I travel, from town and village to field and valley. I travel. From the day of my birth, I was on the road with my people. My very fondest recollections are of the road. It is the one thing in my life that has remained reliable. The road always leads somewhere new. Always.

We never did stay long in one place. A few weeks, we’d stop. Stick around long enough to hunt a bit, gather what plants were edible or useful. Or we’d take in the sights if we stopped in towns. Meet what people we could and trade and share a bit in each new place. Maybe liberate a few things that weren't getting the attention they wanted. As soon as we had enough food and a bit of money to get us to another new place, we were off. It’s really the only way to live, you know. You miss too much otherwise.

So Da showed me the hunt, and Mam showed me her songs and soups and sass. And sweet Gran showed me the mule and his care, and the kindness of her dear heart. And then there came Dale, and we were as full up on happy as one family might be. Even Pap was happy in those days, dour though he always looked.

Dale and I grew and took all we could soak in, and learned the roads and towns and villages as well as sweet Gran herself knew them. We would have gone to seek a halfling place soon. Mam was anxious to see us off with families our own. Said she felt selfish keeping us too much to herself. If we hadn't stopped near Orlyn directly after Dale came of age, I’d probably be settled in some village right now with a couple of fat babies and a whole new clan to tie me there. Though it cost me dear, there’s days I’m grateful I’m not tied somewhere like that.

It was right outside Orlyn we stopped. Da said we’d only be here for a few days this time. Just enough time to sell off a few trinkets and gather some food before we went on toward Steadhelm- Gran remembered a most-halfling village near there. We set up in a field off the road, just outside of town. Mam and Gran got to digging around in the wagon to put together what plants, seeds, and other bits might sell well in Orlyn. Dale and Da set to gathering a bit of wood, and I hied off to snag some small game for supper. I managed to take a few rabbits, which ended up forgotten at the edge of the clearing when I got back. I didn't know what to make of the uproar at first, but I could see plain that tempers were high and Dale was at the center of the ruckus. The villagers who’d gathered all wore the tight, distrustful expressions I’d come to expect from those town folk who encountered traveling halflings now and again.

Then I made sense of the shouting- back and forth from Da and Pap. They were arguing! Never in my life had I heard the like of it. Da didn't argue with Pap. None of us did! He was our elder, and it just wasn't done to say ary against him. As I crept closer up behind the wagon, I heard Da shout “Then we’ll sell the wagon and the mule! Anything to keep him from losing a hand. You know the kind of life he’d have after that.” But Pap wouldn't be moved. He’d made his decision, he said. Dale had been caught and would have to pay the price for it. None of the family were allowed to stop it, he said.

Poor, sweet Dale who’d never hurt a body. He’d taken a liking to some bauble in a stall. He thought it would make a fine gift for a bride, he later confessed to me. He’d just wanted to make a gift of something that sparkled is all. The stall’s minder happened to turn just as Dale was slipping it in his pocket, and had dragged him off to the village’s elder. Such a shameful thing, for a halfling to actually be caught liberating something from a dusty market stall. In turn, the elder dragged him out to our camp and demanded that the family pay for the trinket with gold or Dale’s left hand. And now, we were told to stand by and just let him suffer an unspeakable punishment, for what? A trinket that wasn't worth half the asking price? I couldn't just stand by and let them ruin a life like that. I had to do something.

So I climbed. Up to the very top of the roof on the wagon. I’d been up there a hundred times before, but this was the only time I’d been afraid of what might happen when I hit the top. For the last time in my life, I stood atop our little wagon. I drew my bow and aimed, but only at the feet of the men who held my brother. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I just wanted my brother safe. I had to shout to be heard, but they looked when I called out. I saw eyes widen and mouths drop as the village men who held our Dale saw me, as they understood what I meant to do. “Leave him be, or leave here on a pallet!,” I shouted. I still don’t know how I managed not to shake right off the wagon top that day, but they dropped Dale and backed away. I tracked them with my bow, until they backed to the road and turned tail.

I had to leave on my own that night. Mam and Da no longer had a daughter, and I was only Lea then. As I was gathering up my pack and bow, Dale slipped the bauble into my hand and told me of the village center, the market stall, the grimy vendor. He gave me his bride gift to keep, to thank me. And so I left. And so I travel, and hunt, and trade, and see. And the road always leads on somewhere new.

I hear the Orchard down in Rosedale is pretty this time of year. That sounds new enough to be going on with.

Lea is jovial much of the time, and takes great joy in traveling, learning, and meeting all manner of new and interesting people. She strives to see and do as much as she can in her life, and is always looking for the next thing to see, the next place to be, and the next person to greet. The only thing she won't smile about is her family, and she refuses to speak when asked about them.

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