It had begun to rain again, but had wisely invested in a good weather-poof cloak with an attached hood. He made good time, and all the extra hiking he had been doing paid off well. Early in the afternoon the rain finally slowed and stopped shortly after he passed the copse where he had spent his first ill-fated expedition's night, which seemed like a good omen. He was making good time. He continued on in high spirits in the glorious spring afternoon that had emerged from the gloomy and inauspicious morn, thinking great thoughts of living someplace where the small of dead fish didn't permeate the air. He had found out, from listening to the rich tourists, that there was a small town about seven leagues away which had a small inn (they had sniffed at the mention of it, for it didn't measure up to their refined tastes at all) which would do very well. After that, he would travel to the nearest large city, seek employment, rise and become an influential merchant, marry an earless... Treslune was jerked back to reality by one of many ditches in the road, which he stumbled on. This one was special in that he actually fell into it. This being spring, it was very wet and muddy on the bottom (in fact, it was very wet and muddy everywhere), so he was greatly humiliated and was glad no one could see him or hear his foolish dreams — he would be happy just to eke out a reasonable living without the smell or boringness of fishing. Being a country bumpkin, he didn't realize that he should not have been traveling alone, for the roads were dangerous places back then; especially those not protected by the King's men.

But our friend was unaware of his peril, and was by now busily thinking up a new name for himself, since the childish Treslune wouldn't do for an independent young man. At first he thought Hugh would be a nice name, but came to the conclusion that it brought up images of a fat baker rolling dough. Tharpion, Redfelt, Fammer, and Xactis all failed in the end as well — most seemed to have too metallic a ring to them. After several hours of deep thought on the subject, he finally came up with the perfect name. He may have been prodded slightly by the fact that the town was coming into view and dusk was slowly falling. He walked into the inn and asked for a room under the name of Whirrfey. The jaded innkeeper gave him a slightly incredulous look, but as far as he was concerned, if 'Whirrfey' had good money, he could go by whatever appellation he chose.

The next morning, after some hearty mutton to break his fast, Whirrfey started off. He decided to make for capital, for he was sure to gain employment there, if nowhere else. Since a number of people had been discussing the trouble with bands of outlaws in general (which had increased because of the disorder created by The War and deserters from the army), and the impossibility of getting through the wooded pass with anything less than a fully armed escort of the King's men in particular, he had asked if he could travel with a troop of farmers who were passing through on the way to a larger town which was having its spring fair, and would be on the same road as he for a while. They didn't have any reason to disagree, provided that he ate his own food and paid for his own lodging, and so they set out together.

Because the farmers were traveling with pack animals and their products to sell at the fair (many of them were good at whittling, and through the long winter they had created a stash of carved pieces), the pace was slower than the one the day before. This suited Whirrfey quite fine, because his feet and muscles were sore from the day before in spite of his preparatory hiking.

They stopped that night in an adjacent field, and took turns taking watch. He found this quite difficult, for it was hard for him to measure time and gauge the position of the moon, and he ended up nearly falling asleep (until a wolf howling nearby yanked him wide awake) and woke up the next person forty-five minutes early. There was a great deal of grumbling about this, but in the morning most everything was forgiven.

The days continued fairly uneventfully from then on, and Whirrfey was integrated into the daily system, and the group either stopped the night at an inn or a farmhouse or, as a last reort, slept in a field. He began to make friends with some of the farmers, and when their paths finally split they bade fond farewells to each other, and the farmers gave him a carved camel — an exotic beast from the south, used for traversing the great plains of death. They also warned him not to take wooded pass at all, but rather skirt around the woods to the west, for the Woods of Antiquity were infested with desperate outlaws.

He followed the path they said would take him to the capital for many days without event, but one day he came to a fork in the road without a sign. The fork was made in such a way that the road to the left seemed a continuation of the one he was on, with the right sided fork an addition. The right sided one was more poorly taken care of, and seemed less inviting, and Whirrfey had just made up his mind to go to the left when he had a sudden rush of shame at his lack of adventurous spirit, and with a stock of proverbs in mind, one of which was "nothing ventured, nothing gained," e turned to the right. There was also one about taking the road less traveled, but he could remember how it was exactly. He was fairly certain, however, that it was supporting his new, brave decision to go on the more mysterious parh. He would live to regret his youthful brashness.

Merrily tramping down the path he went, not noticing that it was slowly, imperceptibly and steadily degraded in quality, and increasingly the occasional tree or two was seen. After spending several days on the path the events previously described gradually dawned on him, and he began to wonder — with some timorousness — if it might be the border of the much discussed in hushed tones Woods of Antiquity. Since he hadn't passed any inhabited houses at all on the way, and very few sources of water, he decided he would just have to continue on and hope that he would be all right.

The trees became denser and denser, and the road, which had by now become more of a track, was getting windier and even difficult to stay on in a few places. Finally he came to a very narrow pass between two large natural stone obstructions on either side, with quite a number of very tall and dark trees growing on top. With a feeling of foreboding, he cautiously advanced into the pass.

"Halt! Who goes before Lord Wuffleberry the Just unannounced? Reveal thy name and occupation, before I order my archers to do away with you!"

"Umm... Sir—" Whirrfey started, confused and afraid. Weren't bandits supposed to kill you and then ask questions?

"Have you no manners? You refer to Lord Wuffleberry as sir? I should dispense with you and your uncouth manners straight-way myself!" another voice drifted down to a truly terrified and nervous Whirrfey below.

"No, please! My lord, I was just passing through on my way to the capital..."

"The capital! And pray, what were you going to do there? To tell the king of the secret hideout of his old friend Lord Wuffleberry? Tell him I will no longer aid and abet his expensive and ill-thought out excuse for government spending with my men, my money, and my life! It's the life of solitude and hermitude for Wuffleberry and his staunch companions, and never will I look upon the kings ugly wart again!" A few droplets of spittle fell onto Whirrfey as some cheers were raised in the treetops.

"No! Not at all — I was going to seek employment — and my name's Whirrfey — for I detest the life of a fisherman, but if— if you want, I'll tell him you said that." Once this courageous offer and collection of thoughts was articulated loudly enough for Lord Wuffleberry to hear them, he collapsed, miserable, on the ground, wishing he hadn't been foolish enough to take the right fork, and thinking with great wistfulness of fishing in the sea.

"Well, in that case, I suppose I'd better get you some food. Would cold roast boar do adequately? Or perhaps some venison would be more to your tastes?"

Once again, Whirrfey was bewildered. He quickly squeaked, "Venison, I guess."

"Very well, then. Come along. Brephl, you take over the guarding of the pass."

"Yes, milord."

Note: I'm somewhat disappointed in the number of reviews so far (after all, it's the only way I can gauge if anyone's even reading this stuff), but I'll still prevail despite the oppressive silence :)