The Valley Road was wide and old, dating from a time when all the major thoroughfares in the former kingdom of Murkintsen were paved, some with cobblestones, others with large pavers, so that the king would not have to suffer the indignity of mud and potholes while traveling between his various royal residences and other important locations. This particular road was nearly dead straight, winding only to avoid the occasional hillock, and Seymour observed only two intersections, one with another paved, well-maintained road, which he deduced was the way to Edmund Manor; the other, however, was overgrown and mostly obscured by dirt and time. Seymour had a very bad feeling about that road, and he was glad to have the junction well behind them.
Onward they rode for what seemed like an age, and still the road stretched out in front of them. The straightness of their route—as well as the unchanging scenery of gnarled old oak trees that bordered the cobblestones on either side, their limbs reaching up overhead to form a nearly-perfect tunnel, leaving only a narrow strip of cobalt sky visible between the branches—gave the illusion that they were not making any significant progress. At some point, Seoc fell asleep with his head resting against Seymour’s chest, and since there had been no sound from the saddlebag in a while, the Aechyed guessed that Simon had dozed off, too. That left him the only one left awake, save for the horse, and it suddenly seemed a very lonely, and somewhat chilling, existence.
At length, they reached the summit of an almost imperceptibly sloping hill, so gradual that they must have been climbing it for miles without Seymour’s noticing it, and abruptly the forest opened up, becoming a thin woodland, and there at the end of the road, the Castle Carviliet materialized, its many splendid towers and turrets silhouetted against the night sky.
“Seoc,” he whispered, gently shaking the human awake. “Look! We’re here!”
“Sweet mother o’ Rezyn,” Seoc breathed, jubilation battling exhaustion in his voice. “I never really thought I’d see it again.”
With a lightness in their hearts that neither had felt in recent memory, they left the darkness of the woods behind them and set their eyes upon the goal that had been for many days so distant, now so very near.
END PART I OF III