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I'm writing a short story set in a medieval-like fantasy kingdom. At some point a group of people are passing through a forested low mountain area when they are attacked by hooded people, there is a fight with arrows, swords etc and the villains win.

However, a 10-year-old child manages to hide and survive. He witnesses the massacre, or at least a bit of it (to the point of recognising the assailants, either because he recognises some of their voices, or maybe because a hood falls for a moment, or maybe for both reasons).

The child wasn't supposed to be there in the first place, and at the moment of the attack he was a bit away from the group, so the attackers don't know he's there and aren't looking for him.

Is it realistic for the boy to hide in a tree (he would climb it for fun before the attack)? If so, what kind of tree would be suitable? If a tree is not a good place to hide, what about a bush? Or a tree with big curved roots?

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  • Hollow trees, voids beneath the roots of trees, up a tree, in a bush. behind rocks.
    – EDL
    May 6, 2023 at 16:19
  • EDL, DO NOT post answers in the comments. May 12, 2023 at 22:57
  • You might look for story-based reasons why he would leave the group. ie: not a 'bigger tree' but a character-motive why he would run off before the attack (something he can feel guilty about for the rest of his life).
    – wetcircuit
    May 22, 2023 at 2:27

2 Answers 2

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I recommend you go into a mountain forest and see for yourself.

I grew up in a village and played in forests all my childhood. We built tree houses and generally climbed around in trees all the time. I hid in a tree twice – once from the police – and it worked well each time, but only because it was night! If you're inside a forest and look around in the daylight, you can notice things in trees pretty high up if they aren't tree-colored or if they move, even if you don't actively search for them. Human eyes are really good at picking up movement at the edge of their field of vision – better than in the center, in fact! – so a person hiding in a tree during the day has to be above the foliage. And that is very high, because trees in a forest usually only have denser foliage at the very top. And many trees in forests are hard to climb, because they don't have many branches low down. So hiding in a tree is not as easy at it sounds. You'll have to be lucky and find just the right tree, or a young tree beside an older one that you can use as a sort of ladder to climb up to the lowest branches of the higher tree.

But then, mountain forests usually aren't as dense as forests in the flatland. Look at this image of a typical mountain forest:

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Where would you hide? Probably behind one of the moss covered rocks or in one of the small hollows under roots or fallen tree trunks or behind the stem of a tree as it is broadening towards the root ball. You certainly wouldn't be able to get up any of those trees.

As the boy, I would just let myself fall where I stood or jump behind the next bump in the ground and crawl away until I'm out of sight. And I would lie very still, because sound carries quite far in a medieval forest.

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    +1 for the advice to go to the woods and see.
    – Boba Fit
    May 7, 2023 at 22:36
  • Agreed. This was a good idea. May 12, 2023 at 22:58
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There are several options.

Caves. Caves are always an option. This is present in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit(or There and Back Again). It is how Smaug escaped the dwarves, or the goblins escaped the sunlight. If the mountain is densely populated by trees and forest animals, the forest would also be good option. If people can use magic in that world, there are multiple other options which you would be able to decide. If the mountain is populated by civilized humans, you could either have the characters rally some allies or hide in fortresses. A final option of mine is on the side of the mountain. If a character can hold on long enough, then they could escape detection from an enemy. Via your suggestion, you would need a large, hollow tree to work for your 10 year old.

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