I'm still on the cart. I'm here in the back with my luggage and the itchy, itchy hay. I don't even know why we have all this hay. I guess it is to feed the horses, but we gave them oats when we stopped for lunch. I don't even know the name of the town, if it had one. It wasn't much to look at. There was just a general store, a tavern, and a little church at a crossroad. We ate at the tavern, again, without a name. It seemed like it was the only place around for miles. It was dark, dirty and the other eaters, locals, I guess, stared at us the whole time. Dad watched the cart through the dusty little window. I mostly stared at my plate. We're still in Lithia, and we will be until tomorrow night, at least. Our red hair marks us as Hydian, so maybe that was why they stared. Or we could have simply been "outsiders." I don't know. It seems strange to me that there could be a place like this less than seven hours ride from home.
It is starting to sink in that I'm not going to see Lyssander again for a long time. Probably a year at least. Of course, I might wash out. I don't even want to think about that, though. I didn't really understand what was happening when we left our home in Hydria. It felt like a grand adventure, rafting down the river with danger at our backs, like in the stories my grandfather used to tell in front of the fire. He had been somewhat of a hero in his day, and had fought orcs and goblins in the mountains. He came back having lost his left arm, but with enough treasure to keep our family comfortable and to start his own business. I think he was glad when that Dad chose to follow him as a merchant and not a warrior, but he never stopped looking out at the mountains. His shield and spear hung over the fireplace when I was a child, but when he died, we buried them with him. He passed away when I was eight. I was really sad, but everyone said that it was a goodness that he didn't have to evacuate. I sometimes think that he would have strapped on that old shield, and ran the other way, towards the army that he had fought time and again in his youth.
But it's a different world, now. No one quite knows how different, yet. The War left a big mess, but a lot of opportunity as well. At the Battle of World Spine mountains, the The Destroyer fought the Dwarf god, the Defender. They wrestled without weapons, and the result of their hand-to-hand combat carved out giant new passes and deep ravines. Explorers went through and discovered a whole continent of undiscovered civilizations! It was the first sign of the new age, so the third-age calendar is usually started from the year of that battle, which is, actually, the year I was born. I don't know if this new world is one where there can still be adventurers like my grandfather, but I hope so.