Tren walked in his seemingly aimless pace as he had been for many days and many nights. After the first month, it had gotten next to impossible to keep track, so he’d given up on it. Now he stopped only when his feet and bones were weary of travel, no matter which was up – sun or moon. He ate when he hungered and had the food to fill his belly. He spoke mostly only when he met other travelers on the road or when he needed to stop in a village, but sometime found himself conversing with a hummingbird that would flit around, harassing him because of his faded red robes, or a curious deer that followed him for a time – intrigued by the quiet, solitary man.
His journey was not without purpose as his walking might indicate to some, but was also not quite a pilgrimage. There was no definite destination he needed to get to, only a task to walk the lands for a year. It was tribe tradition. Upon a Rissyan elf’s fifteen hundredth birth anniversary, they must journey out alone to let Nature fully develop the inborn abilities of their people. In turn, Nature was granted the use of the innate abilities within the elves to heal herself and grow new life. Thus the cycle of their existences were continued.
Careful breeding and exact scheduling assured only a few of the Rissya came of age each year, at the end of winter. Spring would then spread from their always-green secret forest, Glanlathwen, one elf moving in each direction of the compass rose. They were given new, colorful robes – different for each elf, which could be their only clothing for the coming year, and a couple weeks’ worth of food in a pack. Anything they needed after these stores were depleted they would find or work for.
When the year was up, a Rissyan Elder would find them in dream and guide them to a sacred circle, where the last magic necessary for the long rite would be done. The tasked elf must raise a tree within the circle, using their own body as the seed. If successful, the form would be shed, the tree the only remaining evidence that anyone once stood within the ring of mushrooms and living rock, and the spirit would return to Glanlathwen to join with the others. These spirits, now Rissya Elders, kept alive the secret forest and produced the dreams of every being in the world.
An elf unable to complete this step was shamed, banished. The sacred circle would wither and die, and the elf then forced to walk the earth until they faded from loneliness. This elf would continue to be fed upon by and feed from Nature herself, but without the bright connection of the tribe it would not bring the same peace. The animals would not stop to chat. The beauty of the living world would not shine upon the elf’s face, or in their aura. Agony would fill their remaining days and years.
Tren knew his bloodline was dotted with weaknesses that had kept his family members from returning. He could not help the fear that he would be another. There was no training, no real preparation that he could make to assure his place as an Elder. He could not know until his day came and he attempted the Tree Rite. He could only hope that if he harbored any of the weaknesses, that his strength of will would be enough to carry him through.
He could not imagine never returning to his tribe. It was lonely enough without them immediately nearby, and he still carried the string of connection within. To be cut off from all he had known his whole life, to not feel that love and support, it must mean pure madness. Tren tried to not dwell on the pain his lost ancestors might still be feeling. He tried not to wonder if any of them were still wandering. It was possible, he knew, to be strong enough to survive hundreds of years alone while still being too weak to accomplish the Tree Rite.
He knew, too, that he would worry more and more as his day approached. When the wind began to carry a chill, his panic would begin to rise upon the cold. It would eat through him. Making holes in whatever confidence he might still have or gain before then. He often wondered, as well, if this was one of the weaknesses, or if this was a natural fear.
There was one thing he had to hold onto. A solitary hopeful light in the world beyond everything else that was going on. If he made it home or not, Tren was the last of his bloodline. He was an only offspring, not for lack of trying. He had not found a mate, nor created a child of his own. This he had avoided doing very purposefully, as to end the cycle of worry and wondering and pain and loss. No other N’riel would be forced to endure what he was, what his sires had, and so on since the start of their line. Some called him selfish, but Tren saw it as duty as well as preservation. He saw himself strengthening the Rissyan as a whole. The one thing he wished he could change about it was that he felt someone should have made the decision earlier in the N’riel timeline.
Lost in these thoughts – not for the first time since he’d set out – Tren sat upon the earth to rest, his legs folding under him in a meditation kneel. He needed to clear his head before continuing. He needed to keep pure and uplifting thoughts, lest Nature cling to his darkened mind and plague his footpath with disease, rot, or even death. He closed his eyes and gave himself to the light of the sun. He let the bright heat scorch him inside and out until he thought no more of the future or past, rooting himself fully in the present. He was rewarded with a songbird who directed his attention to a berry bush he would not have seen otherwise. Tren would fill his belly and move on again.