**The first chapter of The Branches of Edhel**
"You're all but spent, traveler. What is there left?"
"Left for what?"
"Left keeping you standing?"
I looked around, my eyes disconnecting from my mind and the walls contracting.
That was my last memory I have of that night.
It is the third of the month, the month of the birds, the season of new beginnings. My eyes opened to tuneful callings, each beautiful harmony lifting my lids a little wider. A curved ceiling reflected the butter light, warming my unwilling body. My limbs felt dead compared to the nature thriving out the small, round and deep-set window by my bed. As a matter of fact, this isn't my bed.
"Lum de dahh...dahh dee dum."
A cherubic voice floated outside the door. It mixed the sweet innocence of the birds with a maiden's sunlit face. I watched intently as the door opened. It was a girl, presumably in her late teens. She wore her hair in a chrocheted snood, though strangs of gold fell out in soft rings around her pretty face,
"M'lady..." I began, taken aback by her sudden entrance and my sudden loss of placement.
"Hush," she beamed, placing a finger to her lip. She walked to my bedside, and then sat herself gracefully at the end of the bed where I lay. "It has taken a while, but then magic is magic."
I was, of course, veyr confused now, "Magic?"
I looked about for signs, any signs, of magicians' stones or flesh-bound books. The girl smiled at my anxiousness.
"Medicine, healing--magic," she confirmed. Her eyes wandered between me and the land outside the window. "You know, good sir, that this is the time of year when strams whisper their love to the banks, and the peacocks' feathers glisten under the sunlight."
"That, m'lady, is magic," I said.
She looked at me, watching my face intently, "And what is the name you call yourself?"
"I am Aurn."
"Aurn," she tested my name. "Aurn, son of...?"
"Son of Aron. A metalsmith of Colham."
"but then what are you, so far from Colham. You leave to my imagination so much."
"Nothing more than a wanderer," I replied, not giving her a tale to quench her satisfaction.
She smiled, "Well, Aurn son of Aron, welcome to Dute."
"What does it mean?" I asked, for it was such a foreign-sounding name.
"You Are Company. If I may inquire, do you know where you are resting?"
It was such an odd question, yet so simple. I daresay that I will ever hear it asked to me again. I assumed that I was traveling south through the wide stretches of the rocky plains of Rhol, but there were no mountains in that land. The window's view showed mountains plain and clear.
"No, m'lady." I hung my head, ashamed.
I felt a gentle touch at my chin, bringing my face level to hers.
"Midanom, past the River of the Forest, before the Mountains that protect: y'loug."
It was then that I realized I was not with the average company. I tried to shuffle to my feet, only to be deterred by the immobability of my legs. I felt embarrassed; my lack of knowledge of their peoples and their territory was obvious. I must be intruding...
"Oh!" I exclaimed.
The girl smiled at me, her deep golden curls reflecting the sun's rays.
"What I came to tell you," she said finally, "Is that your breakfast is waiting in the hall."
She left me to my privacy, saying only that someone would be waiting to show me to the hall before she exited. There was a neatly folded stack of clothing on a tall pine chair. I wondered about this "magic" she spoke of. If she was speaking the truth, then the magic of Midanom would have healed me and more. What was even more confusing about this whole matter was the question of why they accepted me into their company. They are such a private kinfolk, the Midanomonians, devoting their attention no to their world's affairs, but to their own affluence. They maintain a language that has transcended time, with stone-set rules and age-old usage.
My thoughts were cut short when I realized that not only had I gotten out of bed, but I had walked myself over to the window and was looking out onto the hill-land before the mountains. I confirmed to myself that this must be Dute in Midanom, and that was magic.