LONG CHAPTER IS LONG
It’s like 15 pages long. You have been warned. But there are two cameos in it. One of them doesn’t shut up. The other may or may not be accurate.
Working on Chapter 5 at the moment… Almost done the first quest. Then on to the second quest. There are three quests in all. I wish my fingers would know the words I want to put down super-fast so I can get through the stuff that I know for certain. I keep wishing this. Going to try to get to 25,000 words tonight… If I do write super-fast, how many can I get?
There will be some Eros and Psyche up tomorrow, so check again then! : D
EDIT: May 2013: adjusted the Tharash dialogue according to feedback. Can’t seem to fit any more sarcasm in there, though, so that will have to stay out.
The small elf-maid opened her brown eyes wide, but made no move otherwise.
She was lying on her back on something that felt soft, soft and cushiony and even velvety. A warm flickering of firelight played on verdant green branches above her. The thing that made her open her eyes, though, was the smell of something incredibly tasty – or at least edible.
“Hee, you’re awake!” said a feathery tenor voice nearby, and someone leaned into her field of view. Esgalwen lay paralyzed, with both fear and apprehension and shyness, for the person was unlike anyone she’d ever seen, as the creatures were unlike any dogs she’d ever seen.
He was taller than anyone she’d ever seen before, and skinny, almost stretched-looking. His hair was black and shining like her own, and straight as her own, although a little shorter. His skin was only a little less pale than hers, but his eyes were a brilliant emerald green. His mouth was wide and smiling in a very friendly way. He was very clearly a strange, foreign kind of elf.
“Come on, now, don’t just lie there!” he held out a hand, and gently but inexorably, drew Esgalwen into a sitting postion. “Poor lassie, your stomach was grumbling even while you were passed out.”
Esgalwen flushed the same colour as her dress, and he laughed. It was a warm, cheerful laugh, and Esgalwen found herself relaxing a little.
“Oh, don’t look like that. Here, eat this. You’re little more than skin and bones!”
She took the bowl and spoon, and began to eat the broth.
“Where are you from, lassie?”
She swallowed, ducking her head. “I-I’m from M-Mirkwood… Taur-nu-fuin…”
“Oh? I haven’t heard of it… Where’s that? In direction.”
“I-it’s to the northeast, many days sail and then you are in Middle-Earth, and then you go up the River Anduin… Th-they call it Greenwood the Great again, now.”
“Oh… I… think… I’ve heard of it? I think I met a few travellers who are from… Middle Earth, yes? I’ve never been. But maybe I should visit. I’m from the Land of the Moon, which is waaaay far to the west, so far west it’s almost east again.”
Esgalwen’s eyes grew large again. “Is such a thing possible?”
“Oh, yes, it is. My mother has been around the entire world. So… my name is Valiensin. What’s yours, lassie?”
“I…I-I’m called Esgalwen.”
“How pretty! What does it mean?”
Esgalwen took another swallow of soup, wondering if the strange elf ever stopped talking, and then hoping that he wouldn’t because he was making her feel much more comfortable than she’d felt in months. “It means The Hidden Maiden, in Westron… It’s a Sindarin name…”
“Huh. Westron, you call this language? We called it… well, language. We have our own language, but I doubt you speak it.”
He didn’t say anything for a while, rocking his head back and forth and humming to himself.
“So, Miss Esgalwen, what brings you half-dead to the middle of the Lesser Ocean?”
“The middle of the Lesser Ocean. You know, this great expanse of water.”
“Oh… um… I meant… there is a Greater Ocean?”
“Oh, yes. You get there just by heading west, until you reach land…”
“I’ve heard that name! There seem to be a lot of people looking for it.”
Esgalwen’s heart clenched in her chest. “Was one of them tall – well, not as tall as you – and with long beautiful golden hair, and piercing sweet pale blue eyes?”
“There were a few… what’s his name? Is he your sweetheart?”
“He’s my husband,” she whispered, clutching the bowl in her hands. “His name… Well, here is what he looks like.” She put the bowl down hurriedly, reached to the neckline of her dress, and drew out a small golden locket. Inside was a tiny portrait of him and herself, standing together, newly married. She smiled inadvertently at it, although abruptly her vision was drowned in tears.
Valiensin gently took it from her trembling fingers and peered at it. “Yes. I actually gave him a new name, because he and his friend were fleeing from… well, unsavoury people. So as you travel, make sure to ask for Mith’las, okay? It’s Sindarin, like your own name, but it’s pretty universally elvish sounding, so he’ll be safe from his pursuers, and you’ll be able to find him easily enough.”
“H-how long ago did you see him? Where was he? How was he? Did he speak of me?” The questions poured out of her, and she reached up to Valiensin’s shoulder towering beside her for support.
He responded by putting a friendly arm around her and supporting her shaking body. “He’s fine. I saw him two years ago, as I was passing through Elberron. I’ll tell you how to get there! Anyway, he was quite healthy, and though stressed, he was in beautiful physical condition. It was a pleasure to travel with him for a short while. He did mention his wife, and that he had to get back to her before she started to really worry.”
Esgalwen smiled tearfully. “Oh, that sounds like him. I hope he’s all right. Do you know why he couldn’t come home?”
“Not particularly. I’m not sure why those people were after him, but I do know he was loathe to lead them to Middle Earth – and to you. So you’ll have to forgive him for not sending any word.”
“Of course I forgive him! Now I just must find him so I can help protect him, little as I am able. I shall not be a burden to him…”
“I should give you a new name, too, then. But first, you must stay with me until your strength returns. You were really almost dead when I found you, never mind the wild animals!”
Esgalwen cringed in embarrassment. “I know… I had to run away from the King’s soldiers who wanted to keep me safe… and at home. But I had to go!”
He nodded. “I understand, for sure. And I’m glad I was able to help you. Now how about you rest some more, and then you can have some more soup when you wake?”
“But I feel restless now!” she cried, struggling to her feet; she noticed she had been lying and sitting on his cloak, which was of black velvet and very beautiful. “I would run, if only I had the strength.”
He looked up at her a moment, and then stood himself. He towered over her, seven feet compared to her five-and-a-half, and she shrank away in fear again. But he knelt on one knee again, with his back to her. “Come on, get on!” He winked over his shoulder in such a friendly way she couldn’t help but giggle.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll take you for a piggy-back run. It’ll be just as good. Come on! Don’t worry about the things. They’ll keep safe.”
So she climbed on to his back, timidly, and he took her knees, and she put her arms around his neck, and then he ran.
He was as fast as a horse, or so she felt in her still-dizzied state of mind. The wind rushed through their hair, and he dodged trees and leaped over rocks in a way that had her laughing with delight, for at home in Mirkwood, she ran the same way, enjoying the skill of her body.
It was only a short run, but when he got back and laid her back down on the cloak, as gently as he might a child, she fell asleep at once, a smile still on her face.
She woke the next morning, and Valiensin was not there, but there was soup and water and a large paper sign written with flourishes: HELP YOURSELF and a large smiling face.
So she did, and it was even better than the night before. Now she was stronger, and her body no longer trembled with weakness. She felt awake, alert, and ready for the day’s challenges. And the hope that news of her husband had brought her burned brightly in her heart.
She sprang up. The day wasn’t getting any younger, and she needed to find her little boat.
Even as she stepped to the edge of the circle of trees, she heard singing and clapping, and then she saw Valiensin returning, half-dancing through the trees. He was a very care-free person, she decided. But when he saw her, he gave her a little grimace that made her tilt her head to one side, frowning anxiously.
“I’m afraid your boat isn’t in good shape,” he explained as he came up to her. “The mast is broken; the wind picked up last night and knocked it over. You’ll need a new one, and a new sail, too.”
Her face fell. “Oh. Is it that bad?”
“It’s not the best,” he answered. “I can help you out, though. I think I have enough extra in my boat. It’ll take a few days, but that’s all right, yes?”
She nodded, and smiled hopefully. “Yes. Thank you for everything; I don’t know how I can repay you…”
He snorted. “Repay me? Lassie, I have no wish to be repaid. This is my job, my hobby, and my pleasure. Don’t you worry about it.”
She looked up at him from under her eyelashes with sad eyes. “Are you sure?”
He nodded, grinning from ear to long ear.
She couldn’t help but smile back. “All right.”
“Let’s get started, shall we?” He bowed and extended a hand to her, and led her down to the shore where her little boat lay drawn up on the sand.
“Did you like the soup, by the way?”
“Oh, yes, very much. What was in it?”
“Rabbit… I do like your dress. Did you make it?”
“Ah… thank you. I did, but a long time ago. I should probably make a new one… at least so I have an extra change of clothes.”
“I did note this one has salt on it, probably from your coming ashore last night. Not to worry, when we’ve made a plan for fixing this, you can go and wash it.”
Esgalwen blushed in modesty. “But…”
“No one will see you. There’s no one here, and I’m not that sort of fellow. I’ll even lend you something to wear until you’re sorted out again. I think I have something in your size…”
“Oh, well, sometimes I meet these girls; friends of mine, who come from far away. I carry spare clothes for them, just in case… I’ve needed them a couple times. But if they come today, which I don’t think is likely, they can keep wearing their own clothes. You’ll have dibs!”
She giggled. “All right.”
Her boat was a mess. She greatly regretted not stowing everything properly, as she had been taught, but, she reasoned with herself, she was half-crazed with thirst and the boat would have been no good to her if she was dead. But she began right away to set it in order, and Valiensin helped. The broken mast was unstepped and laid on the sand nearby, with the torn sail beside it.
“I’ll wash this too,” she said as she saw it. “It certainly needs it!”
Valiensin nodded, and helped her roll it up.
“Well!” he said. “I’ll get started by finding something to make a new mast with. Do you remember where the camp is? Just head a little uphill and you’ll find a lovely little pond with a stream running through it. It’s rather cold, but…”
“We have been active in the sun…”
“Exactly! So it’ll be a nice change. I’ll get out the clothes for you and leave them in camp. I think the sail can be easily mended. I don’t know if you have sail thread, though, so I’ll go fetch that at the same time.”
“Ah… th-thank you.”
“No problem! Be off with you.” He waved her away.
She trotted back up the hill obediently, keeping an eye out for creatures. He hadn’t said anything about them. She hoped they were nocturnal.
She passed through the camp and hesitated. Her instinct was to get something to cover herself with after she washed, but the only thing she could see was his beautiful cloak, and she wasn’t going to take that.
She hesitated a while longer, trying to drill into herself the explanation that there wasn’t anyone else in the area, and as long as she didn’t go near Valiensin, she could walk around completely naked if she wanted to. Of course, she would not have much of a choice until her dress dried…
She set her face uphill and began walking, trusting that she would know what she found when she found it.
Not far from the camp, but surrounded by a thick wall of bushes, was a pool about twenty metres across. The far side was covered in reeds and lilies and green growing things, but the closer side was mostly plain, with wild grasses growing lush up to the edge and trailing in. The stream flowed along that side. Birds chirped in the trees around. There were not many flowers, but it was altogether lovely, and Esgalwen clapped her hands with delight.
She quickly stripped and washed all her clothing, and the sail, scrubbing at the dirt stains as well as she could. Until she could find soap of some kind, there wouldn’t be much change in that. But at least it wouldn’t smell so bad.
That done, she stepped carefully into the cold and surprisingly deep water.
It didn’t take her long, and in a few minutes, she stepped out again, careful not to get dirt on herself above the soles of her feet. Glancing around self-consciously, she picked up her wet clothes and walked carefully back to the camp.
There, she found a teal dress with a golden belt. It was a little small for her, but she put it on and was surprised at the support it gave to her small chest. She laid her wet clothes out on a patch of grasses, and the sail beside them.
Suddenly tired, she lay down and went to sleep on the grass.
When she woke, the air smelled like good food again, and she was covered in the black cloak. She rolled over and sat up, to see Valiensin poking at something frying in a pan.
“Good evening!” he said. “Did you sleep well?”
“I did, th-thank you.”
“I made some supper. More rabbit, unfortunately, but different, this time.”
“It smells amazing…”
“Thank you!” He speared a chunk and laid it on a plate, and handed it to her along with a fork. “I hope it tastes as good as it smells.”
She tasted it and smiled broadly, and seeing that, he smiled just as broadly.
“So, I found a suitable tree,” he began, sitting back with his back leaning against another tree. “I cut it down already; I can start working on it tomorrow. Not that I’m the greatest shipmaker, but I know a few things about it. I can patch something up for you.”
“And I can certainly repair the sail…”
“Ah, yes, I got the thread. You look lovely, by the way.”
She blushed and looked down. “Th-thank you. It’s a lovely dress.”
“The ladies who’ve worn it are lovely ladies,” he answered. “You, and its regular bearer. She’s a tiny girl, so I’m afraid it doesn’t quite fit you as well as it might, but she also has pretty black hair. Not as long as yours, but very shiny.”
“What is her name?”
“Thusweammernia… is the full name I’ve given her. Raselie is the short form.”
Esgalwen blinked. “Those aren’t even close!”
He laughed a little. “Well, no, but if you knew my language and hers, it would be close enough. Anyway, she’s a sweetheart. I’m teaching her archery.”
“Really? I can use a bow, too!”
“Is that so? You’ll have to show me tomorrow.”
“Why not now?” Esgalwen bounced on her hips. “I am not sleepy at all! I just woke up!”
“You’ll be sorry in the morning,” laughed the other, but he stood with a sweeping gesture. He vanished into the night, and as Esgalwen waited impatiently, he returned with a small-looking bow – but it only looked small because he was so tall. He presented it to her and sat down again.
She took her time with it, after she belted on the quiver. It had been a few years since she’d had to use one, and this one was a strange one to her. It was very old, worn, but the string was brand new. She carefully bent it and strung it; it was like her harp except more flexible.
She missed her harp.
She raised it, drew an arrow from the quiver, and aimed carefully into the darkness outside the firelight. She was small and straight, feet apart, her shyness drowned in an otherworldly calm as she loosed the arrow. The bow made a beautiful twang, and there was a thunk a few seconds later.
Valiensin rose and loped into the darkness, and she trotted after him. She found him where she thought she might, looking at the arrow, buried firmly in the centre of a relatively light-coloured knot in a tree, quite far from the firelight.
The taller elf grinned. “Nicely done! I don’t think you need my help!”
She smiled back sweetly. “I had to learn. Giant spiders lived in my home forest, and we had to defend ourselves, all of us.”
“Looks like it’s worth it. Would you like to keep that?”
Esgalwen gaped. “Doesn’t it belong to your friend?”
“Ehhh, I can make her another. It really doesn’t matter. She comes along so infrequently I almost have to make her a new one every time anyway.”
“Well, as long as you’re sure…”
“Oh, I’m sure. I’m also sure she’d be glad to give it to you! You’re kind of like her, you know, except you’re even more shy.”
Esgalwen blushed. “Ah… Th-thank you.”
“Heh. All right, come back to the fire and we’ll talk about tomorrow.”
She followed him back, and sat down; as she did so, he flopped the cloak over her shoulders. “It gets cold at night, lass. You’ll want this.”
“A-all right. Thank you.”
“Haha, don’t thank me!”
“But won’t you be cold?”
He shrugged. “Nah, probably not. I have three layers already.”
Her eyes widened. “Three layers!? But don’t you get far too warm in the day?”
He shook his head. “No, not really… I’m used to it. Besides, the bottom two layers are very breathable.”
“I-if you say so…”
“I most certainly do. Now, tomorrow, we’ll have a busy day. I’m sure that you’ll be done mending the sail long before I’m done making a new mast, but we’ll both work on our respective jobs, right?”
“Yes! Of course.”
“Then we’ll do that. Oh, and I, er, took the liberty of rewashing your things with soap, while you were asleep… I completely forgot that I hadn’t given you the soap. I am so sorry.”
Esgalwen blushed. “That’s all right. I am just glad they are clean…”
“I’ll give it to you next time. Okay?”
“Thank you very much…”
“Don’t mention it. Really, don’t mention it.” When Esgalwen looked like she was about to protest, he held up a hand. “You look like you have a strong conscience, which probably won’t leave you alone until you say something, but really. I’m just happy to help. No extra thanks necessary.”
Esgalwen shut her mouth, laughing in embarrassment.
“Well, now, how about some sleep? Are you tired again yet?”
Esgalwen considered. “Not really. We Sindar don’t need a lot of sleep, and I’ve been regaining my strength every time I’ve slept. You can sleep! I shall meditate.”
He laughed and nodded, and lay down. In moments, he appeared to be asleep.
Esgalwen sat down, drawing the cloak around her – it was getting colder, as he had said – and remembered.
She remembered the time they had met…
It was after the Battle of Five Armies… the returning Mirkwood Elves had celebrated with many parties, and Esgalwen had gone to many with her sisters. Although she was so shy, among her own people she was less so, and her voice and musical skill were often requested to sing in the band.
But on this one instance, she had been sitting with her sister… talking and giggling on the edge of the dancing… She had realized her glass was empty, and had gotten up to get another drink.
At the refreshments had been a tall, beautiful golden-haired elf, who had – without her asking! – taken her goblet and refilled it for her, and refilled his own.
Then he had asked her to dance.
Eyes wide as saucers, Esgalwen had looked around for her sister, who was laughing at her, and gesturing for her to go on. As the other took their glasses and set them down on the white table, and taken her hands to lead her to the dance, her sister had gone to the band to sing the next song – specifically for them, Esgalwen guessed – specifically to tease her, perhaps.
Her awkward blushes faded, though, as the music began, a sweeping waltz. She could dance with the best of them, and in dance, she did not feel threatened, only challenged – challenged to be worthy of her partner.
All too soon, the song was over, and she looked up into his eyes from in his arms, laughing, and meeting his laughing blue eyes…
And realized how close he was, and fled back to the safety of the back of the band, where she met her mercilessly giggling sister, who embraced her and left her to sing while she went to dance herself.
That was their first meeting.
She came out of the memory in time to realize it was morning. Valiensin was sprawled on his back, breathing evenly.
She smiled to herself and began to search for his breakfast materials to wake him with lovely smells the same way he had been waking her.
The next week was busy – Esgalwen would work on the sail on the beach, near Valiensin working on carving the mast. They’d sing songs back and forth, and talk about their respective homelands. Every day, she also practiced her archery for some time – after the first day, her shoulders ached, but she soon grew back into it. Another thing she practiced with was her little knife – a gift from her husband, and almost as precious as the locket around her neck.
At the end of the week, everything was done. They spent one day, just talking as good friends do. He sat her on his shoulder and carried her around the island, showing her how lovely it was.
“Now,” he said to her later in the afternoon, as they were sitting on the top of the island, gazing at the water stretching seemingly endlessly in all directions, “you’ll probably want a travelling name, too.”
“Why?” she asked, gazing at him innocently.
“Well,” he said, tilting his head, “it wouldn’t do for your husband’s pursuers to simply latch on to people with Sindarin names. It’s for your own safety as much as his.”
“Oh! Okay. What would you suggest? Should I just use my name in Westron?”
“No, because Hidden Maiden is kind of a mouthful. No, I’ll give you a name from my language. How does Illinia sound?”
Esgalwen clapped her hands. “I like that. Ill… Illiana?”
“No, Illinia… Il-lin-ia. It means the same thing. Illin is hidden, and ia is maiden… You like it? I think it will suit you almost as well as your real name, although it doesn’t sound so exotic.”
“It doesn’t sound exotic,” Esgalwen said indignantly.
“It does to me, lassie!”
She laughed. “Very well, I will accept that. And thank you. It’s very flattering to be told that one is exotic. I think you are exotic too, with your tallness and your… ah… strangeness and all.”
He laughed back. “Strangeness? I’ve always been told I’m strange, so that’s hardly exotic to me…”
“Well… there’s your own strangeness, and then there’s your strangeness to me. Your cultural strangeness. You do have some!”
“I see. I’ll accept that, too. Now, practice your name! Say it!”
“Ill-Illin… ia. Ill…linia. Illinia. Illinia. Illinia. Okay, I think I have it.”
“Now, don’t forget, that’s your name, right? So don’t accidentally introduce yourself as Esgalwen, beautiful though that name is.”
She squared her shoulders. “I am Illinia of… er. I am Illinia. From a land far away.” She quirked her head at him. “That will do, right?”
He nodded. “You can work on semi-truthful vague cloudy cover stories on your voyage.”
She laughed. “I will.”
“What are you going to do about food?”
She looked up, startled, and with a look on her face that suggested a deer in sudden lamplight. Her eyes were stunned and horrified.
He chuckled. “Don’t worry. I have plenty to get you started. I don’t know which direction you’re going in…”
“Valiensin, how did you get here? You were so vague about it last time. I want to go to where you came from. Perhaps my husband is there now.”
He nodded. “I can give you enough to get there. It’s almost directly south… and then west, a long, long way.” He spread out his hands, and the air shimmered between them. “All right, so if this is what you call Middle Earth…”
Esgalwen squeaked, for in the air before him, where his hands had gestured broadly, there was a map. An image, hovering, floating in the air! An image not seemingly connected to anything! How was he doing it?
He looked amused, but had the grace to look a little sheepish. “Sorry. I have been cursed, but I consider it a gift… I can make images appear with a little verbal suggestion.”
“Ohhhh…” She slowly crept back from where she had scrambled, frightened. Now she crouched at his elbow, watching the map.
“So we are here, yes?” Tiny images of the two of them appeared, floating in the ocean a long way west of Harad. They were not as far south as she had thought, though. “Yes. So I came from a long way to the west, and then… there was a disturbance. A tear in space, a hole with ragged edges. I think I know who made it, and I need to talk to him about being so sloppy… But anyway, I sailed through, just to see, and found myself here – although at first, it looked just the same. I then sailed north to here.”
All this time, Esgalwen’s eyes had been tracing paths on the map, guided by his words.
“So you will have to sail south, and then find the… the doorway in the air… although ‘doorway’ is a remarkably ordinary word for something so chaotic and extraordinary… and then you must sail west. That is all you have to do. And there is one more thing I can say to guide you… I was almost at the equator.”
“The equator? You mean how the world is bent?”
“Well, round, but yes.”
“Ah, round, that’s what I meant. It used to be flat, you know.”
“Really? My world has always been round.”
She looked at him in wonder. “How did you get to Valinor? Can you find the Straight Path?”
He frowned in perplexity. “I’m afraid we never had a Valinor. There was no Land in the West for us. We only had our countries, and our allies, and… well, that’s another story.”
“Oh.” She looked down. “I’m sorry. That’s rather sad.”
He laughed. “Oh, don’t be sorry for me! I have seen angels. I am content.”
“Angels? You mean, like Maiar and even Valar?” Her brown eyes grew wide in wonder again.
“I think so, yes!”
She clapped her hands. “That makes me so happy! Someday I would like to meet the Valar. I know it will happen sooner or later, but I should like to meet them without dying first…”
He smiled a little sadly. “We all do…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded. “Have you been dead?”
He snorted. “Did it come off sounding that way? No… not that I know of. But my youngest brother… when he died, he became a spirit and went with an escort of angels to meet God… He said goodbye first, and that’s how I know. He was granted that grace.”
“Oh…” She hugged him. “I am sorry.”
“Again, no sorrys! He died happy, although sooner perhaps than he would have wished. He wants me to always be happy, as happy as he was, as happy as we all were before the war.” He tilted her face up. “As happy as you are, despite the pain of separation.”
She nodded slowly. “I think I understand.”
“Anyway,” Valiensin said, stretching and breaking the mood. “The way to find this portal! I was even further south than here. Perhaps not actually at the equator. At night, you can barely see the Pole star. You know which one that is, yes?”
She nodded vigorously. “Of course. We have star festivals in the summer. We sing songs to individual stars. I have sung many.”
“Then you’ll almost bid farewell to this one… but not quite! When it hangs barely the width of your outstretched thumb above the horizon, you will have reached the place I was, more or less.”
She nodded. “I can remember that. Thank you so much for everything you have done, Valiensin!”
He waved it off. “What did I tell you?”
“Not to thank you for all the wonderful things you have done to help me live and continue in my quest?”
They both burst out giggling.
She set sail, the next day; Valiensin put out his own, slightly larger ship beside hers and sailed with her a little while; they traded banter and laughter and songs. The new mast and repaired sail worked just as well as before.
And she bid him farewell, temporarily switching ships to give him a big hug, the biggest she could muster, and then returned to her own boat and heading south. Valiensin waved until she could not see his arm anymore, which took a long time with her Quendian far-sightedness.
She sailed south for six days, still well-supplied with food and water and the black velvet cloak, which he had given her over her protestations. It was much too big for her, but she was grateful for it at night when she meditated.
On the sixth day, she looked at the Pole star in the morning, and saw it was just above the horizon, where he said it should be. She began watching for strangeness in the air. Not knowing exactly what she was looking for, it would be difficult to find…
After many hours of searching, she caught sight of something strange looking… like a piece of the sea had been curled back like a piece of paper. She drew nearer to it… and gasped.
There was a hole in the air, like someone had punched a hole in a vast sheet of paper with a giant fist. On the other side was a slightly different coloured ocean, and a darker, clouded sky.
She stared at it nervously. If she passed through, she would be in a different world than the one she had lived in all her life – which was approaching two millenia. A different, strange world – but her husband was there. There really was no other choice for her.
She turned the sail and slowly passed through the portal.
“Hey!” cried a voice on the other side, a voice strangely but gracefully accented. “Who are you and what are you doing using my rift?”
She looked around with a frightened cry, and saw him – a man, a human in appearance, with scruffy long brown hair, on a crude raft. He wore a short black robe and a long cloak, and a very strange looking hat.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “Answer me, before I get impatient and banish you to another realm.”
She whimpered, terrified. “I-I’m E-E-Illinia! I’m j-just a traveller! I’m l-looking for my husband and I was t-told this portal would take me to his trail! P-p-please don’t hurt me!”
He stopped whatever he was doing to the portal and came closer on his raft, frowning suspiciously. “Are you sure you’re just a traveller?”
“You’re not with Terinor?”
“Ah… no? I’ve never heard of…”
“I’m not sure I believe you! You see, if you’re telling the truth, then you’re no help to me, and if you’re not telling the truth, you’re doing it very convincingly. But if you’re not telling the truth and I don’t believe you, what am I going to do with you? And if you are telling the truth and I don’t believe you, then what happens when you come back to haunt me?” He tilted his head to one side. “Still, you were using my rift. You have to know something. Who was it told you this rift would take you to… who? Your husband?”
She nodded quickly. “Valiensin told me. He said he came through one.”
“And who might Valiensin be? Your boss?”
“N-no! He’s also a traveller! I don’t really know much about him… but I trust him…”
“What was your name again? Where are you going? Tell me why I should believe you?”
“Tharash,” chided another voice, a voice vastly amused.