Chapter 1: Arrived
Hallsassring stopped. The fury came suddenly and without warning, leaving her startled, confused – and immobile. She shook her head to cast off the anger, but failed. Looking up to the sky she decided to retrace her steps that day.
She had woken early, before sunrise. Quietly gathering her few belongings, she tucked each away in its proper place in her backpack. She began her walk, cheered by the thought that it was the final day of her journey, the day she would reach her destination.
The morning’s walk through the forest was peaceful. It put her at ease to be surrounded by the thriving profusion of trees, bushes, and undergrowth. It reminded her of home, which was welcome after so many weeks of travel. Her sharp hearing detected the chittering conversations of small animals hiding in the forest’s understory, and the quiet movement of those who hunted them. The path through the dense foliage was narrow, at times barely discernible. It was easier, though, than the wild parts of the woods, and less demanding than the mountains she had left behind days before.
Just before noon she had walked out of the woods into open country, a gently sloping landscape filled with wide meadows and well-tended fields of crops. The wind was freer here with no woods to block its passage, and she enjoyed the many new scents it brought her. The sky above was clear.
It had been a good day for walking.
That brought her back to her present circumstance. She disciplined herself to control the anger, closing her eyes to recall what had brought her journey to a standstill. It was not the road, the hot sun, the long walk, or even the heavy load she carried on her back. She was used to much harsher burdens and more strenuous exertion. What had stopped her was only a few yards ahead: a simple wooden sign on the side of the road that read, “Welcome to Tarnath.”
She opened her eyes to look again at the wooden marker. This time she read the words aloud, hoping that speaking them would unmake their strength. But her anger was only renewed, and she asked herself again: why does such a small thing cause such a deep wound?
At its core, she was furious that folk would divide the world into parcels to be owned and sold and bargained with. How could it be in any way natural that the lands of the world would be measured and sectioned so that one piece might be owned by one folk, and another piece of that same land was owned by another?
Her eyes wandered to the fields on either side of her. The tall grass evenly surrounded the sign. The land’s graceful contours flowed without regard to where folk might claim ownership. The lands themselves did not recognize false, senseless boundaries.
She shook her head again, harder this time. She gained some control, only to quickly lose it. Her mind had a mind of its own. She sighed. She knew because Fellspring had reminded her of it many times, and he understood his pupil well.
“Hallsassring, you are not listening,” he often said, “Your anger is a useful tool, but not if you cannot control it.” His admonitions were always accurate, much to her dismay.
She looked back at the sign. This time, she would master her emotions. She called back a memory of Fellspring that seemed well-suited to this moment. “The world outside the Nossring Nation is not like ours, Hallsassring. The outside folk believe that the lands and places of the world can be divided into pieces, and those pieces may then be given to other folk as their own, to do with as they please.” She remembered him looking at her, measuring her disbelief, and with raised eyebrows adding, “They believe that the world must be owned. That it must be conquered, subdued so that it serves their needs. They are unable to see it any other way.”
Then Fellspring would wait patiently, but always with warmth, for his student’s response.
The sign in front of her made Fellspring’s words real in a way she had not expected. She had never doubted that Fellspring was right—he always was. She just didn’t want to believe that such a world could exist. This was the constant struggle of the Nossring folk. An old race, they had been in the world since the beginning of the Third Era, and their ways were even older, inherited from others who came long before. During those millennia, they had learned that the world is in the care of its folk, that while they live it is their responsibility to nurture that world and leave it thriving for those who come after. For the Nossring this belief was unshakable, much stronger than the creeds of those who would divide the world into imaginary deeds of ownership.
Hallsassring reminded herself that Fellspring was not here. Nor were any of her Nossring kin. At this moment, on this journey, she was alone, and she now felt that absence keenly.
It was not time for such thoughts, she decided. She had a task to complete. Forcing her anger away, she stepped forward and crossed the boundary invented by the wooden sign. She shrugged her shoulders as if to shake away the sadness evoked by that footfall. Though she did not realize it, at that moment she looked very much like her beloved instructor.
She left the sign behind her. The sun continued to shine in a cloudless sky,which helped her to recover her spirits. She remembered her task, the reason she was in this alien place so far from home. Alliss had been taken from her. She had been kidnapped, dragged away against her will. Hallsassring had tracked her and her captors these many miles, to this place. She would find her in the City of Tarnath, and she refused to fail.
A new anger burned beneath her calm exterior. She knew that Alliss’ abductors cared nothing about her other than the price she would fetch from a wealthy buyer. Her fury at the Nossring Council’s unwillingness to help her gave her the strength she had needed for this long journey. It stiffened her resolve to find her companion and to punish those who had taken her. Alliss must be rescued from a life of pain and hopelessness, and that was her task. Hers alone.
With a steadied gait, she walked forward.
Be sure to come back next month for the next episode in this series — Chapter 2, Welcome to Tarnath.