Dollano 1, SP~4,909
I’ve had too much rest now, and it’s time for me to be back on my own two feet. I made that very clear to Donnessling earlier. He knew not to argue (I’m liking that guy more as time goes by).
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I have some time now to write again. That’s a great relief. First, though, I have to finish the story I started yesterday.
I’ll begin with the battle on the bridge. I have to confess that I don’t really remember any of it. As I said yesterday, I was busy drowning in the river below the bridge, so all I know about the battle on the bridge is what I heard from Donnessling and his kin.
The fight was between Donnessling and his nossring against five thugs. These were the thugs that had the pleasure, for several days, of beating me into a pile of broken bones and bruises. And, they were about to top off the fun by tossing me off a tall bridge. Hope they really enjoyed all that because now they’re all dead, thanks to the nossring. All I can say is that it was a just reward for their dedicated efforts.
The nossring made short order of these brutish thugs, though, it turns out, they were strong fighters and they were not easy to defeat. They seemed like men to me, but turns out they weren’t. Donnessling explained that they were what are called Shawmen. They’re an ancient race that has lived in the mountains of Shawmancer Island since the beginning of this Era; so for over five thousand years. They’re some kind of cross between humans, and rocks. It doesn’t make much sense to me, which is to say it doesn’t make any sense to me that you can blend any living folk with rocks, but Donnessling assured me that some rocks are of a different kind; a kind that have some piece of life, or Spirit Energy, that got into them long ago, and it makes them alive in some way.
I’m not writing an academic paper so, I’ll leave the history lesson there and just say that it was no easy thing for the nossring to dispatch them. To be specific, they were tough to kill and they had a tendency not to stay dead. That last part did not warm my heart, but they’re not undead. No, that’s another story.
In the end the nossring managed to kill them all, and, though they suffered many wounds, none died in the battle. I’m really glad for that. The idea that these nossring were willing to fight for me is a debt I owe them all, and I pay my debts. But, if any of them had actually died, then that would be a debt too deep to manage, and a terrible burden.
None of the nossring would share details of the battle with me, so that’s that. After it was over, though, and after they fished me out of the river, the nossring took me to a hiding place in the forest nearby. We stayed there for a day as they saved my life and nursed their own grievous wounds. Donnessling said I was pretty close to dying; just half a minute more under the waters and I would have been beyond recovery.
I don’t remember much of the days after that. I could tell I was being carried on some kind of a make-shift stretcher. I remember I was strapped in. I remember that because I recall, vividly, several times when I was being carried, or maybe pulled up, a steep mountain-side. Now that was a bit of a surprise. I wake up and there I am staring out at … well, nothing but the valley below. I do remember wondering if I had died and was in some kind of wilderness after-life.
But, I won’t be carried any more!
When I made that clear to Donnessling he laughed and nodded in agreement. That completely surprised me until he pointed for me to look behind me. I saw we were on the side of a tall mountain looking down thousands of feet to the rolling plains below us. When I turned back to him (and I’m sure my mouth was wide open — NOTE TO SELF: got to be more careful about that in future!), he pointed up. There, about ten yards up a rough path along the mountainside I could see the nossring brushing aside some vines that hung over the rockface and disappear into something behind the vines.
“We are here, Rhonda,” said Donnessling. “Our folk have long known of this place, a place of safety and refuge, and we welcome you to join us.”
With that he nodded to a nossring standing behind me, “Elthling, you will assist Rhonda the rest of the way,” and then looking at my already angry face, he continued, “should she need assistance.”
He then walked up the path, parted the vines as his kin had done and disappeared into the mountain.
I looked back at Elthling. He smiled but then quickly looked away. I made my way the remainder of the path. I didn’t say anything, but I definitely appreciated that Elthling was quiet about how slowly I was moving.
When I reached the vines, I parted them as I had seen the others do. There was no rock, only darkness. As my eyes adjusted I could see I was looking into a long cave. It was virtually invisible from outside, hidden by the thick vines, but inside I could see that it was wide and deep with plenty of room for our group of a dozen, and was large enough to accommodate many more.
Elthling stepped around me and, very courteously, offered to show me to my bunk in the cave. I followed as he led me to an area mid-way back where there was a comfortable bunk set up with some rough shelves on the wall beside it.
He told me it was mine. It looked wonderful! I think I said something, possibly a thank you. Whatever it was, Elthling gave a nod of his head and offered to show me the rest of the cave.
He led me further back where streams of fresh water ran down the wall and into a small pool at its base. The water was cool and refreshing and had a wonderful mineral flavor. Just on the other side of this small waterfall, there were shelves of food. It looked like quite a bit and a good variety, especially for a cave. I could see the cave went on, and asked Elthling what was there. He took me to the back of the cave. There at the end was a narrow tunnel. It looked mostly natural, but it was clear that some work had been done to shape it; to make the sides slightly wider and remove the sharp edges of the stone. I asked where it went. Elthling would only say that it didn’t go far. I could tell he wasn’t telling me the truth. For now, though, that was alright. He and his kin had just saved my life and I would allow them their secrets. We all have our secrets, and Donnessling, not Elthling, is the one I will ask about this one.
I’m tired now. It feels good to have told the complete story (though not the whole of it — that is for another day). I now must get some rest. I would never say it to Elthling, or any of them, but the short walk took more out of me than I had expected, and I felt a strong need to lie down.
For now, there are many mysteries that I must unravel. All of them are good, though, I hope. There is also that, at this moment, I am with good folk and I’m safe, and that is enough.
Well, not quite enough! I almost forgot. I need to let Bobby know that I’m alive and safe. More than that, I need to find out if he’s safe, too (and alive). I haven’t sent a blink bat in many days and he’ll be worrying.
That’s right, Bobby, you’re a worrier just like your big sister!
And, now, for a soft bunk.