Elydrie pressed her fist into a large bowl of bread dough, kneading it quite thoroughly. She looked out the window to see Shay and Taceo practicing their swordplay with each other. She loved to watch the skill and intensity of the fights. Their swords moved fast enough that Elydrie could hardly tell what was happening. Shay had let Elydrie hold her sword a couple of times. It felt nice in her hand. She wouldn’t mind learning how to use a sword someday.

           Elydrie turned back to her work. Shay had been kind enough to let Elydrie stay with her until she could find a more permanent place to stay, and Elydrie helped in the bakery in exchange. Elydrie loved it. She loved how cheery the bakery was, she loved playing with the children, she loved talking to Miren and Taceo, and she especially loved hearing Shay’s stories. Sometimes, when they were all gathered around the fireplace in the evenings, Shay would tell her stories of the far-off lands she had travelled to, stories of her days as a gypsie, stories of defending Woodland in the Order of the Rose. Those nights were Elydrie’s favorites. She loved learning anything she could about Woodland and the world around it.

           Elydrie placed the loaf of bread into the oven just as Isolde walked into the bakery.

           “Hey, Elydrie! What’s cooking?” Isolde said. “Wait—lemme guess. Bread.”

           Elydrie rolled her eyes and laughed. “Yes, Isolde, it’s bread. You’re a genius.”

           “I know, thank you, I’ll be here all day.” Isolde said. “Anyway, I came to ask if you wanted to come to the Order of the Rose meeting later today. They’ll be teaching basic lessons, and we’d really love to have you there.”

           Elydrie stopped and thought for a moment. She really would love to try her hand with a sword, but she knew that she’d be of no real value to the Order; in practice she could use a sword, but she knew she wouldn’t dare in real combat. But it wouldn’t hurt to go practice with them, would it?

           “Alright, I’ll have Shay bring me over to the meeting later,” Elydrie said.

Isolde grinned. “I’ll see you there!”

“Need any bread before you go?” Elydrie asked, handing her the usual.

Isolde handed her a coin. “You know me too well. See you later.”

“Bye.”

Elydrie walked into the Order of the Rose meeting, following closely behind Shay. Elydrie recognised most of the members; she had seen them throughout the Village, and many of them came into the bakery often.

“Hello, Elydrie!” Damian said, his welcoming smile helping Elydrie to feel at home. “Glad you finally decided to join us. I’ve been hoping you’d join sooner or later.”

Elydrie chuckled a bit. “I’m just here to give it a try; no promises.”

Damian patted her on the back. “We’ll make a swordsman out of you yet.”

Suddenly the group quieted as Kane started the meeting. As Kane explained some of the drills they would be doing today, Shay quietly tapped Elydrie on the shoulder.

“Here, I found a sword you can borrow.” Shay whispered, handing Elydrie a rapier. It was simple, but beautiful. As Elydrie took it in her hand, she smiled. It was a bit heavier than she expected, but it felt so natural, like the sword was a part of her. As she examined it closer, she noticed a word engraved on the wooden handle: “Honor.”

The group broke off for lessons, and Elydrie went with the other newcomers to learn the basics. The sword in her hand, the excitement in the air, and the contagious smiles of those around her led her to have the best night of her life. Elydrie hadn’t just found her home here at Terrasylvae; she found her family.

By the time practice ended, the sun had gone down and the air was cool. Elydrie’s arms were sore and she had several bruises. She sat on a rock, breathing heavily, exhausted. Damien sat beside her.

“So, do you think you’ll come again next week?”

Elydrie smiled. “And all the weeks to follow.”

Damian smiled. “That’s great! You’ll make a fine swordsman.”

“Speaking of swords,” Elydrie said. “Do you know whose sword this is?” She knew it was a long shot, but there was something about this sword; it felt so right in her hand.

“It’s one of the company swords; it’s for anyone to use.”

It belonged to no one? This was almost too good to be true.

“What are the chances that I could buy this from the Order?”

Damian considered for a moment. “Let me talk to Kane. I bet I could pull some strings and make that happen.”

Elydrie smiled. “That’d be amazing. Thank you.”

***

Two years later, Elydrie tipped her sword, Honor, in a salute, nodding to her opponent. Kane stood opposite her, sword drawn and ready. Kane rushed at her, sword moving faster than lightning. In the blink of an eye, Elydrie was disarmed. “Again,” Kane said as they reset the fight. Elydrie saluted again, but Kane was already upon her. He took her right arm and then her legs, barely allowing her time to switch swordhands and to kneel. Elydrie fought desperately, but to no avail.

Shay stood to the side watching the fight. In recent months, Kane had passed his captaincy on to Shay. Now she watched as Elydrie fought her final test match to become a swordsman. Kane and Elydrie reset the fight. Again and again and again, Elydrie was pushed back, disarmed, bruised, battered, defeated. She couldn’t keep up; she could barely breathe. She had never seen Kane fight so aggressively, and it was quite a frightening thing to see.

“Elydrie,” Shay called, motioning her over. Grateful for a chance to breathe, Elydrie removed her helmet and joined Shay.

“You weren’t kidding when you said this was going to be hard,” Elydrie said, panting.

“Seriously, you’re doing great,” Shay said. “But I want to try something. I need you to push. I want you to take charge of the fight.” Shay put on her helmet, but did not reach for her sword. “I’m going to be right there with you. Just take charge.”

Elydrie nodded and put on her helmet, advancing towards Kane with Shay at her side. Kane saluted, and Elydrie did as well.

“Ready?” Shay asked. Elydrie nodded. “Go!” Shay yelled as Elydrie rushed forward. Sword flying, Elydrie struck again and again. Their swords locked, Kane’s quillons trapping her blade. “Push!” Shay yelled, right by her side. Elydrie ducked under her sword, twisting around to slash Kane across the chest.

“Dead!” he called.

“Yes!” Shay cried. “Elydrie, that was beautiful!”

Elydrie gave a thumbs-up in response, trying to catch her breath. Despite her exhaustion, she managed a smile. It was a good fight.

Elydrie knelt and placed her hand on the sword. Shay began the words of the oath, and Elydrie repeated them.

“I, Elydrie, pledge my word to uphold the Company honor, to give my loyalty and support, and to defend the name of the Company. I will follow the appointed leaders and fight for the Company with a ready sword for as long as the Company remains honorable and just, in both name and deed.”

As Shay placed the sword on Elydrie’s shoulders, Elydrie’s eyes welled up with tears. Two years of hard work, friendship, and adventure had led her to this moment. Her mind was flooded with memories of Terrasylvae—some happy, some painful, but all precious to her. She rose to her feet, now dubbed a Swordsman of the Order of the Rose. As the company cheered, Elydrie smiled as she saw the faces of many loved ones. She had found a place in her heart for each one of the Terrasylvans. They were her family. Elydrie’s smile faded as she realised she would soon be leaving them.

Late that night, Elydrie entered her home and slumped in a chair, exhausted from the evening’s celebration. Elydrie had saved up enough from working at Shay’s bakery to build her own little cabin. It was small, only one room, but it was her own, and that was enough. She had grown to like the house well enough, but tonight it felt dark, cold, and empty.

Elydrie’s eyes were drawn to the mantle of the fireplace. A single dried forget-me-not sat there innocently. Elydrie walked to the fireplace and gently picked up the flower, cradling it in the palm of her hand. It was such a small thing, but to her it represented years of a forgotten life, a hole that couldn’t be filled. As much as Elydrie had grown to love Terrasylvae, she knew so much was missing. She had to know where she came from and who she was. It was time for her to leave.

Before the sun rose the next morning, Elydrie crept quietly into the bakery. It was more than an hour before she usually came to work; Elydrie hoped to finish the first loaves of bread and leave before the household awoke. She hated leaving the bakery at such short notice, but she was scared that if she didn’t leave now, she would lose her nerve and not leave at all. In her pocket she held a note that she would leave for Shay—a farewell and an apology for leaving so suddenly. Then she began work on the last loaf of bread she would make for a long time.

As Elydrie placed the loaf in the oven, the front door of the bakery suddenly burst open. Shay stood in the doorway, sword at the ready. She looked exhausted; it looked as though she was just getting home from a long, intense night of performing the various duties of a captain.

“Elydrie!” Shay said. “What are you doing here at this hour? You nearly gave me a heart attack! What are you thinking?”

“I’m sorry!” Elydrie stammered. “I shouldn’t have come so early, I just—I’m not sure—I can’t explain—” Tears began to fall from Elydrie’s eyes, and she suddenly pulled Shay into the tightest hug she had ever given.

“Thank you for everything, Shay. You mean the world to me. But it’s time for me to go. I don’t know how to explain it… I need to find myself.”

Shay squeezed her back tightly. “I know how you feel more than you might think,” Shay said. “I think I’ve seen this coming for a while now. I’ll miss you. We all will. Things won’t be quite the same without you.”

“I promise I’ll come back,” Elydrie said, attempting a smile. “I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ll be back.”

“We’ll be waiting for you.”

With one last embrace, Elydrie left the bakery. She left the streets of the Village she called home. She chose a path leading into the forest, into the unknown. The path rose steadily, and as she looked behind her, she could see the sleeping Village laid out, barely visible through the trees. As she reached the top of the hill, she could suddenly see the sun rising gloriously before her. Elydrie took a deep breath, enjoying the warmth of the first rays of sunlight and the songs of the birds awakening.

“Onward,” she whispered to the bright morning, as she stepped forward into the journey that lay ahead.

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What journeys are worth leaving home to you?

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