The wandering way

island-curved-from-above

Photo via VisualHunt.com

A quick author’s note – a fit man can walk up to 96 miles in a twenty four hour period and elves in this world only need four hours of sleep, so keep that in mind when you see the numbers in this.

Sheridan sighed as he sat down on one of the many large white rocks along the edge of the path. He rubbed his calves. His traveling companion looked at him. “You grow tired, human. I thought you had the energy of an elf.”

It was the same joke as always. Sheridan rolled his eyes. “Your body outdoes mine every time, Rauvelore. You know that. Besides, we’ve also gone, what, forty miles already?”

Rauvelore chuckled. “Fifty three. Only seven more before we reach our destination. Surely you can last that long.”

Sheridan glanced at the sky. It was getting dark. “Let’s go. The sooner we get there the more sleep I get.” They set off again.

The last seven miles seemed to take an eternity, but finally they reached their next camping spot. Rauvelore got a fire going and Sheridan helped put up the tent. He filled his water bottle with the clear, fresh water.

Their meal was simple, and accompanied by a drink Rauvelore gave him that restored everything he’d lost during the day. It was both bitter and salty, so Sheridan chased it with water.

“You should go get some sleep, Sheridan. I will give you an extra hour since it is close to midnight,” Rauvelore said.

“Sounds good to me,” Sheridan said. “Good dreaming.”

Sheridan crawled into his tent and wrapped up in his sleeping bag. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. His dreams were haunted by the face of the woman he’d loved, the woman he’d killed by his own stupidity.

Emmi was everything Sheridan wanted in life. She wasn’t that pretty physically, but her soul was so vibrant it didn’t matter. It had been her laugh that attracted him to her in the first place. That and her high intelligence. The two of them met at a party and hit it off. She’d given him her number just before the night ended and he’d called her the next day and set up their first official date.

They’d been together three years when he proposed on Midsummer, a holiday the elves had taught the humans about when they emerged from their isolation. She accepted happily, jumping into his arms and kissing him quite thoroughly. They were so happy. She started planning the wedding, which was set for the following Midsummer.

The only blot on their happiness was his alcoholism. He’d started drinking when he was sixteen, a defense against his parents’ fights. It helped him go to sleep regardless of how loud they were. Then it helped him cope with the depression after his mother killed his father and went to jail for it. He was eighteen and didn’t need to go into foster care, but his two younger sisters did since the courts considered him an unfit guardian for them because of his age and financial status.

He continued drinking heavily as he got a job in the finance department of a local bank, went to college on their dime, and graduated with honors – all while drunk off his ass. He’d risen rapidly until – at twenty four – was named the youngest bank manager for a small, newly opened branch in West Virginia, which was where he met Emmi.

Emmi was forever trying to get him to quit drinking. He would try for her, but he kept going back to it when he had a rough time. Finally, one night, he was driving drunk though Emmi didn’t know. His reflexes were greatly reduced and when a car stopped suddenly in front of him he couldn’t stop in time. They slammed into the back of it at full speed. Emmi died instantly while Sheridan escaped with a few facial scars and a load of guilt that still weighed him down. He hadn’t taken a drop of alcohol since.

Rauvelore woke him the next morning, ignoring the dark circles and the haunted look in Sheridan’s eyes. They packed up and got back on the road. Four hours later, they reached a steep hill. “What I want you to see is at the top of this. It is not an easy climb,” Rauvelore said. “No human I have brought here has been able to get more than halfway up. Do you think you can get all the way to the top?”

Sheridan assessed the grade of the path. “I won’t know until I try.” They started climbing.

Sheridan reached the halfway point and wanted to stop. But he also didn’t want to be another failure for Rauvelore. So he kept quiet and continued to climb.

It took three hours to reach the top. By then, Sheridan was exhausted. Rauvelore waited for him to catch his breath before he gently took Sheridan’s shoulders and turned him. Sheridan stood straight and looked out over the countryside.

His jaw dropped. What he saw was a beautiful, hilly land with a long, white, curvy road winding between each hill. “What is this place?” Sheridan asked in a soft voice.

“This is the Long Road, something every Wanderer follows at least once in his life,” Rauvelore said, his voice equally as quiet. “He does not do it alone, though. He goes with a companion, a friend to keep him from feeling the weight of loneliness.” He paused. “I have tried to bring other elves here with me, but none of them have felt right. I am unique among my kind because I am more comfortable around humans. So I started bringing your kind with me. You are the first to reach this place.”

It took Sheridan a minute to process everything. “You consider me a friend?”

Rauvelore nodded. “I know your grief, Sheridan. I too lost a loved one to a terrible mistake.” He paused, his eyes the color of the ocean meeting Sheridan’s. “Will you walk the Long Road with me? To see what’s on the other end?”

Sheridan closed his eyes, thinking of everything held left behind to take up the life of a vagabond, following Rauvelore all over the world. They’d been together for the past three years, and the connection between them was very strong. Sheridan opened his eyes. “Yes, my friend. I will walk the Long Road with you.” Rauvelore smiled and the two of them took their first steps on a brand new adventure.

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