“Forester Geoff is coming.”
The old man walked down the road as he repeated those words to those he passed by. His liver-spotted bald head hung from his neck like a wet towel as his face stared down at the ground. He pushed an old broken chair before him as he leaned against it, the fourth leg was missing and then third bowed with each step forward.
“Forester Geoff is coming.”
The morning was young and the air was still fresh in across the steppes as a green eyed pale skinned boy stared across the empty grass to the horizon. The feet of the old man’s chair went tock tock tock on the near frozen ground as he slowly hobbled pass, down the long curved dirt path carved between the grade of hills the community found themselves encamped upon.
Slowly men and women began to filter out from inside their warm huts and homes, each muttering passing greetings as they took glances over the small rolling hills of the grassland. Children ran in between their parent’s legs as they crowded together, excited with anticipation of the stranger’s arrival.
Murmurs of stories began to spill their tongues as the families began to form circles of conversations.
“You know, he was able to fix pa’s leg. The inflammation is completely gone.”
“My son wasn’t talking yet, but then Forrester saw him. He stared into his eyes and touched his temples, and told me he would start speaking by the end of the year. Not even a month passed, and he was calling me mommy!”
“I heard when he was with the Leidens two years past, he cut one of them open and removed a black ball of bile. They weren’t able to leave bed before, but after that he was up and about–even riding!”
The crowd began to hush as the telltale sound an an old gasoline engine began to rumble across the steppes. Slowly they began to turn their heads one by one, starting off across the grasslands until they saw the small moving forest approach them. The children smiled and laughed as they watched this small wooby hill covered in trees and vines approach, bouncing across the landscape as leaves and twigs shed in its wake.
At the green tree-infused hill came closer, some the older folk began to wave as the figure of a diver in an old rusted camo green truck cab became discernable. This mobile platform of a forest rested on the wagon bed of an ancient army truck, its top removed as the branches of trees reached up to the sky. On the side hanged a number of small burlap pockets, each with a plant of herb spreading from it and draping across the vehicle like vines. Every available surface held some sort of plant, as even the hood of the old truck appeared covered in scaly lichen.
The old war wagon came to a stop, and the rumble of his engine gave one last brum brum brum before silencing itself. Out from the driver’s door stepped Forester Geoff–a lanky man with long brown hair and a round pot belly. A white bandana wrapped around his head which drew attention away from his old oversized winter Chocobo Keeper’s jacket, which nearly covered his khaki shorts and knobbly knees. He stood with his tanned bean sprout legs planted in a pair of large oversized dirt-covered boots.
The door slammed forcefully on the old rusty wagon. The man gestured to the huts down the path as his face tilted quizzically as he looked at the adults who approached him.
“This is Phiott-Christophes?”
“Garamonde? I thought you guys were down south.”
“We were. Phiott-Christophes wanted to chase down a large herd of chocos heading to a nasty evo patch. We’re keeping their current stock safe until they come back.”
Geoff tilted his head as he scanned the mental map in his head. His lips moved as the murmured the patch names he had labeled them. “Is it Toki patch? They nastier these days?”
The Garamonde chokee nodded. “They bloomed again, more aggressive than before”
Geoff scratched his head and his brow scrunched in throught. “Didn’t expect that. I was thinking they’d die out north from being so cold. Huh.”
He shook his head and placed his hands on his hips. ”Oh well. I’m sure the reason will come to me,” he said as he learned into the old wagon to grab a oversized knapsack. Like the vehicle itself, the knapsack seemed to contain dangling packages and herbs that justled with every step the man took.
“So Garamonde huh? Third generation chocobo hearders. Do you like the term Chokee? That’s what they started calling you down south in the big cities.”
“We’re family Garamonde,” spoke an old man. Geoff nodded, his expression turning sympathetic.
“Yeah, I kind of felt like that was a little derogatory myself, you know? Chocobo keeping has a long proud tradition. Anyway, I digress. How you guys all feelin’? Good? Anything new? Want some tea?”
He reached into side pocket of his knapsack and pulled out a small paper bundle. “You know, you can do whatever with that tea–I always make it a little too potent. Put it in like a stew, seasoning, a soup. Kima leaf kinda tastes like a bitter basil to me, you know?” he spoke as a small woman took the bundle from him and nodded graciously.
The circle of people began to lead the man down the dry dirt path to a small hut. Geoff smiled as he saw the entrance flanked by a pair of potted saplings, both nearly twice as tall as the hut itself.
“Those are looking strong! You guys are doing good with those–they should probably be planted soon, we want to make sure the roots don’t stay too constrained to the pot.”
The Garamonde followed quietly, each circling the man as he stood at the entrance of the hut. He turned and smiled at the small crowd of people.
“Give me about ten minutes and I’ll start seeing people. How many are you? The last Garamonde count was, uh, thirty-seven.”
“Twenty three. Some are still at the other camp. Gotta keep the homestead down still,” spoke a middle aged man. The other adults nodded in agreement.
“Ah, I hear that. Well, let’s just take a look at anyone who’s been having issues first and I’ll make sure to stop on by on the loop back. I’ll catch up with the Phiott-Christophes, then double back give the rest of your brood a proper checkup. Sound good?”
A few of the Garamonde looked at eachother, reading their own expressions. A silver haired Garamonde spoke as he put his hand on one of the men’s shoulders. “Geoff, there’s problems with some of our boys. They’ve been running fevers, and Timothy’s kid here has been having dizzy spells especially.”
Geoff Foster’s smile faded as he looked back at the families. He held his hand to the thick hut curtain pausing to think. “Okay. Yeah. Well, give me ten minutes to set up, and send them in one at a time. I’ll see what I can do.”
He pulled the curtain back and went inside the medical hut. Slowly, the chokee people began to disperse back into their homes, some mumbling to one another in quiet hushed murmurs. The old bald man stood staring up at the hut from his dangling neck as the crowd passed by him. Once alone, he slowly turned around and went back up the small path. Tock tock tock.