The heart of the eternal

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Chapter 14: The old roads

Wenja did sit down, she still felt a bit bothered for Rhawan was so very present at the moment, she couldn’t help but thinking about what she just had seen. “We hope that they are useable still, they should be for they were well made”

Wenja swallowed. “What are they?”

Rhawan smiled and cringed as he sat down, the wound was obviously painful still. “Tunnels through the mountains. As we reach the outer mountains you will see that the mountains become very steep walls of rock, like vertical barriers. And they are very long, dividing the valleys from each other for many hundred miles in each direction. But the cliffs are very narrow and thus the dwarves did dig into them ages ago, and made tunnels which shortened the passage between the valleys with several days.”

Sefa looked excited. “Oh, I wonder if we can use them, it must be scary, going through the rock itself”

Rhawan grinned. “The tunnels are large Sefa, several wagons can travel through them side by side, and they used to be very safe but I don’t think that they are that much in use anymore. The trade from this part of the valleys have diminished over the years”

Sefa nodded. “Yes, we can find them?”

Rhawan nodded. “We have maps, I have told Ehbrial to find some, I will go now and see if we can plan the route more in detail”

Wenja shuddered, tunnels? That made her think of the few mining shafts which had been made by the villagers, looking for copper. They were black and narrow and terrifying and they had always reminded her of hungry maws, eager to devour anything which came within their reach. Sefa sent him a grin. “Let us know when you have made the decision, I have heard a lot about them, and that they are quite a marvel”

Rhawan bowed his head to them and opened the door. “I will”

Wenja turned to Sefa and the dark haired woman did see the questions in her eyes. She smiled at the redhead and took her hand. “Do not worry, the roads will be safe. They will not enter them unless they are. “

Wenja bit her teeth together. “Oh, I don’t worry about that, I trust everyone here. How could I not? But…”

Sefa had to raise an eyebrow in a gesture of mock surprise. “There is something else you need to learn more about is there not?”

Wenja sighed and look down. “I had never seen a naked man before…”

Sefa sort of scoffed and pulled her legs up underneath her. “I sort of guessed that yes, but you do know the differences don’t you?”

Wenja blushed deeply, feeling the need to hide in her hair, as she used to do as a child. “Yes, I have seen my brothers bathe, but never an adult”

Sefa sighed. “Wenja, it is natural. He didn’t have anything other men doesn’t have, yes, he is rather generously gifted but that is normal for his kind.”

Wenja felt herself shiver, a wee bit. “Oh gods, I cannot imagine…”

Sefa stroked her hair, gently, like a mother would. “You are truly such an innocent person, I am telling you this sweet one, don’t worry about that. There is nothing to fear at all”

Wenja hung her head. “I have heard tales of the opposite!”

Sefa almost sneered. “Ah dogshit, forget about those tales. They are lies, we have bodies Wenja, and those bodies were meant to bring us joy, in every manner possible. I can assure you that you will look back upon this conversation in a few weeks time and wonder how on earth you could be so ignorant”

Wenja felt how her cheeks were burning. “I am scared!”

Sefa did give her a bear hug. “Don’t be, Ahravan is nothing but kind and generous and he will take so good care of you”

Wenja felt silly, and yet she felt that she had to know. “What if he doesn’t like me?”

Sefa scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Wenja, you have never looked at yourself in a mirror have you? I can guarantee you, he will fall head over heels the moment he lays his gaze upon you. To an elven male you are a treat, a temptation with huge bold letters. He will adore you”

Wenja did take a deep breath. “The wedding itself, how…I know so little…”

Sefa smiled. “It is just fair that you are taught our customs, to give you time to prepare. The wedding will last for no less than three days.”

Wenja gaped. “Three days?!”

Sefa nodded solemnly. “Yes, it is a lot of pomp and circumstance you see, rituals which has to be followed and I can guarantee, you will not have time to be bored.”

Wenja swallowed hard, three days? A wedding feast back home lasted for one day at the most and even though it was a grand event and filled with joy and good cheer nobody could afford anything really large. “So, what will happen?”

Sefa did push herself up against the wall and found a comfortable position, Wenja did the same, a bit hesitantly. “The first part of the wedding starts at sunrise, you will both be dressed in your finery and the shaman of the tribe local to the area will bless you. Then there will be gifts given and there will be a feast. You will do some dancing and some other rituals will be followed as well but we can get back to them later on. This first night you will sleep in the same tent but he will not be allowed to touch you, yet. “

Wenja frowned. “Really?”

Sefa nodded. “Yes, during these three days you are to be regarded as betrothed, not yet wed. He can’t lay with you until the final night.”

Wenja swallowed. “Ah…alright, but then what happens the next day?”

Sefa sighed. “You will travel, to a sacred grove. There the shaman will take you through even more rituals and there is a sacred pool in which you have to bathe. Then you will be kept separate for the night, and both of you will fast and only drink water until the next morning.”

Wenja started to realize that this wedding thing was very complicated. “Does everybody have to go through all that to get wedded?”

Her voice did reveal her confusion and Sefa shook her head. “No, well, most of it is rather mandatory but it will be more elaborate since Ahravan is the Ath’ir. The last day starts with prayers and offerings, then you will be blessed again and there will be yet another feast. When the moon rises you will be taken to the sacred tree and spend the night there.”

Wenja frowned again. “The sacred tree? What is that?”

Sefa made a gesture. “An enormous oak, so old that not even the elves are sure of its age. It is hollow you see and there is a room inside of it, that is where newlyweds spend the wedding night, it is a blessed spot”

Wenja had to blush yet again. “A room inside of a tree?”

Sefa used her hand to sort of draw in the air. “Yes, it is rather large and there is a heating pit in there which keeps the room warm and comfortable, many fat lamps and of course a bed”

Wenja did feel nervous again, it was still weeks ahead of her but still, she couldn’t help but think of it. She missed Sina now, and the rest of her family. With them at her side she had felt strong but now she was adrift and she had no things with which to anchor herself. She felt lost. Sefa giggled. “The bed often shocks those who are unprepared for it is no ordinary bed. It is a pit filled with fine sand and it is covered with the softest furs imaginable. It is like sleeping in a cloud”

Wenja had to blink. “Sand?”

Sefa giggled. “I know, sands gets everywhere now doesn’t it? But not the sand from that pit, it is very safe.”

Wenja felt embarrassed but at least she knew a little more about what she was to face. It did help, but not all that much. She was still feeling very confused and very nervous.

Rhawan had entered one of the wagons where Ehbrial and Khirien sat with Thokan and a couple of the guards. They were studying the maps and Ehbrial did smile at Rhawan. “We think we have discovered a possible route which will take us to the plains a bit earlier”

Rhawan sat down by the small table and Ehbrial pulled out a map. “See? We can use these old tunnels here”

Rhawan stared at the map, he saw that they had marked the tunnels and he frowned and let his finger follow the thin line which showed the path they had to take in order to use them. “This may be tough? Can we be sure that the tunnels are open?”

Khirian shrugged. “No. but the chances are that they are. They were made to last remember? And it will save us two weeks if not more”

Rhawan made a grimace and stared at the map. “Alright, but the roads could be terrible and I don’t like all the rivers!”

Ehbrial nodded. “Neither does I but we have the equipment we need and with the recent events we do have to go faster. We need to get back to the clans, I don’t trust these humans as far as I can throw them!”

Rhawan mumbled. “You are not alone brother. Well, we will try the dwarf roads then, I bet Imh will be thrilled by that decision.”

Thokan grinned. “Our beloved chef will be our guide for sure. I bet she knows everything which is to know about those tunnels.”

Rhawan nodded. “I will go and check on the zahar, we need to turn north when we reach the next valley”

Thokan nodded and the dark elf did leave the wagon and ran back to the one with the zahar. The animal was getting better but it was still weak and it made a soft sound when it saw him and he petted it reverently and gave it some dried meat to chew on. He hoped that it would recuperate completely soon. He mourned the loss of his horse, there were other good horses in the herd of riding horses they had brought and he picked out a dark auburn coloured mare. She was brave and obedient and a bit playful and the rich colour did remind him of Wenja. She had blushed so deeply when she saw him in the nude and that made him stop and think for a moment. To an elf nudity was something very natural and something they saw almost every day but he knew that humans were rather different. She hadn’t seen anyone undressed before? That was a bit of a shock but he had to grin. Ahravan would have to work really hard to get inn under that one’s skin, that was for sure. It would be a tough job but he was sure that Ahravan could do it, and make her trust him completely. Rhawan swallowed, he had to admit that he was a wee bit jealous of Ahravan, Wenja was gorgeous and he would have been sorely tempted if she hadn’t been for his Shi’ish. But he and Ahravan were very close and they shared everything so maybe one day he too could hope to enjoy her charms? He doubted that the idea would thrill her as of yet but who knew, people did change over time and the culture Wenja was about to meet was very different from the one she had been raised in. It would probably set her free like never before. At least they could hope that it would.

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