It has been 2 weeks since Hoshiro arrived at Sorhalon and he laid in his comfortable bed with boredom. He blew a raspberry and then stood up and practiced drawing his side arm.
The kingdom was still in disarray and Merillion had to set things in order before the company could take off.
Merillion had to decide on agricultural, economic, and military spendings. It kept her busy, but because of the duties at the queen, she had little time for Hoshiro. But as the end of the 2nd week, Merillion was finally able to catch a break and told Hoshiro that she was almost ready.
In another 3 days, they set out for their long journey. Provisions of bread and wine were packed. Changes of clothing, and useful survival tools were prepared.
Finally on the 1st day of the 3rd week, Hoshiro and company were ready.
“let us depart!” Said Merillion as she finished her business with dealing with the issues of the nation. She had instructed the steward to hold rulership of the country until her return. She also recruited Lance as a companion after Hoshiro requested that he joined the party.
“Yes, your Majesty.” Said Lance, as he suited up in his armour.
Hoshiro struggled to get on the horse. He could not maintain his balance. After a gruelling three minutes of trying, he finally mounted the horse.
“OK! Let’s go!” Said Hoshiro. But the other members were already a few hundred meters ahead of him.
“Oh, come on…” Said Hoshiro as he face palmed and then eagerly urged the horse to move.
After some time, the horse started to comply and marched forward.
“Guys! Wait for meeeee!” Said Hoshiro as he dug his heels into the horse and the horse started to gallop.
“Wow, wow, wow!” said Hoshiro as he struggled to maintain balance.
As Hoshiro caught up to his companions, he caught sight of the smirk on Lance’s face and the concerned look of Merillion.
“First time on a horse. A high horse I must say.” Explained Hoshiro.
“Go on, go for a sprint. It’s fun!” Said Lance as he kicked Hoshiro’s horse hard and he sprinted for a couple hundred meters. Meanwhile, the Princess and the knight laughed as they saw the comedic show of Hoshiro trying to hold on as best as he can.
“Now, now. You should not tease our hero.” Said the Princess.
“Sorry, my Majesty. As you wish.” Replied the good knight.
Their destination was Daagultha, the enchanted forest of the elves. It was decided that they would visit the elves to see if a suitable companion could be recruited to join their quest.
The ride would be 3 days from where they were and they progressed towards the forest.
As the dawn of the third day shone upon the travellers, they reached the edge of the forest of Daagultha. It had an ancient smell to it. Not moldy, but a smell of nostalgia. It was pleasant, sweet and full of memories.
“This forest…. It’s strange. It’s …. Alive.” Said Hoshiro, remarking the scene as something out of a fairy-tale.
“Why, yes. Elven kingdoms are like that.” Said Merillion. “Be on your guard… the elves may deem us as threats and may try to hurt us.”
“I think it is best if we proceed with caution, but offer no resistant if we are captured.” Said Hoshiro.
“Why not fight back?” Asked Lance.
“Because we come in peace and don’t want trouble and we are also seeing if someone in this kingdom will join us in our quest.”
The three travellers dismounted and lead their horses into the forest.
Shadows moved around them. At least that is what seemed to be happening around Hoshiro. Lance was nonchalant as he moved forward. Merillion peer around from tree to tree. Only Hoshiro seemed to be concentrated on the shadows. Perhaps it was his imagination, but if those shadows were elves, then they are being watched.
“Tell me, Merillion. What are elves like?” Ask Hoshiro.
“We don’t have much dealings with the elven kind, but we trade resources. For example, we exchange gold with them for their lumber and weapons. All of our magical weapons come from the elves. They could be enchanted with fire or ice and can be sold at a high price.”
“I see. But what about the peoples of the forest…. What do they look like and how do they live? Like their culture?” Asked Hoshiro.
“We only know that they are dressed elegantly and have pointy ears. Aside from that, they live on the top canopies of the tallest trees.”
“Interesting.” Said Lance. “This is the first time I’ve come to an elven kingdom.”
“Me too.” Said the Princess. “I’ve only heard about them from my ministers.”
“Me three.” Said Hoshiro.
The shadows seemed to follow the company.
It was after sundown when they sat in an open area to light a fire did the shadows dissipate into the wild.
Owls sounded on the tree branches. It was eerie, but comforting. They sat down to some wine and butter bread.
The fire lit the surrounding area and the company could see flickers of animals coming and going in the shadows as they were curious of the fire.
Merillion took out her harp and sang and played a few songs to relax the travellers of their fatigue.
Soon after dinner, they fell into sleep.
It was in their sleep did the shadows come alive and they at once acted as soon as they were certain the company was sound asleep.