We adventurers rise early for there is much to be done. Fasts to be broken; equipment to be checked and packed; parcels to be despatched; and provisions to be secured for the journey. Finally, the Moor Man and I queue up to inscribe our names in the Grand Ledger of Questers kept in the inn. Here we encounter two more Men of the Moor, one a great Bearded Giant.
A perilous sea journey lays before us, our vessel a small coaster into which it appears an impossibly large number of people are to be fitted. A great mound of baggage grows on the foredeck of the mighty ship as its superstructure swallows traveller after traveller. Inside, the press of bodies keeps out the cold and damp of the day. Breath mists the windows. As the great ship sets sail for the land called Knoy-Dart, travellers head deep into the very bowels in search of Elixir, returning proudly with a variety of flagons of local brews. The nectar is poured down gullets with gusto, even though the sun, if there had actually been any on this gloomy and ill-omened day, has not yet reached its zenith.
Many hours pass as the vessel crosses over to the strange and distant land. So many hours that as we set foot on the hallowed ground, the gloom and grey is gone. All is bright and cheerful, although the amount of Elixir consumed may have something to do with this. The mound of baggage gradually shrinks from the deck of the great ship and magically reappears on the backs of the motley assortment of adventurers.
A party of like-clad and bedecked adventurers walks to the water’s edge and performs a solemn ritual. The symbolic dipping of feet in the sea to thank the gods of the great ocean for sparing us on our storm-tossed voyage, and also to inform the guardians of this land of our arrival and to seek their permission to cross their domain.
The ritual performed, we are among a stream of adventurers heading along the dusty roads of this strange land, seeking a path towards the land where the sun rises. Some travellers have met before; some are known by reputation; some are strangers to all. All are in high spirits as they begin their pilgrimage.
The Moor Man and I walk up into the wide valley following the river and there take our rest by the Loch of the Black Lake. Provisions are consumed, and we are reluctant to get back to our feet to resume the Quest.
Quests are rarely achieved by sitting on the shores of lakes though, and we summon up the will to rise to our feet and be on our way. A short distance ahead we call a greeting to the resting Bearded Giant and his companion from the Inn in Mel-Vik, and skip merrily along the path .
The way steepens as we gain height towards the head of the valley and the pass that will take us into the next. Looking back down the path as we stop to draw water from a stream, a figure can be seen in the distance coming towards us. The Moor Man suggests that the shaking of the ground heralds the arrival of the Giant, and furthermore that he’d broken, discarded, possibly even eaten, his erstwhile sidekick. It can’t be anyone else – everyone else is already ahead of us.
Not wanting to be the Giant’s afternoon snack, we hasten on our way up to the cleft in the hills. As we reach the top and start again downwards, it becomes clear that the gods of this new valley are less well disposed to us. The heavens are dark and grey, it’s cold and rain falls gently on our bodies. We hastily reach in our baggage for cloaks to ward off the divine wrath.
The descent into the lush valley is quick, and we soon reach a clearing. Nothing here apart from an old shack, already crammed with the bodies of intrepid travellers. Far better to seek our own accommodation out in the elements. Outside there is a patch of grass and we select a spot to build our bivouacs, and are under cover just in time for the full downpour. Once it eases, I sally forth from my burrow in search of water and spy the Giant taking his great strides towards our camp.
The Moor Man and I gather around to listen to him recount his tale. His fellow traveller has apparently retired from the Quest with a grievous wound, and the Giant is behind where he wanted to reach today. He decides to stop for the night with us. I tie up my tent flaps with extra care tonight, as it’s well known that Giants get hungry during the night…
Distance travelled today: about 2 leagues by sea and 3 leagues on foot