"Damn, it's so hot... I'm sweating so much that I look like I'm melting..." A young boy no older than 10 trudged through a seemingly endless savannah, as he had been for the last two days. He had no idea how he got into his current predicament, only knowing that he needed to escape the grassy tree-less expanse before he died of dehydration. "As amazing as this system is, the map is complete garbage... it just shows this sea of grass."
[The World Map and its minor functions require its user to discover the locations in question, whether in person or via external means.]
"That doesn't help me right now, does it? My journey hasn't even started and I'm already about to die. Do something so I don't die, please!" The boy begged the system to aid his plight.
After a minute of silence, a small sigh came from the system, vaguely male-sounding, [In terms of the World Map, this will be the only time that a location will be revealed without your discovery. Do not ask again.] Another minute passed before it continued, [Your HUD should be operating fine, but the compass was malfunctioning so I repaired it. On your compass, you should be able to see the red arrow for the north, along with a new teal arrow. Head towards that teal arrow, it's the closest civilization in the area. Think of the teal arrows as waypoints.]
"Bloody hell, thank you so much... Wait, have I been walking in circles?"
[Well, apparently the compass kept altering direction to the center of the savannah, so yes, you've been walking an endless circle. Still, this world has large amounts of open space, so I didn't think it was odd.]
"Brilliant... well, as long as I get out of here, I'm happy." The boy, exhausted as he was, immediately headed towards the waypoint to the northeast. The thought of civilization after two days lost and without any nourishment made him move faster than he thought he was.
Thinking of water and food, along with a bed to sleep on, the boy almost ran for more than a half-hour before he finally saw an empty dirt road and the beginning of a forest just across it. Not two minutes later was he standing on the road, facing the trees as he shouted loudly, "FINALLY MADE IT OUT!" This startled the birds and little animals nearby, making them scurry away in a flash. The boy smiled and shook his head before continuing northeast into the forest. A hunting trail meandered through the forest from the road, potentially leading directly to the village he was looking for. Still, the sudden change from direct sunlight for 2 days straight to shaded woods exhausted his mind faster than he expected.
As exhaustion took its toll and began to put the boy to sleep, he heard voices and knew he was very close to the village. Only a couple more steps later did he stumble through some bushes and into a small field of herbs just outside the spiked wooden barricades protecting the village. His rather hasty rustling through the bushes alerted some of the field workers, who were mostly women and children. Thinking it was a beast, they had called for a guard, or more likely a defender, and the guard had only just arrived at the field by the time the boy stumbled into the open.
Then, to their surprise, he just smiled, looked up at the sky... and fell face-first into the ground as he passed out.
"Nnh... my head..." groaned the boy as he sat himself up from small cot on which he laid.
"Whoa, whoa, slowly now. Take it easy, kiddo," came the voice of an old woman with greying hair and green-ish eyes sitting at a desk not far away. "We barely managed to stabilize your condition, so don't you go making it worse again."
He blinked and was about to speak when his belly growled loud enough to startle both himself and the old woman.
As he began blushing, the old lady chuckled, "There's some hot soup on that small table beside the bed. Eat slowly. If you try and eat it all in one go, you'll be spewing most of it out later." The boy could hear her rustling around her desk while he carefully ate the surprisingly delicious soup, making a sound that was not unlike that of a salt grinder. Over that sound, and of himself eating, he could hear what sounded like a bubbling liquid. A variety of scents pervaded the small home, herbal smells mixed with those of cooking and of nature just outside.
After he finished the soup, cautiously placing the bowl down again, he said, "Thank you very much for helping me..."
The old lady smiled as she worked away, "It's what I do, kiddo. I might not be the village chief, but my status as the herbalist and healer puts me almost even with one. Other than that, I'm more impressed you survived two days in the Dreamless Savannah and still manage to get here."
While he was surprised, it wasn't too much, as he had expected a healer to be able to figure out what he'd been through to be in such bad condition. "Still, you didn't have to help me..."
"That is true, I did not have to. However, I've got a soft spot for children. Probably because I'm getting old..." She sighed quietly, "Other than that, there are other reasons why I helped you... such as the village's guardian spirit wishing for you to be saved."
The boy's ears perked up, "Guardian spirit?"
"Yes, a guardian spirit. It's not time for you to meet the spirit yet, though, but you will one day. For now, get some more rest. It'll be morning in a few hours, and then you should be good to go... physically at least."
"Thank you, again... My name is Seran..." he bowed a little towards her before lying back down and almost immediately returning to sleep before he could hear her response.
The old herbalist smiled again, looking back at him with a light sigh, "Going right back to sleep before I can tell him my name... Oh well, I'll just tell him when he wakes up. The poor boy needs his rest."
The next morning, Seran woke up to discover some newly sewn clothes beside him on the small side table. His previous ones had long since been worn well past the thread, to the point where he looked like even his underwear was nothing but a patch held together with a few pieces of thread. Half of the reason for that was because of his status as a slum orphan, while the other half was involved in him getting lost and worn out.
As he slipped on the last piece, a slightly rough but still fitting shirt, the old herbalist came in with a small wicker basket full of herbs, "Ah, good morning, Seran. I see you've put on the clothes sewn by the village's best seamstress. She almost immediately got to work on it. Didn't sleep all night so when she went back to help in the fields, I chased her back home to sleep."
Smiling, Seran nodded, "Yes, they fit perfectly. I need to thank her later." He continued to look himself over, making sure he looked moderately decent.
"Since you fell asleep last night, I didn't get to introduce myself in return. I am Eleanor Greenwood, current herbalist, and healer for this little village, as I have been for nearly 300 years," said the herbalist, who Seran was astonished to learn she was much, much older than what he expected. "Surprised? I've been in this Greenwood Village since it was founded by my father, Edric. My age has a lot to do with the guardian spirit and the elves much, much deeper in the forest."
"Elves? This is the Primeval Forest?" said Seran incredulously.
"Of course. We're safe here for the most part because of the guardian spirit, our trade with the elves and the nearby kingdoms agreement to leave us as an independent village. The main reason for that is because we are the only human village that has ever been allowed to continue existing in the Primeval Forest, on top of which we have a good relationship with the elves. Our village is usually called the Gateway Village." Eleanor smiled and shook her head a little, "I still wonder why the Queen of the Elves allowed us to remain here, but the guardian spirit has never mentioned what it was, only that the founder made a deal that neither could refuse."
"Do elves visit here often?" Seran was intrigued beyond all doubt, as he'd never met, let alone seen an elf.
Eleanor laughed, "No, not often. Other than the two weeks in which a dozen or so elves come to trade towards the end of spring, we rarely get elven visitors. Still, it's the best we could ask for." As Seran's enthusiasm was curbed, she said, "However, sometimes, if you have great talent, the elves will request for you to be apprenticed to one of them. Most of my knowledge was given to me by the guardian spirit and by my master, who is a very old elf. You might just be lucky enough to catch their attention." After setting down her basket, Eleanor said, "Alright, come with me, kiddo. The village chief wants to meet you."
His nerves starting to kick in, he nodded stiffly and followed behind her out of her house towards the chief's house.