FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 7b

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 7b

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The summer heat pressed in around them and the biting flies were persistent. Two more days had passed and the terrain showed no sign of being any less fantastic. Yesterday they had passed a tree wider than his horse was long, it was so tall that Adwin was sure it was falling on him, though it never did. The tree had been in sight for most of the day.

Earlier that day the hills had given way to plains and though there was a greater variation in all species, this part of the wild elves migratory path seemed not dissimilar to the plains near Hadden’s Fort. It surprised him when the rolling plains gave way to a small valley below them, running north to south, a small river ran its length. Blooming dulmak dotted the valley floor, the bright fluffy red flowers vibrant in the afternoon light. There were other trees as well, a few larger, including one huge twisted specimen with great gnarly branches. It was far to the south and it still looked large from where they were.

“That might be a wold tree.” Tipper said, awed.

Mokha was impressed, “A world tree. Interesting.”

Adwin asked, “What’s a world tree?”

“They are a magical expression of the primeval forces of nature. A twisted tree of great proportion. The fruit from such can heal any wound or cure any disease, the sap of which is a tonic rumoured to extend the lifespan of mortals and the wood of which is a favoured refuge of the fey-borne creatures.”

Mokha smiled, “The wood is also highly prized by enchanters and alchemists. Worth an investigation at the very least. The only other such trees are in Els’Vain Hoff, the old elven forest.”

Adwin piped up quickly, “I know what Els’Vain Hoff is. Are you sure we should investigate such a thing?”

Tipper responded, “Not really sure, but it is a wonder and I also have not heard of a world tree in these areas. Besides, the water looks lively and clear, we can at least water the horses and clean the stink from our bodies, the mess from our faces and the filth from our clothing. We look something frightful. Or at least I assume I look as bad as you two?”

Mokha and he responded in unison, “Worse.”

“Alright then. It’s decided. We water the animals, clean ourselves, let’s have a real meal while we’re at it. If the area continues to be non threatening we’ll stay the night and if we believe it safe after the dawn, then we’ll explore the tree closer.”

Adwin was hard pressed to disagree, even remembering his fright from a couple nights back he was in favour of some extra time out of the saddle. “I’m good for a break and watering the horses.”

So they descended into the valley, past the blooming dulmak and down to the banks of the river. There was no immediate sign of predators and they took the time to explore both banks of the river, looking for tracks or scat from such animals. At a bend in the river, which turned back on itself after a couple dozen paces they crossed with the horses, stripped saddles, packs and gear and left them to graze. They took their belongings further up stream, past the first bend to where a wide pool with a sandy bottom stretched from one bank to the other. There were many fish and bright green frogs. Butterflies were everywhere, three or more species fluttering around as dragonflies dodged and darted over the water. They watched a large trout break the surface, gulp an insect then splash back into the water.

Mokha cast a ward against insects and lesser pests, they proceeded to lay out their gear, stripped and washed their clothing and then themselves. They used the rest of the soap Tipper had traded for in Aramy. Tipper’s face was fading bruise from just under her eye to her jaw, Adwin was amazed she did not have a broken jaw.

Afterwards he lay in the sun while Mokha played his lute and Tipper ventured further upstream to fish.

The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, the sun seemed to take a day to set. Tipper found a rocky section of the river, they left the horses to graze and moved to camp out by the rocky bank. They made a small fire pit and took some time to build a rock structure around the fire and then with some flat stones they made a small oven. Flat bread was made, the fish roasted, stuffed with wild herbs and radish. Mokha found a bee’s nest and collected honey and wax, without rousing the nest. That really impressed Adwin.

They ate, slept and ate again, the sun was still a hand span above the valley’s edge. Mokha replaced some of the strings on his instrument, using some of what he retrieved from his smashed sitar. He cleaned the instrument and replaced one of the pegs with one he had whittled from a small branch. He tuned and strummed, played a dozen songs then played through the new piece he was working on a few times.

Tipper dragged Adwin up the bank into a flowering field full of butterflies for some long overdue training. With staff, short sword, knife and hatchet she demonstrated some of the basics of melee combat.

“Don’t doubt yourself, trust your senses and your instincts, you will have to practice this regularly if you intend to keep starting fights.”

“Me? I only started one fight.” He was a bit indignant.

She gave him what he was starting to consider the ‘Oh Adwin’ look, which seemed to convey a combination of pity and disbelief. He was not very fond of the look and she had no room to talk about starting fights. He shrugged, “Right, well, let’s practice then.”

They trained for a while and Adwin tried his best to land a blow, but could not get through her guard or evasive footwork. Inevitably, they ended up tussling on the ground, and that started getting somewhat lusty only to be interrupted by Mokha saying, “Hey guys, time is not passing.”

They looked up at him, Tipper from atop Adwin, “Passing?” she asked.

“Yeah, you know, like going by. Moving along. How time works?”

She stood up, looked at the sun, its lower edge had just started to turn molten red behind the valleys edge. “Well, I think the sun has slowed. Time is not real Mokha.”

“Right… well then, the sun has slowed. Should we not be concerned?”

“If it doesn’t set soon, then yes.”

“How soon?”

“Soon.” She shrugged.

Adwin rose, picked up the weapons, “I’m hungry, any fish left?”

He headed back to the camp leaving the other two to argue about the nature of time. He did see a couple of black and white butterflies flutter by and for a moment he was sure they were flying backwards, but from a few more paces away he was less sure. By the time he had put the weapons away he had lost track of them and just assumed his eyes were playing tricks on him. Besides, he was much more interested in the leftovers from their meal.

After he had finished the food he cleaned up the camp area and collected branches from the nearby ground. The others returned, still in deep discussion about time though Tipper seemed sure if time had actually slowed down then everything else would appear to be slow, including themselves and Mokha retorted with something about not being able to notice any difference if they themselves were also caught in the phenomenon. To which Tipper pointed out that he then would not have noticed and the conversation would not be happening.

Adwin collected the horse brushes, the file and scooping up his staff wandered off, “I’m going to look after the horses.”

Mokha gave him a wave, he was not sure Tipper even heard him over the sound of her own awesomeness. By the gods, they were weird when they started in on something like this.

He took extra time with the horses, brushing them thoroughly and inspecting their hooves. Even the flies were not too bad, unless Mokha’s ward protected the horses too, he would have to ask him how that sort of thing worked. The sun was still a finger or two from sinking beyond the horizon, that really did not make sense, a task like that should have brought him into the night. He headed back to the camp.

Mokha was siting playing his lute, there was no sign of Tipper. “The sun should have set near a fifth ago, I think something weird is going on.”

The Aggedrah looked over at him, continuing to play, “Yup.”

“Where is Tipper?”



“Fish Traps.”

“Oh, okay.” He felt like they should be more concerned about the sun than they were.”Are we going to do anything?”

“Tipper said wait until sunset.”

“What if it never happens.”

“Then I guess we’ve died and gone to the Field of Light.”


“The afterlife?”

“What’s after life?”

“Oh no you don’t Adwin, my head is still going in circles from Tipper, don’t you start with this Freeholder philosophy.” He played on, refusing to answer further question. Tipper returned with three large fish.

“The sun has slowed, what are we going to do?”

“Well, as the sun is nearly set I thought I might sing the setting of the sun. You’re welcome to join me.”


“Mokha?” She asked.

He just played on, the same piece he had been working on over the last few days, Adwin thought it sounded really good.

Tipper put the fish by the fire pit and walked back to the flower filled field near the camp. She stripped off the dress and tunic she had been wearing. Adwin kicked off his boots and stepped out of his pants then stood beside her with slightly raised arms. Tipper started a soft hum, finding the tune and playing with it a bit. Adwin took deep breaths in through his nose like she had previously instructed him. She smiled at him and moved over to put her arm around his waist. When she started singing he felt the energy vibrating from her, he put an arm around her and raised his voice to the setting sun.

The song and the beauty of the land filled him, he could feel his own body vibrating, waves of energy seemed to thrum upward from the land, the heat Tipper was throwing off felt like a warm fire. And they sang.

Adwin could see waves of colour pulsing from the land, the sun and across the sky. Tipper sang on. The song came round again to its beginning and he sang, the ancient words flowing from his mouth as though he had spoken them all his life. Then Mokha joined them, naked and singing, a look of wonder on his face. Adwin extended an arm and the Aggedrah stepped into his embrace, the three of them linked together, singing as one. And they sang.

Around the song went, Adwin could feel a thousand, thousand voices joining them, through the ages and across the land. And they sang.

When the last of the light was gone from the sky they stopped singing, though the song still hung in the air and carried westward beyond. All three of them vibrated with energy, Adwin pulled them in and they hugged and held tight together, breathing deeply, bodies slick with sweet. Marsi’s green light gently lit the night.

Tipper moaned and Adwin sighed, the three of them vibrated together, shaking with arousal.


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