Wind... It was blowing me right into the face, nearly tearing off the hood. Everything around seemed to be smashed and rush past me, never even giving a chance to catch a line or a color. I was running along a path that ran through the valley in some snaky windings.
Birds were singing somewhere far and away... It was spring, which came to make the people of the Highlands happy with its bright colors, sounds and scents. The mountain snowcaps that had got so fat through winter were getting thinner and thinner falling into the valleys with fast and noisy streams.
However, now it all seemed far in the distance. All the sounds appeared muffled, the smells got mixed, and it was next to impossible to hear any of them clearly. And I had no time for that, actually. I was in a hurry to complete Mammy’s special commission – to deliver a special elixir to Truvle, a blacksmith who lived on the outskirts of a small town near Karun. And I had to bring it to him as soon as possible.
The elixir belonged to the category of fillers, which means it could deliver magic or certain properties to other things. And this time it was definitely to be used for some weapons. The thing was that I did not have the time to ask what power exactly Nargara had filled it with – she had another customer, and if I had interfered with any questions that would drive Mammy really mad.
Okay, I could ask Truvle, then, so I decided to move even faster. Well, at least it would have seemed faster to anyone around.
For me, though, everything seemed to be freezing and turning into a slow and heavy mass, while in my temporary space, I was moving quite well.
Fast walking is a rare gift among Elses, and Gods were definitely generous when decided to endow me with it (don’t even know what made them think I deserved it). I have no least idea how I do it, and it doesn’t matter, to be honest. Most citizens have already got used to seeing me show up so brightly and unexpectedly in the streets of Karun, and only those who met me for the first time would have their jaws drop and whispered, “Not even each supreme sorcerer is up to this!”
And this fast walking helped me deliver things fast, moving around all the parts of the Highlands, which earned our family a stable living.
We lived away from the big world, out in the cut, you could say. But it was right here, in the mountains of Elisar, where nature brought together all the rarest of riches. Funny animals that you would never see anywhere else, galloped on the stones, and the hillsides were covered with herbs to be found nowhere. A perfect place for a wise witch, as Nargara noted once. And she was really wise and experienced, just take my word for it – she knew how and when to collect herbs, she could feel when the time was just ripe and the herbs were in their full strength, and she remembered hundreds of secret details: what to mix with what, how to cook it, what was to be air-dried and what – sun-dried, and finally how to prepare elixirs with exactly the properties she needed. I didn’t really fancy all that boring stuff and always had trouble staying patient while making another complex thing. Alchemy was definitely not my cup of tea. Taking pains sitting over books and measuring all the tiniest components for a potion – that was killing! However, I always admired that persistence coupled with precision in Nargara.
My sister, even though more patient than myself, was neither particularly eager to learn that important yet tiresome skill. Mammy would fight with us while trying to drive at least something into our stupid heads, always saying just one thing – we were the only two troubles that had made her head so gray. By the way, Mammy does not seem like turning gray any time soon, unless Elcha and I help her, so to say.
My nature, as my family said, matches my hair – fire-red, riotous, with large curls falling down to... well, just below the waist. And even although in the morning my caring sister helped me have it all braided, yet some unmanageable strands got out spreading proudly over my shoulders.
Elcha and I resemble each other, just like two people related – olive skin, dark and slightly raised eyebrows, and plush lips. The only thing that is different is the eyes. My sister has them bright green, the color of emerald, while I have an iris that features a rare turquoise shade, which offers a sharp contrast to my red curls.
The appearance was somewhat unusual for the World of Water, yet rather common for the Highlands. Here, unlike the rest of the world, all types of redheads prevailed, so my sister and myself never stood out of the crowd.
In the south, just like in the capital, Highlanders were often called “the Saarts”, which could be roughly translated from Ancient something like “burning” or “flamy”. And there, down in the south, it did not always sound like a compliment...
Survival takes warmth in a cold winter, while through a hot summer it is coolness that saves. That made locals respect the kind of magic that could offer them a comfortable life. Southern Elses appreciated the Ice Water skills, whereas the northern ones valued Burning. And people developed numerous fables and tales about it, and even more, beyond any imagination. Women of the South mocked those from the North, getting something similar in return; and even men would not miss a chance to crack a joke.