no need to fear! Stress, anxiety, worry — these are emotions I am only familiar with through wanderers describing it to me. Whatever is on your mind, feel free to speak it to me. I will not be affected.

Notable Locations

Below is just one page of the many landmarks scattered throughout the hike trail, transcribed from notes provided by the guide:

Notable Locations

Location Name:
Date Found:
Found By:
Area Type:
Notes:
The Giant's Skull 13/01/02 Maggie Playspace Broken rock formation, described by wanderer as "the heavens piercing a fierce deity in the skull and killing it".
Crescent Cliff 28/01/02 Jamie Sightseeing Cliff formation where the rocks seem to curl in on themselves in the shape of a crescent moon, despite this land never having a night-time. Wanderer and I found another spot to view it from that caught the daylight in its gap.
Heaven's Bow 15/02/02 Gabriel Sightseeing A giant arching tree log that hangs over the path. Held together by a few vines. The way the trees canopy above hide the light in just a way a halo forms.
The Treeeeee 28/02/02 Aiden Sightseeing Just a regular tree. Name specified to have that many 'e's by the wanderer. Made them laugh, so notable enough in my books.

A wonderful phenomenon that occurs in this place is that no matter the path, no matter the trail or distance— if you wish to visit a place the guide has noted down, then the path will take you there. The land twists and morphs itself so that the wanderer will always be heading exactly where they need to go.

The Snakebend? Of course! That one's your favourite right? I believe the rock stack you made last time should still be there, some of my last guests made some towers alongside yours. Heh, you might even have a rock fortress there now!

Leaving

Of course, all journeys must come to an end eventually. They will take time, of course. Sometimes, too, things have changed about you by the end of it. But you can never leave too early. And you'll never leave too late. The land knows when you are ready— when your mind is truly at ease.

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Look at how much better you're doing!

When that time comes, your path will end at the mouth of a cave, beyond the overgrowth of fern and bush, past the dense and verdant forest. The guide cannot follow you beyond this point— They are unable to leave their land. Besides, they've already done what they need to do. You feel better now, don't you? Do you even remember what brought you here in the first place? If not, then this place has already worked as intended— to help you, to ground you, to give you a place to breathe, far from all that may trouble you.

When you walk into the cave, it will be dark at first. But then you'll see it— that light at the end of the tunnel. It will light the way for you. All you have to do is follow it.

You'll be okay. We know you will.

It's time for us to part ways once again. Did you notice? Today's walk was a lot shorter than last time. Oh, don't worry, that's a good sign! It means you're doing well. it means that healing is coming faster for you now.

I'm proud of you. Don't ever forget that, okay?

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