MYRKWOOD - Intrigued by a question that has perplexed Myrkwood residents for ages, botanist Horbonn Greenthumbs has set out to find out why the willows of the forest make so much noise.
"You can hear the din as far north as Nalliten on a windy day; it's just a part of life in the forest," Greenthumbs said as he prepared for another day of field studies. "But as scientists, we have to ask why. Why do some willows weep while others shriek? Are they in pain, or is it just something they do, like wolves howling at the moon? Questions like that impress the grant writers, so off I go into the woods!"
Greenthumbs has been studying the willows in the field for several months, observing their behavior, spawning habits and the way they react to the presence of other creatures. While he has gathered voluminous data about their spawn cycle, average height and how long it takes to run back to the grove after being incinerated, he has yet to garner much useful information about their loud vocalizations.
"They just sort of stand there, don't they?" Greenthumbs observed from his observation bush west of Gna Faste. "I've tried talking to them, throwing things at them... it gets pretty lonely up here. Say, you wouldn't like to join me, would you? There's plenty of room in here for two, and I brought plenty of mead and... hey, where are you going? Come back!"
Not everyone is so keen on Greenthumbs' field research, however. Plants' rights groups across Midgard have spoken out against the studies, saying they interfere with the willows' delicate habitat, and encourage the killing of the willows in the name of science.
"Well, isn't it obvious why they're screaming? Because all you people keep cutting them down!" said Earthchild, the leader of environmental activist group POWER (Preserve Our Willows' Earthly Rights). "They just spawn in their little groves, they don't even wander around. How cruel to just chop them down like that!"
Earthchild then ran off to chase away a band of warriors intent on killing the willows, only to be attacked and killed by several of the noisy flora.
POWER's tactics are controversial -- members of the group have been known to lash themselves to the willows to shield them from attackers, only to be blasted by the willows they are trying to protect. More subtle approaches, such as dressing in tree costumes and handing out leaflets in the forest, have had mixed success. A recent protest by the group near Nalliten, in which tens of POWER's members stood in a grove with their arms outstretched and shrieked in sympathy for the willows, ended in tragedy when a group of trolls mistakenly obliterated the group, thinking they were actually shrieking willows.
Greenthumbs expects to release his findings in the nature journal Branch, once he is able to form a reasonable hypothesis as to why the willows weep. "I think it might be because they don't have any leaves," he speculated. "Either that, or maybe it's owls. I dunno, I'm about ready to set fire to the lot of them, that'll give them something to scream about. You're not writing this down, are you?"