Leaving the Whitewood [o]

A small patch of wilderness in the midst of jagged mountain peaks has been her home since she was born; with the river nearby and the wisdom of her mother, she has always had everything she needed. But now the time has come to leave her home as per her mother's dying wish. She knows not what she faces.

Divided by the Slyscera Mountains, the northern frostbitten territory of Khy'eras is where the Dwarven city Domrhask was founded. Naturally, this area is difficult to navigate to due to surrounding geographical obstacles and weather. Read more...
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Eaume Stormspear
24 / 24 HP
20 / 20 MP
0p / 0g / 0s / 50c
Race: Shapeshifter and Elemental
Class: Ranger and Sorcerer
Posts: 2
Joined: July 23rd, 2020, 6:44 pm

Leaving the Whitewood [o]

Post by Eaume Stormspear »

Old things endure. In the Irtouen Reaches, survival is not enough. Long has the Whitewood endured, perhaps by the grace of the Ordinuad or the cliffs that shield the vale from the harshest winds; or perhaps there is magic there, as old as the mountains themselves - perhaps older. But the Whitewood has endured, and within, so too has its denizens. In places buried by snow, in places sheathed in frost, the ground holds no love for things that grow; yet grow they do, and this is to their boon. Among them, hidden yet not in hiding, a woman kneels…

The alcove that held her mother’s grave formed a shape like a bowl cut in half around her, the roof just a couple of feet above her white-blonde hair. On her knees before the cairn, her gray eyes looked upon the stack of stones. Each one was smaller than the one that supported it, yet each was large and heavy; the largest was broader than she was tall by almost half again. The fingers of her right hand traced the carvings on that stone, etched pictures that showed the events of mother’s life. Each stone had its own carvings, but the first stone was always the most important. Her memories could be close to her then, and her mother could look fondly on her daughter while she waited to be reborn. It was an old story, but her mother had always set stock by traditions and tales. The youngish woman took a deep breath and arranged the gifts at the base of the stone, her idle hands itching to do something. It was only a small collection, most of it not so much trophies as interesting curios found in the small wood that the mountain-hidden valley produced: a few small, smooth stones of odd colours and shapes; some decoratively carved spearheads and horn-tips; and the horn of a doe that she’d carved into a rough semblance of her mother with one of her knives.

She sat back on her heels. That knife was at her waist now, near her right hip, its hilt tilted to the left for quick drawing. She touched her lips and then the top rock on the cairn as if to say good-bye. Sighing, she rose slowly after a moment and took up the spear near her left hand. The mountain seemed to have blessed this spot, for nothing ever disturbed it; animals never carried off anything, nor did the wind scatter the woman’s gifts for her mother. She frequented this grave to remind herself of who she was and who had made her. Today was the anniversary of her death. She made a silent promise to her mother now: she would fulfill her mother’s wishes at last. She hadn’t discovered any poachers in some time, the local wildlife seemed to be in excellent health and managing on its own - she would have been arrogant to believe that she was the reason for that, as the Whitewood had existed for longer than her mother’s kind probably had, but she was looking after no one at the moment and there were no pressing issues in the Whitewood - and she had enough supplies for a journey of decent length. She had feasted well this morning, and there were no hides drying or meat curing or fish cooking…

She could no longer put it off. It was time to go.

“I will return,” she whispered.

After a long time, she reluctantly turned away from her mother’s grave. The Whitewood was more of a large copse than a full-sized forest, the evergreens clinging to one another as though huddling for warmth and the outcroppings of icy rock punctuated by small waterfalls as though they could be bound no longer by the stone. The swampy ground was broken up in many places by shallow pools of frigid water more often frozen over than not, and vines and moss hung about the small wood from the branches, sometimes in place of their usual growth. Walking back to her own cave was a ten-minute affair, yet the hunter could have easily crossed the whole of the Whitewood in less than a half-hour and reached the Ordinuad from her cave in perhaps five minutes or less, depending upon her route and how much of a hurry she was in. The cave itself wasn’t visible to most, its entrance partially concealed behind thick bushes larger than she was and partly by a waterfall pouring from above it; the water cascaded off of the rocks and poured over them with such weight that it seemed to be trying to crush whatever dared to stand beneath it. She had showered there often, but she had bathed in the river just as often.

As she walked along now toward the echoing sound of the water, her eyes darted to her right. Greta was over there, heading no doubt to the river; she didn’t look up, still groggy even as light finally began to penetrate the Whitewood. Even in the dark, Eaume could go anywhere in the Whitewood without having to think about the path she took. She knew the Whitewood well, and if she had hunted only to a small extent herein, it was because there were large numbers of wild goats in the area. Moose, caribou, the occasional elk, and the rare family of deer meandered through the Whitewood because of the Ordinuad, the only consistent source of clean water for most of the wildlife; small game was mostly raccoons, foxes, and hares with more fur than meat. Fish, however, were abundant in the Ordinuad and the primary food source of most of the carnivores in this area. Her eyes turned away from the still-sleepy bear a good fifty paces off to her right as her ears caught a low hiss from somewhere overhead. There was a lynx that had taken to hunting greedily of late, but the bears had kept it from causing too much trouble.

Slipping through the bushes and ducking her head beneath some moss, Eaume eyed the mouth of her cave. Walking just a few paces in, the reached the tunnel at the back and followed its curve to the left. The fire burning brightly inside the back “room” made the furs hanging across the far end of the tunnel seem almost to glow, and parting them just long enough to pass into her home proper, Eaume silently welcomed the warmth and light. Furs laid down for rugs were kept clear of the firepit in the center, in turn surrounded by three logs carved into benches. Racks for tanning and drying, a bench for working and a chair to sit in while doing so, a thick pallet covered in thick furs for blankets and a pillow, finished and half-made spears and other things - these were the furnishings of one who lived alone in one of the most remote and dangerous places in all of Khy’eras. Why her mother had come to the Irtouen Reaches had always been a mystery to Eaume, but she had never felt comfortable pressing her mother for too many details. She knew her father had been an elemental, but of what nature? Clearly bound to the air and the sky, for why else would lightning have come as naturally to Eaume as did breathing? She had even learned to manipulate the air itself, though that was still something new to her. But who he was, why he was not here, why her mother seemed as uncomfortable as Eaume when thinking of the past…

These were things that would probably never be known to Eaume. It was just as well. She had herself to care for now, and herself alone. Snip eyed her beadily from her pillow, jealously guarding his new sleeping spot, and she tapped the butt of her spear upon the ground hard enough to make him jump. He bared his teeth but she just looked at him. After a few minutes, he seemed to growl as he sauntered off to pick a spot closer to the fire. She shook her head and sighed again. Troublesome…

Leaning her spear against the wall next to her table, she moved a few things about without accomplishing anything. No. She had to go. It was time. Yes, it was time. She huffed and shook her head again. Her mother had wanted her to explore beyond the Whitewood, to learn firsthand of the world instead of merely hearing about it in stories. She had wanted Eaume to have her own experiences, not just those passed on by her mother. There was little for her here, it was true, but…no. It was time to go.

Eaume took a wolfskin bag, its gray-and-black fur blending in well near her blankets, and opened it up. She began organizing spearheads, both finished and unfinished, as well as small carvings and tools; these went into small pouches sewn into the inside “walls” of the bag. The three short spears she had finished were checked quickly and slid into the slots on the outside, along with two spare knives large enough (and sharp enough) to split a man from his groin to his skull. Furs and hides for wearing went into the main body of the bag, and spare leather undergarments as soft and supple as some of the furs were piled atop those. Small packs of food went to either side of them, separated by open pockets, and she began to roll up her blankets to put atop the lot. Snip chittered at her but she ignored him; he was probably just wondering there wasn’t anymore food for her to share with him. He wasn’t really even a companion, except that he followed her ever since she’d mended his paw and sewn his tail closed. Her pillow-furs went atop the blankets, and she went back to the desk. She paused as she looked upon the small box she had carved, every animal she’d encountered carved into it in some fashion and most of those helped or hunted at one time or another. Inside lay what little jewelry she possessed. She felt the ring of stones around her left ankle now, but it was the circle of large beads and flat stones at her neck that she touched; one of those, in the centre, was a piece of amber flat and broad flanked by two white stones shaped in identical fashion. She buried the box deep in her pack and continued gathering her things.

All told, the time spent on the effort was less time than it would take for her to get a fire going. Yet she hesitated. This was her home. She knew the areas just outside the Whitewood only a little, but she knew the Whitewood like the back of her hand. She closed the pack and picked up her spare spear, checking it before securing a thick leather cord to two points. The pack she hefted and settled, and the corded spear she slipped across her chest, the spear itself wedged between her and the pack. Slowly, she picked up her main spear. Yes, it was time to go. A last look around…she would leave the rugs here; just because she was journeying did not mean that she would never come back to this place, and she had no intention of being uncomfortable when she did. She picked up a bucket and began pouring water over the fire, much to Snip’s chagrin. She glanced at him but said nothing. He finally stalked off and slipped out of sight. Setting the bucket aside, she slipped out of the cave; through the tunnel; out the mouth and between the bushes. The spear in her left hand was used as a walking stick for now, but she wasn’t walking just yet. She shrugged her shoulders and looked around. Sniffing, she rolled her eyes toward the sky; a storm was coming, but it probably wouldn’t be here for several hours or perhaps another day.

One final look at the waterfall, bushes, and trees set against the rock. It was time to go.

Eaume’s canoe was well-hidden near the river. It held additional food, supplies, medicines, and waterskins. She strode swiftly and purposefully toward the Ordinuad, not looking back. Strength to overcome, wings to rise above…her mother had said that more than once when she was a child, and even when she was not. She had overcome her grief, though it had taken a long time, and now she must rise above her meager and humble beginnings. Was she an adventurer yet? She didn’t feel like one. It couldn’t be easy for adventurers, leaving home as they supposedly did and taking on impossible tasks. No, she was no adventurer; she was just a hunter, and perhaps now an explorer. Whatever she was, there was no point in delaying any longer; no point in looking back to wonder whether she should.

She could hear the river well before she saw it - rather, what was in the river. Through the trees, she glimpsed Greta and a few others giving one another space as they fished or bathed. Grizzle was lounging on the other size; here, it was some twenty or paces to the far bank. He raised his head as she emerged into the snow-covered clearing that bordered the river and called out, his greeting almost a roar. She offered him a smile; it seemed he could sense that she was leaving. Whether that was true or not, his gaze held her as she moved toward the river. She strode far from where the animals were busy, by chance raising her eyes to see a hawk watching her from a nearby tree. She could see the beavers working on a new damn some distance away; it would be finished before the week was out, by the look of it. Stopping at the river for a moment, she watched the beavers working. She’d always admired the beavers; perhaps it was because they were as hard-working as she was, or perhaps because they didn’t pay any mind to the rest of the woods. They did what they did and expected the other wildlife in the Whitewood to do the same.

Her ears twitched as she watched them. After a moment, she realized she was hearing something…footsteps? It was faint, almost imperceptible, but some of the raccoons on the other side were watching the woods behind Eaume warily. She had been just about to go uncover the canoe; now, she instead turned and watched the trees. She didn’t see anything yet, but Greta growled at something nearby. There it was…a shadow moving among the trees. She hefted the spear in her left hand, not going into a fighter’s crouch just yet but ready to do so should the need arise. In truth, she resembled nothing so much as a cat waiting to spring away or pounce on unwary prey - almost relaxed, but not quite.

The lynx who’d recently come to the Whitewood hissed suddenly, drawing Eaume’s eyes as it leapt from a tree and darted off deeper into the Whitewood. She rolled her shoulders a little and waited. Whoever - or whatever - was out there would show itself soon enough. She tightened her grip a little on her spear but made no other moves. She simply waited.
Word count: 2601

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