After stopping by the estate’s stables to get their horses, they ride through town to the inn where Jiron and Fifer are staying. They find them finishing their meal. All are soon mounted and heading through the streets to the western gate.

They’ll follow that road until they reach the crossroads an hour or two out of town where they will turn north toward the town of Villigun. A none too exciting town, mainly an agricultural center for the region. Shortly after that is where they will enter the Forest of Kelewan. Within its borders will be where they will stay for the night. After that it’ll be one more full day’s ride and then home.

Thankfully, the rain withholds its presence through the first day and they make it all the way to the Forest without any delays or problems. All in all it’s been a rather pleasant journey.

James isn’t very talkative during the ride, his mind mulling over what he learned in Saragon when he and Jiron went back there. The old man’s riddle continues playing in his mind:

When the Fire shines Bright,

And the Star walks the Land.

Time for the Lost,

Will soon be at Hand.

At the foot of the King,

Bathe in his Cup.

Pull his Beard,

To make him sit Up.

Seven to Nine,

Six to Four.

Spit in the wind,

And open the door.

The first two lines make the most sense, an obvious referral to the Fire of Dmon-Li and the Star of Morcyth. After that it gets a little confusing. He’s also worried about Igor’s fate. The strange little creature that saved him during his time in that other land, reality, or it could’ve just been a dream. If it had been real, did he survive? He may never know.

The girl Aleya they hooked up with after Saragon, Jiron and she seem to be getting serious as well. She’s currently back at The Ranch. Jiron offered her to come with him, but when she found out Roland was teaching people to read, she opted to stay there and learn. That had hurt his feelings but not much he could do about it.

Actually, the class of just a few students has grown as news circulated through the community. Now he not only has all of the irregulars, Jorry and Uther have joined as well as many of the sons and daughters of the farmers in the area. Roland has set the limit for his class at twenty, charging two coppers a week for those not affiliated with The Ranch.

James at first argued with him about charging, but his reasoning was this: if they’re willing to pay then they’ll be willing to learn. He didn’t want a bunch of deadbeats hanging around just so they’ll be out of their parent’s way for awhile. Remembering the layabouts in his classes back home that were there simply because they had to be, he understands the logic.

Once they’ve moved past Villigun and enter the Kelewan Forest, he’s surprised at how much his anxiety level rises. The memories of those first few fateful days upon this world still haunt him. Although this time he’s in the company of friends and has little to worry about from a pack of wolves. His magic could take care of them readily enough.

As they’re setting up camp, Miko removes his crossbow from the pack mule and goes in search of dinner. By the time they have a fire going, he’s returned with two large rabbits. In no time at all, they’re skinned and roasting over the fire.

A light drizzle begins by the time they’re ready to call it a night. Fortunately they’ve managed to find a tall tree with wide limbs under which they can take shelter. Only a very little water works its way down to where they are, the majority runs off the outer limbs leaving them dry.

The drizzle continues on through the night and is still present when they get underway the next morning. From what the locals tell him, this sort of weather is common for this time of year. When winter comes in full force, it gets rather cold and a foot of snow from a single storm isn’t unheard of.

As they make their way through the forest, the canopy of leaves which covers the road keeps the worst of it off of them. The road is fairly straight and they make good time. With only a brief stop for lunch before continuing on, they ride fast and are pretty sure they’re close to Trendle when daylight begins to fade.

A shadow disengages itself from the treeline ahead of them and when they draw near can see that it’s Yern.

“What are you doing here?” James asks.

“Waiting for your return,” he says.

“Why?” he asks. “Nothing wrong is there?”

“Don’t know for sure,” he replies. “It’s just that Ceryn has us posted along the roads from Trademeet looking for you. He would like you to meet him at his cabin.” He holds up his hand to forestall any further questions and then adds, “He didn’t tell us why, just said it was important for you to go there, alone, before you return to The Ranch.”

“Alone?” he asks.

Nodding, Yern says “Alone.”

James glances to Jiron who only shrugs. “Don’t look at me,” he says.

“Could you be in some kind of trouble?” Miko asks. “Lord Colerain maybe?”

Worried, James replies, “I don’t know.” To the others he says, “When we get to Ceryn’s cabin, you continue on to The Ranch and I’ll be there later.”

“As you wish,” Jiron says.

It isn’t very far before they come to where Ceryn’s cabin lies, sitting off the road a little ways. Two horses are tied out front, neither of them are Ceryns’. “Looks like he’s got company” states Jiron.

“Looks that way,” replies James. Turning his horse toward the cabin, he says, “You all go on home. I’ll be along directly.”

“Good luck,” Miko says as he and the others continue on toward Trendle and The Ranch.

He sees a light coming from the front window as he rides up. Securing his horse to the front post next to the others, he starts walking to the door when it opens and Ceryn steps out.

“Greetings James,” he says, a smile on his face.

The fact that he’s smiling puts him at ease as he replies, “You too, Ceryn.” Extending his hand he gives him a firm handshake. “What did you need to see me about?”

“Come inside and we’ll explain,” he says as he leads him into his cabin.

“We?” James asks as he follows Ceryn in. A smile breaks across his face when he sees Perrilin sitting in a chair against one of the walls, his instrument propped up beside him. “Perrilin!” he exclaims as he comes over to greet him.

Coming to his feet, the bard asks, “Been a while hasn’t it?”

Giving him a hearty handshake as well, James nods then takes the seat across from him and asks, “What brings you around here?”

“Actually, that’s a rather interesting story…” he begins as the door to the bedroom creaks as it starts to open.

James’ attention is drawn to it. Suddenly, the door swings wide and a young man steps out. His lower jaw quivers, eyes are opened wide. “J…James?” he stammers.

Jumping to his feet, James replies in utter astonishment, “Dave?”

Chapter Two

“Oh James,” he cries out and comes forward, tears streaming down his face.

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