This is the 'Beware the Carnivorous Ferns!' game. It is on the 'Fun' page. - C. A. Broadribb.

Beware the Carnivorous Ferns!

Photograph © copyright C. A. Broadribb 2003
Text © copyright C. A. Broadribb 2023

A terrible virus is sweeping through your village. Your family, simple farmers, have been fortunate enough to avoid it - for now. A village elder turns up at your hut one morning and tells you that the tribal council has found some valuable information. An ancient manuscript in the library states that fresh kaidda berries will cure people of the virus. The problem is that they are found only in the deepest, most dangerous parts of the forest, which is infested with carnivorous ferns. It will take a fit, brave person to seek them out. Are you up for the challenge?

You coward! The elder tramps off dejectedly to ask the second-fittest village member to help.

Good on you! The elder and your parents accompany you to the start of an overgrown trail leading into the forest. A very old, partly-broken sign nearby reads:

| Welcome to Fernland. |
| Population: 0.              |
| Beware of the ferns!    |

You're carrying a backpack with some supplies. Your parents wish you luck, and hand you a charm: a small, intricately carved brooch, which you pin to your shirt.

You push through the bushes, leaving all signs of safety and civilisation behind you. Strange creeping and rustling noises surround you. The air becomes warmer. Greenery presses in towards you on all sides. After a while, you come across a fork in the trail.

It looks like a tiny fork intended for a baby, but on closer examination, it turns out to be a tiny gardening fork. It's dull and tarnished and looks very old. How peculiar. You notice that it was lying on a very narrow dirt trail, almost hidden by the bushes, leading straight ahead. The trail has tiny footprints all over it - humanoid, yet far too small to be from a person. It's rather creepy.

You trudge down the path. The trees lean in, their branches blocking out the sunlight. Insects bite you on all of your exposed skin. The rustling noises become louder and more ominous. You lose your way, flailing through the forest. Then you come across a set of very worn stone steps that must be a hundred years old or more. They lead down into a gully. The rock walls on each side have odd gaps and niches in them that look sinister. You can avoid them by following a narrow trail through some boulders. However, there's a very large paw print in the mud there. Watch out!

You trudge down the path. Sunlight filters through the trees and dapples the ground as you crunch through dried leaves. Why are there so many leaves? It's springtime. The trees are all green. Your feet sink deeper and deeper into leaves as you continue, until you're up to your knees in them. A much narrower path, almost invisible, winds away through the trees. To your surpirse, tiny humanoid footprints show up in the dirt on it.

Your foot slips, and you fall headfirst into the pile of leaves. You flail around, trying to get hold of any firm ground. You finally get up onto your hands and knees - and see a brick-lined tunnel at the base of a tree. It leads into dark, unknown depths.

You stuggle to your feet, climb out of the leaves and up onto solid ground. You can't find the path you came from, as the trees are dense around you. However, you spot the narrower winding path that has tiny humanoid footprints on it.

You're so engrossed in studying the footprints that you don't pay much attention to the forest around you. A tree rustles above. A shrill voice shrieks at you. You duck as something swings past on a vine just above your head. To your astonishment, it's a tiny woman with pink hair and pointy ears. She's wearing a green outfit that looks like leaves sewn together with spiderweb. She stands on a branch, brandishing a small spear and jabbering at you in a strange language.

With a sudden movement, she throws the spear. It hits you on the arm, feeling like a pin prick. You laugh. However, then you start to feel unaccountably tired. As you stagger around, you stumble against a tree. You slide to the ground. It's hard to keep your eyes open.

You pick up a rock and throw it at her. It misses. She screams, and throws the spear. It hits you on the arm, pricking you slightly. You laugh. The woman leaps onto another branch and disappears into the canopy. You become very tired. Everything's a blur. You slump against something hard and slide to the ground.

You slowly awaken, groggy. The air is filled with smoke. When you open your eyes, you find yourself in a cave. Firelight flickers off the rock walls. You sit up, fighting off a wave of dizziness. You're on a rough wooden slab. Someone's built a campfire in the dirt in the middle of the cave. It's a mystery how anyone got in here, because there's no obvious way in or out of the place. All you see are a few tiny tunnels in the walls, much too small for ordinary people to enter.

You peer down the tunnels, but they wind away into darkness. When you stick your hand down them, you can't feel anything - until you check a tunnel in the far wall. Something's wedged in there. You pull it out carefully. It's a package wrapped in paperbark and tied with grasses. Inside is a shining silver statuette of a monkey, beautiful and no doubt very valuable.

It's not yours, so you re-wrap it and stuff it back in the tunnel. Then you freeze as you hear a noise.

Faint pattering footsteps come from several of the tunnels. Soon, dozens of tiny people appear, both male and female. Like the woman you saw before, they have pink hair and pointy ears and wear green leafy clothing. Some hold spears or swords and others carry bows and arrows. They jump down dextrously and crowd around your ankles, jabbering away in a language that you don't know.

Just as you're about to put it in your backpack, you hear pattering noises from the tunnels. Dozens of tiny people appear. They have pink hair and pointy ears and wear green leaf-like clothing. They carrow bows and arrows, and spears. When they see the statuette in your hand, they jabber angrily and wave their weapons.

They fire arrows, throw spears and stab you. You kick at them, knocking some over. However, more and more appear from the tunnels. They swarm up your legs, jabbing you with their weapons. You become nauseous and start to feel faint. You collapse onto the ground...

You slowly wake up, feeling very weak and aching all over. You're surprised to see that you're lying in bed in your home in the village. Your aunt enters the room carrying a glass of water. She explains that you were gone for days and the village elder found the courage to enter the forest to look for you. He found you lying unconscious on the path just beyond the Fernland sign. Your backpack was gone and your pockets were empty. He dragged you back here to recover.

You throw dirt onto the fire and extinguish the flames. It becomes dark. So dark that you can't see anything at all and can't tell any difference between your eyes being open and being closed. It becomes colder, too.

You sit there, shivering, for a long time. Everything is quiet apart from some faint sounds of insects scuttling around.

You sit there for a long time, shivering. Everything is fairly quiet apart from faint insect sounds.

You stumble over the rough ground, trying to find the wall. You trip over something and fall down, hitting your head hard.

You scrabble in your backpack for your lantern and flint. It's difficult lighting it by touch, but you finally succeed. It's a relief when light floods the place. However, it seems to have attracted attention. You hear some odd noises.

You jump up and down, wave your arms around, and scream. The tiny people back away, looking at you in consternation. However, they don't leave.

You try to talk to them, but they obviously don't understand a word of English. You take out a parchment and quill pen from your backpack and draw diagrams to explain your quest to find kaidda berries. They relax, and talk amongst themselves for a while. Then, one of them gestures to you to pull aside the wooden slab. It reveals a set of human-sized steps leading down into a human-sized tunnel. The tiny people watch you expectantly.

You lift up the slab and, to your surprise, discover a set of steps underneath it leading to a tunnel hewn into the rock. A large, human-sized tunnel that you could fit in.

You use your lantern to light your way as you cautiously descend the worn stone steps. They look ancient. You wonder who built them, and when, and why. The air is thick and dusty, but breathable. It's cold.

You're startled by a scraping noise above you. The slab is back, blocking the entrance hole. You rush back upstairs and push at it, but it's stuck. You have no choice but to go on.

At the bottom of the steps, you face three tunnels roughly hewn into the rock. They're just high and wide enough to walk down. The light also reveals some faint symbols carved into the wall. They indicate ferns to the left, a lake to the right, and cymbols straight ahead.

You walk a ways. The tunnel starts to slope downhill. You lose your balance.

You stumble along the rough ground, brushing away cobwebs all over the place. An odd metallic crashing sound can be heard in the distance. It gets louder and louder. Finally, you notice light ahead. The tunnel ends at the entrance to a small cave. The noise is very loud now. A horrible smell emanates from the cave, too.

Burning torches in brackets on the walls light the area, revealing a strange sight: a group of green-furred monkeys are banging sticks onto flattened pieces of metal - crude cymbols. They're making a terrible, headache-inducing racket, but look like they're greatly enjoying it. Interestingly, some of them wear necklaces with dried carnivorous fern leaves on them. A few monkeys glance at you, but continue with their 'music' making. Behind them, a torch-lit tunnel winds away into the distance.

You grin at the monkeys, pick up a spare stick and bang at a spare cymbol. They all stop and stare at you. Then they crowd around you, screeching and brandishing their sticks. One of them whacks you on the leg. You can't get back to the tunnel you came from, but you could run for the torch-lit tunnel.

You use a cymbol as a shield and a stick as a weapon. You whack a monkey in the head, and it staggers back. The other monkeys swing at you. The air's filled with waving sticks, screeches and clashes of metal. The monkeys hit you a number of times, then abruptly stop and run off down the dark tunnel that you came in from. You don't dare to follow them. They could be waiting in ambush for you.

You find nothing but cymbols, sticks, bits of green fur and smelly green lumps of poo. However, then you take a closer look at the stick that you've been holding, and notice that it's different from the others: smoothly carved, with lines and circles marked on the end that you're holding. Your hand feels tingly.

The carvings disappear, leaving it an ordinary stick of no value. That's disappointing.

There's a crackling sound behind you.

You cautiously wave it. Colourful sparks fly out of the end and shower over your hand. You feel your hand becoming stronger. However, it's also turning green! You pull out your water bottle and try to wash the colour off, but it won't come off. You resign yourself to it. At least everyone will say that you have a 'green thumb'.

A torch has fallen off the wall and landed on a pile of sticks. They smoulder, then burst into flames. The fire spreads across the room. Quick, get out of there!

The monkeys stare at you puzzledly. They obviously don't understand English. You pull out your quill pen and a piece of parchment to draw diagrams.

The monkeys study your amateurish diagrams and chatter amongst themselves. Several of them point down the torch-lit tunnel. One mimes rowing a boat, one mimes walking along a thin surface, and one mimes climbing something.

The monkeys stare at the pictures and chatter angrily. They become more and more agitated and brandish sticks in a menacing manner. They block your way to the dark tunnel, but you could run for the torch-lit tunnel.

You hurry away. The tunnel winds through the rocks and you soon lose all sense of direction. Moisture glistens on the walls, but you're not sure where it's from. Suddenly, your feet slip on some loose rocks. You tumble down a long slope and land on a hard surface. Your head's spinning. You lie there for a while. Finally, you're able to sit up.

You're in an echoing cavern. A murky lake covers most of the ground. It's impossible to tell how deep it is. Suspicious ripples appear on its surface. There's a tunnel entrance on the far side of the water, but you would have to swim over there to get to it. There's also a rocky ledge nearby that you could climb up onto. You can't get back up to the tunnel you came from, or other tunnels that you spot high up above you.

You wave it more vigorously this time. Sparks shower out all over you. You feel yourself becoming stronger and fitter. However, you're also changing shape. Your legs shorten while your arms lengthen. Tufts of green fur sprout all over your body. Something pokes out of your backside, tearing a hole in your pants. It's a tail! You try to call for help, but all that comes out is a strange chattering sound. Your memory is becoming hazy. Who are you? Why are you here?

Welcome to your new life as a monkey.

You step into the water. It's freezing! Something bites your right foot. You yell, and hop around. The water churns. Fins and long, whip-like tails appear all around you. Something stings your leg. Ow!

As you continue in, you kick out at the creatures in the murky depths. They snap at your legs and arms. A tail lashes your face. Tentacles wrap around your arms and body. You stuggle wildly as they try to drag you under. A grotesque animal head rises from the water. Slimy yellow teeth chomp down on your shirt collar. Your good luck brooch flies down the creature's throat. It coughs violently. It lifts you out of the water, shakes you and throws you onto the shore. Your head hits the ground.

You awkwardly climb up the rocky wall and heave yourself onto the ledge, panting. There's a shallow cave behind it and to your surprise, a crudely made wooden canoe and oars are stored there. They look very old, but usable. A narrow tunnel, only a few feet high but quite wide, leads upwards through the rocks.

You push the canoe and oars off the ledge and watch them tumble down to the water's edge. You climb down after them and right the canoe. As soon as you push off into the lake, the water becomes agitated. Nasty-looking fins appear all around you. Thin tails wave above the surface. Things bump your vessel from below.

You beat off the creatures with your oars and finally make it across the lake. You jump off onto a sandly bank and look around. A tunnel dug out of stone in front of you is the only way forward.

Unfortunately, you forget to secure the canoe and it drafts off into the middle of the lake. A huge slimy grey head pops up above the water and chomps down onto the vessel, splintering it into a million pieces. Imagine: that could have been you!

There's only one way to go now.

The tunnel is the right height to walk along. It burrows straight ahead into the darkness. You light the way with your flickering lantern. One of the walls has a mural painted on it showing people and animals. However, your attention is distracted by an odd moaning sound from behind you: an almost supernatural sound.

It depicts large houses and tiny houses nestled amongst bushes. Humans dance with tiny pointy-eared people around a campfire. The tiny people also climb in trees, swing from vines and spear monkeys. Further drawings show giant ferns entangling humans with their sharp-tipped tendrils, while the tiny people and monkeys walk freely amongst them. The drawings show more and more ferns growing closer to the houses. Then empty space.

The moaning sound is much louder now. It's creepy.

You stand still, concentrating hard. The moaning becomes louder and louder, echoing all around the walls, almost forming human speech but not quite. A strange mist envelopes you. It's freezing. Your limbs start to go numb.

The moaning continues. The mist becomes thicker and thicker. It's hard to breathe. You feel faint. You stumble around, unable to see anything. You trip over something and hit your head on the wall.

The eerie moaning receeds as you rush away down the tunnel. Eventually, the passage opens out into a cavern. The tunnel continues on the other side, but there's a small problem. The floor in the middle has collapsed into piles of rubble far, far below. You can't climb down as the sides are too steep. However, there's a long, thin plank of wood nearby that would just fit across the hole. Would it bear your weight? You aren't sure. You notice a smaller, lower tunnel nearby that you could crawl down instead.

You manouver the plank into place across the chasm. Taking a deep breath, you step onto it, holding your arms out for balance. The plank creaks as you walk. It starts to bend under your weight. You make the mistake of looking down, and your heart pounds with fear.

You continue, step by step. The plank creaks again. A crack appears. You run for the other side and leap onto solid ground. The plank splits into pieces and falls down into the void. You shudder at how close you came to falling too.

As you trudge along, you realise that the tunnel is starting to slope upwards. You become hot and sweaty from the exertion. However, you're cheered up by the sight of natural light. You round a curve and see sunshine ahead. You emerge from the tunnel into a forest. You find that the tunnel was carved out of a cliff that towers above you.

There's a rumble from above. A boulder rolls down and crashes to the ground. It blocks off the tunnel mouth. Thank goodness it didn't hit you!

You're in a forest clearing. A dirt path leads off left through the undergrowth. It's dotted with ominous paw prints. Alternatively, you could climb up the cliff face using cracks for footholds and protruding rocks for handholds. There's nothing else around but trees, bushes and vines that are too dense to push through. Although one tree has low, spreading branches and might just be climbable.

You haul yourself onto a branch and climb up, sweating and panting. To your surprise, you find a wooden platform built around the trunk, high off the ground. You climb through the hole in the middle and stand up on the platform. It creaks, and tilts. There are some interesting items on it: a dagger, a pile of gold coins and some scattered fern leaves. You also notice that another tree nearby has a wooden platform on it too. You might be able to swing across to it, Tarzan-style, on a thick vine.

The platform creaks again. You fear that it's about to break. Quick, what do you want to do?

As you start to climb back down, the platform above collapses. Pieces of wood and other objects fall past you. You narrowly avoid being hit on the head. Fortunately, you make it back down to the ground safely. The debris has all disappeared into the undergrowth.

Clouds gather. It begins to rain. The rockface of the cliff nearby is now too slippery to climb.

Its hilt is smooth, giving no clue as to who made it or when. It's shiny and sharp and would make an excellent weapon.

The platform tilts and you reach for the tree trunk to keep your balance, losing your grip on the dagger. It plumets to the ground and becomes lost in the undergrowth.

The wooden boards beneath your feet start to break apart. Quick, get off them!

You sift through them. They have barbed tips and are covered in spiky hairs that make your hands itch. A rash starts to develop. Some dried up berries roll away. Kaidda berries! You need fresh ones for your quest, as it's their juice that cures people, however, it's good to know that you're on the right track to finding them.

The platform creaks alarmingly, and a board starts to crack beneath your feet. Get off now!

They're roughly made and look ancient. Both sides are inscribed with symbols in a long-lost language. They must be worth a fortune.

The platform suddenly tilts. You grab for the tree trunk to keep your balance, dropping the coins. They fall to the ground and become lost in the undergrowth.

The boards beneath your feet start to break. Quick, get off them!

You grab the vine and swing across, the wind on your face. For a brief, elated moment, you feel like a superhero. Then the vine breaks and you fall down onto the platform on the other tree, hitting your knee hard. It hurts.

The platform is empty and covered in bird poop, but provides a view of the forest. To the west, you can see a fern grove. They could be carnivorous ferns!

A crude ladder made of vines is attached to the tree trunk, leading down to the ground.

You sit there rubbing your knee, enjoying the sunlight and the clean fresh air. Birds twitter all around you. Further away, deep in the forest, unseen animals growl and roar menacingly.

Your knee still hurts. You wait for a while, listening to birds chirp and unidentifiable animals crash around in the forest in the distance.

You climb down the ladder, your knee still aching. At first, the ladder holds your weight, but as you get closer to the ground, it breaks. You fall down, hitting your other knee. Ow!!

You continue exploring, pushing past a willow tree, only to see a lioness! She lies in front of a shallow cave in a hill. Five cubs are playing in there, tumbling around and biting each other.

The lioness eyes you suspiciously.

The lioness roars, and pounces on you. Her teeth sink deep into your arm. You scream in agony. She shakes you violently. Your good luck brooch flies off and lands on the ground. She lets go of you to sniff at it. However, you're too weak to move. Blood's pouring from your arm. You feel faint. Everthing becomes dark.

You back off slowly and carefully, avoiding eye contact but making soothing sounds. The lioness yawns, and settles down to rest. You slip behind a boulder and pause, shaking all over. Three dirt paths lead off into the forest, away from the animal.

Something's etched into the boulder: crude drawings show huts down the path to the left, a lake straight ahead and ferns down the path to the right.

You walk for a long time and then come to the shore of a dried-up lake. There's nothing to see but dried mud and seaweed and a few fish bones. The forest all around is dense and impenetrable.

You cautiously follow the path, studying the row of huge paw prints in the dirt. Something growls. You jump. There are cracklng sounds as something large pushes through the undergrowth. It sounds like it's heading straight towards you.

A furry striped face appears in the bushes. Green eyes glint at you. With a roar, and a rush of air, an enormous tawny body lands on you, knocking you over. Your head hits the ground. You stare into a mouth full of sharp teeth.

You run back down the path and hide behind the boulder. You're shaking all over. That was a narrow escape! What now?

You quietly step into the bushes and crouch down. A huge striped tawny animal, twice the size of a normal tiger, emerges from the undergrowth. Its long, curved teeth glisten in the sunlight. It sniffs the air. You freeze, hardly daring to breathe. Something brown and furry thumps the ground and then bounds away. The sabre-toothed tiger runs after it. You notice a narrow path that the tiger had come from.

The path is so overgrown that you keep on losing it then finding it again. You walk for a long time and then emerge from trees to see ferns - a huge area covered in them. Enormous ferns, some reaching 10 feet high. Slender fronds with smooth curling tips wave menacingly. Tendrils drape from branches everywhere, ready to trap an unwary animal - or person.

The path is hard to follow. You keep on losing it then re-finding it. After walking for a long time, you emerge from the trees again, to find another fern-filled glen - or is it the same one? The plants are enormous. Their curled fronds wave menacingly at you.

The ferns are harmless - they don't have the barbed tips of carnivorous ferns. They're moving in the breeze. You push through them and enter a wooded area where trees are more sparse. The path peters out, however, you continue on. You find yourself disoriented, unsure of what direction you came from or in what direction you should travel. The trees don't have any low branches and would be too difficult to climb, so you can't go up one to look around.

Something screeches above you. You glance up to see a flash of green fur disappearing into the treetops.

After walking for a long time, you see something ahead. More ferns, but this time their leaves have barbed points. They're not just waving in the breeze; they're snapping hungrily, and their tendrils are crawling as far as possible on the ground, searching for food. Blood drips from some of them. You catch glimpses of small, red berries deep amongst the plants. Kaidda berries! You must get some - but how? The options are limited. There are branches and stones to use as tools. You check your backpack. The only promising items in there are your flint and some food.

You collect some twigs and get a fire started. However, it fizzles out very quickly. The area is quite moist. The fern tendrils creep closer to your feet.

You throw some dried meat, nuts and apples to the ferns. The ferns ignore them. They obviously want fresh blood instead. A tendril reaches out for your leg.

You stride forward and then fall flat on your face as a tendril trips you up. Other tendrils slither around your body and tighten up. You struggle valiently but become more and more entangled. You hear a chattering sound in the trees and look up to see green-furred monkeys pointing at you and laughing. The tendrils drag you further into the fern grove and fern tips dig into your arms. You feel faint.

You break a branch off a bush and swing at the ferns. They recoil, then regroup. They're very resilient. They creep closer towards you.

You prise loose a stone that's half-hidden in the ground. Flecks of gold show through the dirt on the stone. When you clean it, you discover that it's almost entirely gold. It must be worth a fortune.

Something screeches above you. A group of green-furred monkeys are loitering in the trees. One of them wears a baseball cap. It gestures to you while the others clamber around in the branches, jostling each other and chattering in monkey language.

Unfortunately, while you're preoccupied, you feel fern tendrils creeping over your feet. With amazing speed, they wrap themselves around your legs and then the rest of your body. You struggle, but they pull tighter. It's hard to breathe. Your head spins. You hear monkeys laughing at you from the trees.

You throw the nugget to the cap-wearing monkey. The monkey catches it deftly and examines it, but doesn't appear to appreciate its value. It tosses it to another monkey. Soon, the group is scampering around in the trees throwing the nugget around while chattering and laughing.

Meanwhile, the ferns are creeping closer to your feet.

You gesture to the monkey that you need kaidda berries in return for the gold. It clambers down from the tree and crawls into the ferns fearlessly. The fern leaves recoil from its furry skin. It collects berries and returns to give them to you in exchange for the nugget.

You lob it into the middle of the fern patch. A few fronds wither when it touches then, however, it then sinks into the muddy ground. The other fronds wave menacingly at you.

You find a scrap of parchment wedged into a crack in the rock. It's very old and weathed. It has a faint ink drawing of stones and ferns and reads: 'West! Head west!'. Not very elightening, as both the steps and the paw-printed path head in a generally westerly direction.

The steps are not only worn but some are unstable. You nearly stumble several times as stones disloge under your feet. Then you lose your balance and tumble down into the gully, landing on grass. The remaining steps crumble and fall down. You can't get back up now. It's too steep.

You enter a valley covered in bushes. Oddly, there are remains of tiny houses here, the size of doll houses but made of wood and stone. They're mostly crumbling into rubble now but look like they were originally painted in red and blue and decorated with beetle carapaces. The only intact structures are a round hut and a square house. They're much too small for you to enter, of course. A path continues through the forest on the other side of the valley.

As soon as you start rummaging through the rubble of the nearest building, a huge red-and-white spotted spider scuttles out. It bites you on the hand. The pain spreads through your arm. Your hand develops red spots. The spider glares at you malvolently.

Right near the spider lies a pile of tiny bright blue shards that glint in the sunlight.

They turn out to be shards of broken glass. Pretty, but worthless. They cut your fingers and blood drips. The spider jumps onto your hand and bites you again. You feel faint. You stagger around.

It has a dirt floor coverred in tiny humanoid footprints. They look recent. Some purple spotted berries are piled near the wall. Not kaidda berries, unfortunately. You're not sure what they are. Something's written on the wall in a language that you've never seen before: it's all wavy lines and squiggles. The place is otherwise empty.

You reach in and scoop up some berries. A voice squeals indignantly behind you. A group of tiny people have appeared. They have pink hair and pointy ears. They wear clothing sewn together from leaves and carry wooden spears, which they brandish at you. They shout at you angrily. You drop the berries, startled.

You talk to them, but they obviously don't understand English. They jabber amongst themselves, looking agitated. Then one of them throws a spear at you. It pricks you in the leg. It hurts a lot.

You grab a fallen branch and swing at the tiny people. They deftly duck and jump out of the way. They all throw spears at you, pricking your skin numerous times. The pain is excrutiating. You try to run, but stagger and fall down flat on your face. Everything starts to go dark.

You hurry away down the path, leaving the valley behind you. After walking for a quite a while, the path peters out, leaving you lost in the forest. You're startled by a scratchy voice in a tree above you. "Don't be greedy!"

It's a brightly coloured parrot sitting on a branch.

It holds an interesting collection of objects: a small woven reed mat, dishes made of acorn shells, a pebbled fireplace and some dried grass.

Small voices chatter behind you in a foreign language. A group of tiny people has appeared. They have pink hair and pointy ears and wear clothing that looks like it's made out of leaves. They gesture at you angrily while brandishing wooden spears.

You explain your mission to find kaidda berries, while the parrot eyes you, looking thoughtful.

"Don't be greedy! Don't be greedy!" it squawks.

It flies away, leaving you standing there feeling foolish.

The parrot flies off through the trees.

You wander through the forest, feeling more and more apprehensive the further you travel. You're started by movement in a tree above you: something green and furry. It's a green monkey leaping from branch to branch. It wears a t-shirt and a sun hat, which is unusual for a wild animal, and carries a cloth bag.

You pick up a rock and throw it, hitting the monkey in the chest. It howls. It pulls a clear ball from its bag and throws it at you, hitting you on the head. Everything spins. More green-furred monkeys appear from the trees nearby. They screech and hurl pine cones at you. You fall down and hit your head. You feel faint.

You try to explain your quest, however, the monkey obviously doesn't understand English. You pull out your quill and parchment and draw a picture of the ferns and kaidda berries that you seek. The monkey ignores it, and gestures that it wants food.

The monkey puts the sandwich into its bag, tilts its hat at you, and then disappears into the treetops.

You hold up a sandwich and gesture that you expect something in return. The monkey offers its T-shirt and its hat, but you decline as they're obviously too small for you. The monkey scratches its head, then pulls something out of its bag and holds it up. A clear ball that shimmers with a magical aura.

You make the deal and examine the crystal ball. As you peer into it, at first all you can see is a distorted view of the trees around you. Then an image forms of a troop of monkeys standing in a rough circle on grass tossing something shiny and yellow around to each other while shrieking and laughing delightedly.

A scampering sound above breaks your concentration. The monkey has disappeared into the treetops.

The crystal ball is becoming very hot. You're not sure how or why, but it is.

You gaze into the ball again. This time, you see a dark rocky tunnel leading down into the earth. The image is so compelling that you can't look away. In fact, you feel yourself drawn into it...

You're sliding down a slope, out of control, and drop the ball. You fall off something and land on rocky ground, winded. It's completely dark. After you get your breath back, you sit up and light your lantern.

You place the crystal ball carefully into your backpack. However, you soon smell smoke. A hole appears in the cloth. The ball falls to the ground and then disappears in a burst of flame. How strange!

After walking for a while, the trees become sparser and you enter grassland. The grass is very high so it's hard to see where you are. The sun is very bright and very hot. You're sweating.

You're wandering in the grassland, batting away insects that persistently bite you and sweating in the hot sunshine. There's nothing in sight but grass and more grass.

You're surrounded by head-high grass. It's very hot. You're not sure where you are.

You see bushes and trees in the distance, and gratefully seek shade. There's a sound of running water. You push through vegetation and come to a swiftly flowing river. Fish with nasty sharp-looking teeth swim past. A bridge made of planks crosses the river, but it looks rickety. An old canoe, made of bark, lies on the bank.

The water's freezing. Fish swarm towards you, biting chunks out of your legs. You try to shake them off, but more and more latch on to you with their extra-sharp teeth. Blood stains the water. Your head spins.

As soon as you step onto tbe bridge, the planks creak alarmingly. Water splashes up around you. As you run, the wood starts to crack and break apart under your feet.

You pull the canoe into the water, climb in and push off from the bank, only to realise too late that you have no oars and nothing to row with. The current pulls your vessel along. It bumps into rocks, jolting you. Then it hits a log sticking up in the river and tips over. You fall into the freezing water. Fish swarm towards you, biting chunks out of you. You try to fight them off, but more and more latch on to you. You scream as blood stains the water.

You leave the river behind and enter a lush forest. Birds twitter all around you. As you push through the trees and shrubs, you lose your bearings. You trudge for a long time. Sometimes, you spot a green-furred monkey scampering about in the trees, but it aways disappears before you can get a good look at it. The undergrowth becomes even denser. You struggle through a grove of rhododendrons only to then trip over a rock and tumble down a slope. You fall down into a clearing and lie there looking up at the sky. A cliff face towers above you. It looks like there used to be a tunnel entrance in it, but that's blocked by a huge boulder.

You crawl down the tunnel, which becomes darker and darker, so you have to light your lantern. The light shows nothing but smooth rows of hand-made bricks for as far as you can see. Insects scuttle away from you. Aside from that, everything is quiet. Eerily quiet. Downright creepy, in fact.

You turn around awkwardly and crawl back down the tunnel to the entrance.

The tunnel suddenly dips, and you slide down, tumbling over and over. You try to grab hold of the bricks but the wall's too smooth. You fall out of the end and land in a heap, winded. Your head spins. After a while, you calm down and sit up.

You crawl along the tunnel for a long time. The walls are smooth and featureless. It's eerily quiet, and also cold. Finally, you notice light ahead: sunshine. You climb up a slope and emerge into grasslands.

You climb up awkwardly, becoming very hot and sweaty. Your arms ache. You stop to rest on a ledge - and notice an ancient-looking carving of hieroglyphics on a stone. A bright yellow snake lies in front of it. It raises its head and hisses at you.

There's a blur of yellow and the snake sinks its fangs right into your arm. You scream, and shake it off. You feel weak. You stagger around, and fall down off the rock, collapsing onto the ground.

After careful study, you work out that they read: 'The magic word is lerwkjcjhhqweidajcmk'. The next paragraph explains that it can be used only in this location and will lose its power if written down.

The snake is becoming more and more agitated by your presence and is rearing up, hissing loudly.

Your attention has waned so you lose the ability to read the hieroglyphics. You struggle to remember the magic word. What happened to the good old 'Abracadabra'?

An arch of purple and blue light opens up in the rock in front of you. The colours swirl, drawing you in. You feel like you're flying through an endless tunnel of colours, until you suddenly fall down onto the ground. The magical arch vanishes. You find yourself facing a fern grove.

You climb up to the top of the cliff and find a clearing containing ruins of houses. The ones on the edges are human-sized and are similar to the ones in your village, being made of stone. They surround tiny, doll-sized houses. All of the buildings look like they're hundreds of years old. To the side are two wells, one normal sized and one miniature. The normal sized well contains water and the tiny well contains a liquid that glints in a multitude of colours.

Clouds gather overhead. The sky darkens. Thunder rumbles. A few drops of rain fall. If you want to go back down, you'd better go now before the rocks become too wet and slippery to climb.

You come to a clearing. Lumps of rocks lie on the ground. You eventually realise that they were once tiny buildings, the size of doll houses. How peculiar. Unfortunately, they're all piles of rubble now and there's nothing of interest left. You look around, and realise that you've somehow lost the path you were on. You wander through the trees aimlessly until you find another path.

You scoop up a handful of liquid and sip it. It tastes oddly spicy. Then you notice that your hand is shrinking! It must be magical water.

It's raining heavily. You're getting soaked. You can't climb back down the cliff now - it would be too dangerous.

It tastes like ordinary water. Nothing happens.

It's raining heavily. You're getting soaked. You can't climb back down the cliff now - it would be too dangerous.

As you continue to drink, the ruins, wells and surrounding forest all grow larger. Wait, they don't - you're becoming smaller! You shrink to the size of a small child. Your backpack becomes extraordinarily heavy and falls off your shoulders. You shrink even more. You feel your ears becoming pointier and your nose becoming smaller. A strand of hair drops over your eyes, and it's bright pink. You try to call for help, but make an odd shrill sound, quite unlike English.

Your villagers will never recognise or accept you now. You'll need to find others like yourself to live with.

Welcome to your new life as an elf.

You find nothing but dirt and pebbles. The dirt is turning into mud in the rain.

It's raining heavily. You can't get back down the cliff now.

You huddle underneath the trees as the rain pours down. More thunder rumbles. Lightening flashes. You become drenched, and move further into the forest. Eventually, the weather clears up. The clouds move away and the sun comes back out. However, you've become disoriented and aren't sure where you are. Finally, you find a faint dirt path.

You examine the plump berries. They look delicious. They're said to be able to cure any viral illness. What would happen if you ate some while healthy?

They taste bitter. So disgusting that you try to spit them out. However, you accidently swallow a few and start to feel ill. Everything becomes blurry. You stumble around, trip over something and hit your head on the ground. The last thing you hear is monkeys laughing at you.

You re-enter the forest. The sun is lower in the sky now - which is a good thing, as it makes it easier to navigate your way on the long, long walk back to your village. You arrive at sunset. Everyone rushes out to greet you. They cheer when you show them the berries.

Congratulations! You've saved everyone's lives!