Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 4b

Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 4b

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Osran was beginning to suspect that Ijah had been doing her best to avoid the villages and towns of the softskins. Another three days had passed, twice now they had chosen lesser roads and trails over others that were better constructed or had signs of brush having been cut back from the path. During this time they had only encountered a pair of softskins, a father and son, heading in the opposite direction that they had been travelling.

The man had been cautious and protective of his child. He had glanced warily at the three armed women and yielded the trail to them, stepping well into the brush, shielding his little one behind him. Ijah had mostly ignored the man, walking past as if he was not there, Berri had been her usual pleasant self and bid the man a good day, while he had regarded Osran with fear and suspicion as she passed by.

Osran knew fear well, she, the band’s other half-bloods and the captured softskins always lived in fear. It had been a constant in her life and she had been caught off guard to see another person behold her that way. She also realized she had not been living under the oppressive feeling of constant terror for some days now. Still, that chance encounter had left her on edge for the rest of the day. She would have gone to Lothi, in the before, if she had felt the need for comfort.

That night she had placed her bedroll nearer to the other two than she had on previous nights. She was unsure what the relation between Berri and Ijah was, but there was no sign it was of a sexual nature, despite the fact they slept under the same blankets. She also did not know how to ask if she could lay next to them and neither of them had invited her to do so. Feeling lonely and out of place Osran had lain awake that night, listening to them breathe, thinking about the past. It had been close to dawn before she had fallen asleep and it seemed like only moments had passed before Ijah had woken her to participate in the morning rituals.

Osran liked the stretches, she also found Ijah’s instructions on combat rather interesting and she seemed to have no problems clearing her thoughts and listening to the world around her. While Berri struggled with this aspect of the daily training, Osran had been doing so all her life. When you lived close to the wild things and were forced to survive in the wasteland, you tended to develop a very alert sense of the world around you. She also liked the fact that she did not have to gather and cook, so far they had mostly eaten fish that Berri had caught and the girl seemed to enjoy cooking. Osran’s favourite thing, so far, was water bathing and swimming.

The brook they had been travelling along had many small pools and occasional deep pools, shaded by overhanging trees, along sandy banks, typically where the water was forced around some obstacle. Sitting up to her neck in water had been a novel experience, one she found very soothing. The deeper pools at the bends in the water course were far more interesting, it was at these place that Berri often caught the larger fish. Not all fish were silver-scales, some were brown of varied shades, others had a multitude of colours. It was also at these deeper pools where they could actually move through the water, swimming. Osran found this great fun, though she lacked the easy grace that Ijah displayed and Berri could stay underwater for considerably long periods.

In the water the other two were able to find the most relief from the insects. Osran was rarely bothered by them, but the other two often had many swarming around their heads and Berri had been bitten just about everywhere, though she did not seem to mind the bites as much as Ijah did. When Berri came across the right plants she would make a paste and spread it over the bites, Ijah was always very appreciative of the relief this paste provided. Osran figured out that it was the constant presence of these insects that caused the other two to cover themselves with their blankets through the night.

Eventually she had asked, “Why we walk low in the trees? Up the hilltop in more wind, less biting-bug. Would be better?”

Berri had said, “The brook offers easy food.”

Ijah had looked over at her, Osran always felt self conscious when Ijah’s cool gaze appraised her, the warrior woman said nothing though and they proceeded southward on the trail. A cloud of insects followed them.

That evening they made camp in the ruins of an old stone house, the roof was gone and the north wall had partially collapsed. Berri, with a few saplings, some twine and numerous evergreen branches had transformed one corner of the building into a fairly cozy hut. Then Osran had helped her secure a tarp over the layered evergreen bows, “Why we do now?”

Berri pointed to the sky, “I feel a storm moving in. There’s going to be heavy rain starting later tonight. It might last a while.”

“How feel storm, you?”

The shaman-girl shrugged, then said, “My head starts to feel heavy, but also it’s about what the animals do, the fact the wind changed direction and blows harder now. Also, looking at the type of clouds.”

Osran took a moment to process what she had said. There was little to no rain in the wasteland, no open bodies of water and streams only held water for a day or so after the infrequent precipitation. She looked over to the brook, “Will water there, be here?”

Berri cocked her head to one side then grabbed her hand and led her down to the edge of the water, “See where the grass is all matted together and how it’s all dirty? That was from the last heavy rainfall. So the water usually will not get as high as the house, but sometimes after a hard winter it might. Do you see?”

Osran gave a grunt. She looked up to the sky and the rolling clouds then back to the shelter they had made. A substantial murder of crows reeled above them and with a racket started settling into the trees nearby. Berri was delighted and started talking to a number of them. Osran decided to gather some of the edible plants that were around the area, she was unsure how long they would have to shelter here or how heavy the rain would be.

Ijah returned from scouting the area around their camp. She unloaded the gear from the horse and piled some of it in the shelter and the rest outside, she covered both piles with tarps. Then she took the horse over to the corner of the old building most protected from the wind. She fed the animal. Osran picked red berries from thorny brush along the hill above the shelter, there was more fruit than they could eat, so she left most of it for the bears. She had noticed that the bears seemed to like this place, she had found tracks and scat, she wondered if she should mention this to the other two.

She returned with the food she had gathered and left it near the shelter. Berri was using stones from the ruined wall to protect the fire pit, Ijah was gathering wood. Osran went to Ijah, “Did see bear’s shit?”

Ijah gave a nod and added a few more sticks to the pile she carried then took the load over to the shelter. Osran scrounged around for more food and found the area near the ruined building that had once served as a garden, she pulled up a number of big-footed vegetables. She added these to the rest of the food she had gathered.

Berri noticed, “Oh, parsnips, those look good. Can I give some to Horse?”

Osran handed her a few, “What you call?”


“Parsnips. Big-footed vegetable.”

Berri looked confused, “Big-footed?”

Osran looked at her, “Not?”

Berri pointed to her boot, “That’s a foot.”

She nodded, pointed to the vegetable, “Big-footed plant.”

Berri still seemed not to understand, Osran pulled up a nearby flower, held up the end that had been in the earth, “Little feet.”

Berri laughed, “Root.”

“Yes. That was softskin word. Root. Root vegetable, Plant root. Been thinking that one for long days.”

“Your Andalee is already much better.”

“Who’s Anda?”

“Softkins like me are called Andalee, so is the language we speak.”

“Andalee. You speak it different than here and her.”

“A bit, yeah. Are you sick of fish yet?”

“Sick fish?”

“No. Have you had too much fish?”

“Much fish, yes. We get more?”

Berri smiled, “Sure, let’s get more fish. Come with me and I’ll show you how I do it.”


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