Chapter 1 – The Long Road Home

The unlikely pair walked from the glen with the mare following leadless behind them from one of the few wooded areas between hilly meadows of various grasses.  It would still be a few days walk to the Elven town of Elmwood, but after the refreshing few days rest Velna and Kithri were able to start out at a brisk pace.

Valna knew the lightly traveled path like the back of her hand. She was able to keep her trained eye on the horizon, the sky and any movement through the grasses that might warn of impending danger. The ranger was in tune with the wildlife and would be able to take aim with her bow to dispatch any danger that might arise.

Kithri was also very alert, but her training was of a completely different ilk. The long grasses came up to her shoulders, brushing easily off of her tanned leather armor, enabling her to hide while in plain sight. Kithri’s locks the color of the wheat they were traveling through.

The sky overhead was cloudless, enabling the warm autumn sunshine to mislead the threat of cooler weather that was to come.  The harvest would be underway in Elmwood, it was Valna’s hope to be home in time for the festival.

The news she was to deliver was in the back of her mind. “Should I ask the Council to convene immediately to hear me out or should I wait until after the festival so as not to dampen the atmosphere,” she reflected inwardly. She looked at Kithri, the halfling was oblivious to the hint of a potential threat that was now known. 

Instead of stopping for a midday meal, the pair munched on dried wheat cakes baked with rendered fat and berries, a nutritious meal providing energy and a sense of fullness, with sips from their water skins for refreshment.

Walking further, the terrain began to change; the meadows of tall grasses began to have the first outcroppings of tentative underbrush. The smells of lavender and honeysuckle, apple and cherry teased the senses as the first groves began to offer shade and respite from the bright sun.  Leading further into the beginning of the forest the tall elms began that gave the city its namesake.

The sounds of small woodland creatures could be heard all around. Squirrels chattered at one another, fighting over the choicest ground nuts. Chipmunks chittered at hungry yipping foxes, teasing them from low branches. 

The evening darkness came on quicker in the forest, the trees blocking out the scarlet setting sun.  Valna decided to set up camp for the night, it wouldn’t be long before Kithri would no longer be able to see in the dim light, not having the benefit of low-light vision.

This night, they would but a small fire and be sure to burn only the deadfall wood that was in the underbrush. It was against Valna’s nature by birth to harm any living trees.  The evening meal consisted again of a brothy hare stew with mild roots and herbs for flavor. They would save the wheat cakes for easy meals during the journey. Tea was brewed, strong chamomile and dandelion, sipped afterwards. The pair worked in silence until after the meal, while the work was still needed to be done.

Afterwards, Kithri usually needed share her opinions of the day, going into great detail of every branch, stone and blade of grass they had crossed on their journey – detailing it meticulously on one of her many scrolls of parchment with a fresh piece of coal.  The two women seldom disagreed on the drawings and after much discussion Kithri regaled Valna with her tales of travel and treasure. When it was her turn to participate in sharing her heritage, Valna played her pan pipe, the eerie melodic sounds drifting away to the starry sky along with the smoke of the fire, usually lulling the halfling to sleep, while the half-elf takes the first watch of the night.

The End

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