That’s how I found myself outside of Noria the following day, trudging uphill in the stifling heat on a dirt road. Again, I was presented with an environment I had never experienced before, but this time I was not as overwhelmed with wonder. I was trekking into a completely foreign wilderness, and for whatever reason, I was unfazed and uninspired. Before me was a vast expanse of green hills, with more trees than I had ever seen before. This place made me realize just how arid my homeland was.
Even so, it was hot here as well. Though the trees provided shade, the road itself was in direct sunlight. Perhaps it was the oppressive heat that dampened my enthusiasm. I was particularly grateful for my non-synthetic clothing, which stunk less when drenched in sweat.
Barry had told me of a mushroom dealer, who in turn told me of a cattle herder named Terry who grew the food of wisdom and sold it to anyone determined to make the journey. The dealer had made it a business to act as courier between Terry and Noria–Terry himself refused to go to the city–but I didn’t want to deal with any middle man. I wanted to speak with someone who knew how to grow the mushrooms, a secret that no one in Noria seemed to care about.
As I shifted the strap of the bag from one sweaty shoulder to the next, I began to wish that Hope had taught me her technique, and perhaps provided me with seeds. As it was, I was forced to walk. The bag contained the basic necessities of travel, and also a synthetic worm blanket I had purchased for sleeping outside. Several times throughout the day I was convinced that the wounds on my hands had begun to bleed again, but it was only the moistness of my palms. It took eight long hours to reach Terry’s farm, and by the end I was thoroughly exhausted.
I met him at the top of a hill overlooking his modest home and his cow fields. The house was small and wooden. It appeared to have been made from entire trees shaved of their branches and stacked on top of each other in a criss-cross fashion, simultaneously giving it a very round and very square look.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said. He was a short, pale man, in the Norran fashion, with very curly brown hair and small eyes with overly large pupils. Unlike the Norran fashion, he kept his beard, scraggly unkempt as it was. His accent was strange–high-pitched–and it took me a moment to understand what he had said.
“You knew I was coming?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said.
Had he foretold my coming somehow? It was easy to believe that the mushrooms might have given him special insight into the future. Perhaps I had much more to learn from him than I had supposed.
“Ever since I noticed you at the bottom of the hill. You walk slowly.”
“It’s so hot today,” I explained. “The heat has drained my strength.”
“Have you got wheels instead of feet?” He bent slightly to check, as if he thought this was as likely an idea as any.
All I could think to say was, “No.”
“Then why not walk through the forest?”
This is an excerpt from my novel, The Last Years of the Third Sword. If youwant to read more, check it out on smashwords. There is a free sample, and the actual cost is only $1.99! As always, let me know what you think.