Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 5e

Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 5e

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Ijah was happy to be back on the road. She would never regret the eight-day she had taken at the Treppon Homestead, but it had cost her travel time. The chances of her and Berri making it back to Swampdon before winter were now slim. Perhaps if they encountered no further delays for the rest of the journey they could do so. Ijah knew better than to expect that to happen.

The Old Trade Road that ran down along the edges of the Sudakkar to the Republic of Caffern had only been a few hills south east of the homestead. Ijah had set a steady pace for the first few days, the weather had been fair and they had covered a considerable distance. The pace, coupled with the abundance of food and other gifts the Treppon family had given them, made for good exercise. By the fourth day she saw that she had been overdoing it.

Osran was the only one who did not mind the exertion. She had been in a good mood since leaving the homestead. Ijah suspected that seeing other folk like her, living healthy lives away from the tribes, had helped the half-blood gain some perspective. Certainly Ijah had learned a few things in that regard as well, if Mother Treppon could become such a successful matron, then she could not equate having orc ancestry as a detriment. Not in regards to ability. The social implications were still a factor, many people were disturbed by such mixing of bloodlines and she knew that she would have a hard time convincing other Kereshi of her new perspective.

According to Berri the horse was overloaded, due to all the food and extra supplies they had been given. She had advised Ijah, when they first set out, that a moderate pace would be best for the animal. Ijah had kept the pace moderate, but they were on the road from shortly after sunrise to near sunset each day. On the third day Berri had said a lot less than usual and had suggested that the horse needed to rest more. Throughout the fourth morning Berri said little to nothing, Ijah considered calling a mid-day break.

Not far from where Ijah had decided to stop, so they could make some food, Odeena cried out in pain and collapsed to the ground, her lute making a discordant sound, “Ow, ow, ow.” She clutched at the calf of her right leg and rolled from side to side, periodically trying to straighten the limb, “Owwww.”

“Berri, head over to those rocks and get a fire going. Osran, take a good look around the area, make sure there’s no dangers lurking.” She went to Odeena, watched her for a moment.

She carefully picked up the lute, slung it across her back then scooped Odeena from the ground and carried her over to the rocks. “It seems like you have a cramped muscle, I think I might have been pushing a bit too hard, sorry about that.”

Berri muttered, “Horse has been saying that for days. I told you so, but did you listen? Noooo, you did not.”

Ijah looked to the girl with a frown, Berri seemed surprised that the comment had been heard, she busied herself with making the fire, using some of the wood they had been given. Ijah turned back to Odeena, “Now, I’m going to have to take your boot off, it’ll hurt, but I promise, I can make the cramp go away.”

Odeena looked up at her, a few tears running down her cheeks, “Okay.”

As gently as possible Ijah removed the boot and then placed the foot onto her her hip and leaned against it as she started to feel the leg around the calf muscle to see how bad things were. With gentle massage she worked the muscle into a more relaxed state. Odeena groaned a bit, first with pain and a few moments later with relief, “Sorry, it’s been a long time since something like that has happened. I usually travel at a more leisurely pace.”

“No need for an apology, I set the pace without taking proper consideration of the situation. Take your pack off and keep your foot up while we rest. Flex it periodically. If you experience more spasms, let me know.”

Berri had the fire going and was starting to portion out some grains. Ijah took a look around for Osran, she was not far off and she was crouched low, inspecting the ground.

Ijah went over, “What did you find?”

She pointed to where a pile of bones were and said, “This is wyrm kill, tracks here and there, but is old like last eight days.”

“So it’s no longer in the area?”

She shook her head no, “But be back, maybe.”

“Well, we’ll stay alert.”

“Stay alert.” She agreed.

They returned to the rocks. Osran was happy there would be cooked grains for their meal. She certainly did not like most breads, but did like a grain mash, and meat. Ijah was happy to see that Berri had helped Odeena over to the fire, they were chatting about republics and what a citizen was. Ijah sat nearby, she felt she needed to meditate a bit.

She closed her eyes, regulated her breathing. Osran was wandering around the area, the conversation by the fire faded to the background. The crackle of the burning wood held her attention, until it too faded away. She heard the soft breath of the breeze stir sand through the summer ripened grasses. Ego fled awareness.

“Hey, are you going to eat?” Berri’s face was suddenly right in front of her. Ijah smiled, “Sure, Berri, that would be great.” She took a breath and joined the others by the fire.

After the meal Odeena took out her lute and looked it over, tuned it and played through a couple of songs. In that time Berri had dozed off. Ijah let them rest, she cleaned up the supplies and repacked them. Osran had moved off towards the east, she spent a fair amount of time gazing in that direction.

Ijah checked Odeena’s leg again, it was much improved though she felt the muscle had not fully relaxed. She massaged the leg again and for good measure worked on the minstrel’s left leg a bit too. Odeena watched her work, “You have a surprisingly delicate touch, Ijah.”

“I can work with a firmer hand if you want.”

“That’s okay. Maybe another time. I should walk around a bit, see how it feels.”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

They did eventually get back on the road, the pace was slow. Osran spent a lot of time looking eastward into the Sudakkar. Berri trailed behind, leading the horse and remained sleepy headed throughout the rest of the afternoon. Ijah walked alongside Odeena but would periodically range ahead or westward, making sure there were no dragon-spawn lurking in the grass. It was getting warmer, the sky to the east was hazy and clouds were forming above them.

As the sun neared the western horizon they came to a stretch of the road where the sand had drifted far out onto the plains. Off in the wasteland, perhaps half a yat away they could see the ruins of a village. Only the upper parts of the old structures could be spotted. Osran found the tracks of a wyrm again, though the sands had filled most of the indentations. “Three. Four days. Maybe it there.” She pointed to the buried village.

“Well, best to keep moving then.”

“Yeah. Storm making in deep, no, far in wasteland.”

“There’s a storm?”

“Soon. Know more tonight, maybe when morning.”

They continued southward, the reaching dunes had forced them west a bit, but it was easier going than trying to walk across the sand. They came to a long, but short, wall, the sand had piled up against it along the eastern side. Not far to the west was an abandoned homestead. There had been a fire, charred wooden beams of a collapsed barn and the lower stone work of a modest sized dwelling were all that remained. Ijah and Osran drew their weapons, they searched the area. A few small birds took flight to the west, there were no wyrm signs nor indication that other dangers lurked.

“Let’s camp here.”

“Horse thinks that’s a good idea.” Berri agreed. She started to unpack the gear. Before starting any food preparation she took her vest off, “Why’s it so hot?”

Odeena said, “It happens sometimes along this route.” She too shed some of her garments.

Ijah was comfortably warm, though she had noticed it was more humid than she had become accustomed to in this northern land. The sunset was spectacular, she had never seen the like of it before, the land around them took on a deep orange colour. The gentle breeze that had been consistent through most of the day died as they were eating their meal. Animal sounds receded and they were left in an unnatural quiet as the dark night settled.

Berri and Odeena were restless due to the heat, they lay atop their bedrolls, nearly naked. The horse also stirred regularly, swishing its tail and giving an occasional snort, then settling back down. Osran took the first watch and Ijah settled into a deep sleep, dreaming of her equatorial home.

Late into the night Ijah woke, a rumbling sound had disturbed her or maybe it had been the horse. There was a series of bright flashes and she briefly saw her companions were awake and up. She was surprised to discover that she was slick with sweat, she kicked off her blanket and sat up. She heard a distant rumbling again. She stood and then saw a half dozen flashes of lightning far off into the wasteland.

Berri exclaimed, “Whoa!” She and Odeena stood together, arms wrapped around each other, their gazes locked eastward. Osran was close by as well. The dark returned, then a while later the rumbling sound came, followed by another series of lightning bolts.

Ijah moved to where her companions stood, again the low rumble of thunder followed moments later by flashing lightning. She had seen big storms before, especially when her people had sailed from their homeland to the northern continent. This was different though, there was no wind, no surging waves and no slashing rain. The humidity was oppressive, no breeze stirred the air and whatever was happening out in the wasteland continued through until nearly dawn.

Osran had seen similar displays before, she explained, “Wind demons eat sand up high to clouds. Maybe demons dance on ground, maybe not. After, some day or more, then maybe big wind demon come, take all sand from rocks. Sky sandy for days, sometimes eight-days or more. Maybe big wind demon not eat sand, go away and sky sandy for day and… I mean, or, two.”

Odeena said, “I’ve been in a couple of sand storms along this route before, but I have never seen the like of this.”

When the sun crested the eastern horizon it was a dim orange orb, the land was quiet, the air still. The morning settled into a perpetual twilight and there was a foreboding feel in the air.

Osran advised them to cover their faces, to protect them from sand and dust that was already in the air. They had a slow start to the day, Ijah lead them to the south west, away from the wasteland.


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