When the dawn finally came, they assessed the damage. One side of the wagon was cracked just a bit, and one of the front wheels was cracked, though still whole. Eve was also devastated to discover that most of the crates of their food had broken and were spilled across the ground. The local wildlife had already begun their feast in the darkness of the night, and now all that had been scattered was ruined.
“We should be able to make it into the next town,” Gregor said, after taking inventory of their remaining stock, “I hope. I can try and make some minor patches to the wheel, though we will need to see someone for proper repairs first thing once we reach the town.”
With no other options in sight, that hope would have to keep them rolling down the road up to Aphotica. Wasting no time nor daylight, the travelers packed up their gear, hopped into the wagon, and set off onto the road, this time at a much slower pace. Every bump on the trail felt as though it would do them in. Dago had returned with the sun and now lay sleeping in the back of the wagon.
“Do you think he could have helped us save your wagon?” Eve asked as she looked back at the sleeping wolf.
“I have no doubt,” Gregor spoke with confidence, “though you did perfectly well at it, yourself! I was impressed, weren’t you?”
That caught Eve off guard. He was impressed? The very thought of it helped to restore the confidence that was shaken the other night at the arrival of the fearsome-looking soldiers. She was getting better, a thought which she couldn’t help but smile at.
“You keep that up, Eve, and, soon, you’ll make a great warrior. Mark my words.”
“Thank you,” Eve said, “I had a great teacher.”
Gregor smiled warmly, and Eve laid back, taking in the beautiful forest all around them. The autumn leaves were beginning to take the place of the green, though much of the forest still held its emerald hue. The air carried hints of the crisp fall smell, even a few of the leaves had already begun to fall. Much remained the same, though the change was slowly growing.
The trunks and branches of the great trees formed barricades on either side of them that Eve wouldn’t have traded for the thickest stone walls of any fortress. As she watched the trees all around them, she saw both barrier and opening. At any moment, she could leap into the forest and disappear from anyone she liked. The thick shrubs could keep undesirables back, while she made her way from the branches of the trees. In addition, once she was within the safety of the canopy, she could climb higher or lower to avoid being seen or captured. She could even find food and rest up there. It was her safety, it was her home.
Suddenly, her daydreams were disrupted by a terrible crunching sound, followed by the wagon’s upper right side collapsing, bringing the entire wagon to a halt and jerking the oxen backward. The two animals cried out in surprise, and Gregor gripped onto the covering of the wagon itself to keep from falling off. Eve grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up until he managed to get himself softly down onto the ground. Eve followed and joined him in looking at what remained of their front right wheel. It had split in two.
“No,” Eve moaned.
“We’ll get it fixed,” Gregor assured, “we’ll just have to go into town, find a man to fix it, and bring him out here. I hate the idea of having to leave the wagon like this, yet it would seem we have little choice.”
At first, the idea sounded terrible to Eve, who did not like the idea of having to walk all the way to the next town, find a repairman, and bring him back to their wagon to watch him repair it.
She looked up to the heavens for a thought and found herself staring at the great canopy above them. Branches from the towering trees seemed to reach out to her, offering whatever help they could. Two didn’t need to go retrieve the repairman, one could do it, easily.
Dago was no longer inside but now stood beside her side with big, eager copper pieces that stared up at her with a great big smile.
“Stay here, Dago,” Eve commanded, gesturing at the ground with her hands. The wolf didn’t seem to get the message, but Eve already began to move towards the thicket of the forest.
“Eve?” Gregor spoke from behind her, “Where are you going?”
Eve gazed into the kingdom of trees, breathed in the smell of crisp leaves, and spoke with great confidence, “I’m going to get help, please wait for me here. I’ll be swiftest in the forest.”
Gregor cried out, “Eve, wait!” But it was too late, Eve let loose and leaped into the branches of the first tree she saw. Soon she was in her element, clambering up branches, hopping from one tree to another, free as a bird.
The branches of the trees stretched out like great arms reaching for each other, providing Eve with sturdy support for her climbing. In time, though, she descended to the forest floor once more and took off running on the soft ground. Keeping her course south, Eve knew she would have to run into the town sooner or later.
Deep down, she truly felt bad for abandoning Gregor like that, even in the pursuit of help. She also wondered if she should have at least taken the sword with her, even if it would have slowed her down. However, for the moment, Eve’s mind was enraptured by the hold of the forest. All she could hear in her mind were the birds calling, the branches and leaves rustling, and the steady sound of her breath as she made great strides over root and shrub, creek and stone.
Like a deer, she shot through the woods until, in what felt like almost no time at all, she came to the outskirts of a fine town. Eve smiled proudly, she had probably saved them a great deal of time by traveling ahead.