Chapter Thirteen - Howler Attack

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GEORGE CAME AWAKE WITH A SUDDEN JOLT. For a moment, he lay there confused, unsure what is was that awoke him. The events of yesterday gradually came back to him and he opened his eyes blinking at the faint light that filtered through the window.

Why was he here?

The knocking came again.

'George,' came a shout from the passageway. 'George, are you awake?'

He threw back the bedding and sat up. 'Yes Meriol,' he called recognizing the Elven Princess's voice.

'Good,' she replied. 'We are meeting downstairs shortly.'

'I'll be there in a moment,' he assured her.

George stood and stretched. The pain from yesterday's riding had almost gone.

He smiled. Altard's salve seemed to have done the trick.

He quickly washed, dressed and went down to the bar.

Even at this early hour, several groups of Elves sat eating breakfast before setting off to work. Meriol sipped at a mug of hot liquid. She was seated with Malin and Altard at the table they had used only hours ago. Omiol Gildoran had set out platters of meat, bread, cheese and fruit for them. A pot of hot tea steamed in the centre of the table.

'Have some hot tea,' Meriol said. She poured him a mug and pushed it towards him.

George thanked her and tucked into the platters slapping several layers of meat between two slices of crusty bread. He realized that even with the time differences he had not eaten in a while.

'So what's the plan for today? George asked between mouthfuls.

Malin gave him a quick smile and leant close. 'Well, once you have finished eating we head east. We should make the Aldilth Hills by midday and with luck, we can be through the high pass before nightfall. If Lachlan Torqe travelled into the Wildlands beyond we assume he would have taken this route.'

George nodded. 'And what about this talisman? How will we find it? It could have been hidden anywhere.'

Altard took a sip of his hot tea. 'The Key Stones are a powerful source of magic. And while it would have been good to have your sisters with us. We hope you and I will still be able to pick up on that magic and it will lead to its whereabouts.'

'But what if we can't find it?' George queried.

The Spellcaster shrugged. 'That George is something I do not wish to contemplate.'

They said their goodbyes to Omiol Gildoran and his staff, promising to visit again when the time was less pressing. While they ate, Cadoc and the other Elves had saddled the wolves and collected supplies for the journey.

Outside the sun was just beginning to poke its head above the hills. The early morning air was clear and warm.

It looked like it was going to be a nice day, thought George. But did they even have nasty weather in Ellyonia?

He watched Cadoc and the others lead the wolves down the street to where he stood. Stryker bound up, nearly bowled him over in his haste to get near him. They wrestled playfully for a moment glad to see each other again.

George stroked Tova and clambered into the saddle. He felt relaxed today, free of yesterday's aches and pain. He hoped it would remain that way. With the rising sun on their faces, they rode across the bridge and out of the village.

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