Shia had no sense of time. She neither knew how long she had been lying in the mud nor how long she’d been walking. Having a companion made no difference to the situation. It seemed they walked forever, but the night didn’t grow any lighter. If anything, the forest seemed to be darker and there was no way to tell where they were headed. She was grateful that Sylfania held her hand, because she was sure she would feel even more lost without that human contact. The dryads hand was rough, yet still feminine. They were hands clearly familiar with the earth.
At first Sylfania tried to talk. But all she had were questions about the world. She claimed she had not seen much of it beyond her own tree and the nearby forest. The forest was vast, she knew that much from talking with the trees an the animals. But she knew almost nothing of the world beyond it, and that only made her curiosity greater. Most trees were not interested in learning more about the world beyond their own.
But Shia had no answers for the Dryad. She didn’t know the world like she felt she should. She knew nothing of customs or of people or cities or creatures. She knew almost nothing. So after a time, the Dryad fell silent. From time to time she would turn to face Shia and give a friendly smile, but she didn’t stop walking.
At last Shia could see a dim light through the trees. “There,” she said, pointing with her free hand. “Someone must be there.”
Sylfania cocked her head to the side. “I’m not sure what that is. I thought we would have found the road by now.” She shrugged and then continued, dragging Shia with her.
The dryad clearly had not lied about her unfamiliarity with the world. Shia had slight misgivings about charging toward the light, not knowing what was there, but she had to finally admit that she didn’t know what would be anywhere. And even if Sylfania didn’t know what this was, she at least lived in this region.
They tramped through the light undergrowth toward the light. As they approached Shia finally felt at least a little relieved to have a specific goal she could recognize. But compared to her journey up to that point,t he trip seemed to take no time at all. Seemingly in a few seconds they arrived at a stone building, two stories high, and quite large in width and length. A sign hung over the door announcing it was the Stone Heart Inn. The stone was quite old, moss growing on bits of it, but it seemed altogether a solid structure from the ground to the wooden shingles of the roof.
The light came from several windows to the left of the door as well as one or two of the upstairs rooms. The Inn apparently was doing well for business this night. As she stepped up to the door Shia suddenly noticed there was no path. She hadn’t been on one at all as she approached, but there wasn’t any path that led to the door. Nor was there any signs of a nearby road. She paused and turned to mention it to Sylfania.
The dryad was on her toes, her hands grasping the outside sill and peering intently through a window. “There’s people in there!” she was saying. “What kind of a thing is this? How did they get in there? It’s made of stone, so it’s not a tree. Is this… a…” She turned and looked to Shia, her brow furrowed in concentration till she remembered the word. “A house!” she shouted finally. “That’s what blood humans live in, right?” She turned back to the window and studied the occupents again.
Shia felt a smile grow on her face. The lack of road didn’t make sense. How did they all get here, after all? “Blood humans” didn’t fly. But she noticed that she was no longer uneasy. She didn’t have the sense of apprehension that had bothered her earlier. In fact, she felt as if the inn itself were inviting her. She was suddenly eager to go in.
“Come,” she called to Sylfania. “Let’s go meet them,” she said, as she opened the front door.