The creature crept up to Robin as he lay unconscious in the bed of flowers. Its sleek, lizard-like body snaked through the grass. A yellow orb of yellow light flickered next to its head. The creature snapped at the light, only for it to reappear over by the forest. It lept toward the light. A small explosion caught the creature on fire, but did not harm the surrounding plants. The creature lay dead and charred on the forest floor.
The orb of light floated back over to the companions and took the form of a fairy. She was one foot tall and had butterfly wings. She chuckled.
"Silly boys. You should know what sleepgale flowers look like. It's in the name." She chuckled again. "Oh, that's right. You are all still asleep."
The fairy held up a small hand that emitted a faint blue light. With a flash, they were teleported some fifty feet away and underground to a hidden hut. It was a quaint little place, despite having dirt walls. Roots were used as shelves for many vials, vases, and cups that held an array of different ingredients. The place was well lit by many floating orbs of yellow light.
The fairy muttered to herself as she rummaged through the many ingredients to make an awakening potion. In no time at all, she held up a bottle triumphantly. She poured a little bit of the substance in each of the companions' mouths and in no time at all they were rousing.
"There we go," she said. "Up and at 'em!"
Robin propped himself up on one elbow, half his face drooping. He felt his strength drain and had to lay back down.
Kaji looked around in awe. "Forest Mother."
"That's what they call me," the fairy said. "But my name is Elea."
"My brother," Gwen said, motioning to Robin. "He was poisoned by a grendel."
"Oh, that's an easy fix," Elea said.
The fairy got right to work whipping up a potion. She coated a long, sharp thorn in the gooey substance and pricked him in the shoulder. Robin felt tingly all over, then the numbness in his face, leg, and arm vanished.
"How can I ever repay you?" Robin asked.
"No need to. I can tell you have elven blood. Elves and fairies were close friends, you know."
"How did we get here?" Allon asked, looking around at the mysterious place.
"You had wandered into a patch of sleepgale flowers. They, well, put you to sleep as the name suggests. Then this croen approached you all."
"Croen?" Robin asked.
"Yes," she said. "They look like crocodiles almost, and work for the King of Castle Kor. Anyway, I killed the nasty thing and brought you guys here."
Robin shivered. He thought for sure they lost Kor's hunters in the fog. He imagined that creepy thing stalking through the trees watching them sleep.
Elea chuckled and did a flip in the air. "Anyway, I'm so happy to meet someone of elven blood. Please tell me all about your people."
Robin felt bad to disappoint the friendly fairy. "I'm afraid I can't do that. I know nothing about the elven side of my family. The only thing I know is that I am the last elf, the rest had been hunted and killed by the creatures you call croen."
Elea's face became uncharacteristically grim. "In that case, you must be in grave danger."
"We are," Robin said, looking at his friends. "In fact, we should get going right now. Thank you for all your help."
The fairy became happy once more. "I can help you even more! That's why they call me the Forest Mother after all. Here, where are you going?"
Elea's hand lit up a dull blue. Robin's vision was engulfed by the light. When his sight returned, he saw a monstrous wall made of granite at his side. In front of him stood a group of men dressed in leather armor. They wore belts with brass buckles, each with a tree insignia engraved on it. Each man was armed with a bow and sword.
One man stepped forth out of the group. He was particularly tall and handsome with long honey gold hair.
"Hi Robin," the man said. "We've been expecting you."
Gwen rubbed his eyes. "What? Where are we? Who are you?"
"Welcome to Harpshire," the handsome man said. "I am general Alex."
Allon rubbed his head. "How did we get here?"
Alex shrugged. "Some men saw a flash of light and called the guards over to investigate. Then you all just appeared here. I've seen stranger things."
Kaji smiled and looked towards the clear blue sky. "Thank you, Forest Mother."
"Anyway," Alex said. "Quinteth has been expecting you. Follow me."
The other guards went back to their stations as Alex led the companions through Harpshire. It was a strange place. Besides the huge granite wall that surrounded the city, people lived side by side with nature. Trees littered the city to the point that Harpshire could be considered a forest. Instead of growing corn and grain like Robin did, farmers raised domesticated deer and harvested fruit off trees.
They came to a sturdy building made from three living oak trees lined in a row. Widows of crystal Amber were placed here and there through the roots. Big double doors made from dead branches and decorated with acorn tops marked the entrance to this fine building.
And there was Quinteth. The old, grizzled wizard was lounging in the shade of the oaks puffing on a pipe. Alex saluted, made a report, then took his leave.
"Ah, Robin," Quinteth said. "Long time no see. Come have a seat. I see you brought some friends with you."
Robin sat on a thick tree root across from the wizard. "Yes, I would like you to meet Prince Allon of Seymour and Kaji of Tonak. And you know my brother, Gwen."
Quinteth puffed on his pipe a good while before speaking again. "And do you trust these men?"
"With my life," Robin said quickly and without regret. "They have already saved my life a few times, in fact."
"Good. We will need a few fine men to get to Anhona, eh?"
"What?" Robin said. He knew it was impolite but the shock of the wizard's statement hit hard. "We're going to Anhona?"
Allon, on the other hand, looked excited. "A true adventurer would never give up this opportunity. Count me in."
Kaji shared the same enthusiasm. "As long as it may serve my people, I'm in as well."
Quineth chuckled. "This little trip will serve your people quite good. In fact, it will serve all of Nythanore. What of you, Gwen?"
"Wherever my brother goes, I follow."
Quinteth jumped up with surprising energy for his age. "Alright then! We've got ourselves a fine team. Come back here one hour after dusk and I will elaborate further."
With that, the wizard skipped off, leaving Robin with many unanswered questions once again.
The farmers of Harpshire were glad to tend to Robin and his friends. They sat in a nice spot shaded by a short old elm. Ripe fruits and roasted deer with gravy was served on waxed wood plates. Robin pushed a grape around on his plate as he stared at the elm's shaggy foliage.
Gwen elbowed his brother. "You better eat before we have to go out again. Who knows when we'll be able to have another meal like this."
Robin sighed. "I know, but that's the problem. We come all this way to a safe haven, only to find out we have to leave and go on another dangerous trip again."
"I envy you," Allon chimes in. "The only thing I have to look forward to is becoming the King of Seymour. You have adventures to go on, people to meet, places to see. Ah, that's the life."
"Easy for you to say," Robin said. "You're an experienced huntsman. I don't know why we have to go to Anhona anyway. Why not just stay here behind these huge walls and guardsmen?"
Kaji looked shocked. "You mean to don't understand why you need to go to Anhona?"
Kaji shook his head. "I thought you were just surprised at the suddenness of Quinteth's call to action. So you really don't know. Remember when my father said,
When north unleashes biting snow
Of a mountain moving hoard
Bringing forever woe
The last elf wields the sword."
"I do," Robin said. "But I thought that was just some folk saying amongst your people."
"No, it's a prophecy," Kaji said. "You are the last elf, so you must wield the Sword of Nythanore against the hoard of the north."
"Sword of Nythanore?"
"You really are clueless, aren't you? The Sword of Nythanore is an ancient and powerful weapon that only a person with elven blood can use. How it came to be is a mystery, but nobody can deny the power it possesses."
Gwen elbowed his brother again. "That means it's even more important for you to eat now. I don't want to carry you around again because you've passed out from hunger."
Everyone laughed at that. Even Robin smiled. At least if all else failed, he had good friends by his side.