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Holder of Secrets

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In any country where there grows a dense forest, hire a guide to take you into the wood. When you can no longer see the forest's edge, stop your guide, and tell him that you wish to meet with the Holder of Secrets. He will sigh deeply and lower his eyes, but he will acquiesce to your demand.

He will lead you into a part of the forest that is so thick you will no longer be able to see the sky. Eventually, you and your guide will reach a place where all of the trees are gnarled and deformed. There, he will point toward a great old tree whose scars seem to form a face and say, "There rests the Holder of Secrets, who awakens only in hours of supreme darkness. A word to the wise, Seeker: Do not look it in the eye until all's said and done." He will then leave you to make your camp without another word.

Heed his advice, and pass the hours as best you can until nightfall.

When the darkest hour of night is upon you, walk backward toward the tree. Stop only when you feel its roots beneath your feet.

Ask of the tree, "For whom are they silent?"

If the tree does not respond, run away as fast as you can, and do not stop until you reach an area where no tree grows. If you do not escape, you will suffer a fate worse than death.

If the tree responds only with heavy breathing, you must ask once more, "For whom are they silent?"

Ask this same question until the tree begins to shudder, which you will know by hearing the rustle of its branches. When that happens, turn to face it, but keep your eyes lowered so that you see only the base of its trunk and the roots.

The tree will say to you, in a dry and rasping voice, "They are silent for the ones who were buried." To which you must reply, "Where were they buried, and why?"

At this, the tree will chuckle, a sound that has driven many a man insane. Should you manage to hold on to your wits, the tree will begin coughing on you, and a foul-smelling sap will coat your body, but you must not attempt to turn away or cover your face. If you do, the great roots will ensnare your ankles and you will be dragged under the earth as a source of eternal nourishment for the tree. Forever will you feel its roots boring into your flesh, draining you of your vital fluids, yet never shall you be granted the relief of death, for the tree will also fill your veins with a liquid that will make you immortal.

If you manage to stand your ground as the tree is coughing, it will recover its breath and will tell you the tale of those who were buried. The story is long and frightening, and you will wish to cover your ears and scream, but do not, lest the tree make you one of its victims. When the history has been told to you, you must turn your gaze upward, toward the eyes of the tree.

You will be fearful and wish to flee, for there is naught but madness and death in those terrible pits, but stand your ground until the tree closes its eyes.

If you are able to do so, the face will vanish from the trunk, and a branch will fall to the ground at your feet. It will be thin and forked, but as strong as steel. As long as you possess it, you will find that you have the ability to locate buried items. Guard it well, for there are others who would seek its power.

This branch is Object 191 of 538. Woe to the one who brings them together.

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