Brittle grasses crunched beneath their feet, the only sounds to accompany the whistling winds and the occasional grunt of a zwoot or elf.
The journey had been long; through the desert, and then through the pass in the cliffs. After that they were met with rolling hills. Leetah ached from the unaccustomed walking, and already many painful blisters had formed on her feet. At this point she was focusing on each individual step, hoping she would last until her turn came to ride on one of the zwoots.
As the terrain slowly past Leetah became lost in memories. Had it only been a few weeks ago that she was in her hut, her life going on predictably, normally? Her eyes lost focus. It was as she was in her hut that, out of her window, she had glimpsed Rayek rushing by, all his aura of power and grace gone. She hadn't acknowledged it much at first.
The real Rayek was suddenly at her side, a comforting presence. She felt his arms around her, guiding her towards the now riderless zwoot. Hoisting herself up to the saddle Leetah sat and relaxed her aching muscles. Seeing her settled Rayek felt a grim resolve grip him. He vowed to himself to protect her, that he would do all he could so that never again would she be as exhausted as she was then.
Leetah had sunk back into memories, lulled by the constant gait of the zwoot. Now she saw the face of her father, Suntoucher, addressing the gathered villagers. Rayek had stood beside him, his face again stoic. Sahvah was on Suntoucher's other side, her face a mask of fear and pain.
"Rayek sensed a sand storm, coming towards us on our open side. It is moving at a higher speed than we have seen before. He guesses that we have less than three hours before it hits, and when it does it will fill the valley like a bowl. We will be trapped by the sand if we take shelter in the caves, and the chances of the valley ever clearing are very slim. We have to go, there is no other way." Suntoucher's words echoed in Leetah's head until she was suddenly brought back to reality as the zwoot halted.
The group had stopped, the sun was dipping down to the horizon, and the SunFolk prepared to make camp. They could not stay long in the hills, the only water was below ground, giving just enough moisture to grow the tough, scrubby plants that covered the hills. Currently the Sunfolk had enough food and water in their skins, but what was left wouldn't last forever. Stiffly, Leetah dismounted. She watched her father and mother prepare rations as the others pitched their canvas tents. Leetah grasped the zwoots reigns, and reached for the stake and hammer from of it's saddle bags. After securing the animal to the ground she stood up to search for Rayek. One of the canvases fluttered and she saw using his magic to lift it over the tent poles as other villagers waited to stake down the ends. Out of the corner of her eye Leetah noticed another maiden eyeing the hunter as he used his skills. Feeling a fume of jealousy Leetah hobbled over on sore legs. As she approached Rayek turned to see her and smiled. Craving the sense of security he brought her Leetah leaned into him.
"Don't worry beautiful Healer," Rayek whispered, "I saw a Green-Growing-Place on the horizon. Savah says once we're there we will have everything we need."
"Things don't seem to be changing with the humans Cutter," Treestump addressed his chief with Pike at his side. "We scoped out their camp, and it's still in chaos. Everybody's fighting, and parts of the camp look ravage.. Tents have gashes in them, the stones that used to surround the firepit are scattered around the camp, as if they had been thrown. They seem to be at odds about what to do next. Strongbow really messed up their system when he shot that old man." Cutter nodded.
"Now, all we can do is continue to keep an eye on them and hope that they don't turn violent."
The Green-Growing-Place was now in view. The SunFolk were apprehensive to near the strange looking place, and even more unwilling to enter it, even though Savah had said it was safe. Instead they camped on the outskirts, planning a search party that would scout out the forest the next day.
As Leetah slept that night she continued to relive the past.
They had spent the next hours in a frantic rush to gather all the food, water, and things that they needed. Packing the essentials on zwoots, and bundleing everything else to carry on their backs. The Sunfolk finally gathered under the Bridge of Destiny to begin their journey. There were many tear filled faces, and shoulders shook with sobs as they marched away from the only home they had ever known. Some of the elves nearly walked backwards watch the village for as long as possible, whereas others, such as Rayek, never looked back. Leetah remembered Suntoucher turning to him and whispering worriedly, "Our people aren't used to the kind of strenuous labour this journey will bring. Will they make it?" She shivered as she heard Rayek's low, solid voice respond, "They will have to."
Luminescent eyes watched from the trees, looking down on the Sunfolk's camp below. **Everyone seems to be inside those shelters of sorts,** the observation came from Woodlock. Skywise responded,
**Everyone except for the one on guard.** Three sets of eyes watched Rayek's rigid figure as he strode around the camp, his head checking in every direction except upwards.
**He looks so strange! He has dark skin, and wears such vibrant colours that I could spot him a forest away! Do you think they all look like that?** Scouter's question remained unanswered. Finally Woodlock adjured,
**We will watch until daybreak, then we will return to tell Cutter.** Sighing Scouter shifted into a more comfortable position in the tree, careful not to draw the watcher's attention. It would be a long night.