Chapter 1, Part 4: Confusing Colors

  • Post category:Midlands

In all the strangeness that I’ve experienced in the world thus far in my twenty five years of age, I’ve never seen or heard of anything quite like the Taigon Falls Flower Festival. It’s extraordinary. The smell of flowers is exotic and ever-present. The lights in the night sky is actually a mixture of starlight and the faint glow from the Festival Fruit in the large tree. The ground shimmers with one’s steps as if activating some kind of bioluminescence. And the people are all so incredibly happy. I can honestly say I understand why Eddie seems so skittish about it. I don’t find their bliss off-putting by any means, but it is certainly unexpected. Furthermore, I haven’t spotted very many people in town I recognize in the field tonight. These folk here are mostly tourists. Perhaps the residents of Taigon Falls had come on the first night only (before the tourists came into town), and spend the rest of their time vending.

Eddie, as I wrote, seemed very distracted when she came in tonight (remember, dear reader, we had to come in one at a time). Even the people floating about in the air some ten or twenty feet above our heads didn’t seem to catch her attention. I inquired and she asked me if I knew anyone named Ee’Ila. Based on her half-elf ancestry and the pronunciation of the name, I ventured a guess that the name was elvish. I speak maybe three or four words of the language (sal kerradun klatha!1), so I wasn’t much help. I don’t know where the name came from, but it is plainly written on her face that she is bothered.

In an effort to take her mind off of whatever was vexing her, I attempted a distraction. We approached a few different floating people and I asked what caused their levitation. An inebriated gentleman informed me that he ate a Festival Fruit. A goofy young boy had done the same, though he giggled about gas while he drifted away from us. A few others said the same thing. Tonight, the Festival Fruits were causing people to float. It is important, readers, to get the account of at least two people before making a decision on something. If two unrelated people tell you the same thing, it is likely the truth. That is why the courts require the testimony of two or three witnesses. In the case of study like this (specifically, why are people floating?), asking multiple people is more likely to get you a correct response. It is folly to interview only one person.

I admit my curiosity for research and writing got the better of me, and I regret doing this next part. Eddie felt out of place already and I foolishly asked her to participate in my research once again. We each acquired a Fruit (the large tree seems to sense desire and produces a fruit to whoever wants it almost immediately). Eddie’s, as usual, glowed red at her touch. When she bit it, I quickly grabbed her hand to keep her tethered to the ground. This may have embarrassed her a little bit (Editor’s note: yourself included, Mr. Revelk. That was very brash!), but I’m glad I did. She immediately started to float. To my surprise and, likely, hers as well, she was able to control her flight. Something else happened, though, when she ate the Fruit. An odd colorful glow seemed to emanate from her and it drew a lot of unwanted attention her way. Curious, I bit into my fruit. Unfortunately for me, my levitation was very much not in my control in any way.

I feel very luckly that Nichola and Seagerd came upon us, drawn to Eddie’s glow. Dare I say radiance? It’s very astounding and quite pretty. Nichola helped Eddie attach a rope to my ankle to keep me from disappearing into the sky. Seagerd produced some drinks for us and we got to talking while eating some snacks. Nichola is happy to have us along for the ride to the Battlehammer Winery tomorrow, and Seagerd requested that we be very quiet about the job. The Festival Ale is a trade secret of the Battlehammer Clan and I would personally feel awful if something were to happen to that shipment.

While we were talking, I (and presumably everyone else around us) could not help but notice that Eddie continued to emit a reddish vibrance. She was uncomfortable with it and kept trying to cover herself up. The passersby had already seen this, though, and many of them approached to get a closer look. Eddie had made brownies earlier today and started passing them out while politely shooing the people away.

(Editor’s note: Mr. Revelk specifically asked me to remove this next paragraph from his notes. I am disinclined to do so.)

One child, a girl perhaps no older than six or seven years old, asked her if she was one of the Trine. As Eddie was giving her a brownie and hastening her to leave, I explained to Nichola about the Trine. My understanding is that the Trine are three spirits that protect the tree and the field of flowers. Of course, I may be very wrong about that, but it’s a nice thought anyway. I further explained to Nichola why Eddie was asked if she was one of the Trine, too. Only two of the three of them were present tonight and Eddie’s quite lovely to look at. It would be a common and understandable mistake for that child and many others to make. Nichola nodded and Seagerd smiled. I realized what I had said a bit too late. Here I am, saying things that might make Eddie even more uncomfortable! I don’t want to do that! I just made a new friend in Eddie! Offending her would be such an awful thing to do!

(Editor’s note: Yeah, I’m not going to remove things like that. Mr. Revelk will be very cross when this gets published, but I find it amusing. Carry on, readers.)

Just as I had a thought about how to make Eddie feel more comfortable here, she suddenly suggested our party moved to a more quiet or secluded place, and started to make her way towards the tree. She took the rope from Nichola, thusly carrying me with her like a weird balloon. As we walked (or rather, she walked, I drifted behind her attached by the rope on my ankle), something strange happened! Eddie vanished in a puff of vermillion swirls! But even before I could react or do anything, the swirls of color reached up the rope to me and I very suddenly appeared at the tree with Eddie! We had made the journey in only a second where walking would have taken five or ten minutes at least!

Had she teleported? Is Eddie secretly a sorcerer of some kind? No, that cannot be it. Even Eddie was disturbed by the transportation. Away from Seagerd and Nichola, Eddie confessed that she has been increasingly distressed the longer we stay in Taigon Falls. I didn’t know what to do to comfort her, so I removed my cloak and passed it down to her (remember, readers, I’m still floating about five feet above her right now). That’s what people do when they want to comfort their friends, right? A nice warm cloak should help! But admittedly, I wanted to see if the cloak would cover her colorful aura. And I’m glad it did because she immediately felt better!

Without warning, Seagerd and Nichola were upon us. They had seen Eddie’s glow and a dangling, drifting man with a rope on his ankle from afar, and came up to us. So sneaky was their approach that I wondered if either of them were magical, too. I tried to call upon a blessing from Enos to learn a little more about Nichola, and I did this for two reasons. First, earlier I saw Nichola almost break one of Seagerd’s mugs with his bare hands and I was curious about his strength. Second, I wanted to know more about our traveling companion before we set off on a week-long journey with him. Enos’s blessing informed me that he’s quite strong and very smart (as I expected), but I didn’t detect anything magical about him. Readers, should you go on a journey with someone you’ve only just met, it is wise to learn as much about them as you can. I have no reason to distrust Nichola, and even Eddie, one who seems to distrust everyone around her, appeared to be fine in his company, too. My reasoning for learning more about Nichola is not to gauge trust. Rather, I want to know how he will fare in a fight if we are accosted by bandits or wild animals while on the road.

A thought came to Eddie and she reached up for another fruit. Once again, it turned bright red at her touch. This time, something else happened. She closed her eyes and very suddenly vanished before our eyes. Seagerd, I feel, had been drinking a lot of his ale already by this point and just chuckled at her disappearance. Nichola and I were briefly concerned, such that I cast a quick spell to detect magical auras around us. Just as I saw a brief aura where Eddie had been standing a moment ago, I spied an aura in Nichola’s pack. I know better than to pry into anyones’ personal lives, though. Everyone has secrets, and it’s not my business anyway.

Perhaps a minute passed when Eddie magically reappeared before us. She’s different now, though. She isn’t constantly looking over her shoulder anymore. Instead, she seems almost pensive. I wonder where she went? Eddie said she was gone for around twenty minutes, and Nichola and I chose to not pursue that matter any further. About this point, my stomach grumbled for want of food and I made the suggestion that we four head back to Point’s End for some dinner. Eddie excused herself while we walked, and headed over to a gold-skinned aasimar who had attracted a gaggle of fawning women. Eddie caught up to us at the entrance somehow (more teleporting? I am unsure), and we made our way back to the inn.

Thomas took our orders and Alice happily brought us out our meals. We spent much of the night chit-chatting about various things before we all took our leave and went off to bed. I tried to sleep as best as I could, but Eddie was baking an apple pie for Thomas and Alice, and the smell was invitingly keeping me awake.

The next day was our last morning in Taigon Falls. Eddie and I gathered our supplies and got Tic from Mr. Nussen. We met Nichola as he was gathered everything up in his wagon. Seagerd had loaded six crates of supplies that contained Festival Fruit. Nichola’s horse, Gil, was to pull the wagon, and we tied Tic to the back to follow along. Nichola was kind enough to let Eddie and I ride in the back of the wagon as lookouts. Surprisingly, Gil is incredibly strong for a horse, much like his master Nichola. Normally a wagon of this size and cargo would require four to six horses, but Gil is pulling it solo. It’s a marvel!

The journey from Taigon Falls is quite peaceful and serene. The fields of grass and wildflowers are quiet and we saw only a few people passing on the road. Most were headed towards Taigon Falls. We followed the river and heard the soft sounds of trickling water and the rhythmic clomping of Gil and Tic’s shoes on the path. Nichola and I chatted most of the day about places we’ve been and places we’re going. I explained that I am writing a book (this one!) and am in the business of helping create a field guide for travelers. Eddie kept to herself for most of the trip, but brightened up when we talked with her.

Camping on the road is difficult. As I’ve previously mentioned, it is wise to find a place to camp away from the road if you do not want to be seen. Our cargo was precious so this was the case for our trip. Nichola is a fine survivalist and found us a place where our large wagon could not even be seen from the road. Everything is silent except for crickets and Tic’s amusing munching sounds. Readers, if you find yourself camping outdoors, there are countless tips and tricks I could provide. This time, though, I’ll write only one: watch the sky. The starlight is so much brighter away from towns, villages, and cities. An infinite universe of magic and light is above our heads all the time, and so few people take the time to observe it. Not even observe. That word is too scientific. Just take it in. Enjoy seeing something as beautiful as the night sky. But beware, readers, it is easy to get lost in looking up at the sky like this. Enjoy the company of your friends, too.

In the morning while Nichola was making some rations for the day, I saw Eddie go to a shallow in the river to wash up (she’s not a morning-person per se). Tic went with her and very suddenly went into hysterics. He darted across the river, braying loudly, and disappeared over a small crest. Eddie called out to us and pulled out her bow, giving chase and disappearing, too. I began to run, but Nichola was already on Gil and quickly grabbed me, hauling me up onto his horse. We galloped across the river after them.

Tic, we learned, is a guard donkey (though he is a mule, an animal such as he can still be trained this way). Tic had evidently heard three wolves approaching us and flew off to defend Eddie. The mule was injured a bit but had called enough attention to the wolves for the rest of us to dispatch them. Eddie fired a few arrows, I hacked with that borrowed sword of mine, and Nichola and Gil fought off the rest. Only one wolf survived, but I am nearly certain she won’t bother us again. I called upon a quick blessing to stop Tic’s bleeding and Nichola checked him over. Tic will be fine, and I’m glad to know we have a guard mule with us now.

I returned Tic to the camp and made certain to feed him a few extra carrots. Nichola, Eddie, and Gil returned about ten minutes later with the pelts and meat from the wolves we slew. While we were away, Nichola’s field rations had burned in the pan, so we needed a new breakfast. I offered to cook! Nichola gave me free access to the wolf meat and Eddie found some edible mushrooms (specifically club-stemmed mushrooms, of which only the stem is edible). The meal was as follows:

First, warm a pan over the fire and add lard or fat if butter is unavailable. In our case, the wolves were very lean but had a little bit of fat on their bodies. When the fat is glistening, add the mushroom stems, rotating regularly. Add salt and pepper. Next, cut the wolf meat into small bites and coat with flour and paprika. Put these into the pan and turn regularly until the flour has browned. Wolf steak bites are best served medium rare, and leftovers will keep for a day. Be sure to clean out your pan afterwards.

The rest of our journey was uneventful. We continued over rolling hills and followed the path until we saw the road take a turn towards the mountains. After a week of quiet travel, we came upon the Battlehammer Winery.

The Battlehammer Winery is the most amazing winery I’ve seen, easily putting to shame the Greenhorn Winery back home in terms of sheer size. The smell of stone and grapes was all around us as we climbed the path past the vast terraces of vineyards and carved stonework. The winery is cut directly into the mountainside rather than constructed in some flat region. Three dwarves met us at the entrance and happily welcomed us to the Battlehammer Winery.

The leader, a tall dwarf in fine clothing and a leather doublet led the wagon to a loading area while introducing himself. He was Simon Battlehammer, Seagerd’s elder brother. We introduced ourselves in kind. To my surprise, I learned that Eddie’s real name is Edwina, something she had not yet told me. Simon brought it up because he was unaccustomed to humans and half-elves and didn’t know if Eddie was male or female (Editor’s note: Eddie is the colloquial shortened form of Edward, a common male name). It’s nice to know her real name, but I think I’ll stick to calling her Eddie. She seems to like it better.

I foolishly tried to help unload the cargo, nearly dropping one of the heavy crates on Simon’s feet. Perhaps I’m not as strong as I had hoped! Simon asked if we’d spare Tic for an hour to move the crates for us, which Eddie and I were happy to allow. While doing this, we each saw a brief flash of red from the crates as we moved them. While on the road, Nichola and I camped outside on our bedrolls, but Eddie felt more comfortable in the wagon. She had slept on the crates. Had her proximity to the fruits caused them to turn red? We weren’t sure, but Simon seemed dismissive of it.

Nichola and Simon went with Tic to take the cargo crates away, leaving Eddie and I to wander the winery on our own for a while. The winery seems to be almost fully automated. We saw no sign of people other than us and the three dwarves at the gates. Everything is incredibly clean, too. We wandered the grounds outside while discussing the red fruits. Poor Eddie was so worried that we had spoiled the fruits by accident. But perhaps the Festival Fruit is mixed with grapes for a different flavor. It would be best to discuss this with Simon. We got some fresh grapes from one of the dwarves in the vineyards and made our way after Nichola and Simon.

They were discussing Nichola’s next shipment when we arrived. I explained the red fruit phenomenon to Simon and he admitted he didn’t know about such a thing. Concerned that the Festival Fruit was ruined, we asked to see the shipment. Everything seemed fine, thankfully, but we wanted to be sure. Eddie produced a red fruit and I and Nichola each took a bite. What if the Fruit’s flavor profile had changed because Eddie slept on the crates? To our surprise, the fruit was very different when it was red. It was a lot more sour than I expected, but not in a bad way. What was most surprising, though, was the energy I got from it. It felt like I could run a mile. It felt like I had to run a mile right this very instant. Nichola said he felt the same way. It was almost chaotic, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It felt like I had far too much coffee all at once, but I won’t deny that I liked the sensation.

Simon just shrugged and said they’d continue making the wine like normal, so long as Eddie did not touch all the fruits. He offered us a place to stay for the night in some of the guest rooms at the far end of the winery. Eddie began to bake cookies in the shape of rocks (Simon earlier made a joke about how dwarves ate rocks), while I made each of us a light dinner. Nichola is off preparing for his next shipment. I wonder where we will go next? Perhaps there are some sights to see this high in the mountains? Perhaps we’ll continue with Nichola wherever he heads next. Those are questions to be asked some other time, though. Right now, we are wearied and I’m ready to get some rest. While on the road, readers, remember that you must always be vigilant and ever watchful. But when you get back to town, it is always a good idea to take at least one day of rest after you travel for even short periods of time away from civilization. The body needs a few hours of relaxation.

1 Elvish: “I want food!” (literal translation). Depending on context and familiarity, a more correct translation is, “I am hungry”