Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter in this wonderful story by Olthadur, entitled
The Pilgrimage of Virtue
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 3, “Brittany to Nightshade Pass”
Docking was a long process. Longer than I care to remember. We had to wait our turn amid at least twenty boats in Spindrift Bay outside Brittany. We had to wait for some boats to leave and for our ship to be given permission to dock. When we finally disembarked we were thankful to be able to stand on solid, unmoving ground.
Brittany is huge. Larger than I expected. I could tell that many of us felt the same upon seeing it. I fear we would have gotten lost if we didn’t have the Tailor to guide us. We went to an inn, a crowded building whose name I couldn’t see. It had old, hard beds in it. It was not a comfortable sleep, but it was better than sleeping in the hold of the ship.
The next morning, we gathered in the common area of the inn. We were all very happy, bright and excited. This was the first real day of our pilgrimage.
We all sat at a long table and ordered breakfast. Some, like the Tailor looked comfortable in this busy place, while the Farmer and Scholar looked very out of place – even slightly frightened.
As time went on, the mood changed. Everyone started to warm up to our surroundings on a full stomach.
“What is our plan?” the Elder asked, sipping his third cup of tea,
Everyone looked shocked, surprised and even embarrassed. Here we were, in Brittany without a next step forward.
“Don’t you have a plan?” the Cook asked?
“Did I? When did I say I had a plan? I suggested we go on a pilgrimage, yes, but a plan…” he trailed off with a rough chuckle.
“Where are we going to go next? We are here in Novia proper. What Virtue should we seek first?” the Scholar said.
“Courage or Love,” the Sailor said, “Their cities are closest. Truth is too far, we would have to travel through one of the first two to get to the Truth’s city.”
“The city of Courage is Resolute, west of here, in South Paladis. The city of Love, Ardoris is south. Far south,” the Tailor said.
There was some discussion – philosophical and practical. Some argued a preferential order, others spiritual. Eventually, practicality won over all else.
“It would be easiest to go to Resolute, then Aerie, then Ardoris. Most roads, easiest travel,” the Tailor said.
We had a map at this point, stained now with tea, beer and grease from our meals. Yes, meals. We spoke through lunch, too. There were stubborn members of our group who needed an extraordinary amount of convincing.
After more discussion, we finally agreed on the Tailor’s path. Tomorrow we would head west to Nightshade Pass and into Resolute to see the City of Courage.
There were arguments that went on through the remainder of the day. Some were saying that we could go further, others saying that we could only go halfway to the pass. Expertise in travel versus experience. I stayed out of it and others did too. We were pilgrims, but we never were in agreement. I hope we would be soon.
It still felt like a vacation, though. All that had happened was a trip on a boat and a stay in an inn. We talked, argued, drank, laughed and ate more. It was a vacation and not really a pilgrimage yet.
I wondered what exactly would happen. Would we all be together when we left Ardoris at the end of our pilgrimage? Would some of us get frustrated, angry, or even perish along the way? The Elder already slowed us down; he was old. He never told us just how old, but I would say he is probably eighty years old, if not a good-looking ninety.
I feel like we are off to a rough start. It took us a day to agree on a path for the pilgrimage. And we were already a few days into our pilgrimage. Would we last all the way through Ardoris? Maybe it was foolish.
What is keeping us on this fool’s trek?
I can only speak for myself. I plan on remaining through to the end, if only to record the events. I may end up being the only one to remain, writing how and when we all parted ways.
I hope not. I hope we succeed even in just the journey and not the pilgrimage.
We left Brittany early in the morning. The sun was still young in the sky. It seemed that we all were anxious and excited to travel.
The road was very pleasant. It was well-maintained and well-travelled. It felt safe as it was populated by travellers and traders. We travelled quickly down the road, even the Elder seemingly picking up his pace. Maybe he wasn’t as old as I thought.
“We were in Brittany, why didn’t we try to speak to Lord British?” the Smith asked.
“He wouldn’t see us,” the Cook said.
“Why not? I don’t hear of many going on a pilgrimage of virtue,” the Scholar said.
“There are the Avatars,” the Elder added.
“Lord British is more than a leader of a new philosophy. He is like a king, trying to bring order to the land,” the Farmer said. “Maybe he would be too busy.”
“He might have heard what we were doing and given us a carriage, or something to assist us in our journey,” the Sailor suggested.
“Like an escort,” the Tailor added. The Soldier snorted at that.
“We don’t need anything,” the Farmer replied, “we have each other, the road and the virtues to guide us. This is how we will learn about the virtues.”
She was right. We were silent as we walked after that. Either pondering her last point or silenced by it. I must admit, though, that I agreed with the Smith; it would have been nice to see, speak and be acknowledged by Lord British.
The land we travelled through was green, fertile and calm as we travelled south. We passed many towns and communities that surrounded Brittany. As we kept south, black cragged mountains came into view. The sun climbed higher in the sky and the mountains continued to grow, and began to look more menacing. The Tailor called them the Blackblade Mountains.
We traded stories about the mountains, mostly hearsay. The Tailor remained quiet, shaking his head at some of the more outrageous tales.
We turned west and began to see the pass, our destination.
“That doesn’t look like much of a pass,” the Scholar said, surprised.
“What did you expect?” the Elder said. They usually walked together.
“A space between mountains. That is what they are defined as.”
The Elder smiled softly and shook his head. “No, no. Well, yes it is, but it is not an easy space. There is a path, mostly uphill. There is a lake up there too, a rather beautiful one. And water does do wonders to the rocks. It is beautiful.”
The Scholar pondered this.
“A pass is a pass, but not all passes are the same,” the Elder said.
A few hours later we stopped at the foot of the mountains and started to make camp. It was eerily dark, so we had a large fire made to bring us light and warmth before our climb tomorrow.