Rosta was her father’s name, Noel explained, and Jora was her tribe’s name. After that, she didn’t say anything. The sun was well and truly out now, and the forest was humid as hell. It didn’t help that we were carrying two burning sticks inches from our faces.
I expressed my sympathy for Noel. It must have been hard growing up, listening to those stories. Noel said it was okay. Her father had died like that when she was too young to remember. Apparently, that meant she had been around ten years old. Getting used to elf timescales was going to be difficult.
Noel continued. The Jora tribe was a medium sized tribe, which commanded a modest amount of respect among the tribes of the Plains of Serenity. Their most prominent members were Noel’s grandfather, Starry, and an elderly woman named Vell. There was also Noel’s uncle, Sharun, who had raised Noel as a member of his own family. Sharun was also a great hunter, although not as great as Rosta had been. That said, as the greatest living hunter in the tribe, Sharun now wielded The Dragon’s Tooth.
Noel said her tribe wouldn’t mind a new young elf like me. Apparently, the various tribes were always shifting members around, usually as a result of partnerships—I assumed this was their version of marriage, although my ‘translation magic’ was calling it a partnership, for some reason. Noel’s own mother had come from a different tribe, the Bandari, and it was to this tribe that Noel had been planning to escape to if she failed the judgment of The Terrible.
There were a few things she told me to keep in mind at her tribe. Most of the able-bodied young men were expected to hunt, but a few of them went with the women and children to forage. Everybody helped out at the camp, and the camps themselves moved across the Plains of Serenity whenever the seasons shifted. I was probably going to have to join the foraging parties at first, although since I didn’t have a family, I would have to figure out my own living situation at the camp.
I told her not to worry, I could make my own tents and stuff. Honestly, having come from a modern time period, I was dreading having to live with the elves, but after hearing about their society, I figured it wouldn’t be so bad. It was like camping with people who insisted on not using modern technology. There had been a few of them at summer camp back home. They were a strange sort, but incredibly reliable and easygoing.
The forest was beginning to thin as the sun appeared right over our heads. The only remaining evidence of rain was the mud caked around my legs and the suffocating humidity in the air. Noel said her tribe’s camp wasn’t far.
The plains stretched far into the horizon as we finally left the forest. Noel practically sprinted the last half-mile to a camp full of wood and hide based tents. The camp was hidden in a rocky grove which made it difficult to spot on the plains. A few spear wielding men crouched near the rocks, probably able to survey miles of open plain for predators and prey from their position.
These men saw us coming and although they remained vigilant towards me, they smiled and waved when they saw Noel running towards them with a lit offering stick. They became less wary towards me when they realized I was also bringing back a blessing.
Low shouts went out from the guards. They ushered us into the camp while the spear-wielding men went back to their posts by the rocks.
“You’re back!” came a voice.
“Uncle!” said Noel.
A handsome middle-aged elf walked up to us. He had silver hair and silver eyes, just like Noel. One of his ears was missing its pointy end. A scar peeked out from under his brown tunic. He wore a bright smile that totally didn’t fit his rough, warrior-like demeanor. Noel had introduced him as Sharun, the uncle who had raised her like a daughter after her father’s death.
Sharun gave her a side hug, minding the offering stick with its flames. He asked her what had happened to her shoes, to which Noel said it was a long story.
“Tell me all about it while I walk you to the elder’s tent, then,” said Sharun, shifting his gaze towards me.
Noel introduced me to her uncle. She gave him the story we’d agreed on beforehand, and he seemed to sympathize with my situation. He said the elders would definitely let me stay, although they didn’t know any way to send me back to my tribe since even I didn’t know where my tribe was.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know there were other elven tribes outside the Plains of Serenity,” he said.
I didn’t know if there were any other tribes either, but I couldn’t tell him that. “If the rest of you are as kind and welcoming as Noel, I think things will work out somehow.”
We made it to a tent that was just a little bit larger than all the others. All the tents were made of large waxy leaves, small branches, and some animal hides. Some were lined with mud mixed with grass instead of large leaves.
The elders’ tent had a nice opening, decorated with stone beads hanging on threads made of plant fibers or sinew. Various flint tools and decorations lay on stones near the entrance, with a handful of elves sitting on the ground nearby. These elves were carefully handling two rocks, one in each hand. I recognized one type of rock as flint while the other seemed to be a hard stone which you could use to strike things. One of the elves struck her piece of flint as we watched, breaking it to make several smaller pieces of flint. She sifted through the pieces and brought one of the larger pieces above her head to inspect it in the sunlight.
Satisfied, she put it with the other pieces of flint in front of the elders’ tent, at which point she noticed us.
“Noel, you’re back!” said the female elf that had been working on the flint.
“Yes, elder Vell, I have received the blessing,” said Noel.
“Looks like you’ve received a little more than that,” said elder Vell as she raised an eyebrow at me. “I’m done knapping flint. How about we head over to your grandfather while you tell me about our guest?”