Tobih was able to talk the Pact into letting us go quickly. I was told by Tobih that he and Angel had thoroughly went through the plan with their strategists. When asked what our pilgrimage was for, he only mentioned to them that it was personal, but my life depended on kneeling down at the gods’ past home. The humans seemed to understand, but were still wary. The rest of the races that had joined thought it was nothing but foolish. It was expected, but it wasn’t going to deter me from going.
With a few more talks with those in command, we were eventually granted passage. The Pact was already sending people out to create camps all over Orr. They gave us the information on each one, telling us that our help would be invaluable, especially in delivering messages from one camp to the other if we happened to choose their safe routes. It sounded like the obvious choice. It seems that they were looking to set up a lot more and needed help burning undead after clearing them out of strategic locations. Any help Ventari’s Refugees could provide would be worth letting us free into the dead lands.
So we were on the road again. We planned our first stop to be at a Pact camp. It was just at the entrance of where the first part of once sunken land would greet us. We were told that we would know the location when we saw it; it was supposed to be an Orrian wall structure with a doorway through it. The only way around it would be through the water, so we couldn’t miss it.
We crossed a small bridge over marshy land. It still looked like the jungle here, but the smell betrayed it. It was like the smell of rotted wood, salt water, and the musky smell of mold. Somehow, I was finding myself becoming used to the smell I had originally despised so much.
“We should take a break here,” Tobih told us and stopped as soon as he was across the bridge, “And by here, I mean about a few hundred feet forward.” He pointed out the direction. I could see a broken spire of a building peaking over rocks and trees.
“We’ve barely gone anywhere,” I pointed out, “Shouldn’t we cover more ground first? At least make it to the Pact camp?”
He shook his head, “It’s not to rest. We should take a break here because this is last patch of green before the rotten land.” It was then that we realized the importance of where we were standing. This island, full of trees and grass and shrubs, would be the last living land we would see for a while. Ragnvaldr took my hand and we walked around the island with the other two. Even Angel, who was usually uncaring, seemed to be taking in the sights. At least she wasn’t complaining, which lead me to that conclusion.
Tobih took mine and Angel’s hands as well when we crested the hill. I saw the spire in full; it was covered in ivy and flowers. The limbs from the trees hung low, full of rope-like vines. Green and yellow grass reached up towards the middle of my calf and moss-covered boulders lay on either side of us.
“It’s really beautiful for the last place to see life,” I commented out loud in wonder.
“Behind that boulder there lies the dead country, but you wouldn’t think it looking at this,” Tobih replied but didn’t bother letting go of our hands long enough to point out the direction. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know where we were headed anyway.
Ragnvaldr sat down in the grass where he was standing and closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath and coughed it back up near immediately. “This horrid stench betrays it.” My thoughts exactly. He looked up to us, “But this life is fresh and I can smell that, too. Maybe one day the rest of Orr can follow this island’s example.”
Letting go of their hands, I nodded and looked around again before walking to examine the broken spire. I ran my hand across the cracked stone. It had been eroded enough to nearly become smooth. The arches looked like windows; I wondered where it had come from. I had only seen drawings of Orrian architecture but now I could see it in person. It was beautiful and ornate, not unlike the buildings in Ascalon before the searing.
“I don’t know, the land might be too far gone for the spirit to come back to it,” Angel voiced her opinion, “but the contrast between Orr and this island may be just as beautiful.” She placed her free hand on her hip. She hadn’t let go of Tobih’s hand the entire time and it didn’t look as if she planned to. Tobih smiled at her. “What? You have a problem?” She raised her voice and looked away from his smile, which only made him smile a little more.
“Just thought it sounded a little unlike you,” He patted her on the arm, seeing as he couldn’t reach her shoulder. Angel faced him again and playfully smirked.
I sat down next to Ragnvaldr and leaned against his shoulder. “This island feels a little like hope, doesn’t it?”
“That it does.” He placed his around my shoulder and held me close. Ragnvaldr planted a single kiss on my forehead and went back to his communion with the land. As a ranger, I knew that his magic lay with the land, but I didn’t know just how much magic he used from it. The only person I had seen actively use magic was Tobih; I realized I didn’t know as much about Ragnvaldr or Angel’s abilities.
It was Ragnvaldr. If I needed to know, I could always ask him. “How important is the land to your magic?”
“I chose not to hone my magical skills,” I thought he may say something like that and it seemed I was correct, “They seem like unnecessary tricks when it comes down to hunting game, the only thing I’ve needed my bow for before this journey. I trust the spirits to guide my arrow and that’s all I’ve ever needed.
The land is important to me spiritually, though. I feel a connection to it, to every place we’ve been. It speaks to me and tells me stories no Skaald ever could.”
To show I understood, I nodded along with his words. His words held his own honor and I found myself respecting his decision this way more than I may have any other.
Tobih hovered over me, meaning Angel was there, too. “I hate to say, but we should probably get going now.” He held out a hand to me. I took it and he pulled me up. As I dusted off my skirt, he held his hand out to Ragnvaldr and helped him up as well. With that, we rounded the corner to another bridge and saw before us the ruins of Orr.