The Southern Vesve
The valley up which our way led us became less and less inhabited as we progressed.
The horses stamped and chafed at the bit. Always rocca were impatient: impatient to begin a journey, impatient to jump, impatient to be un-harnessed and impatient to get back to pasture. They were a force of nature that the ilin had to learn to reign in and channel in order to avoid having the steed rule the rider. Rain fell in a lacklustre fashion as they left the city ahead of the various priesthoods who would also be making the journey to Westil.
Their plan as they set off was to intercept the imperial causeway that follows the Westilakken shoreline. To do this they would take an old road nor-nor-east through the Vesve.
“Klogoh has been ilin in Sharifika for a year now and knows the main routes through the forest.” Gwedhion told Forgileill. He gestured to the road they travelled. “It was one of the pathways of the ancient time of the Elven high kings. Much older than the empire.” At times the pathway faded under the forest and in others broadened out with wide limestone flags making a path where a few of them could ride abreast under the boughs of the Vesve. But mostly it was enough for one to ride over cracked worn stones, slowly disappearing under the detritus of the forest. They began to pass through pillars, small and broken at first but soon larger and seemingly less worn. They stood either side of the path like oversized door posts with no lintel.
Four days they continued to ride uphill into the forest. Eventually they came to a place where the ground rose and the path widened. The stone guardians stood regular and less green until they stopped where the ground fell away.
Before them was a sheltered bowl in the bosom of the forest. The sides rose sharply away until behind stood a cliff, the like of which ran for hundreds of miles like a giant sword cut along Hisra. Over the back of this a stream ran, its foss1 coming to lie in a plunge pool before snaking off down hill once more. Between them and the waterfall stood an ancient building. It appeared to be three long-houses, in a ‘u’ shape, rendered in stone. In the central courtyard, which faced them, stood a gurgling fountain that fed troughs either side. The long-houses wore cloisters on the ground and first floors. Above this, windows with dark wooden shutters looked out. Ivy grew upon the walls and leaves blew into the courtyard. But the place was not deserted. Several of the tiles on each roof were obviously new and the faint smell of wood smoke hung on the air, small trails of smoke could be observed rising form the chimneys.
Sunlight caught the lime-washed walls and the place sparkled in the last rays of the afternoon sun. The grass about the place grew thick and was still green. A feeling of peace was upon the whole area. Geese from the far north flew southwards high above them. “This is Imladínen, the House of Labellas in Hisra, a cathedral of knowledge.” Said Gwedhion in triumph, his breath hanging in the cold air.
As if seized by sudden impulse, Forgileill dismounted and marched towards the buildings. She paused and glanced over her shoulder at her cousin and the others, squinting in the unaccustomed sunlight after so long under the boughs of the forest. “If this is truly a place of lore, then mayhap I might find answers here.”
Thranduil caught up with her and seized her elbow, hissing at her “Bear in mind that it was someone from here who both reattached your leg and saved your life when that Vani axe-man killed you in Enchley.” Angrily, she shot him a frown and shook him off as she kicked her way through the drifting leaves and continued into the buildings, perhaps a little less sure of herself than before. As if she had forgotten that! As if a princess of the Gwathló didn’t know the meaning of gratitude. As if.