Chapter 2: Happy Birthday
The path to oak tree was well-worn and well-known; Sam hiked it almost every day. They practically sprinted, though occasionally stopping to gather something and place it into their new bag. The winding path made its way through the trees, thinner and widely spaced; the edge of the forest, stragglers behind the herd, gray-blue sky still visible overhead. Soon, the light became mottled, the boughs overhead starting to thicken and close, hiding what lay beneath. At least until Sam rounded the bend and the clearing came into view. In the middle, their oak tree, ancient and bent, but tall and reaching with long, gnarled roots and branches. Leaping up onto a tall, raised root, Sam carefully walked along it to the great trunk, their arms outstretched to keep their balance.
"Good morning, tree," they smiled, placing their hands on the trunk once it was within reach and giving it an affectionate pat.
"How are you?" They asked as they reached up to the lowest of its br