“Really?” questions MeaZea. “Why not?”
Elkah takes the bow and quiver from her shoulder, leaning it against a tree. “You can only cross the moonstone bridge in the dead of Summer. Snow and ice makes it impassable at any other time of the year.”
WooFZee’s ears flick backwards and he gives a low whine, upset at the answer. “Oh. I didn’t realize that.”
“It’s okay,” assures MeaZea, reaching forward to rub behind one of WooFZee’s ears. “We can wait until the moonstone bridge is passable again. I’m sure there’s plenty to do here while we wait!”
“Are you sure?” questions WooFZee, craning his head to the side so that he can glance at the mermaid perched on his back. “If there’s some place else you would rather go…”
MeaZea shakes her head, hair flying everywhere. Her smile is big and beautiful. “Of course I’m sure! Now, Elkah, are we stopping here for the night?”
Their guide nods, sharp eyes scanning the area. “I think so. The covering here is nice and if I remember correctly, then there should be a patch of ruberries nearby.”
Offering out the blanket, MeaZea nods. “Those sound yummy. Dinner, I assume?”
Humming, the deer centaur takes the offered blanket. Elkah takes her time spreading it out, kneeling down on her forelegs so she can get each and every wrinkle out of it. “The two of you can stay here and get settled in. It won’t take me long to collect them.”
She leaves right away after that and, true to her word, is back almost before WooFZee and MeaZea have picked out a spot to settle in for the night. It’s at the base of a tree, curled up among the jade ferns and a few small sapphire flowers. Elkah returns with her arms full of berries; a brilliant, gleaming red as if a bush has decided to grow rubies rather than fruit.
Elkah settles down in front of the duo, folding her slender legs beneath her. Tail twitching, she spreads the ruberries out between them. “They’re very sweet but also very filling. Just eat five or six of them to start with. You’re going to be surprised at how quickly they fill you.”
MeaZea smiles and picks one up, taking a moment to roll it between her fingers. Like everything else on this island, it looks like a gem but feels like a normal berry. It tastes like one too. Like honey and raspberries and a sun kissed shore, all rolled into one small package.
“These are amazing,” she says, with a smile.
WooFZee grumbles out something that isn’t quite an agreement and isn’t quite a complaint. “Tell us about these herbs that you need. Are they difficult to collect? And the amethyst grove, too. We should get there tomorrow, right?”
Elkah nods and eats a few berries herself. “As I said earlier, my sister needs me to collect three of them. Garnet poppies, ameroot, and moon mint. Gathering them can be…a little tricky, to say the least.”
Katelynn E Koontz – Author