I went ahead as I thought about this Inn that had been mentioned. It seemed quite the curious place to me. How would that be comfortable? It certainly did sound convenient, but also ridiculous. Who would enjoy being jammed into a building with a bunch of strangers and having to pay for the privilege?
Convenient if you’re in need, but it would never be my first choice.
‘What else is in larger towns?’
Thinking of the Inn made me curious to see if I had been missing out on anything by living in tiny little Boar Creek and secluding myself to my cottage and the forest behind it.
‘The shows can be amazing.’
‘What do they show you?’
I don’t miss the stunned looks on everyone’s faces as I ask questions about things that are clearly commonplace for them.
‘Things like plays and other performances where actors and actresses sing and dance to tell a story,’ Peter stumbles out.
Is it so surprising that I have no idea what any of these things are? The only time I’ve ever left Boar Creek was when I got stuffed inside a metal box.
‘The libraries, massive buildings full of books and knowledge that you can go to read and learn,’ Mikael says.
And around they go, telling me about their favourite places in the cities they’ve been to and filling the silence with their excited babble.
I get to sit in silence as they talk, not expected to respond and more than happy to simply listen. The breeze moves across my face as Helia trots along, my fingers travelling through his mane too keep myself from focussing on the crunch of my broken ribs with each step that he takes.
The men fall silent after a while and I feel as though I have leaned a lot. I don’t believe I will truly enjoy being in these larger towns, but I am excited to see new places and experience new things. It’s what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember; to travel and see and feel. I can think of nothing better than travelling the world and seeing all the wonder I know exists.
I let my magic wonder through the earth and sky as we travel. An eagle flies above us for a while, calling to me and even landing on the pommel of my saddle and travelling with me for a few kilometres. The men say nothing, simply letting us be even though I can sense their curiosity and fascination is almost unbearable. The eagle flies away as spires and smoke comes into view on the horizon.
Tall, pointed roofs begin to soar above the trees as we come to end of a mountain path. I can see two horses and an irritated mule further ahead, the mule pulling a drastically overloaded cart of vegetables with it’s rather rounded owner sitting on the bench seat.
We break through the tree line and I’m shocked by the sheer size of the buildings in the town. I’ve seen larger, ofcouse, but I figured that was just castles occupied by royalty. This town, to my knowledge, has no royal family within it’s walls.
‘People actually live here?’ I mumble to myself, not knowing that I spoke out loud.
‘What do you mean? It’s a town, of course people actually live here,’ says Mikael.
‘Who honestly needs this much space? That’s just one house,’ I say, pointing toward what appears to be a two level farmhouse with a barn. ‘It’s just….unnecessary.’
‘The Forest Healer doesn’t like big towns, I never would have guessed,’ Grayson chuckles to himself.
‘There’s no nature here – not really. And the animals that are here…I feel hunger and sickness. There is no light here.’
I bury my hands in Helia’s mane once again, resisting the urge to cry. They spoke of these towns as though they were wondrous places full of glorious entertainment and marvels of human engineering. I don’t see any of that in this town. It feels wrong. Nature has been pushed to the very edge of human habitation and the animals that are permitted to be within the city are simply there to be used by the people. The place feels sick and it feels broken.
Helia comes to an abrupt stop, grunting and scratching at the dirt.
‘What’s wrong?’ Grayson watches Helia, worried over his reaction. ‘Our horses have never acted this way.’
‘He senses it, too,’ I rub Helia’s neck, attempting to calm him.
I steer him beneath a tree off the side of the path and climb down, resting my forehead against his snout and trying to grant him calm. His breathing slows, but the other horses are just as restless, the knights dismounting and trying to calm them, too.
‘What are they sensing?’ Mikael slowly moves toward me, watching Helia carefully as he approaches. It’s never wise to approach a scared horse haphazardly.
‘The town, it feels wrong. The nature is wrong, the animals are wrong. It feels sick. People have degraded the land and bricked over it until there is nothing left but people. There is no balance here.’