I knelt down by the babbling brook and sighed as my pack slid from my shoulders. It had been a quiet day’s walk, this one, the miles eaten up underfoot as I strode diligently forward. Head in the clouds, my Da had always said, as he’d watched me stride across the small fields of our village.
Such small fields, I remembered fondly. Such different times.
I hadn’t seen my village in many a moon, but I had something… different. A mission. A purpose.
My hand rose unbidden to stroke at the amulet I kept safely tied around my neck. Even pressed against my flesh – uncannily so – it remained ice-cold to the touch.
Minutes passed before I shook myself free of the meditative trance I found myself in, and I laughingly chided myself for not starting on the camp sooner.
‘You’d find yourself with a fungal nail infection near Cheltenham,’ I chuckled, picturing the gleaming, lavish city I’d travelled through at the beginning of my journey and the haughty, tall denizens who called it home.
Well, home on this side of the sea at least.
I lit a small fire for my dinner and rolled the smoothest rock I could find over for a place to perch next to it. It would probably also serve as my pillow, I noted glumly. Sleeping rough had started as a difficult thing to do, I recalled. Now it was just a sad, accepted fact of my life.
I shook out my aching legs, fondly remembering the way my mother used to rub them after a long day out in the fields. ‘How can compression therapy help with foot pain?’ I’d asked her once, with the arrogance of youth.
She’d laughed, bless her, and told me to mind my manners. Sure enough, my legs had hurt much less when I woke up the next day. I practically skipped out of our little hole, into the pastures.
I frowned as I remembered that happier time. Had it been kindness, her massages, or manipulation? What she had to do to force me back out onto the field?
My fingers, unknowingly, stroked the amulet again.