We have a winner from last week’s book giveaway puppy-naming contest!
Resigned to the fact he had no choice but to continue on with the elf couple, Drace decided to make the best of it, and began to take an interest in the scenery. Although much greener, the plains they traveled reminded Drace of pictures of the savanna in Africa. It was rich grassland dotted with trees and the occasional outcrop of dark grey rock. In places, the grass reached almost to the bottom of his stirrups.
At one point Drace halted and visually searched around him, perplexed at the void of animal life. He had seen the signs: scattered manure piles, hoof prints of some cloven hoofed animal, even a sandy spot where something had wallowed, but nothing alive was close by. Where are all the animals when there is so much grazing opportunity?
Drace noticed that Vashti and Ka’Ril had also stopped and sat watching him, probably thinking he was going to run off, so he asked Pride to catch up. Just where the hell do they think I’m going to go? he wondered with a pensive frown on his face.
An hour later, the three picked up a trail that became a faint dusty road.
It was mid-afternoon when the threesome stopped on a hill. Ka’Ril looked at Drace and pointed west. “There, do you see?”
Drace squinted against the sun’s glare barely able to make out what looked like a stone fortress far in the distance. “I think so. Is that where
Vashti kicked her horse into a canter. “Yes, my Lord. Let us hurry.”
The sun was low over the horizon when they came to a well-traveled road and started to pass small farms and homes. Drace decided maybe it really wasn’t a dream. It’s almost a fairytale. Although he wasn’t ready to ditch the dream theory just yet.
Drace glanced at each farm and building they passed and was amazed at the broad time-scale of appearance. He couldn’t place a specific time
period but guessed most were from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. The exception was the clothing on the few people he saw. There were no modern
conveyances or wire fences, no electric lines, nothing to indicate the modern
era. They passed one farm where a middle-aged man was cultivating corn with a draft horse. He waved at them in a friendly manner as they galloped by.
They trotted through a large village near the fortress. The town was
bustling with people about their work and children playing along the streets. Greetings were called to the two elves as they passed. As they neared the castle, the road became paved with cobblestones. Pride’s shoes striking the stones echoed against the buildings.
Once they left the village, Drace could see the stronghold clearly for the first time. It sat on top of a large, high hill. There were several orchards at the base of the hill, planted far back from the sides of the road.
The long incline was covered in good grass, similar to Kentucky bluegrass, and wildflowers. Several children were playing, chasing each other among a group of sheep that grazed loose and contented outside the high outer curtain wall. The open area, while doubling as pasture, also made sure no one could approach without being seen by men upon the battlements. Four such armed men watched their arrival from the curtain wall, while two more stood outside the outer gatehouse, all armed with swords strapped around their waists, and wearing chain mail and armor.
Drace didn’t know about being in ‘another plane,’ but did feel as if he had stepped through time. Drace looked up, eyeing the metal portcullis warily as they were waved on through the immense gates.