Floating? falling? Pain? ....No. Drifting. When? Thinking? No, dreaming. Yes, that’s it. I’m asleep. I, me, who? Sound . . . Joy? . . .No What is sound? I know what. But how do I know? What . . . Something is missing, what? Wh. . . Pain! Ow! What is this? Wait, more sound, they are talking. Yes my Kin are talking. Kin? Where? Talking? “he’s . . . better” He. I. I am a ‘he’ . . . A soft voice, soft, wise, fe . . . fe. Female. But what . . . ? “....ood. It’s been long and . . . should we . . . him as soon as he wakes?” Stronger, firmer voice. “No. Best to......ill he’s stro. . .haps even after” Louder. Closer. That means they’re coming closer. Elation! More pain! In my, chest? Chest, lungs, Breathing, focus on the breathing, yes, that’s what that’s called. In-Out . . . in-out. There, I can move, my foot, yes foot, twitch . . . YES! Accomplishment! I live, but am less. How?What?Where?Who? Toes . . . yes they move . . . legs . . . clench. Good. Chest . . . hart . . . pumping. Mouth . . . dry . . . ears . . . up, down . . . yes. Wait. EYES ! Sight, see, watch, look, open . . . See . . . Tent? No. Wood, a ceiling, inside, house, yes, that’s it, house. *** Ise once again cursed herself for her stupidity and ran down the hill toward the village. It was her charge, hers! And a momentary lapse could end her position as an apprentice healer. She had thought getting out of class, to watch a patient would be relaxation enough but then FarRider had shown up . . . and . . .A whole hour had gone by! She would have kicked herself if she could without falling down the steep path she was on. She hadn’t gone far, just a walk with her betrothed, FarRider, nothing to make anyone blush, she was nearly sixty years old and ready to end her apprenticeship and start her career as a life-mender but a walk had turned into so much more, more of him bragging about how he had been promoted to Sighter, She smiled faintly at the memory. Blight! Where had the time gone? Ise flew by the falls that lent Silverfall village its name, crossed the foot bridge at the base blinking as the mist from the falls stung her eyes, turned right toward the village that she and several hundred other elves called home. The village was very organic, lanes winding between the massive trees, the smallest easily twenty feet wide. She looked up at their massive branches, interconnecting, forming bridges bowing from tree to tree in a seemingly random web of pathways. The village was formed of three main layers. The ground; used for heavy carts, large groups, gardens and small shopping stalls. The trunks; shaped by spell casters into shops and houses for living. The branches; threading their way from trunk to trunk. Some branches reached high above the tops of the trees and ended in intricate platforms and balconies used for pleasure and defense. Once, she heard that some folk lived on the ground! She still thought Farrider was leading her on, she could understand that some buildings had to be on the ground, like the mill, the blacksmiths and the healers, where she was headed now, but that was a safety issue! Choosing to live on the ground, that was strange. He said they didn’t even use floors! Just packed earth, well, the common folk did. Farrider said their nobles had huge houses with floors, but they were still on the ground. Today was a bright spring day and there were many shop carts and pedestrians on the ground paths leading in-between the tree-homes of the villagers. A strange looking cart caught her eye, it was a large, easily twice her height and twice the length of the two draft horses tethered to it. Who would drive such a brick-like thing? She thought to herself but her questions were abated when the side of the wagon folded up with a mechanical clanging, stairs descended from the bottom and a short muscular creature stepped out. ‘Ah, who but a dwarf would ride such a wagon.’ she thought. Not much was brought from outside Raydawn forest because of the secluded location and what was came during the summer months when what roads they had were dry. Non-elf traders here were rare, but not unheard of. This must be the first of the season. She made a mental note to look at his wares later as dwarves usually had the best worked metal goods. But she had no time for such thoughts, normally she would just enter Ki’mura, the great oak where the elders lived and assembled for council, and enter the life-menders’ through the atrium between it and the roots of The tree, but an elder might see her and ask what a apprentice life-mender was doing wandering around, when lessons where in session. No. She would have to go through the river entrance which meant going through the pavilion as there were no other crossings until The tree. More than a thousand years old, it was a pavilion built right over the water, abought eighty feet long and half as much wide, it acted as a bridge and protection from the rain for the merchants on the main path. It was the site of parties, ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and meetings. There was much history in those timbers and there was much more to be added. But right now it was choked with merchants and pedestrians trying to escape the midday sun. Musicians had been found and they were playing a lively tune wile revelers laughed and danced, for this was a marvelous spring day that demanded a party. Winter was over, the rains had come and gone, and it was not yet time to begin the spring planting. There was no holiday, no ceremony, berthing, wedding, or any other specific meaning, just the wood elf playful spirt and joy of frivolity. Some folk said the elves of the wood were far too easy going, too wrapped up in their own merriment to take anything seriously or to be taken seriously, that thought brought awry smile to Ise’s lips, those who said such things obviously never encountered a band of Woodland Guard or Watchers, like her betrothed. And there were other things guarding the wood. An attacking force would be surprised indeed when, after a volley of arrows from nowhere, the trees themselves started to attack. As the she was drawing near the pavillion, she took a deep breath and plunged in; running up the steps, ducking in-between a group clapping in time to the music, startling them, through a small open area left for dancing, nearly getting trampled, barely avoiding a vendor moving his cart back outside, ducking under a rack of clothes (getting a cry from the owner of the rack),getting another cry from some boys playing slamstone; a game involving a stack of smooth rocks (made no sense to her, but boys are weird), down the ten steps on the other side in one jump and turned left, toward Ki’mura and the life-menders’ house. *** His thoughts were all in a whirl, but cutting through them like an arrow was the pain in his head.‘ Where am I?’ He thought. Looking around he saw a long wooden hall like room, twice as long as it was wide, with many other white linenned beds besides the one he was on. The walls were bare wood but vanished and unadorned except for a row of curtained windows down either side. There were two doors each on opposite ends of the room and through one he could hear running water, the other, voices getting closer. As he was trying to focus his thoughts the river door burst open and a young woman, no more than sixty, dressed in a white cloak with a red V shaped stole of fine cloth, burst in out of breath. As she lay against the door and heaved for breath, he tried to ask who she was but all that came out was an unintelligible garble, but it got her attention. She looked up her eyes widening and ears swiveling up in surprise. He tried to wet his tongue but no saliva would come, and tried again, Wh...who...who ar...” but it ended in a coughing fit and pain in the throat as long unused muscles tried to work. “ I am Ise, an apprentice healer here.” Guessing his question she continued taking a step closer. “ But I don’t understand, Mistress Softwalker said it would take weeks if not months to take effect.” “ Wh. . .Where am . . .” Was the raspy return. But before she could reply, the door at the other end of the hall opened and two figures entered, one wearing plane brown robes the other with the same robes as Ise except the stole was longer and the edges of the robe were red also. The two figures, so deep was their conversation did not notice anything for several steps until Ise exclaimed, “Oh! Mistress Softwalker! Come quick!” With that the one in red lined robes snapped her head toward the yell, ears swiveling up from a relaxed down position. Soft features, used to the shape of a smile, with the corners of her oversized almond shaped eyes, normal for their species, showing the first signs of aging. Many summers of laughter this one had seen, as attested to by the crows feet. And her auburn hair, showing signs of once being bright red, was fading to white. However there was no other sign of age as she threw the wide sleeves of her robe back over her shoulders and rushed to the bedside. “Lay back. Ise, get me the rest stones. ” She said gently pushing her hand on his chest as her apprentice moved to do as she was told. “Rest, don’t try to talk, all will be explained in time. Your spirt is weary, it has had a long journey apart from your body. One does not just ‘get up’ from an ordeal as hard as yours.” But there was one question, one question rolling through his brain screaming over the pain throughout his body. “Wh. . . Wh. . . “ She put her fingers on his lips stopping the effort. “Questions later, for now I can tell you that you are fine and will recover, if you rest.” Ise handed her two small polished blue stones with the runes for sleep on them. “When you wake the pain should be gone.” and then held them over his temples for a moment. Just then the brown robed figure leaned into his field of view, pure white hair falling into his eyes as he said, “I thought you said he wouldn’t wake up for at least another week?” The life-mender, for that was what she was, shot back testily “This is not an exact science like your O so precious wizardry, healing magics are far more nebulous, one must rely on instinct as much as training, “ With that last aimed at Ise as much as the Elder. “Yes, yes but . . .” the elder trailed off when he saw the patients’ lips begin to move. “ I do believe he’s trying to say something. Spit it out young one, if it’s so important.” A weary aching body said through a dry tight throat , “ Bu. . . but. . . Wh . . . Who am I?” Becoming visibly confused and weary after the last syllable. But alas, the sleep stones did their function just then and his last sight was three shocked faces leaning over him as he slid into the welcoming abyss.