Part Five: Travelers Gonna Travel
TRAVELERS GONNA TRAVEL
Berthond introduced each member of the team to Selebriar. They all seemed to have their personal nickname for him. Reynolds’ was “Elf”, it being simple enough for him to remember. Harresta called him “Pointy Guy”, a reference to his ears. To Telcrow, he was simply “Darkleaf”. Selebriar didn’t seem to mind any of the nicknames. In fact, he seemed rather pleased that Harresta and Telcrow had guessed his species on the first go.
Reynold picked up the large sack full of provisions and blankets, and slung it over his shoulder. Berthond glanced at Selebriar. ‘There’s only enough stuff for four people’, he told the Elf. Selebriar looked at him as though he was crazy. ‘I’m an Elf. I live in a forest. I’m pretty sure I can feed myself.’
And so they started their journey towards the first Lestine. Berthond went first with the map, followed by Selebriar, then Harresta, Reynold, and with Telcrow at the rear. They travelled North-East through the forest, in the direction of the caves where the Lestine of Flame was supposed to be held.
The forest on this side of the mountain was somewhat different from the forest by Torresta. Back home, it had been a shadowy dark green, with towering trees huddled close together, the thick green canopy blocking out most of the light. Branches, vines and leaves were everywhere, sealing the inside of the wood from the outside world. And yet, there was always a faint icy wind, of an ethereal quality, whistling through the branches of the trees.
Here, the trees are slim; some tall, some still saplings. They’re several feet apart, and the floor between them is carpeted with fallen leaves. There are large, white stones here and there. The sunlight is warm and golden, and the air is fragrant with the scents of the flower bushes that grow in clumps between the trees. There’s a slow, lazy breeze that makes the topmost branches of the trees sway gently and rhythmically.
Berthond felt that he liked the forest back home better. Not only did he feel that it was a better forest, but this one had a gingerbread-cottage-y feel to it. It was as though it was saying, Look at me! I’m so pretty and peaceful! You are definitely NOT going to get ambushed by goblins or scorched by dragons! Just keep looking at me and stop being on your guard! I’m sure we’ll all be GOOD FRIENDS.
At sunset, they stopped and set up camp by a clump of stones. Berthond sat down to inspect the contents of the sack. The other heroes wandered a little bit away. Selebriar vanished, and came back a little while later with half a dozen rabbits and a handful of herbs. Berthond was impressed by the hunt, and instantly set about cooking the meat. He also took two small loaves of bread from the sack.
‘Where are the others?’ He asked the Elf as he skinned a rabbit. Selebriar sat down on a stone nearby. ‘Reynold is sitting a few feet away, apparently grinning at nothing. Maybe he’s daydreaming or something. Harresta is pretending to sharpen her daggers, but is actually observing the rest of the team and making mental notes about them. Telcrow is practicing his spells by firing them against a giant rock some distance away. He’s using a rock because I threatened to break his arm when he tried to use a tree.’ Berthond nodded, and resumed skinning the rabbits. He later cooked them over a fire that used dead wood for fuel.
The night air was chilled and heavy, and each hero shivered in his or her blanket. Berthond stared up at the night sky. Back home it would be speckled with stars. Growing up, he hadn’t known any of the constellations, so he had made up his own. The Flying Owl was his favorite; its eye was the brightest star in the sky.
Here, there were no stars. The sky was clouded and dark. The trees that had looked so elegant in the daylight now looked scrawny and gnarled, their dead, crooked fingers reaching out to the clouds. The moon couldn’t be seen, yet the stones seemed to glow with a ghostly white light.
Berthond thought back to when he was a child, and was afraid of the dark. The odd thing was, he was only afraid of it when he couldn’t see the stars. It was like the Flying Owl was watching over him, its shining eye banishing all fear and darkness.
But if he couldn’t see that eye, or any other pale gleam in the night sky, he would cry and hide under the covers until his mother came in and sang him to sleep. This was just such a night. How he missed his mother and her singing…
Just as he thought this, he heard a faint voice begin to sing. He couldn’t recognize the tune, or the language, but it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. It seemed to him that he was back home, in his bed, all those years ago, with his mother by his side. A single tear rolled down his cheek. It had been seven years since he had last seen his mother.
He turned his head towards the sound of the music. Sitting atop a large stone, framed against the swirling clouds of the night, was a familiar Elven figure. Berthond lay still, listening to the enchanting song. After a few minutes, he looked up, and saw the clouds part, just for a minute, revealing a single star: the eye of the Flying Owl. Berthond felt a wave of warmth surge through him. He smiled, closed his eyes, and slept soundlessly for the rest of the night.
The next day, he didn’t talk to Selebriar about the previous night. He simply said ‘Thank You’. And Selebriar smiled, and said nothing.