She whispered lovingly to her roses one last time, and breathed on the closed petals. For one last, blissful moment she watched them tremble and bloom before her eyes, and then turned to the path ahead. She faced the austere giant mountains covered and skirted by wyld trees. Peaks masked by thick, graying clouds, loomed larger and higher with her every step. Whistleande, with its streams and tamed forests, the smoke stacks from the distant village became smaller in turn. She turned from the only world she had known without looking back, fearing that if she did, the sadness would consume her in memory. Memories were all she had left of her lost loved ones. She might have even convinced herself that strange drizzly day the beggar had wandered into her path, had only been a dream. But if she didn’t leave now, if she didn’t trust her gut this time, she would never find happiness again, either. She would never learn if Ceddrych lived or not.
Her sack wore on her shoulders the further she plodded up the faded, twisting and narrowing path burrowed in the northerly Wylder Mountains. Snow came to rest thickly over her black wool knit shawl and felt fluffy to touch. Virginal trees, proud and ethereal in their majestic rule above the wyld forest, closed tightly around the path and she knew how easy it would be to get lost if she strayed.
The winds brought flurries that swirled and ceased as the sun arced over and set below her. She walked until her limbs and chest ached against an invisible weight the higher she gradually ascended. Before it became too much, she set her sack to rest over the path, confident no one else would be coming or going this route. She unrolled the pallet strapped to her back and made camp amid the grass carpeted path.
Over the following days, she fell into a similarly bleak routine. She barely thought to eat and sleep chose to escape her when the weather nearly froze her limbs. Instead she kept her mind busy playing over the beggar’s words until she awoke thinking of them, when she did snatch slivers of sleep. Suns and moons rose and fell until she began to lose track of time. Only Ceddrych’s letters, which she kept stored away in her satchel and opened before her small fire, beneath a canopy of ancient stars, tied her to the earth and her soul once more.