Olmas Lurecia studied the ground carefully. There was much to be learned from the fading signs of others, be they friend or foe. It was but one skill that he had learned from Shalelu. He paused to consider his situation and looked around carefully. The signs ended abruptly at this point, even though it was surrounded by soft dirt and leaves. Which could only mean…
He jumped to one side as he looked up to see Shalelu looking down on him with a serious look from her perch in a tree. “You do realize that in the time you stood under me, I could have planted a tree and watch it grow ten feet tall?” she asked rhetorically. Olmas grimaced a little, then smiled and responded, “You would have never survived the encounter.”
Shalelu tried to look serious, but finally broke into a small smile. “You did track me this far before I would have killed you,” she said in Elvish. “Where is your mount?”
Olmas gestured with his chin. “He’s grazing at the edge of the woods. I was afraid he’d mess up your trail if he were with me.”
Shalelu paused in a crouch, one knee on the ground, and looked up at Olmas. “Your thinking improves with every training session. Are you really so sure your way lies with the horse and lance and not with the forest and fauna?”
Olmas considered. 32 years had passed since his birth in Crying Leaf in 4680. A mere fifteen had passed since he realized how different he was from the other elves. Oh he’d known, of course, from the day he was born that his father was human, but what that really implied had not been apparent until he started becoming a man. While his friends grew long and lithe, he grew more…solid. More broad. Any human would say he was in great shape, but an impolite elf might say he needed to “change up his training”. In almost every other way he was the equal of his elven brethren, but in the one way that mattered to him, visually, he was obviously different.
Although everyone treated him outwardly like any other member of the clan, he knew that they knew that he knew he was not. So it was that at the age of 20, and against his mother’s wishes (“I’m an adult, Mother”) he’d struck out on a sojourn of self-discovery. The Elders also tried to dissuade him, but in the end it was less trouble to let him go than to hold him back.
His special sojourn almost led to his death. He was wholly unprepared for life away from the village. It was Shalelu who found him shivering and wet during a spring storm, exposed to the elements, and showed him how to find shelter where there appeared to be only dirt, and find game where there appeared to be none.
She knew of him, of course, as she was an infrequent visitor to Crying Leaf. He got the impression she was an infrequent visitor to nearly everywhere. Yet she considered him clansman, and started to teach him how to survive in the wild. “If you’re insistent on striking out on your own, the least you can do is avoid leaving a rotting corpse. It draws the wrong type of crowd.” He could never tell for sure when she was serious and when she was not. But learn he did.
Once he could at least survive a few nights, Shalelu left, although she returned frequently to add to his training. She would be gone for weeks, and then he would awaken feeling her sword at his throat. Twice he found himself strung up by snares he was sure she was responsible for. He began to sleep more lightly, and found himself looking more closely at shadows and oddly shifted branches and leaves. He listened to the animals – or lack of them, which was just as telling. He became harder to surprise. One time, Shalelu brought Qatana, a young human she was helping to adjust to the world. She was not unattractive, but she was human and every pore of her body warned you to stay away. She was clearly a story that was, by her choice, left untold.
Qatana was reticent and withdrawn when he first met her, but later that year, after several visits, she warmed to the point of only being silent and withdrawn. She listened intently to Shalelu, though, and seemed to pick up new skills quickly. She was younger than Olmas.
In between Shalelu’s visits, he met many people traveling along the road or through the forest. The one he was most impressed with was a caravan employing a cavalier with a handsome mount.
Olmas had a way with animals, as many elves do, and to the soldier’s surprise, charmed the animal easily, but he was most impressed with the way the mount and the rider worked together. He’d left Crying Leaf feeling he was alone, but here was an calling that would provide a non-judgmental partner. He listened intently to some of the soldier’s stories, which affected him far more than the soldier might ever know. It was through the soldier that he first heard of the goblin attack on Sandpoint – a place he was familiar with and which was, as far as knew, another of Shalelu’s “homes”.
After meeting the horseman, he began keeping an eye out for a suitable companion on his occasional trips into Magnimar or Sandpoint. While he wasn’t wealthy, he was certainly old enough to take up some odd jobs outside the city and earn some silver, and just this last year he’d purchased Kasimir. He was intelligent and together they’d reached the point where they could communicate with looks and light touches.
He found it odd that after he’d acquired Kasimir, Qatana’s demeanor changed. The next time she came with Shalelu, she watched intently as he worked with the horse. That evening, they were sharing dinner when she looked sideways at him, focused again on her food and said, “The horse connects with you.” This represented exactly four more words than she’d ever said to him before, and even Shalelu seemed a little surprised.
That was all she’d said that evening, but since then, she’d grown increasingly comfortable speaking to him. He learned something of her history from her and developed some understanding for how she handled herself. She was not silver-tongued—once she indelicately told him he looked ugly and smelled like dead fish—but she seemed, at least, somewhat at ease around him now. When she didn’t come, now he’d ask Shalelu why not.
He was startled back to the present. “Shalelu, I certainly understand the allure of the forest, and I know YOU feel out of place the longer you are away. But I think my destiny lies with Kasimir, and the Order of the Dragon.” Shalelu looked hard at him, and then asked a strange question. “Do you find yourself attached to these lands you’ve known all your life? Or are you a nomad, a roamer? Do you prefer familiarity, or change?”
Startled, Olmas stammered “I—I don’t know.”
“A mount needs more space than a mere backpack does,” she said. “Wouldn’t its rider, too?” Olmas stared at her, still unresponsive, before she filled the silence. “Come with me to Sandpoint, at least—I need to resupply and Kasimir would enjoy a bit of pampering, I think. I know a man who knows a man. We’ll see how serious you are about this new avocation.”