Beer barrels clatter close to our chamber at the inn and sleep is fitful. I wake feeling unrefreshed and earlier than I’d like. So we are away early in search of food to break our fasts.
Light rain falls on us as we head into a Great Forest. The sort that feels like nothing but after a time leaves you soaked through. We enjoy what shelter the Forest offers, but most of all we enjoy the Forest itself.
We emerge from the last of the trees and now there is no respite from the wind and rain for the rest of the day. We climb slowly upwards, our target the Great Pass of Druie. Even in the low cloud, mist and rain, the drama of this Great Pass is evident, and we stop many times to take it in. Brief stops to slake thirst and quell hunger are taken in the lee of rocks, but otherwise it is one long continuous grind up to the top of the Great Pass.
We have conquered the boulder-strewn ravines at the climax of the Great Pass and now the path begins to head downwards again, as we have now breached the Red Mountains. All of the drama now lies behind, and many stops are made to look at that view. On one of these, I spy a brightly coloured figure moving quickly towards us.
It is none other than the Scholar, who I have been expecting to meet at some point, having talked before the Quest about his work. We walk, not quite together, but never far apart down the widening valley of The Goddess River. The way becomes bog and heather-ridden as we seek to follow the Goddess River rather than the main path.
The day is now old, we have walked 5 leagues, and I yearn to camp. The Moor Man forges ahead, equally eager to stop, but more discerning in his choice of place to lay down. Many heathery spots are passed before we arrive at a place where a small stream is crossed by the path, and here we find flat ground.
As we make our camp, the rain comes again and we race to complete the task before it takes hold. We cower in our burrows as the sound of rain carries on the rest of the day.
We give thanks to the gods that the rain has eased overnight, as we wake to a more promising day. Cloud flows over the sides of the Red Mountains either side of our camp, but at least it’s not raining.
Ahead of us lies a supposedly easy walk down to the Fleshpots of Mharr, but I have been this way before, and know that it is long and never seems to end. We reach the White Bridge and turn left onto a good track – there will be no more heather and bogs today. The valley of the Goddess River widens further as the Goddess herself gathers size.
The track ends at a highway, and here we see all manner of folk, for this is a popular place. We have no need of popular entertainments though, and hurry on along the up and down highway. We have somewhere much better to be.
Improvised signs line the highway at intervals and announce offerings of refreshment a short distance further on. And a bit more, and a bit more. They never seem to end, but the refreshments grow no nearer.
But of course, they do end, for this land is finite. We step inside the lodge of the Great House and help ourselves to hot drinks. There are even biscuits, and I make up for there being none the last time I passed this way. A board in the room has been set up and Questors have left inscriptions, along with a count of their numbers.
Back on the highway, we crawl into the Fleshpots of Mharr, and after the wind and rain cleaving our way through the Red Mountains, this place is welcome. Here lie all manner of temptations and deviances, though, so we are on our guard. We find a small store on the main street and restock with essentials, including the much sought delicacy, Tun-nocks.
A short way beyond the main part of the Fleshpots, lies a camping place, and we arrive there early in the afternoon to claim a place. There is even a cabin unclaimed, and so we take it – for on this Quest, luxuries are taken whenever they are to hand.
The wash place is welcome, we dry our kit, including our tents, and then walk back to the Fleshpots to sate our appetites. We dine under the sign of Gordon, the room filling with other Questors while we are there. A tavern beckons, and shortly after, bed does too, so we retire early, for tomorrow promises to be a trial.