The four young elves made their way out of town and into Fermata Forest. There were many narrow paths that made it easy to get through at first, but after the first hour of walking, the trees began to thicken and the undergrowth entangled them mercilessly.
"We should climb," Maebhe said, pulling her foot out of a nest of brambles for what felt like the hundredth time. "If we travel tree to tree we will get much farther today."
Vivace agreed. "I think she's right," he said grimly, twisting out of a thorny vine that had wrapped around his shoulders. "The forest is not in a good mood today- we may have more luck up where only the ivy may trap us."
"If the trees are angry, we are safer down here," Drummer argued. "It is easier to dodge a falling branch and escape thorns than it is to catch another branch after one has dumped you."
"The trees aren't angry," Subito said, his hand resting on a massive silver apple tree. "It's more like...worried. The briars and vines want us gone simply because it is their nature, but the trees are only worried. We should climb."
Vivace's faerie began to flit around frantically as he walked over to Maebhe who was staring at a branch ten feet above her head. "May I?" He grasped her around the waist. "Look up!" he cried as he tossed her in the air.
Ylida and Libba gasped and cursed at Vivace, but Maebhe grasped the branch, swung herself to the top of it, and stood. "Are you lot coming?" she asked. Vivace leapt up with a whoop and she fled to the next tree. Soon they were all bounding through the forest, faeries flying madly behind. They were guided by Subito who could tell them when a branch was unsafe. He also helped them avoid a gnarled blue pine who was apparently threatening to dump any who trod on his branches.
They were miles away from town, halfway to the sorcerer, when night began to fall and the flautist started to complain of hunger pains. They found a small clearing near a hill, and the entrance to a cave.
"We can cook in this clearing, but should we sleep in the cave or in the trees tonight?" Maebhe asked.
"Cave," Drummer voted.
Aniko agreed and collapsed panting on Subito's shoulder. "I don't want to move anymore today."
"Trees," Subito said. "We don't know what lives in this cave and I know the trees will keep us safe."
"Vivace?" Drummer asked.
The player shrugged. "Let our local Silver Lady and the girls break the tie," he said with a wink at Maebhe and her new fans, Inina and Libba, who had joined Ylida in seats made from her tangle of silver curls.
She blushed. "That's blasphemy! Don't call me that."
"I don't think it's blasphemy," Subito said. "She chose you, you were named after her, and you were made in her image. That's a lot of coincidences."
"You saw the Queen- we all look like her. We're her direct descendants. It was our family she made first," Maebhe explained. "Who did the Piper create first? His family surely looks like him, just like the descendants of the Singer and the Beater."
"My family was the Beater's first," Drummer said sleepily as they descended the treetops. "That's why the blue." He tugged a bright strand amid his golden brown locks. They landed and he yawned and started picking up branches that littered the ground around the clearing.
"So why was I chosen?" Subito asked. "The old family of voices was thought to have died out long ago."
"I might be," Vivace said with a wicked grin. "My family's not well-known for it's faithfulness in the home."
Maebhe gaped at him, shocked.
He just winked and went on. "We still need to decide: cave or treetops?"
Inina tugged the lock of hair she was sitting in and blinked at Drummer. "I like caves," she said.
"I don't want anyone to get eaten," Libba said. "If we sleep in the cave, you should let me see what's in there first, since I can sense life."
"I would rather sleep in the trees, but I don't fancy flying all the way up there- I'd have to insist on a ride," Ylida said.
Maebhe tapped her foot. "Could we go in with Libba and see if there's anyone calling this place home?"
"The problem with that is- what if who calls this home isn't home right now?" Vivace said. "Libba can sense life and who belongs to it, but if it's not there now and comes back later? She's not really much help."
"Thanks!" Libba said hotly, her golden glow flaring bright before going out.
"Aww," Vivace pouted. She had flown away when he approached her and Maebhe.
"So we eat and then ascend. Everyone has a hammock?" Subito asked.
Drummer scowled slightly, but nodded. "Who's turn to cook? Do we have anything to cook? I'd love a hot meal, but all I have is travel goods."
"I can acquire a few pheasants," Maebhe offered, pulling out her bow. "We can have roast pheasant and whatever you three can gather- but I'm not plucking or skinning anything. I won't."
"You can kill it but you can't gut it?" Vivace asked, puzzled. "A quicker skinner than I doesn't exist, anyway- I'll do it."
"So I'll go gathering, then," Subito said, trundling off into the forest.
"And I'll be lookout, shall I?" Drummer offered, stretching out.
"We'll help him be lookout," Aniko said, stretching out on the ground. The other faeries followed suit, bringing leaves over to lie down on.
Maebhe headed in the opposite direction, away from the vocalist. Vivace followed her silently into the growing darkness around them, slipping his knives from their sheathes.