020-001

Mapwick struggled with a bashful nature. His camouflage made it easy for him to freeze and wait for others to pass by without noticing him, but after a while his loneliness got the better of him.

He made up his mind to befriend the next creature who happened by. A few hours passed and sure enough, a brownie wandered past, foraging for mushrooms.

Mapwick took a deep breath and tried to bury his panic. The strain of it caused a few cracks to appear on the outer layer of his wood-skin. The brownie heard the sound and peered at Mapwick with curiosity. “Hello?” he asked.

Another crack appeared. “Hi there,” Mapwick said. His voice sounded tinny and strange, but he managed to get the words out.

“I’m Erstwhile, I live over there, in the little hill. Didn’t know I had a neighbor. Would you care for a mushie?” The brownie held out a few skullcap mushrooms.

Mapwick shook his head. “No, thank you. I prefer to eat through my roots, but would you like a cup of tea?”

“Oh, yes,” said Erstwhile, grinning.

Mapwick smiled back. He hadn’t smiled in well over a decade, and it caused still more cracks, but he didn’t mind. He’d done it, he’d made a friend at last, and it only hurt a little.

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