Chapter Fifteen - Into the Wildlands

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THEY SAID THEIR GOODBYES TO VAUN in the meadow, not far from where the brave Elf had fallen. Earlier they had collected branches and dry grass to build his funeral pyre.

The day had grown much warmer as the sun made its way across the sky. Everywhere George looked, birds flew singing and dancing into the air and insects buzzed and chirruped among the wildflowers and lush meadow grasses. All oblivious to the sad event going on in their midst.

He now sat quietly on top of a flat rock, Stryker was lying at his feet. He was supposed to be looking out for any signs that the Howlers were returning. But they had seen hide nor hair of the creatures since they had fled from the battle hours earlier.

George watched as Vaun's body was laid atop the pyre, facing west to east. Meriol had explained to him that it was Elven custom and when the sun passed overhead, the Elf's spirit would join with it and journey into the night and the spirit world beyond. The next morning, with the rising of the sun, his spirit would be resurrected in the form of a new tree or some forest creature.

George saw Altard lean close to Vaun's head and whisper to the fallen Elf. According to Meriol, he was whispering words of encouragement and instructions on finding his way in the spirit world. Then the Spellcaster stepped back and raised his arms calling on the Bael'Vanna to protect the hunter as he passed from this world into the next. When he finished Malin stepped forward and thrust a blazing torch deep into the pyre. The Elves all moved to a safe distance as the fire caught the dry grass. Soon the whole pyre was engulfed in a fiery glow. George watched until the flames started to lick around the body. Then he turned away unable to watch any longer.

He wondered why he felt so little sorrow after the death of the Elf. It frightened him. Would he feel the same if something happened to Meriol or Malin? When an Aunt had passed away several months ago there had been tears and a period of grief. But here, now, he felt nothing. He liked Vaun, he had been part of the original quest to track down the Dwarves. They had met several times since then and the Elf had been quick to teach him about hunting and the ways of the forest. But it seemed that death had now become part of his life. It was certainly part of the Faerie Folks lives. Thousands died in the war with Ravengaard and now this Daemon killing machine was on the loose in Ellyonia. If they did not find the Key Stones, then thousands more could die.

Maybe Danielle was right.

It was becoming too dangerous and sooner or later one of them would die.


'We are ready to leave now,' someone called.

The words snapped George from his dark reflections.

He started. 'Sorry.'

Meriol stood in front in front of him a concerned look on her face. 'I said, we are ready to leave now... Is all well with you?

'Yes... I'm fine thanks,' he answered.

He smiled at her and jumped down off the rock.

'And you?' He asked glancing over towards Vaun's funeral pyre. The fire had all but burnt out, but thin wisps of smoke still curled upwards, to be carried away by the gentle breeze.

Meriol smiled back at him. 'Yes thank you. It is done. Now we must continue with the quest.'

The others were waiting patiently as they walked over and mounted their wolves.

Malin nodded a greeting and turned Raze towards the deep valley that lay beyond the meadow.


The grassland gradually gave way to steeper ground littered with shrubs and rocky outcrops. Water had sculpted the terrain carving deep crevasses and sinkholes. There was no pathway to follow and each obstacle had to be carefully traversed for fear of falling into the depths. More than once they were forced to dismount and lead the wolves around huge splits in the ground filled with rushing streams and torrential waterfalls.

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