The next morning Adwin seemed to be in a better mood, he moved about more easily as well. They ate a cold meal and quickly continued on their way. There was still no sign of pursuit, but Tipper urged a decent pace hoping that they could evade any further troubles with the folks from Sharlok’s Hold. As the morning passed she noted a larger diversity of plants and animals giving promise that the migratory path of the wild folk lay just ahead.
By late morning, with a clear blue sky above them, they had come to a sizable hill. At the top of the hill a single large standing stone could be seen. Eastward the grasses gave way to rockier terrain with brush and smaller trees more common, including dulmak, balach and alder. A small herd of bleek deer had gathered along the north side of the hill, though they moved off westward as the trio approached. They ascended easily enough, a broad path spiralled around the hill and lead to the standing stone. The countryside opened up around them, the plains to the north and rougher more vibrant terrain to the south, with small hills and rocky outcrops. Further in the distance a few larger trees stood over the terrain like lonely sentinels.[
Adwin was caught up in the view while Mokha had his eyes closed and muttered quietly under his breath. A gentle breeze cooled the warm air. The standing stone was wider at its base and was mounted atop a pedestal of two great stones that seemed perfectly flat, its height was ten paces and it narrowed considerable towards the top. Symbols and words could still be seen on its surface though it was heavily worn by the weather, the engravings were barely discernible and its edges rounded and smooth. From what she could gather from the engravings, the stone commemorated an alliance or understanding between the wild folk and the first men. Strange that she had just been talking about this with Mokha the night before.
Tipper then took time to scan the northern horizon and soon enough she found what she had been long expecting. A group of riders, heading south alongside the trail the three of them had left through the grass. Over a dozen men at arms. She pointed the group out to the other two.
“We should move further into the wild folk’s territory.” She told her companions, “It’s unlikely they will pursue us there.”
Adwin looked around and asked in a confused tone, “So this is it? The great migratory path of the wild elves? I was expecting something more. Huh.”
“Oh yes, and a mighty place it is.” said Mokha. His eyes were bright, she knew he could feel the power of the land. Adwin seemed even more confused with Mokha’s rampant enthusiasm.
They headed out, cutting down the south slope of the hill, the decline was gentle enough not to bother the horses. For the rest of the morning they switched between a trot and a walk and followed the lay of the land so as to put hills, outcroppings and trees between themselves and their pursuers. Those who gave chase showed no inclination of turning away from the land of the wild folk, but by early afternoon they could no longer be seen. A short while later they came to a pool, fed by multiple springs, where they watered the horses and refilled their water skins. Without much more delay they moved onward, initially walking the horses and they gradually switched to a westward track.
When the day was nearly done Tipper dismounted and climbed a steep hill, making sure to use the land to shield her position from anyone coming from the north or east. When she had satisfied herself that neither dangerous men nor beasts were in the area she climbed back down to her companions who looked to her expectantly.
“Alright, so no fire tonight and any fire we make while in the wild folk’s territory should be small. Avoid cutting trees and killing beasts. Any fruit you take or plant harvested make sure you take no more than a third of what it bears. Be wary of odd encounters, besides the wild folk this land is a refuge to fey creatures and not all of them would look kindly to us, or rather, many would see us as sport and some may wish to suck the marrow from our bones. If we do encounter the wild folk, be respectful, do not raise your weapons against them and let me do the talking.”
Adwin seemed very concerned, “You did not mention fey three days ago or anything about the marrow from our bones?”
Tipper shrugged and held up her hands, “I did not want to dissuade you from this course. Besides, realistically the fey are unlikely to even look our way the brief time we are here.”
Adwin did not seem reassured and looked around with a new intensity. Mokha by contrast did not seem overly concerned.
They ate a cold meal together while Adwin made report on all the interesting things he had seen during their afternoon ride, wondering at each mention if the things he had seen were at all related to fey creatures. Mokha was fairly quiet, as if lost in deep thought.
As the sun sank beyond the horizon she did not sing its setting, instead she sat quietly and listened. On the wind she could hear the song and the land seemed to hold the music deep within all that was. She noted the other two listening as well, Adwin with a look of wonder and Mokha curiosity. When darkness settled the song seemed to slowly fade and yet it played along the edges of consciousness, beautiful and primordial. She had not heard it this way in many years, not since leaving home. Warm tears ran down her cheeks as she was nostalgic for her distant home and family.
Adwin eventually wore himself out worrying about fey creatures and dozed off while Mokha sat quietly gazing at the stars above them. After Adwin started to snore quietly Mokha asked her, “The singers were the elves?”
“Yes, and others.”
“Men and goblins, perhaps creatures more diverse.”
“Such live with the elves?”
“Not really living with, as the wild folk make no permanent homes but move through their lands with the seasons. Others sometimes travel with them, those with the fortitude. There are also small communities of men and goblins within the migratory path, perhaps dwarves as well. But they all follow the old ways and live close to nature.”
“And this path is their only domain, the wild folk I mean.”
“Well, yes and no. Some travel to other places and even dwell within or near other communities for some time, but that is the exception. Most stay along the path, their ancestral home.”
“I have heard it said that the wild elves once travelled from one side of the continent to the other, but during early Tannican expansions the elves of the priests of the Light were at odds. Many of the wild folk were killed by the Tannicans and eventually the elves stopped trying to travel to the western shores.”
Tipper nodded, “I have heard of this, yes. But that history is so long in the past that most humans have forgotten it.”
“So, this path, it’s increased manna levels and the care given this land. It is because it’s along a major lay line?”
She was a bit surprised he knew that or had guessed at it. “Yes, or as the Rover’s once called them, The Ways.”
“The Ways? As in the old ways?”
“No. More like a path between worlds or the space in between them, a lay line as you said. Those of my people that still know the Rover lore and have the ability can step into the between and travel great distances in a single day. Say hundreds of yat as compared to the dozen of yat they would have travelled normally.”
“But you cannot do this because you do not have a connection to the manna?”
“And, you do not know how it’s done?”
“That’s too bad. Getting to GreensBridge in a few days would have been better than a few eight-days.”
“I’m not sure about that, or at least we differ in opinion. It will be hard enough in the city through the winter months, I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend extra time there.”
“I do not think we will have too much trouble making do through the winter. I do have some contacts there. GreensBridge is a wondrous city, the oldest on Pryma it is said.”
“Blessed be this world of wonder.” She touched her forehead in salute to the ancient goddess.
“Blessed be this world of wonder.” he agreed and left off his questioning.
She took the first watch that night, it passed uneventfully. She woke Adwin for the second watch as they had not for the last few days, giving consideration to his stressed muscles. On an impulse she stripped him down and then herself, together they made love under the stars. She thanked him quietly then rolled over and slept.