Bitsy shouldered a tiny knapsack with water and snacks and headed off towards the distant forest clearing. She was full of purpose and self-importance. She was determined to be out of these blasted woods and that clearing ahead just HAD to be the exit. She was sure of it.
She blinked out of sight and proceeded upon what appeared to her to be the shortest possible route to her desired destination. She peeled a thin strip from a dandelion stem and stuck it between her teeth and chewed on it while she walked.
The forest was the way the forest HAD been for the past.. how many days had they been walking in it now? Far too long, Bitsy'd decided. She continued uneventfully, sometimes taking note of unusual plant life or the presence of certain forest animals, or "game"
as Desh would call them.
Within a couple of hours the trees had begun to thin considerably. Bitsy had not encountered another faerie (to her knowledge) on the entire walk and of this she was thankful. Though her presence would not be questioned in these parts, she knew that once their party left the Woode it would be a whole new undertaking for Desh. The Woode
was inhabited by all sorts of creatures, not all of them savory. But south of the Woode was most definitely Seelie territory.
The Sun was dropping low in the sky and she hurried forward out of the forest so she'd be able to take a look around before darkness fell and obscured her vision.
The forest drew back and opened up upon a hilly expanse which stretched as far as Bitsy's eye could see. The terrain was not mountainous, but rather a gentle rolling hillside proceeding on and on into the distance. She cupped her hands around her eyes
and looked long and hard at the horizon. Nothing. Nothing but dag- blasted hills!
She pulled a tiny mouse bladder filled with water from her knapsack and took a long drink from it before returning it to her bag and wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Oh well. Still beats no adventure at all," she mumbled.
It would be full-on night by the time she returned to her companions and she knew Desh would be anxious to continue under cover of darkness. Bitsy spared herself only a few minutes rest before collecting her bag and preparing to return the way she'd come. She
sighed wistfully as she looked back over her shoulder one last time.
What's that?! She spun around, leaning forward and squinting into the twilight. Is that a smear of *something* out there? She rubbed at her eyes and looked again. It was still there. A splash of gray upon the sandy horizon in the far distance.
"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" Bitsy popped into visibility and jumped up and down repeatedly in her excitement. "I wonder what it is?! Could that be it?! Could that be the Oracle's Tower?! Oh my GOSH!"
She ran forward hoping to get a better look, but the structure was a good day's journey from where she stood. The best she could tell, it was a structure made of gray stone or painted in gray and looked as if it might have a red roof. Was the roof pointed? Was it a tower? She couldn't really tell.
"Oh dear," Bitsy wrung her hands together. "I wonder if that's it?"
"Ya w'nder if wot's wot?" a strange voice asked from behind her.
Bitsy squealed and spun about in alarm before blinking out of sight.
An old man was hunched before her, bent and twisted and supporting his weight upon a gnarled walking stick. He was about four feet tall with a long scraggly gray beard and a corncob pipe stuck between his decaying teeth, of which he appeared to have a total of three remaining.
"I know yer still there, idget!" he exclaimed, his voice wheezy and gruff. "I'm not gonna hurtcha. Why wud I trubble m'self wi' tha likes o' you? Ya ain't even big enuf to be called a morsel!" He laughed long and hard at that, setting himself into a frightful fit of coughing.
"You alright?" Bitsy showed herself. The old man looked like he might cough himself into a pile of rags on the ground at any moment, but alas the fit subsided and he wiped at the spittle on his chin with the sleeve of his dirty homespun cloak.
"Yeh," he managed. "Don' mind yerself wit' me. I'll be fine."
"Alright then," Bitsy nodded. "I've got to be going. I've got some traveling to do and night's coming on fast."
"Headin' to the Pythia are ya?" the old man asked, gesturing with his walking stick in the direction of the structure Bitsy had spotted. It was no longer visible now, but she'd memorized its location.
"You know the Oracle?" Bitsy asked, giving the man her undivided attention. "I mean... her tower's that way? Is that the building I could barely see out there in the distance? The gray one?"
The old man chuckled which led to another spasm of coughs, this one much shorter in duration than the last. "That's the way," he nodded. "Ain't much a' nothin' else out here'n these parts."
Bitsy nodded up at him and smiled. "Yes Sir. And thank you Sir. I really must be going now."
He waved his hand at her in dismissal and began a slow painful shuffle into the hillside. Bitsy, overcome with excitement, headed back to Desh and Millie at a sprint.