Well, to put it simply, the horses were trouble. They weren't used to being ridden the human way and, of course, they couldn't adapt that fast. So we had to adapt to them. Instead of using the reins and our heels, it was a battle of the mind. Giving commands with full force. It was very tiring. But, in their defense, they were fast and agile. And the way of controlling them was something that we got used to after an hour or so.
Then there were Maeve's messengers, or, as other people would call them, birds following us. They flew mostly just above the trees, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. While I was grateful for their presence, it also made me keenly aware of Maeve's hand in all around us.
The forest really was her kingdom.
Deirdre and I hardly talked. Partly because we were going through the forest at a fairly high speed. A full gallop once we reached the path. The horses actually felt very eager to run fast. It was more the case of us holding on to them then us riding them. But they were kind enough. In fact, the longer we sat on their backs, the more honest they felt to us.
But of course it made it very difficult to hold a conversation.
The day passed without anything else. The horses did most of the work and drove us forward. I had no time for practicing my new skills though I longed very much to do so. In fact it was nearing the end of the day when I realized that I hadn't even done something very important. Something I shouldn't have forgotten about but had just slipped my mind with all the trials and tribulations.
Only now did I feel the weight of the messenger bag on my side again. Or was I aware of it once again. In fact, it felt a little heavier. I looked at the sky and tried to think of how much time we had left.
Probably enough. The horses were much faster than I could ever have expected.
I whispered something to my horse. "Find a place to rest and graze."
His ears flicked once, I knew he heard me. It wasn't the words though, he could sense my intentions. Probably the result of being with forest creatures for so long. And if I could look at the situation somewhat more objectively I would realize how well-bred these horses were. They were magnificent.
Deirdre was riding slightly in front of me. "Deirdre, follow me! We need a small break!"
She responded by holding the horse back a little and letting me overtaking her. Five minutes later the horses had found a nice place a little off the with plenty of grass and low bushes for them to enjoy. For us it was nice as well. Despite the both of us being used to horse-back riding, the whole morning and most of the afternoon on those two was quite a challenge to our bodies.
Deidre didn't waste any time though. As soon as she got of her horse she asked me. "Why are we stopping?"
She nodded in understanding. "I'd almost forgotten about those."
I smiled. "So did I."
I reached for my trusty penknife and wondered if I could warm it without using a fire. For a moment I just held it in my hands, unsure if I should even attempt it.
"Try it." Deirdre spoke my thoughts again.
I focused as best as I could, trying to find the fire inside the metal. To find the trace of that element. The heat of the forge, the memory of creation. To delve into the earth and merge it with fire.
It didn't work as well as I hoped.
Deirdre put her hand on my shoulder and whispered softly. "Try harder."
Suddenly I felt a surge of Light coursing through me as if a gate had opened. Slowly, but surely, I found the fire in the metal and could feel it warming up in my hands. It wasn't so bad that the blade was actually glowing, but it was quite useful. Deirdre helped me out immensely by retrieving the letters from the bag while I kept my focus on the knife. With our combined effort and our flawless teamwork, we opened the two letters and read them.
One was the same boring one, with rosters, students and some results. Though one stood out. Apparently they had a healer among them. Healers were very rare. Controlling the basic four elements was fairly straightforward. They didn't change much and had an elegance to their simplicity. Life was different however. Some of the best Life Users could make plants grow almost visibly, if slow.
But healers... That was a trade that was much sought after. Mending flesh and sometimes even changing it was a gift only the precious few received. Creatures, even humans, were much more complex than a rock or fire. To focus on a part of them like strengthening an arm was easy. Something most of us learned in the first years. But to actually mend flesh, to feel the many parts of the body and help them work together. It was nothing short of a miracle.
So they had a healer, a beginner by the sound of it.
Would they have used, I looked again, 'him' with the forest creatures to keep them alive?
It didn't seem likely.
Deirdre had been reading over my shoulder. "A healer. I don't think there is one at the Dark Castle."
That said it all really. We closed this letter and put it aside. The next letter was filled with more writing than I had expected. It took me a few moments to read it really quickly and completely dumbfounded I handed it to Deirdre.
I was shocked.