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Chapter Notes: In which three are seen when there should be only be two, two arrive who are not seen and one is seen who is more than he appears.

Duncan McPherson surveyed the horizon with his digital monocular, sighing contentedly. This was the life he had always wanted! You can keep your warp drives and replicators, give him a horizon-wide wilderness to explore and unknown adventures to face!

Sweeping his gaze around the primordial wilderness he felt the thrill of what he was doing finally sink in. His friends had thought him insane when he had proposed the journey across the fabled forests of Gavin III for their gap-year holiday. He was disappointed they hadn't joined him but, surveying the snow-covered, ruggedly-forested mountains laid out before him, his chest swelled with pride at the impending adventure that they would never know.

He savoured the moment. The bitter cold, his breath hanging like steam before him. The third, tiny moon rising from the horizon to edge towards the two larger satellites. The uncanny stillness which seemed to spread as the last breath of the day's desultory wind died as twilight crept over the foothills behind him and onto the forest canopy.

Three moons?

Growing faster and brighter by the second, Duncan straightened as the speck became a dot and the dot a spark that threw off tiny streamers of fire. As a child, he had seen a meteor land in the mountains but that had streamed a tail behind whilst this had no tail it... was heading directly towards him!

With a scream like a thousand demons, the fireball blasted overhead at tree height, the compression wave throwing him to the ground where he lay, half covered by the many-legged steed he had hired that morning. Within seconds, the blast wave was dwarfed by a hurricane that covered him in a mountain of tree trunks and wood chips.

Gradually the violence of the storm above him abated and bracing his legs beneath him and heaving his massive shoulders upwards he strained, back muscles creaking, until, in a shower of greenery and animal parts, he rose from the undergrowth like some primitive arboreal spirit!

He stood for a moment, stooped and swaying, every muscle and ligament in his body screaming in pain. He had survived, he realised with surprise. His senses clearing, the details of his surroundings sank into him. The soup of dirt, greenery and smoke around him was being pushed away by a steady wind that blew from his back. Turning, he squinted into a world gone mad.

The giant trees of the mighty forest that he had been traveling through for the past day were nowhere to be seen! They now lay lie like heaped firewood in a kilometre-wide channel stretching to the edge of visibility where an unearthly glow pulsed.

He surveyed the devastation. A destructive power greater than any natural force he had ever heard of had torn this forest apart. Safety, even survival, lay with the settled tribes of the sea, a hundred kilometers to the North.

Without hesitation the McPherson turned towards the glow and started crawling through the Hell before him.

Chapter End Notes: This took me longer to cut it down to make it fit the 500 word limit than it took me to write it!

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