Peter looked at the elf as though he had just suggested that they turn blue. “The river went underground and you just said that we cannot go into the cave!” Peter protested.
“I know,” Nashtra replied, “but even though the river has gone underground, it continues to flow deep inside, all the way down to the bottom of the hill, where it comes back out. By then, the energy is gone.”
“Gone?” Himeko repeated. “How is that possible?”
Nashtra shook his head again. “All we know is that not long after the river goes into that cave, the forest comes to an end. Then the hills descend, and the river comes back out of the land, as though it had never been energized. A little further down the river, we will find the first village of the next barony.”
They walked onward, the forest thinning as they went further and further north. As they stepped past the last of the trees, the noonday light was upon them, full and bright, and warm, too. They looked out at the landscape, the rolling hills, the land extending as it went north. They could not see the river yet.
“It’s a lot further than I first thought,” Himeko said, “when you said that the river emerged again after the last hill.”
“Indeed,” Nashtra replied. “The river spends quite a long time underground. We can stop here for lunch. It will be a long the before we make it to the next village and we can take our evening meal.”
Everyone agreed, and they took their seats right there in the cool grass. Bayani built built a fire– or at least tried to; in the end, Cerys’s stomach was growling, and she used her magic to help set the flames alight. Himeko shared some slices of cheese from her pouch while Nashtra prepared the fish for grilling. Now that they were not near the river, she was grateful that they had been supplied with skins of fresh water, which they passed around several times as they tried to quench their thirst.
Everyone was so hungry eating lunch did not take very long. They finished quickly, Nashtra making sure to douse the fire completely, ensuring that not a single ember remained glowing. After that, they resumed their journey.
It was not too difficult to walk downhill; it was easier than going uphill, at least, although they had to make sure that they did not stumble and end up rolling the rest of the way down. The landscape when something like this: it would descend for a while, sometimes steeply, sometimes not so steeply, level out for a little while, and then descend again. Cerys, after a time, pondered that it was like steps that a giant might walk down.