The heart of the eternal

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Of darkness born

A small group of men were heading down the valleys, they were six in all and wore good clothes, rode fine horses. To most they seemed like men travelling in order to do business but the truth was very different. The two front riders were seemingly doing this for the same reason, they were heading off to punish that goddamn little whore for having run away and ruined the plan her father had made. Dagar didn’t see further than that, but Mjorr had more things on his mind. When they caught up with those goddamn eternal he would make sure that this Ath’ir or whatever he was never would want to touch Wenja with a ten foot pole. That bitch was gonna pay for having rejected him, when he was done with her he would let the other men have their way with the whore and then he would cut her up so bad not even her own mother would have recognized her. And Prina, that little piece of shit. She was gonna die, and that before Dagar could figure out his little secret.

Mjorr had been no stranger to rape, he had forced himself onto many women over the last years and Dagar had covered it up, never scolding him even once, even bragging about his son’s virility. But this? Dagar would kill him if he found out that Mjorr had fucked his own sister, the laws against such were absolute. If it became known Mjorr would have ruined the family name for ages to come. So the best thing would be to make sure that Prina never got the chance to speak, not that Dagar would believe that little runt but who knew? Mjorr didn’t like taking chances, so he had already hired people who would make sure that Prina was gone from this world before he and Dagar arrived.

Mjorr had contacts and he had sent some people ahead of them, he just hoped that they wouldn’t be delayed in any manner for timing was of the essence. He had already managed to slow his own group down a couple of times. Once by making his horse go lame and the other time by pretending to be ill for a whole day. Now he had no more excuses left but he felt confident. Finding that goddamn city couldn’t be all that tough, there were people living on the plains and where there are people money does talk. Dagar was just angry because Prina had run away, the deal he had been close to sealing with the master of one of the villages further down the valleys would have made him rather rich even compared with before and Prina had been the price for the deal. Mjorr didn’t doubt that Dagar would kill her but Mjorr wanted the bitch to suffer. They were weeks behind the caravan but Mjorr didn’t care. They would reach the city eventually and then he would have his vengeance. It was a very sweet idea and he was not scared of the eternal. They were large alright, and inhumanly pretty to look at but otherwise from that? He had no respect for them, anyone looking that beautiful had to prefer having someone ramming their ass instead of taking a woman. Mjorr was humming to himself as they rode along. Dagar had found four huge burly guys who acted as body guards and they all were capable of murdering their own mother if the payment was good. Mjorr felt safe, and rather content. Things would move in his direction for sure, the gods had always favoured him, or so he did think.

The caravan had reached the second tunnel and this one wasn’t even guarded, the entrance almost hidden by bushes and shrubs and the road leading up to it almost gone due to heavy rain and a minor landslide. They had to haul rocks out of the way and make use of some rather primitive boards made from logs to get the wagons into it. But they managed without breaking any wheels or anything and the tunnel was just as nice as the last one. And exactly similar to it, with one exception. This wasn’t so long, they would get through in a couple of hours and the next one would be just a short drive away whence they got through. Rhawan sent some of the riders ahead to check if there were any sort of obstacles in the way and he felt rather optimistic now. They were moving along very fast.

Wenja and Theka and Imh were in the wagon, entertaining themselves with some card games and Imh were teaching them a new one. It was very intricate and it did demand that you were able to bluff a lot. Wenja did struggle in the beginning and Imh won every round until Theka suddenly saw the light and understood the system. Then it became a struggle between the two of them with Wenja as a passive competitor. Imh did grin from one ear to the other. “This game is very popular among dwarves, so be warned. Do never play Twelve fingers against a dwarf unless you want to lose everything you have. I have seen that many times.”

Wenja frowned, back in the village such games were not allowed, the old said it was a trick of evil and that it would ruin people. “You have?”

Imh nodded and placed a card on the table, the clue to this was to always have cards of a higher value than your opponent and the one who ended up with the highest card at the end won. “One of our kings, Dulrun of Blackgorge lost his entire kingdom, his wife and his favourite war pig, it was the loss of the pig which made him most upset.”

Theka giggled and Wenja had to look at Imh with a frown. “He mourned his pig?”

Imh nodded vigorously and saw that Theka had thrown a card of similar value to the one she had thrown, her grin was as wide as her face. “Oh yes, that clan rode great boars to war you see, armoured beasts. And he did love that goddamn boar as if it was his own flesh and blood. He went to war over it”

Wenja had to gape “What?!”

Imh had a wry glimpse in her eyes. “Oh yes he did, I kid you not. He did find out that the one who won the boar from him had turned it into stew, and that was a terrible insult. So to war he went and he lost with bravado but avenged his boar. They say he had the balls of his enemy tied to his belt when he made his last stand”

Wenja paled and Theka scoffed. “Oh my, well, that is vengeance for sure.”

Imh giggled and placed her last card on the table. “And I won, be glad we aren’t playing for money, I would have made you poorer than a goblin”

Theka laughed. “Believe me, I am, glad that is”

Wenja leaned back against the wall. “When we get there, and I get…married, he…he cannot…”

Theka frowned. “He cannot what?”

Wenja swallowed. “Back home, there was this one man who married a girl from the village, and after a couple of years he sent her back home with nothing, and kept the son she had given him. “

Imh rolled her eyes. “Humans!! They say orcs are barbarians but believe me, not even an orc would dispose of his wife like that, sending her packing? Hrmph. A dwarrowdam would take the manhood of a male who treated her thus, we are very good with knives you see. And elves? Once he has spoken the vows you are safe little one, he will never abandon you for as long as you are alive. Believe me, there is nothing to fear.”

Wenja let out a sigh, managed to smile. “Yes, it is just…this is new to me, and everything…I cannot understand it all, yet”

Theka did grasp her hand. “I know dear heart, but you will see that this is a good thing, a thing of blessing. Your life will be so much better than before. “

Wenja did smile to herself, a small shy smile. “Yes, a blessing”

Prina and Sefa did enter the wagon, Sefa had found some herbs which Prina had to make tea from every day to fight the morning sickness and Wenja knew that Prina still pretended to just suffer from an upset stomach. She didn’t want to accept the truth yet and Sefa was almost in despair already. She knew that if Prina was to remain healthy and have a safe birth she would have to come to terms with this soon.

The wagons did use two hours and when they saw daylight again it was getting dark so they decided to wait until the morning before they entered the third tunnel. It could in fact be seen from the exit of the second one and the road heading towards it was in fact very nice. This very narrow valley was uninhabited, it was closed off at both ends and thus sealed and here only wildlife did roam. The animals weren’t afraid of people at all since they probably never had seen a human being and they soon discovered that although it was cute and endearing that deer came over to sniff their horses some of the animals were less welcome. They had made camp for the night when it became clear that the valley was home to an unusually large population of red squirrels and the lights did attract the little rascals. Before long they were overrun with squirrels who were the carriers of an insatiable curiosity and more energy than a herd of toddlers. The squirrels were everywhere, they even found a way to enter the wagons and the horses were being covered with squirrels which were gnawing at the mane and tail to get hair they could use to insulate their nests. The warriors had to stand guard to prevent the horses from looking as if they all had mange come the morrow.

Wenja had never seen squirrels before, they didn’t live in the high valleys so she found them to be extremely cute and tried to touch them but Sefa told her not to. Squirrels could carry disease and they did also bite if they felt threatened. Some deer came and tried to eat the hay the horses were supposed to have and Rhawan did run for his hide trying to get away from a pissed off skunk he accidentally disturbed. The valley was rather warm and that too brought a new problem, a sort of insect which preferred a rather cool temperature and could become extremely bothersome. In the end everybody slept in the wagons with the windows shut and the doors closed and Wenja had to fight a feeling of this being creepy when she heard squirrels scampering all over the wagon when she tried to sleep. Prina and Sefa did sleep rather well in spite of the racket but Wenja had a very tough night.

The next morning they had to repair some harnesses for the squirrels had gnawed upon several of the leather straps and one of the guards had forgotten to put the lid back on a half full barrel of ale and now the ground was covered with squirrels, dead drunk! The next tunnel was easy to enter since the entrance was at the same height as the valley floor, they just drove straight inn but it was steep whence they got in there and nobody were to sit in the wagons since the floors were a bit slippery. The drivers had the breaks on the whole time and Wenja was glad they were used to the tunnels by now. This one didn’t have any artificial lights and they had to rely on torches and some of the horses became skittish and nervous due to this. But this tunnel too was very short and they were through before midday, now they were way lower than before and the valley they had entered was wide and flat with a lake in it and a couple of villages. The next two tunnels were a couple of days away, and they were close so Rhawan was confident that they would be able to get through them both within two days, three tops. Then there was a week through the low valleys and then the plains would be ahead of them. Wenja loved travelling now but somehow she also looked forward to the journey’s end. She was getting tired.

Rhawan had started to act rather funny when she was near, it seemed as if he tried to avoid her and that made Wenja a bit confused and also hurt for she did like Rhawan and trusted him too. He would often disappear with Sefa or Nefhriel and Wenja blushed when she thought about the things he probably did to them. Sefa had told Wenja to learn about her own body and her own desires but Wenja hadn’t dared to, besides, she had gotten her moon days and they had lasted longer than normal. Wenja wasn’t regular at all and she didn’t bleed much either but Sefa told her that this would change now that she suddenly got proper food again. Back at home she had only used some old rags but the women she travelled with showed her how to use some sorts of pads made from thin fabric stuffed with a very soft and absorbent moss. Wenja had been terribly embarrassed when she told Sefa of her problem but Sefa didn’t even raise an eyebrow and had the needed things prepared right away so the embarrassment didn’t last long. She also got a tea she could drink to avoid her cramps and she got very jealous when she was being told that elven females never had to worry about this problem at all.

The valley was lovely even if it was winter, the lake had frozen over and some of the guards did entertain themselves with skidding around on it when they had a brief stop. Wenja was used to ice but she had never seen such a huge lake and she was stunned to see that the locals did drill through the ice to fish. Rhawan did push forth, he was getting more and more eager to return to Ahravan and they didn’t stop at the villages at all. Some people did approach them to try to sell things but he did send them off. Some even asked if they could buy horses from the group of extra animals but the zahar would almost attack if any humans got too close and Rhawan knew that the animal probably never would forgive what it had been through. Frostfoot didn’t trust humans at all, except Wenja who could pet him and scratch him without any problems.

The next tunnel was placed almost in the middle of a small village and it was well taken care off. This one was in use and there were people travelling through it almost every week. They decided to enter in the morning and the caravan did stop close to the opening for the night. There was a bathhouse not far from the tunnel and they were welcomed to use it, the owner didn’t get that many guests for as he said, the locals were a filthy bunch of idiots who suffered from water phobia and saw bathing as something you did after you were born, when you got married and when you were to be buried. Wenja did very much look forward to a proper bath again, she had finished the moon days now and felt in need of getting clean and the women did occupy the bath and made the most out of the hot water and the soap. This bathhouse had a very nice soap and is smelled of roses and Wenja just loved it. It was so smooth against the skin and she had to remember her mother’s soaps which didn’t foam and felt as if you were trying to rub yourself with a piece of cold hard rock. Sefa and Theka had returned to the wagon to find clean clothes and Nefhriel was still in the tub, scrubbing herself vigorously. She claimed that she felt as if she had been taking a bath in lard and Wenja was laughing as she started to rub herself dry. Her hair had gotten both thick and shiny now and she could see how her body had changed. She stood there with the towel hanging from her arm, admiring how her breasts now were perkier than before and how her skin did glow instead of looking grey and dirty. She suddenly felt that someone was looking at her and she looked up, startled. It was Rhawan and he stood there blinking, his mouth half open and his eyes dark. Wenja didn’t move, she felt a sudden urge to cover herself up but she couldn’t, it felt as if she was paralyzed.

Rhawan just stared, he was only wearing boots and pants and had some clothes gathered in his hand, he had probably believed that the women were done bathing since Sefa and Theka had returned to the wagon. Wenja felt herself blush, the look in his eyes… He wasn’t leering at her, it wasn’t anything like the way Mjorr had been acting. But the look in his eyes, it was burning and it made her legs feel weak and that odd warm feeling did suddenly appear again and sank downwards, heading towards that area between her legs. Wenja did gasp and saw that her nipples had gone hard and she felt a sudden urge but didn’t know what it was about. Rhawan did turn around, swiftly, like a ghost and was gone and Nefhriel got out of the tub and sighed. “He has fallen for you Wenja.”

Wenja swallowed. “No, that cannot be true? He is…he just lusts after me…that is all”

Nefhriel shook her head. “No, I have had him often enough lately and it is you he thinks about when he peaks. He cannot hide that for me, we are both elves.”

Wenja felt confused, Rhawan…Rhawan had fallen for her? But… Nefhriel smiled, a very soft smile. “You know that we do see such things differently than you humans? Don’t despair, he and Ahravan are bond brothers, as one. If you can find it in your heart to make room for one more then Ahravan will most likely be more than willing to share you with Rhawan. Then nobody will be unhappy”

Wenja let out a squeak. Two husbands?! By ever god! But she knew of many men who had two wives so why not really? And suddenly a small part of her started to like the idea, she knew Rhawan and she trusted him with her life. Ahravan on the other hand was a stranger, one she hadn’t even met yet. With Rhawan there she felt that perhaps she would be less afraid, less on her own. She suddenly remembered what she had seen that night in the tunnel and felt herself blush all the way up to the roots of her hair. Nefhriel chuckled. “Get dried off sweetie, I am sure this will be alright as soon as you get settled in.”

Wenja had to hide her face. “But…will everybody…how…”

Nefhriel did place a hand on her shoulder. “Wenja, I bet most of the people of Ohtanar already expect Ahravan to share you with his Si’ish. They would be more surprised if he doesn’t than if he does.”

Wenja felt embarrassed and silly but she had to giggle. “I didn’t expect him to…to like me”

Nefhriel tilted her head. “No? But you are special Wenja, not only beautiful on the outside but yours is a light so incredibly pure. We elves sense that, and yes, we all are drawn to such souls. Believe me, Ahravan will be just as smitten as Rhawan, rather fast.”

Sefa and Theka did burst in through the door, in a cloud of steam. “We just saw Rhawan running towards the last wagons, bent over with a funny gait.”

Nefhriel did giggle. “Oh, he saw Wenja here, in all her naked glory. No wonder he had an odd posture then, he is probably sporting the boner of a lifetime”

Wenja blushed again, even deeper and Sefa giggled. “Great, then there will be little sleep tonight, you or me?”

Nefhriel threw her head back. “You, I had him last night and I am still sore. He can be a bit too vigorous at times!”

Sefa made a grimace “Aii, you are right there. He has overdone himself lately, I bet he has been yearning for you Wenja since we met you”

Wenja had to giggle but her face was still burning. “I guess…I guess I ought to be grateful…that you are here I mean. That you can…take care of him”

Sefa placed the clothes she had gotten on a chair. “Believe me, it is no sacrifice. We’d gladly do it, he is amazing and just you wait and see, I bet both he and Ahravan will have you screaming for more before you know it”

Wenja did put the clothes on, she bit her lower lip and tried to come to terms with the idea. Two husbands, and both of the eternal? She was either a very lucky woman or she was about to get into very deep water indeed.

That night was rather peaceful, they had guards around the wagons in case someone felt the urge to try and steal some of their equipment and Wenja did sleep rather well. She was clean and warm and Imh had as usual outdone herself when cooking dinner. The next morning came with a terribly cold wind, snow flying horizontally and very low temperature. Wenja was suddenly looking forwards to entering the tunnel, there they wouldn’t notice any of that. Rhawan did make sure that the drivers were ready and that the guards had bought some supplies for the last stretch of the journey. Imh had raided the local market and bought all the best vegetables and meat and paid more than well for it so she guessed that she would be more than welcome if she ever was to return to this place. This tunnel did have lighting and in fact it was equipped with not just one but two lines of oil filled basins.

Wenja had been thinking a lot, the suggestions Nefhriel had made had been a bit shocking but the more she thought about it, the more she found that she accepted the idea. But she was still nervous, she had only heard good things about Ahravan but would she like him? And would he like her? That was yet to be seen.

The tunnel was very wide and well maintained but it was very obvious that it was cold now for there were ice some places and some icicles hung from the roof here and there. The front riders did knock them down and made sure that it wasn’t any dangers connected with the ice. Wenja and Sefa were sitting on the back of the wagon, the dark haired girl was trying to teach Wenja more of the different languages but Wenja’s mind was somewhere else. The wagon was one of the more heavy ones and it took eight horses to pull it and the driver was an expert, he knew exactly how to get the best out of every horse and they kept a bit of a distance between the wagons. Frostfoot was running along with the lose horses, the zahar hadn’t left them yet and it was a bit odd but nobody tried to shoo the animal away. A zahar was intelligent, if it wanted to follow the caravan then be it. Floth’bha rode by, she was riding her huge mule as always and smiled at Wenja. Being in charge of the Eth’ir’s safety was a great honour and one she did take very seriously. The tunnel was rather long but it was relatively flat all the way with a few ups and downs and neither were steep. They were heading up one of the slight inclines when they heard a shout from the front and the wagon’s stopped.

Sefa got up on her feet. “What is happening?”

There was a sound of shouts, then horses whinnying and sudden screams and Floth’bha came rushing back, she was always armed and now she threw herself off her mule and landed by the wagon with the grace of a huge cat. She almost growled. “Get back inside, I think we are being attacked!”

Sefa gaped. “Inside of a tunnel?!”

Floth’bha nodded and unsheathed her blades, she carried a heavy short sword and had an axe on her back and the half orc was strong enough to wield both weapons with terrifying power. There were more shouts and screams and the driver hit the brakes and locked the wheels, he was getting pale. Floth’bha yelled to him. “Do not go down from the roof, stay up there!”

Now there were noise coming also from the back of the caravan and Imh came running and jumped into the wagon. “Gnomes, we are being attacked by gnomes”

Sefa did stare with huge eyes and Wenja gasped. “Gnomes?!”

Imh nodded and found a frying pan in one of the cupboards. “Nasty little critters, I absolutely hate them”

Sefa growled. “No shit, they stink, and they steal anything which isn’t bolted down”

Wenja hadn’t even seen a gnome before and she blinked and stared at the others, not really knowing what to think or do. There was still screams being herd and horses were whinnying, there was a fight going on for sure. They heard Floth’bha roar and she was spinning around, obviously using her blades for all that they were worth. Then the wagon started shaking and they heard that something was trying to pry the door open. Floth’bha did smash into the door with her sword and they heard a shriek. The calls and shouts got closer and now they heard a lot of shrill cries which resembled war cries. Imh shook her head. “Darn it, they are cowards on their own but gather them up and they will attack anything if they think it can bring them something useful. Gnomes are mad about gold”

Wenja stared. “Gold?!”

Imh nodded and held the frying pan like a battle axe. “Yes, everything shiny really, they are nuts about it. I have no idea why for they don’t use the gold for anything, not even jewellery. It just lays there in their dens, in piles.”

There was a splintering sound and one of the two small windows shattered. An arm reached in through it, waving around as if to find something to grasp onto and Imh grunted and swung the pan with all her might. A dwarf is strong, very strong. And the females no less so than the males, in fact some dwarrow dams are stronger than the males and Imh had worked all her life. The pan hit the arm and crushed it against the wall. They heard an infernal shriek of agony and the arm was dragged back, it looked a bit like a piece of sausage, no bones at all. Wenja was staring and Sefa sort of growled. “If any of them make it inside then make sure they don’t bite you. They can have all sorts of diseases”

Floth’bha was dancing around the carriage, slaying gnomes with the elegance of a fighting bull and suddenly they heard a sort of howling sound and the zhahar came running and joined in the battle. The animal was kicking and biting and killed gnomes like a professional and Sefa did throw a swift glance outside. It was obvious that their carriage was the one which got attacked by the majority of the gnomes and the warriors came running towards it now, the gnomes were being pushed back.

Rhawan came rushing and joined Floth’bha and still the gnomes kept coming at them. It was bizarre really. Sefa frowned. “I have never heard of gnomes being this tenacious before? What is it that they are trying to achieve?”

The door suddenly flew open and a short thin creature with a rather large head and a strange sort of armour tried to push its way inside, wielding what would be defined as a letter opener by any other species. Wenja shrieked and before she even had time to think she did kick the thing straight between the short legs and sent it flying back outside with a loud shriek. Imh slammed the door shut and placed a chair in front of it, locking it. Sefa did grin widely. “Brilliant Wenja, that was extraordinary. Good to see that you have got it in you!!”

Wenja just panted, she had not been thinking at all and just acted and it felt good, having done her share. The horses were kicking whenever a gnome went too close and the hollering and screaming seemed to gradually diminish. There weren’t that much noise anymore. After a short while there was relative silence and there was a knock on the door. Sefa opened and Rhawan entered, he had blood all over and he did look terrible but wasn’t hurt and he smiled, his eyes were shining. “We are done, there isn’t one gnome left. I just wonder why they attacked us. The villagers didn’t mention gnomes at all”

Imh sort of shrugged. “They move around you know, could be that they are trying to build a new nest in here somewhere. “

Rhawan sighed. “ Yes, that would explain a lot but the drive of these things? If they face resistance they will normally just scoot off. I have never seen gnomes fight like that before, some even wore armour.”

Sefa scoffed. “Armour, that is an exaggeration for sure, more like cardboard and string!”

Rhawan nodded and took a look at the shattered window. “Yes, but they were trying to fight, and they did continue until all of them were slain. That is not normal”

Imh tilted her head. “You are right, not normal at all. Absolutely not. So, what could it be?”

Rhawan shrugged. “I have no idea, they don’t speak the common language and none of them surrendered.”

Floth’bha stuck her head inn through the door. “The men are ready to move on, none of the horses are hurt and the wagons are okay too”

Rhawan smiled. “Fine, give the order to move out. We need to get out of here fast.”

He petted Wenja on her shoulder. “I saw that flying gnome, impressive”

He winked at her and then he left and the driver started to prepare the wagon for departure. Wenja sat down and she felt confused. The gnomes had been so small, they barely reached her knees and yet they had attacked? Imh too looked a bit shocked and Sefa sat down and looked as if she didn’t quite believe her own eyes. The wagons started moving again, the guards did clear the way and Wenja saw that the ground was covered with dead gnomes. They had been fighting like crazy so what was all of this really about? The tunnel was heading downwards at a very gentle angle and the drivers were shouting to each other, discussing the incident. They did have some of the guards ride behind the caravan too now, just to make sure nothing caught up with them and Rhawan was riding back and forth, shouting orders quite often. They reached the light again after a couple of hours, the attack had slowed them down and Wenja was glad when they reached the exit. She suddenly felt very trapped inside of the mountain. The exit was close to a river and they had to cross but the water wasn’t deep and it wasn’t frozen over yet so it was rather easy. The only thing which happened was that one of the horses pulling one of the supplies wagons lost a shoe and they had to stop and replace it. One of the drivers did throw off a couple of dead gnomes which still were clinging to the wagon and Wenja saw them and cringed. Even dead they did look absurd and she shook her head in disbelief of the strange attire they wore. It was as if a kid had seen a warrior once and tried to make a replica of his armour. This valley was flat at the bottom like the previous one and the river was wide and flowed slowly. There were huge holts of trees everywhere and Wenja had never seen the type before. They were very tall with many thick branches and even if the branches were naked now she could see that the trees were beautiful.

Rhawan did notice her interest and jumped onto the wagon, he made her sit on the steps with him and he pointed at the trees. “These are Mhala trees, they are very precious for their nuts are delicious and plentiful and the flowers smell divine and can be collected and turned into perfume.”

Wenja stared at the naked branches, she hadn’t seen trees that tall before. “How do the flowers look?”

Rhawan grinned. “The trees with dark bark are female, their flowers are tiny and bright blue, like…sapphires. The trees with smoother lighter bark are male, their flowers are huge and produce so much pollen and they fall down after a while and are being collected. The flowers are golden, and very pretty”

Wenja did wet her lips. “Mother…mother did have a small bottle of perfume, she never used it but we were allowed to smell it sometimes, and it did smell so good. But that was made from roses I think”

Rhawan nodded. “Roses are cheaper yes, the perfume made here is expensive.”

Wenja pointed at another type of tree, more gnarly looking with fewer branches and way darker thicker bark. “What is that tree?”

Rhawan tilted his head. “Dhuner is the name of that type of tree. The wood is extremely hard and excellent for carving stuff and making tools. The berries are poisonous though and so is the inner layer of bark. They have to be dried for a year before anyone can do anything with them.”

The valley did house a few farms and Wenja did stare at the large cows and the strange sheep. They were large and their legs were short and the wool dark on their faces and legs. The road was well used here and Wenja smiled and listened to the elf who told her about the way people of this area farmed the land. Here and there the south tilting fields were used for growing grapes and she did also see fruit trees and bushes. The convoy did stop once in a village since they needed some nails in case more horses dropped a shoe and Wenja saw that the women there wore very colourful clothing. And everything was embroidered, with very intricate patterns and the more embroideries the better or so it seemed for even the socks were covered with patterns. Prina did buy a pair of socks from an nice old woman, Theka had given her some coins and the girl was so fascinated by the colours. Theka did tell her that it was normal for a woman there to start embroidering her burial shroud the day she got married, just in case and it would usually take at least a year to embroider something that large.

The next and last tunnel was heading due west and it too was at ground level. They didn’t have to leave the valley floor to enter it. The river had grown very wide and very slow running and there were strange things built in it. Wenja had no idea of what they were until Floth’bha told her it was scaffolds made to support fishing nets which were strung across the river once a year. A type of fish would be heading up river towards the lakes and then people could catch them by the score and store them for later. Wenja saw huge cow like animals which had curved flat horns and they didn’t have much of an udder , she was a bit puzzled until Sefa explained that they were buffalo’s and that they were used by those who couldn’t afford a horse. Wenja learned something new all the time.

This tunnel wasn’t used as much as the last one and the entrance was worn and rocky but they got inside without any accidents. This was the very last tunnel and Wenja was glad it was for she was tired of them. This one was steep, and it wasn’t straight as the others, instead it was formed like a corkscrew and headed downwards and the drivers did slow down a lot. They put some special pieces of wood onto the brakes to make them stronger and more effective and Rhawan did make sure that the distance between the wagons was great. Here they could afford no mistakes. The tunnel was rather narrow and one guard rode by each wagon and the rest in front or at the back. Nefhriel and Ahnriel were riding at the front now and Wenja and Sefa were in the wagon. The wagons had to carry torches again and the light was sparse and flickering. Wenja was very relieved that this was the end of the tunnel travelling, now there were just the outer valleys left and then the plains would appear.

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