We leave Vivima early in the morning, continuing to hike across the forested landscape. Birds chirp in the trees, and there’s a lot of activity in the underbrush and treetops as animals prepare for the colder weather. You can feel it too. There’s a chill in the air, and you dress in more layers than you have since we were in Northern Bursna. You wonder if we’ll ever go somewhere warm and sunny again since it seems to be winter everywhere we visit.
Halfway through the day, the trees thin, transitioning to grassland. The terrain is much easier to hike now, and we’re able to increase our speed. In the evening, we reach our destination: Aria.
Aria is a sprawling city near the shores of a large lake. It’s almost as big as some of the smaller cities we saw on Bursna. As usual, the majority of the buildings are open, allowing access to the great outdoors. Aria is bustling with elvira. Unlike on Bursna and in the other towns here on Linea, you will find people who speak your language. The lake is home to a portal to Earth, and some of the merchants here are familiar with human languages, particularly English.
I know you’re eager to explore Aria and see more elvirian culture, but the sun is setting, and everyone’s tired from all the hiking. We’ll be staying here for three nights, so don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to explore tomorrow and the day after. In the meantime, let me tell you one of the elviras’ bedtime stories.
* * * * *
In a bygone time, there was a young woman named Ria who lived in the grasslands of Linea. Ria was always spending time in the nearby woods and mountains and playing in the rivers and lakes. She had the ability to communicate with animals, so she had a close relationship with nature.
After her people discovered the portal to Bursna on Burnis Island, they were exposed to new ideas and technologies, particularly regarding agriculture. The falarsi were agriculturalists more than anything. Some elvira thought it would be a good idea to utilize the falarsi’s agricultural practices. They were already living in year-round settlements, and the climate seemed appropriate.
These elvira set up fields for their plants and grazing pastures for their animals. Many of them used their magic to convince plants and animals to allow themselves into captivity. Some elvira had the ability to manipulate living creatures, and they abused this power. Some plants and animals were forced into domestication.
Ria watched these events with horror. She didn’t understand how anyone could bend nature to their will like that. She realized people needed to eat, but they had survived just fine without agriculture for hundreds of years.
Ria set out to prove elvira could have plentiful food without domesticating their plant and animal friends. Every day she went into the woods where she talked to the various creatures who dwelled there. They helped her find places where food was plentiful, and some of them would help her gather fruits, berries, and nuts. Sometimes they would find wild herbs and vegetables too.
In exchange, Ria would help them find safe, cozy locations to nest, burrow, or otherwise live in with their newborns. She’d help them collect food for the winter. When baby birds accidentally fell from their nests, she’d gently place them back in the safety of their homes. She also used her healing abilities to help injured animals. Because of her positive relationship with the animals, Ria never wanted for food.
Unlike her, the other elvira often experienced food shortages. When freezes came too early, they would ruin entire harvests. Sometimes plagues of insects or disease would destroy crops and kill animals. Sometimes it rained too much or not enough. Unlike their wild neighbors, the domesticated food products weren’t resilient. Many of the elvira suffered and had to buy meat and preserved fruits from their foraging neighbors to avoid starvation.
One day when Ria was in the woods helping her animals friends, she was approached by a creature rarely seen by elvira in her village. It was a reddish brown color and had a horn of polished gray. The unicorn had been separated from her foal and wanted Ria’s help finding him. Ria gathered all her animal friends together and told them who they were looking for. They spent about an hour searching the forest for the lost unicorn foal.
Ria finally found him fast asleep in a cluster of ferns. The unicorn mother was overjoyed to be reunited with her son. She thanked Ria for her help, and in exchange for her assistance, she offered her a blessing.
Unicorn blessings are one of the rarest forms of magic anywhere in the universe. Ria said she was honored, but that she didn’t need a reward for helping a mother find her child. The unicorn insisted until Ria finally relented. The unicorn bowed her head, placing the tip of her horn on Ria’s brow. The unicorn’s blessing was that Ria would live a long life of happiness and prosperity.
Ria took advantage of her good fortune and used her free time to educate her neighbors. She showed them how fostering a relationship with the wild plants and animals resulted in reliable food and other resources. They saw that her food stores were unaffected by inclement weather, insects, and diseases. Many of the villagers abandoned their farms and returned to foraging.
The children loved Ria because she would take them into the woods and introduce them to all of her friends, including the unicorn and her now-grown son. The children didn’t even consider the option of farming and ranching. Eventually, agriculture was abandoned entirely, and the village’s inhabitants came together to restore the grassland to its pre-agriculture state.
Everyone prospered, and they never wanted for food again.