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Halldis made the first step into the stream. After the second step, she was in its middle. But instead of proceeding and stepping out in just two more steps, she looked into the water... and stopped.
It was... multicoloured. Halldis was stunned for she never noticed anything like this in rivers and streams she had seen before. The water was always transparent and through it one could only see its bed and nothing else. This stream contained all the colours of the surroundings: grey and brown of the bed, green of the leaves, red and yellow of the flowers. And it seemed like it was no mere surface reflection, but that the water was woven of all those colours. As the stream flew and as light refracted on its surface, Halldis thought she saw more colours blue, purple, white...
How can this be?
Attracted by these extraordinary colours, she stooped and put her hand into the stream, unaware of what she was doing. The water was cold, and while caressing her skin, Halldis had a sudden feeling that it was talking to her as if it was alive, as if it was a person wanting to talk to her. Images formed in her head, ones she had never seen before: trees growing on all sides, on an area so huge that it was difficult to comprehend; a distant tower, black and menacing, but which later dissipated and vanished; all the waters flowing through the forest, intertwined among themselves; black silhouettes and webs in the tree-crowns; gracious figures of the elves.
Halldis blinked, trying to recollect herself. It was as if the water was telling her a tale of this forest, of its history and its inhabitants, through the images it was showing.
No, that is impossible, she thought next, in the attempt to be rational. Water can not talk nor show pictures. I am only imagining things. But as the kept holding her hand in the stream, the experience continued. When she closed her eyes, the pictures became even more vivid. And more beautiful.
I want to see more, she realized.
She slowly arose, but didn't open her eyes, and started walking through the stream, in the direction of the source.
In a time so long ago that not even all the stars we see today were lit, there were no forests either. Then the Mother of all the trees made it start growing, and it grew and grew... and the elves awoke them and taught them to speak. The world was young, and tears and blood had not yet soaked the ground.
In a way it was like listening to a voice telling the story. But it was not a voice in a real sense; it was as if the sentenced formed from pictures flying in front of Halldis' eyes.
She kept walking, eyes closed.
But the peace did not last. The world was changing. The shadows lengthened. Darkness from the north spread. The poison imbued ground, water and air. The trees withered.
A step. And the next, and the next. The water danced around her boots. But Halldis wasn't aware of it; all she heard and saw was the tale.
The clash. Day against night. Green against black. Light against dark.
Never before had Halldis seen the sky so black; never had she felt wind so cold; never had she breathed the air so poisonous that it choked her.
Image by image, sentence by sentence.
Step by step.
The forest and the elves have fought evil creatures. For years, centuries. Many days and nights have passed, much water has flown, countless leaves have grown and died. The war went on.
Just like Halldis' steps.
I am just a small stream, one of the smallest. But I've been here all the time, do you know it? I've been a part of this forest forever, ever since its beginning. I've seen it all. And in the end, I saw the victory against shadow and darkness. The world you live in is beautiful.
The sun shone brightly, darkness withdrew, the colours shone in their full splendour.
And then the images vanished and the voice silenced. Halldis stopped and finally opened her eyes. Instinctively she knew that the stream wouldn't say any more, that the story was over.
She stepped out and stood on the grass, and looked around her. She was on a clearing without trees, so she saw the sky above her. The stream curved around a small grassy hill in the middle of the clearing and disappeared from her sight. All was quiet, and all she could hear was a slight murmur of the water.
What has just happened to me?
Suddenly her knees became shaky and she had to sit. She felt shaken, amazed, and even... grateful, she found the right word all at once. The feeling of travelling through space and time was incredible, and she assumed that she was the only dwarf ever who had experienced something like this. After all, her people didn't dwell in The Wood of Greenleaves and they couldn't even get the opportunity for this.
So, it was not exaggeration when we were told that the water in this forest was different than elsewhere... will anyone believe me if I tell them about my experience?
And having thought that, having remembered her brother, friends and everyone else, her eyes opened wide and she felt a cramp in her stomach. Because, when she jumped on her feet and looked around, she realized she had no idea where the road was. She walked through the stream with eyes closed; she had no sense of time and had no idea what distance she crossed. She thought she didn't go very far, but it was possible she was wrong. For now she couldn't hear anything any more not a single voice or other noise that numerous dwarves on the road made. And the clouds covered the sky and the sun, so she couldn't say where the south was.
What am I going to do now...?
For a short while she was in panic, but her reason soon prevailed. Although she didn't know how long she had walked, she knew from which direction she had come. She concluded that she only had to walk next to the stream to the place where she stepped in. She was sure she'd recognize it.
But I will not go in the stream again to get those strawberries on the other side. I picked enough and I'll immediately return to the road. It was more than enough almost getting lost once, I don't want to risk one more time.
But even before she managed to turn around and start going back, behind the rim of the hill she heard noises that became louder and closer. Sounds of heavy steps were accompanied by something that resembled mumbling. And then, a bear appeared on the hill.
After lunch, Darri joined a group of about a dozen dwarves who went to collect some more wood. They didn't cut anything not just because of the warning, but also in a good part because most of the trees were too big and even the lower branches were too high to reach them easily. So they mostly collected the dry branches that fell on the ground.
They slowly progressed, and soon they came to a stream. Most of the group didn't step in and cross it, except for the two who jumped over it in a spot where it was most narrow, and the two continued to pick up wood on the other side. After a while all of them filled their baskets and, using shoulder straps, put them on their backs. They were about to go back when he thought he heard a sound coming from the distance.
Yes, it sounded like that, but he wasn't completely sure what he heard it could also be a bird. He stopped and tried to judge what it was when another scream was heard, a little louder than the first time, and this time there was no doubt that it was a female voice. The others around him also lifted their heads and looked warily around themselves, trying to realize where the voice came from. And then the sound reached them for the third time, and now they could discern the word.
The voice came from the distance and it was muffled, but it was impossible to mistake. Someone was in trouble. This time they could tell the direction, and a dozen dwarves ran through the forest.
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