At breakfast, Dawn had to make an effort to keep from yawning. She wasn’t used to staying up late into the night and her recent late-night ramblings had not left enough time for sleep. Furtively, she felt for the signet ring in her dress pocket. Still there. She was afraid she would lose it, but couldn’t wear it openly. Her mother instructed her to work in the garden this morning, she had to weed and put some late squash seeds in.
Today, Sara and Bran were a bit livelier and squabbled at the breakfast table. Dawn was relieved to see them acting like normal children. She had found them almost uncannily well-mannered and quiet yesterday. Beran had to be a pretty strict father if the children were that well-behaved. Once again, she was glad that she would not have to marry him.
Though she was sad when she looked at her mother. With her light blond hair, deep blue eyes and regular features Elaine must have been a stunning beauty in her youth. Even now she was beautiful. Dawn had often wondered why Elaine had married the very average looking and, in her opinion, absolutely boring Cord. But after what her mother had told her yesterday she knew the reason. Elaine had been afraid of living alone and penniless with a small child. Understandable that she was glad to be rescued by a new husband.
Dawn was preoccupied, her thoughts on her plans for the coming night. She would take some oats and beans from the kitchen before she went. Herbs for tea and seasoning she would find in plenty in the forest. But she needed some kind of weapon. If she encountered any beasts in the forest, she couldn’t fight them barehanded. Regretfully she thought about the spell Entanglement she had seen in her skill list. Unfortunately, she had no skill points left.
But where to find a weapon? Should she take a kitchen knife? Cord had some knives in his workshop for his work as a carpenter, she remembered. She bit her lip remorsefully. It seemed the Trickster had chosen the right person for his blessing. Already she was turning into a thief. Nevertheless, she would take one of Cord’s knives with her. Better to be a thief than to be dead.
During the whole day Dawn was nervous and agitated, trying hard not to attract her mother’s attention. Alternately, she felt excited, sad, scared and hopeful. In the end she couldn’t wait for the night. It would be an adventure! Her first time in the forest at night. And being on her own with no one telling her what to do. No more cleaning the cottage or minding children.
The day seemed to drag on endlessly, but finally, bedtime came. After everything had quieted down, Dawn slipped through the cottage like a ghost. She took some provisions from the kitchen and the quilt, blankets and linens from her dowry chest, grateful for her new storage ring. Without it, she would have only been able to take a fraction of the things she carried now.
After thinking about it for a little while, she took her new writing case out, laboriously wrote a short letter to her mother and placed it on the kitchen table.
I don’t want to marry Beran. Being his wife is not right for me. I’ve decided to leave Greenriver, please don’t try to find me.
Afterwards, she entered Cord’s workshop and started searching for his knives. Rejecting several fine ones with delicate blades, she found a sturdy blade with a strong handle at last. This one would do.
Giddy with excitement Dawn sneaked through the village and out into the forest. The well-known path seemed strange and silent to her in the darkness. Walking steadily, she reached Marja’s cottage. ‘I can’t even say goodbye to Marja.’ She thought a little sadly.
Some time later she reached the little clearing with the forest pond. Though still excited, she started to feel a little anxious out in the open at night. She started at every rustle in the bushes and thought she saw a pair of yellow eyes in the shrubbery. Desperately gripping her knife, she told herself to calm down. ‘Some heroic adventurer I am,’ she thought ruefully, ‘scared of my own shadow, most likely.’
Rounding the pond, she searched for the deer-trail leading to her hidden valley. Her dress caught in the bushes and she yanked impatiently at her skirt. ‘I should have changed into my father’s old clothes, trousers would be a lot more practical here,’ she thought.
Dawn located the trail and started to follow it in the direction of the valley, still gripping her knife. In the darkness it took her a lot longer to cover the distance, but finally she arrived at the passage and started the climb down.
When she arrived at the bottom of the valley at last, she suddenly felt very tired. She sat down on a boulder next to the little creek and listened to the burble of the water. She would have loved to lie down and sleep for a little while, but it felt unsafe out here in the open. She would have to find or build herself some shelter. Sighing, she stood up and started to walk along the water. Halfway down the valley she encountered a weeping willow. It was a large tree, the boughs hanging down almost to the ground. Dawn slipped through the branches and saw the ground beneath was dry and littered with leaves. She took out her father’s dark green cloak, laid it on the ground, wrapped herself in a blanket and lay down on it. Time to get some sleep.
Dawn opened her eyes slowly. As she turned around she looked up into the green branches of the willow tree. Abruptly, she sat up. She was in her hidden valley!
Early morning birds were singing and calling all around her. Mist was rising up in patches from the ground as she left the shelter of the willow tree. Damp and shivering in the cool morning breeze Dawn bent down, scooped a handful of water from the creek, and froze. A short distance ahead of her, on the other side of the water stood a big cat. Its gleaming grey fur was speckled with golden and silver flecks. Bright yellow eyes looked at Dawn lazily, almost amused, for a long moment. Tufted ears trembling slightly, the cat slowly turned around and with a little flip of its tail vanished up the slopes in the underbrush.
Dawn slowly let out the breath she had been holding. Her knife was lying with her blanket under the tree. From now on, she would have to remember to take it with her at all times. “Well, I’ve got a new neighbour I guess,” she murmured. At least the cat hadn’t been aggressive. What a beautiful animal. She had never seen anything comparable. Maybe it was the same one that had led her to the hidden valley last Templeday.
'She’s silent like a ghost', Dawn thought, 'I’m going to call her a ghost cat'. Shaking herself, she bent down to the creek, scooped up some water and drank. She ducked back into the shelter of the willow tree to grab her cloak and blanket and took out some bread from her storage ring. Turning around she munched contentedly on her bread. First, she would follow the creek to the end of the valley and then she would explore the slopes.
Sweaty and dirt stained, Dawn paused halfway up the slope. The valley sides were steep and she had to climb up over boulders and fallen tree trunks. At least it had earned her the Climbing skill, she thought. Pulling herself up on a big rock, she saw there was a little hollow behind, sheltered by overhanging rock from above. It was not exactly a cave and she suspected the hollow might get wet in heavy rain, but it was shelter of a kind. There was enough space for her bedding under the overhang and she could build a fire on the rock in front of it. The ground was hard, but if she collected grass and leaves as a basis for under her bedding it would do.
Well, best to start now. But first she would change into trousers. Freshly attired, she rolled up her trouser legs, pulled her belt tight and stuck her knife in at the back. She retraced her way back to the bottom of the valley and started collecting grass and leaves for her bedding.
Food was going to be a problem in the coming days, Dawn thought. She had taken some bread, oats, potatoes and beans from home, besides some jars of preserves and marmalade. That wasn’t going to last her very long. She would need to find fresh food. Maybe she could fish in the river or the pond in the forest. The creek in her valley was too small and shallow for fish, she would have no luck there. Or she could try and trap some rabbits. She had heard the hunters in her village talking of sling traps but had never really paid any attention.
Dawn spent her day collecting some herbs for tea, building a firepit on the rock before her shelter and building up her bedding with leaves grass and brush. She placed a thick blanket on top and proudly stared at her new bed. It looked a little rough, but it would do well enough.
She placed some dry brush and twigs in the firepit and struck a spark with the Firestarter. Shortly after, her little campfire crackled merrily. Dawn took her pot and once again climbed down to the creek to collect some water. It was difficult to climb up the slope again, carrying the full pot. ‘This is impractical,’ Dawn thought, ‘I need a water flask.’
She brewed some nettle tea and put some potatoes into the embers after the fire had burned down. Drinking her tea, she took stock of herself. Well, she was sweaty and dirty, her hands were scratched and she sported some bruises. ‘Hey, I can do something about that!’ she thought to herself. She focused, pointed at her left hand and said. “Nurture.” Fascinated, she stared as her scratches slowly healed over, leaving healthy skin behind. She repeated it for her right hand and got a level up in Nurture afterwards, along with a new notification.
Nature’s Shadow Level 2
You have 2 free stat points to distribute.
Delighted, Dawn checked her status.
Name Dawn Trakam
Path Nature’s Shadow
HP 100/100 HP Regen 10 HP/Min
MP 22/120 MP Regen 8 MP/Min
SP 100/100 SP Regen 10 SP/Min
Strength 7 Will 11
Vitality 10 Perception 11
Endurance 10 Intelligence 12
Agility 11 Wisdom 8
Dexterity 9 Charisma 7
Free stat points: 2
Free skill points: 0
Nurture Level 2
Shadow Play Level 2
Dark Sight Level 3
Cleaning Level 1
Sewing Level 1
Climbing Level 1
She put her free stat points into Strength and Dexterity, pleased with her progress.
Carefully, she rolled her potatoes out of the embers with a little stick and started to eat. She felt she had not done too badly for her first day. Though it was still very early in the evening, after her meal Dawn was dead tired. The shadows were lengthening and dusk would fall soon. It had been a long and exciting day for her. Rolling up in her blanket, she wondered a little guiltily what her mother was doing right now. Was she scared? Or angry with her for running away?
When Dawn opened her eyes early in the next morning, she was greeted with a dismal sight. It was raining and grey clouds hung deeply stacked over the little valley. The wind had picked up and she was drizzled with raindrops that somehow managed to get under the little overhang. Grumbling, she peeled herself out of her blankets. Grabbing her pot, she started the climb down to collect water and find some dry fuel for her fire. She needed some hot tea!
Straightening up from the creek with a pot full of water she turned around and suddenly found herself in front of a black wolf. Staring at her with slitted red eyes, body lowered, it snarled at her, ears pressed down to its head.
Startled, Dawn dropped the pot, the water spilling out around her feet. She fumbled for the knife in her belt and grabbed it desperately. Frightened almost out of her wits, she suddenly realized the wolf - or was it a beast? - hadn’t come alone. Behind the black animal, several other wolves were slinking down the slope in her direction.
This is my first time writing a story. I'm still learning as I go along, so there may be some hiccups down the road. I am a voracious reader myself and especially adore science fiction and fantasy. Recently I have discovered the genre of LITRPG for myself and it fascinates me.
Please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you.