Toward the World Tree

Here’s another scene from my as-yet-unnamed short story. For reasons I can’t explain, I seem to only write this on time stolen from work but this thing seems to be writing itself, so who am I to argue. I don’t know for sure where I’m going yet, but it seems pretty cool so far. We’ll see where our adventurers find themselves today.

The canopy above was so thick it left the ground a green-tinged twilight. Claudio had insisted they ride single file, he in the lead. Though the underbrush was dense, there was a clear path which wound through the foliage. Along either side were narrow cobbled borders, spaced about two metres apart.
“We’re coming close to the edge of their territory,” Claudio spoke quietly, as though they were being observed already.
“If the people of the world tree are always hostile, why are we riding right into their lands?” A mild tremor coming into Antonio’s voice as he recalled the tales of savagery Claudio had told at the campfire last night. After the fire had died, the voice of the forest had risen. Within the confines of the encroaching tree-line, Antonio had lain awake for hours. Everywhere something seemed to be moving in the total darkness. The moon’s light a mere suggestion of illumination filtered through thick leaves, leaving far too much to Antonio’s overactive imagination. A thousand serpentine creatures formed and dissipated while he lay and stared upward. Only once during the night was there a recognizable sound, a peel of thunder. The noise seemed to have come from the direction they were headed, the same place the world tree had hovered above before punching another hole in the clouds.
Claudio had risen with the sun, though it would be a few hours before the sun’s rays penetrated the heavy ceiling of flora. Antonio, for his part, lay for a while, eyes closed, while Claudio built a small fire to cook their simple breakfast over. His mind’s eye reviewed the forest they had descended into. The green carpet had seemed to extend forever in all directions. And yet, according to Claudio, there was a substantial settlement in the area ahead.
Finally stirring from his bedroll, Antonio had eaten the small woodland rodent Claudio had cooked for their breakfast. Spreading the hot grease from the meat onto some of the hardtack they had packed as provisions, Antonio began to feel the distance from his home. He was about to walk into a city populated by people his companion and guard didn’t even consider human, a people he had never even heard of before he began his pilgrimage. And these people lived on the world tree, a gargantuan tree that appeared from the sky every day. How could he have lived his entire life without anyone having even mentioned such impossibilities. It was true that many of the stories of his childhood involved creatures living in the sky, or creatures of impossible size. His favourite had been about an enormous serpent that carried the gods back to the heavens after the great conflict. But he had never seen a flying snake; he had seen a tree descend from the sky, pause, then retreat above the clouds.
The magnitude of his situation loomed before Antonio. He had known there was much more to the world than the realms of his family and their liege, but he had never imagined things beyond the calm vales of his homeland would be so profoundly alien.
This was the point of no return.

via Daily Prompt: Border