The hour was getting late as Seryth came down out of the mountains, clinging to his ram as it picked its way, surefootedly, down the treacherous mountain path.
Both elf and ram were tired as they trotted into Aerie Peak. A different clan of dwarves lived here to those at the Loch, so Seryth wasn’t too concerned with being recognized as he made his way to the inn.
The next morning, he asked around for directions to the quel’dorei lodge of Quel’Danil. The dwarves told him not to waste his time; the lodge was well-hidden.
When Seryth spotted the circling shadows of gryphons high above, he came upon an idea. If he could convince the dwarves to loan him one of their gryphons, he could scout for the lodge from the air.
Maybe his plan hadn’t been a good one. The Wildhammer were very protective of their gryphons, and when Seryth asked if he could ride one, they scowled at him and fingered their axes.
One stopped him as he turned to leave, however, resigned to his fate of tracking down the lodge on foot. The dwarf explained the gryphons were considered sacred, but if Seryth could earn their trust, maybe the beasts themselves would choose him.
It sounded like more chores to Seryth, but apparently one of the ways to the gryphons’ heart was through their stomachs. As he was going to be in the forest anyway, Seryth agreed he’d hunt something for them to eat.
The gryphons were fed, though it didn’t seem to do much for their opinion of him. Nor the dwarves: they muttered that they’d appreciate it if Seryth were to go on a longer hunting trip, which Seryth read as a round-about request that he go away.
So he took off into the forest on his own.
He had made it quite deep into the forests, past where the Wildhammer gryphons patrolled and nearing what the dwarves had warned him was troll territory. He passed one set of ruins that seemed to be overrun with spiders of all sizes and their webs. Giving this place a wide berth, he instead followed what he thought was a deer path.
His foster father had done his best to teach Seryth the ways of the wild, but there just wasn’t that much that was wild about Westfall. So Seryth had no way of knowing if the path he was on was made by a deer, a troll, a dwarf, or even a rabbit.
It was nearing sunset when an arrow flew past Seryth’s shoulder and stuck in the tree trunk opposite him. His ram bellowed and pivoted, and Seryth heard a soft curse from up above.
“Show yourself, coward!” Seryth shouted.
There was a pause, then a lithe figure made its way down one of the trees.
“Who are you?” Seryth called.
“I could ask the same,” said the person coldly, revealing itself to be an elf: a woman with red hair and blue-green eyes. A quel’dorei.
“The only tallfolk in these woods are trolls,” continued the quel’dorei. “I thought you were one of them, stealing a ram from the dwarves.”
“Well, I’m not,” said Seryth.
“But you are not quite right for an elf, either…”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
She didn’t answer, only walking past him to pull her arrow from the tree. She checked its tip, and seeming satisfied, slid it back into her quiver. “Since you didn’t steal the ram, I’ll let you pass.” And just like that, she turned to go.
“Wait!” said Seryth, and nudged the ram to block her path.
She scowled at him. “I don’t know you,” she said coldly.
“Maybe we can start over?” said Seryth entreatingly. “I’m Seryth. I was raised in Westfall.”
“That would explain the jawline.”
“Yes, well…I’ve been looking for my people. The quel’dorei. I have questions–“
“The quel’dorei?” The elf tilted her head, as if she didn’t understand.
“You’re one,” Seryth pointed out impatiently.
“Am I?” said the elf and, reaching above her, grasped a branch and sprung up into the tree’s lower boughs, proving the ram hadn’t blocked her exit at all.
“Oh, sure, quel’dorei as in ‘high elf’. Very funny pun,” Seryth muttered as she disappeared higher into the trees. “That’s great. I don’t even have a name to go off of.”
“Jalinde Summerdrake!” Her voice floated down from the branches above him, but when Seryth looked up, he couldn’t see her. She didn’t answer to any more of his calls. Not knowing whether he was being followed, or if she had truly lost interest and moved on, Seryth pressed deeper into the forest.