Elevea's Child

*Opening of the Elevea trilogy* In the ancient land of Elevea, the people of Hinnid have been surviving for a century after the rise of the Vanus (half-beings). Now, the Vanus are gathering in greater numbers than ever before, and Hinnid calls upon the help of the ancient magic protectors of Elevea, the Pistos, to help in the fight to survive.

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8. Five

THE NEXT TROUBLE Marda and Falnon came across was not long after the farm, after a long level patch, riddled with bogs and odd hills, climbing steeply and dropping away again almost instantly. For the land slowly began to make its way towards the heavens until it reached a peak, the edge of which they could not see over. Reaching the top, Falnon helped Marda clamber slowly down the other side, with more tufted land again which was much drier. They slowly made their way down, only to be greeted by an even steeper bank at the bottom, leading into a broad and ferocious river. It was wide, deep, crystal clear and very fast moving. On scanning the area up and down, they could find no way of crossing it, no stones to step across and not a single sign of an old bridge. Hoisting their packs further up their backs, Falnon and Marda stood contemplating for a short while, checking their compass and map and concluding that there was only one way to cross, which was to ford across it.

First, Falnon ventured into the water, grasping tightly onto his possessions and trying to keep his balance. The water immediately tried to sweep him away but he held his ground, taking a few steps up to his knees and gestured for Marda. She grappled her way over to him, and with their combined strength, the pair waded a few more steps into the river. It was slippery on the bottom and after a few minor slips and steadying of each other, Marda and Falnon found themselves up to their waists and still pressing further across the width. The current was strong, pressing eagerly against their legs and trying to unhook their grip on the stones beneath. They were large, boulder like stones, carpeted in algae, which grew in long and tangled threads, often catching Marda and Falnon around the ankles and trying to trip them up, as well as being slippery.

Halfway across, and silent with his concentration, Falnon pushed on even faster, pulling Marda along behind him and pressing hard against the fast moving body of water. They moved successfully, using the momentum to propel them from stone to stone and catch the next, before they were swept off the first. Almost through the deepest part, Falnon launched himself mightily at the large rock a little further away, and almost fell into the water, throwing out his arms to stop him. Marda, clinging onto him from behind was taken unawares, slipped from her grip and was flung headfirst into the water, letting out a surprised yell.

Her head surfacing, Marda threw out her arms and managed to grab onto a projecting rock, her legs being pulled around behind her, carried with the current. Falnon, stumbling forwards and trying to grab Marda, caught his foot between two boulders, and as he tried to move, was jerked backwards, overbalancing and tumbling into the water. Marda managed to use her arms to grapple her way over to Falnon, grabbing him, just as one of his straps came loose. Pulling each other to their feet, they watched in dismay as Falnon battled with his rucksack which was soaking wet and slowly falling from his shoulders. Battered by the water, the top slowly sprung open, contents starting to tumble out. Unable to use either hand to stop it, Falnon practically pushed Marda to the other shore and tried to steady his back. Just before the bag completely fell off his back, Marda managed to pull Falnon from the water onto the bank. Relieved, Falnon swung his sack onto the pebbles and collapsed next to it, also next to Marda. They were both completely wet, and only Marda’s pack had stayed partially dry. Looking down at his own, Falnon could see he had lost most of his food and spare clothes. One skin of water had also gone, along with his fire making equipment and spare compass. Calming down his panting, Falnon moaned and shook his head,

“I’m so sorry!” he managed to say.

Marda was fingering her sack, trying to see what was still dry,

“Don’t worry, we’ll make do,” she said optimistically, throwing Falnon a blanket, “I’ve still got a load of food anyway, and some blankets. You can carry these.”

She continued passing food and clothes to Falnon, until both packs were of a similar size again. Shivering and weary, they had no option but to shoulder the packs, stand up, dripping and cold, and head off again. It wasn’t even midday and already they were doing badly. The moorland stretched ahead of them from what they could see, and a bleak, drear environment was heading their way, along with an autumnal and fierce weather front. All the same, Marda and Falnon had no choice but to walk on.

         

OVER THE NEXT week, the moorland continued, as did the poor weather and the decline in Marda and Falnons’ spirits. Their food was already running low, all the fresh things gone and only cured meat and vegetables left. On one fateful morning, Falnon was scraping out the last crumbs of beef, seated on a tree stump at the corner of an old field when he looked across to Marda, who was checking the condition of her bow and arrows which had somehow managed to survive unscathed thus far.  She met his gaze knowingly. She could see Falnon’s reluctance, as was common with him, but soon persuaded him to let her hunt,

“I can shoot us a rabbit,” she said, walking over to join him, “we can have it tonight.”

Falnon sighed,

“Let me hunt,” he said, “I’m sure I’ll find something.”

Marda raised her eyebrows,

“Do you have a problem with me using this?” she asked, looking unimpressed, “I’m perfectly good, you know.”

“Well, we could always try to find something a little more...”

“Oh, I see,” interrupted Marda, “that’s fine, you’re the man and you’ve got to hunt. Shall I go and find some berries then?” she was probing him with her sarcasm, and Falnon was somewhat taken aback by her sudden outburst. He surveyed her a little curiously, trying to understand her character a little more. He wondered whether he’d just been seeing the shy and withdrawn Marda for the last few weeks,

“Good to see the real you,” he passed comment, smiling cheekily.

Marda let out a breath and let herself collapse a little, looking away, obviously embarrassed,

“I just meant...”

Falnon laughed,

“Fine, go shoot a little rabbit then. I can make the skin into a hat if you want!”

Marda, not quite understanding his queer sense of humour, spun round, picked up her weapon once more and was soon gone, stealing away into the trees, quite near a covered bank. She reappeared within the next hour with a healthy, meaty and dead rabbit slung over her shoulder.

          

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