Iohanna woke up to a squirrel sitting on her chest picking at some kind of nut that had fallen from one of the trees nearby. She peacefully watched as the small critter sat there stuffing its cheeks. She smiled as its cheeks turned into round balls. The ears twitched and it suddenly went completely still. She listened carefully for what might had startled it but couldn't hear anything. Something had indeed scared off the squirrel she watched as it ran up a tree inside a small hole. Iohanna tilted her head around trying not to make too much noise when she noticed a giant grizzly bear just a few yards away looking in her direction. A huge sigh of relief washed through her and she placed her hand underneath her head giving her some elevation to watch as it stalked closer. She let out a small wave of pressure that put a two feet radius around her of protection. Animals were smarter than humans when it came to magical beings, they tend to feel the change in their bodies and ignore them not wanting to cause issues, so she felt relaxed as it growled at her.
The bear snarled at her sticking out its bottom lip as it approached. The closer it got to the being laying down the more it felt the air collapse inside its lungs. Eventually it couldn't take another step closer, so it backed up and tried to make its way around the barrier. When it noticed there was no way to get to her it continued its way deep into the forest. Iohanna watched as it freely went about its life not fearing anything around it. She hopped up to her feet and brushed off the dirt feeling well rested but quite hungry as she continued traveling to the southern border.
Standing on a branch high up in a tree he watched as a small girl collapsed onto the ground nearby. She was frail and covered with mud from head to toe. He watched as she didn't move feeling a small sense of regret for her. He watched as animals tried to approach her and scared them away by firing arrows into nearby brush. She laid there for the rest of the day and through the night. It wasn't until the morning of the third day that he thought she was dead and was about to leave. As he began to leave, she started to make slow movements. He stood there as still as possible as she was looking up in his direction when he noticed her watching a critter that was on top of her. He had almost intervened when the bear approached her but saw an aura around her that deterred the bear from her. She had the power to kill it and feed herself, but she watched as it walked by admiring it. She had respected the forest and the creatures in it.
He leapt tree branches following her as she walked to the southern border. Normally humans wouldn't adventure this far into the woods in fear of the Elvin clans. She had to have been desperate to travel this far. His tribe was nestled into the desert about a month away on foot and wondered if that was where she had intended to go. He was a desert elf he had a light orange skin tone and yellow eyes. His ears were prominent to help provide a self-cooling system to protect him against the heat. Unlike a lot of Elvin clans, they stood at an average height with the humans. Due to their lack of provisions from the desert they specialized in alchemy to conjure their needs. Every now and then they send out their youth into the forests to learn about the outside world. It was a rite of passage they each had to complete a task to be blessed by the elder into adulthood. Those who couldn't pass would be sentenced to another century of lessons before they would be able to attempt the next ritual.
His task was to spend a year living off the land with no usage of alchemy or help from others while observing the humans as they interacted with nature. He had watched gruesome killings, humans killing other humans, humans pillaging other travelers raping them and leaving them for dead, humans mass murdering animals taking more than they needed. He had thought the worst of humans, but now a small girl showed him a new side to humanity. He had only been in the forest for the past three months and had almost given up on the race entirely. He watched as she caught a single rabbit and ate at nightfall, he turned his back as she bathed in small creeks, and he admired as she talked to small insects telling the stories of her late parents and her capture, and he listened as she spilled her entire life story to a little caterpillar. For six days he followed her in the trees only coming down after she had fallen asleep to feed himself and sleep. Humans tend to sleep longer than Elves do, so he would wait in the mornings examining her frowns as she slept. He had wondered what had upset her so much while she slept twisting and turning, and sometimes waking up panting and scared.
On the seventh day he heard a group of people 50 yards away. One thing he had noticed was the more people together the more deadly they were. Quickly climbing down the tree, he woke Iohanna and placed a hand over her mouth as his finger went to his mouth letting her know to stay silent. He spoke something she couldn't understand before he attempted to use human words. He could understand it but speaking it was harder for his dialect. "Coming." He pointed off in the direction of the people. "Must, go."
Iohanna could hardly understand what he was saying but she saw the worry on his strange face. It wasn't long before she heard the men off in the distance before she nodded to him, and he removed his hand from her mouth.
"Follow." he grabbed her hand and pulled her into a sprint. His hand slipped from hers, but she kept his pace as they ran so he picked up speed until she reached her limit. The boarder was nearing, and it would only be a day away before they would reach the Sands of Gûl. From then it would only be three weeks until they reached his home. He wouldn't complete his task, but her life wasn't something he wanted to witness the end of. To him she was the last hope for a civil race for the humans.
Iohanna was quickly tiring out with the pace they were running. She slowed down and came to a halt. Bending over her knees, she could feel her stomach turn from not eating before sprinting half a mile. She started to dry heave and get lightheaded as the strange boy turned around and jogged up to her.
"Follow." he reached for her hand before Iohanna pulled away. "No, follow." he kept trying to get her to understand they needed to go and quickly.
"I can't." Iohanna was starting to regulate her breathing. "Running is for the damned." She hated to run and that was what her life had been reduced to lately, who could outrun who.
The boy chuckled a little bit. "Carry." He turned around and offered her his back.
"No, go slower and we can go longer." Iohanna saw him nod and they began their jog through the woods. Iohanna made it much farther this time. The boy started to slow down and hopped up the base of a tree to reach a branch and began climbing his way up to look out around them.
"Clear." he shouted down to her and started his way down the tree.
"Oh, thank the gods." Iohanna collapsed to the ground happy to not have to run anymore. "So, now that that's over who are you?"
He looked down at her questioning face, he wasn't sure what was so wrong with running. "Conict."
"Conick, Connect?" Iohanna tried out his name.
"No, Conict." He made a strange clicking noise at the end of his name.
"Yeah, I'm gonna call you Con." Iohanna looked up at him not wanting to try his name again. "So Con, what where you are doing following me?"
"You, know?" He had a puzzled look plastered over his face.
"I am sure you have noticed by now, but I have some powers of my own. One of these powers involves a particular sound, a heartbeat." She sat up on the wet ground. "It has been how I have avoided most people since being on the run. It doesn't work as a constant, but I got into the habit at checking a couple times a day to make sure I was safe. Animals and humans have different rhythms, so I learned to focus on a certain beat."
"Heart." Con' placed his hand on his heart. "Like humans?"
"No, it took me some time to cipher you out." Standing up she wanted him to understand her authority. "I ask again why you were following me." She raised her hand letting him know that she would use her magic on him if she needed to.
"I, task for tribe to become a man!" He struggled with the human dialect using his hand to create pictures for his words.
"And becoming a man means you follow a woman?" Warning flags set off in her head.
"No, watch humans. Learn." He tried to express his task as best as he could worried, she misunderstood him.
"Learn from humans?" She let out a huff of laughter. "Your tribe should send you out to learn from beasts instead, at least they have morals."
"Yes." Con' nodded agreeing with her. "You, different."
"No, Con. I am not." Iohanna shifted her eyes remembering it was her hands that had killed someone who did nothing but try to help her.
"Yes, Maaarc?" He said his name slowly trying to remember the name she used in her story.
"You heard all that?" Iohanna scratched her head in shame.
"Yes." He smiled at her.
"See, not much different. I am just like the rest." Sadness filled her eyes as she remembered how much she wanted to be rid of his pestering, and ultimately, she had gotten what she asked for.
"Yes, different." He showed her the little caterpillar she had told her story to. To show her, her compassion for not killing it.
"Why the hell did you take that with you." She grabbed the poor critter and set it on a leaf nearby.
"See." He looked at her with kind eyes.
Ignoring his trickery, she changed the subject. "In your culture, you are considered a boy?" She eyed the well-formed elf in front of her. He had a smaller build than Marc' but he was twice the size of her in body mass. He was strong like an average soldier and he looked as if he were around her age.
"Yes, 100 years old." He smiled again at her showing off his age for transitioning into manhood. In his tribe they dedicated the first century to learning and conditioning. For being sand elves, their survival had a lot to do with their intelligence level, and they pride themselves of being the most knowledgeable of the world.
"A hundred years old?" Iohanna couldn't stop the shock in her voice, and she suddenly felt like she knew nothing of the world anymore. She knew they could live a long time as some of her studies involved anatomy of different beings, but she never saw one and how young they would look. She assumed they would be covered in wrinkles and just look like old people for forever.
"Yes." Con laughed at her surprise.
"Well Con, where are we heading." She tied her hair up getting ready to set out once more.
"Food, then home." He could hear her stomach growl louder than she could and it was starting to get on his nerves.
"Okay." She found herself full of curiosity to see what older elves would look like and how they lived. She wasn't too worried about Con she had noticed him following her for the past three days and he never did anything when she would test him. She even checked to see if he would peek at her while she bathed, and he never moved from behind the tree giving her privacy. She had grown to accept his curiosity of her and wondered when he would come and introduce himself. He was also an easy one to read, she felt his good nature the moment she spotted him hiding behind branches as he peered at her. She remained her distance because she had been wrong before and knew her emotions affected her abilities, and right now she felt vulnerable.