I stopped at a stream to fill my canteen. The elven girl, Lynai, trailed behind. She waited. “How long do you intend to follow me?”
I saw her shrug out of the corner of my eye. “You said it yourself, right? Someone searching for me isn’t as likely to notice me if I’m with someone else. It’s the same for you isn’t it?” I didn’t bother looking up from the stream or answering. There was no purpose in revealing any details to her. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
I sighed. “You are going to follow me regardless, correct?” She nodded. I considered it for a moment. The elven authorities were looking for her, which could potentially draw attention to me. However, trying to force her to leave could very well produce the same result. It might be preferable to grant her request, at least for the moment. “That will be acceptable for a while, but when I tell you to leave you will do so without hesitation or inquiry.”
Lynai chuckled. “No problem, once we pass through the elf lands I’ll have no reason to follow you anyway.”
Lynai moved directly to my side when I rose from the stream. Together, we walked down the forest trail.
I studied him. We had been travelling companions for two days and I knew almost nothing about him. He hardly spoke and he never removed his hood. One thing that I had noticed was that there was a slight bulge in the back. As though something were pressing against it. A weapon, a tail, something else, I couldn’t tell. All I had managed to get out of him was his name. The only thing I could tell about him from observation was that he was devout. Every day at noon exactly he made a sacrifice to one of the Gods. He wouldn’t tell me which one.
“Michael, why are you hiding?”
He didn’t even pause or miss-step. “That is none of your concern.”
His back seemed to be somewhat jagged, unless his cloak’s looseness was deceiving me. I looked around. We were only a few days away from the border. Then I could bid farewell to my anti-social companion. The sycamores were growing more thickly around the path; we were approaching a checkpoint. They were always on the path where the trees grew most densely. It was a measure to make it harder for enemies to tell which tree housed the checkpoint. I pulled my cloak more tightly and adjusted my own hood.
The one in charge of the checkpoint was a pixie. She had four wings akin to those of a dragonfly. She was no taller than a sparrow and wore a bright red uniform that was ornately decorated with gold lace and silver emblems. One was the emblem of the Elven Royal House; a great birch tree surrounded by ivy. The other was most likely a family crest. It depicted a pixie sitting atop a rose. She had a slightly plump looking face with bright red hair and green eyes. I looked at my companion. Could he see the detail on the emblems? It would take the vision of an elf, a dark elf, or certain feralials.
She flew up to us and hovered in our path. She placed her hands on her hips and leaned forward. “State your names and the reason for your journey.”
“I am Michael Ryufan, I have business in Strecner. This is my travelling companion. Her name is Spring.” It wasn’t a lie, not exactly. ‘Lynai’ meant Spring in old elvish. Now I knew more about my companion, he was educated.
She eyed us suspiciously. “I’ll need to see your bag.” I expected Michael to resist, but he opened his bag and spilled its contents onto the ground without hesitation. I peered down at them. There was a small leather bag, most likely for gold pieces. There was a leather canteen and two silver stones that could fit easily into the palm of my hand. The strangest item was the helmet. It was mostly silver with a violet trim. There were two circular holes in it just above where the eyebrows would be. Each one was about seven or eight centimetres in diameter. The pixie quickly completed her study.
“Very well, you may pass.” Michael silently scooped everything back into the bag and secured it to his waist, over his cloak. We continued on our way.
The Royal One paced around his throne room. “Lais!” Lais walked forward. “Where is he?”
Lais cleared her throat. “He should be here soon. He always keeps his word.”
The doorway leading to the throne room slid open. An elf walked in. He was 188 centimetres tall with long golden hair and shining yellow eyes. He was wearing a forest green cloak with a decorative broach over his heart. It had golden trim with a crescent emerald in the center.
The Royal One stopped pacing. “Larick, thank you for coming all this way.”
Larick nodded. “I’m always glad to help my people. What did you need?”
“My daughter has run away. My forces are too strained to find her in the forest. What should I do?”
Larick sat in a lotus position on the floor and closed his eyes, focusing. “How long has she been missing?”
“Does she have a horse?”
“She’s on foot.”
“Then she’ll still be in the forest. Even travelling constantly it would take at least four and a half days to leave the forest on foot.” Larick rose. “Send your troops to the south-eastern exit. She’ll show up there in approximately two-and-a-half days with her companion.”
The Royal One’s ears perked. “Companion? You don’t mean …”
“Please relax,” Larick interrupted. “She is unspoiled and will still be so when brought back. However, she will be injured when they find her. From what I can not say. The sight grows hazy on that point. Travelling constantly by horse she will arrive in plenty of time to entertain your guests.”
“You’re sure of all this?”
“Yes, Royal One, the options for the future lessen as it approaches. The exit path is already chosen. With it will come the injury and return of your daughter.”
“And she will be unspoiled?”
“Of that I am also certain. Her companion, I can not see clearly. I do, however, sense that sie will perish chaste.”
The Royal One sighed with relief. “Thank you, Magi, you’ve been a great help.”
Larick turned away from the Royal One. “It’s my duty to make sure that the future unfolds in the way that works best for the elven people. You have rooms prepared for your guests and their servants?”
The Royal One raised an eyebrow. “Of course.”
“Prepare one more. There is a suitor you have yet to meet.” With that message Larick made his exit, in a hurry to see to his own preparations.