Meredyth, Faeth and I trudged wearily to the willow domes and lay down to sleep, exhausted, happy and relieved. The Aeridian day had lasted so long, had been so full. Sunelya curled up around her glorious egg, Elowyn leaning against her tail. It seemed as though they filled each other with fire energy as they slept. Meredyth fell into a deep sleep the moment she lay on the soft ferns, Faeth following suit. I peered out through a gap in between the willow branches, towards the fire, and took in Darl outstretched by the comforting heat source. Carla perched beside her master; her head bent behind her beautiful, bronze-coloured wings, her amber eyes closed. I smiled, knowing I had done what I could for Darl, knowing that he would be strong enough to continue with us as we moved on the next day. Now that we had been discovered by the Voxanians, we would have to leave. That aside, we had a sense of responsibility deeply rooted within us, a duty towards our fellow Aeridians. Suddenly somewhat fearful for Darl's safety, I stretched out my hands to the woods and whispered 'Hakura.' I would untangle to branches the following morning to allow us easy passage, but if any Voxanians did come, they would have a long struggle before them, by which time their presence would be known to us. Feeling more secure, I allowed myself to paddle in the fringes of slumber, before becoming completely immersed.
My eyelids flickered open as a single beam of light poured through the natural chink in the willow branches, bathing my surroundings with an evanescent glow. I sat up slowly, careful to allow the others to wake naturally, and made my way to the edge of the stream, kneeling gently on the bank at the water's edge. I cupped my hands and submerged them beneath the surface of the stream, before splashing my face with water, I looked down into perturbed waters as they settled, subjected to helpless vanity; the aven paste had grown paler, parts of my lips naked; red. Wiping away the old paste, I reached into my bag for the flower and rectified my lack of dignity. Looking again into the water, I drew a bronze, fine-toothed comb from my bag and ran it through my hair. Yet, after this, I frowned.
"Elowyn has always outshone me. In everything." Surveying the area for signs of life, and finding none, I took my bag off and placed it on the bank, before inhaling deeply and removing my clothes. I stepped into the stream, felt it cold against my skin, and made my way to the waterfall, letting it cleanse me, hastily, as the icy awakening grew too much for me. Shivering, I put on the dress which Faeth had cleaned the previous day, and had been hanging from the oak branch. It was green, like untouched Spring grass, and left my shoulders and shins bare. However, it was more practical than my longer, heavier dress and was therefore more suitable for traveling. I ran my comb through my hair again, as it dried in the morning sun, and looked to the dead fire, a single pillar of smoke snaking its way Skye-wards. Darl was awake, and was now feeding Carla a sliver of meat as it rested in his palm. He turned to face me as he heard my footsteps.
"I hope I didn't startle you," he said.
"No, I was just about to gather a few rations for the journey ahead." Darl creased his forehead.
"Journey? But I've only just got here!" I laughed a little, and replied,
"You're just going to have to keep up if you want to stay with us."
"I don't doubt that for a moment," Darl began, before asking, "Are these rations going to be vegetation of some kind?"
"Of course. Plant matter is delicious and wonderful for journeys." Darl shrugged, obviously disappointed. As I went to gather various berries and vegetables. I noticed the others begin to make movements. Elowyn dismantled the fire and Faeth collected the clothes together in a gust of wind. Meredyth was sat on a rock, visualising a map for the journey. I felt vibrations shake the ground as Sunelya stood and nuzzled her egg with her chin. By now I had collected the food we needed. I turned to the trees, bidding them to untangle themselves, which they did. As I reached for my bag, I heard the sound of metal kissing metal behind me, and turned, frightened. I heard Darl's voice above my heavy breathing.
"I'm sorry for frightening you, Aven; I was merely sharpening my weapons." I nodded in acknowledgement of this apology, my breathing returning to normal. Soon, everyone had gathered together; Elowyn astride Sunelya, Faeth, Meredyth and Darl on foot. Having muttered a quick prayer to the trees, asking for them to watch over us as we traveled, we set off. Elowyn looked down at me and smiled.
"What are you smiling at?" I asked. Elowyn chuckled and replied,
"Your choice of attire, Aven, it's a little more... mature than what you usually wear." I glared at her for a moment, but soon succumbed to her silly face and raised eyebrow, and laughed. Meredyth concentrated deeply, up in front, her psychic powers so strong the map was visible to all of us. Faeth held her sword tightly, while Darl praised her choice of weapon, giving it an approving glance. In unison, we cried,
“For Aeridia, we fight!”
It was here that our quest truly began.