Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 6a

Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 6a

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Part 6) Berri


Berri did not know what was wrong with herself, other than feeling very cooped up. She and Odeena had been together under the shelter for over a day, likely longer. Not far away, similarly situated, Ijah and Osran sheltered together. She hoped Horse was doing okay, there had not been much they could do for her, maybe Horse had wandered off to get away from the sand.

When Osran told Ijah that a big wind demon was in the desert eating the sand and that they would need to shelter, the Kereshi had not argued. Even though they had not travelled more than half a day.

Osran had overseen the assembly of the shelters, two for them, one for the extra gear and nothing for Horse. Poor Horse. They had dug shallow pits and propped up the canvases from their bedrolls with Odeena’s walking stick and Ijah’s sword on the westward facing, creating narrow openings for the shelters that they had to enter by sliding down into the pit on their bellies. The tarpaulins had been pegged then weighted down with earth, stones and a bit of the heavier gear. Grass mats had been woven, one for the inside to put the blankets on, another for the outside, over the tarp. A couple of layers of cloth, shawls and head scarves had been hung across the narrow entryways.

The gear had been easier, a shallow pit covered with the large canvas. Horse only had a sack over her head, which protected her eyes and big nose from the sand. Poor Horse.

Osran had said that if they were lucky the wind demon would not come this way, if it did they would likely die. Regardless, there would still be a lot of sand in the air, she had said it would fall like rain. It had, the sound of the gently settling sand had been disconcerting. The big gusts of wind had thankfully been infrequent, but when they came it was terrifying. Berri was sure the shelters would be blown away.

None of that was the problem however. Nor was the oppressive humidity, nor the weird changes in the air that sometimes made her head pound. She certainly felt there was something wrong with her head and maybe her heart too. She could not think properly,  her thoughts kept cycling around to the same obsession. It was driving her a little crazy, at times it had made her heart race and her body shake. She preferred the way her head usually worked, jumping from one idea or memory to another.

Berri rolled over again, for the thousandth time since she had woken up. In the lurid light, filtering through the cloth across the entry, she looked at Odeena. She admired the minstrel’s pretty face and long hair. The way her hair rested across her shoulder and breast. The curve of her hip, the long fingered hand resting along the upper leg. The nearer hand casually resting on the edge of Berri’s blanket, so close to her.

Berri groaned softly and wondered why her stomach fluttered so. Her body felt like it was vibrating, the air felt cool against her skin, she was radiating so much heat. Her hand reached out and she gently poked the minstrel’s nipple with the tip of her finger. Berri was horrified with herself. The minstrel sighed, her parched lips parted. Berri’s heart pounded unbearably fast. She thought she might die. She felt the overwhelming urge to be as close to Odeena as she could be.

Confused, she flopped back over. She closed her eyes and started counting imaginary stars. What was wrong with her? She had never felt like this before. Imaginary stars turned into a dancing Odeena. Frustrated, she opened her eyes and stared at the side of the shelter. She must be losing her mind. She started counting again.

Berri managed to count to a thousand, she felt calmer. She took a couple of deep breaths, tasting sand, despite having drawn breath through her nostrils. She found it difficult to find a comfortable way to lay, she settled onto her back and rested a hand on her forehead. She resisted the urge to glance over at Odeena.

On the edge of falling back to sleep, she was startled when the minstrel suddenly spoke, “Are you okay?”

Berri’s eyes snapped open, Odeena was close, looking down at her with a concerned expression. Her voice squeaked when she responded, “Me? Oh, I’m fine.”

“You’re so hot.” She rested a hand on Berri’s head then moved the hand to Berri’s cheek, her hair hung loose, tickling Berri. Her proximity caused Berri’s stomach to flutter again, she hardly recognized her own voice when she responded, too low and husky sounding, choked with emotion, “Hot… Am I?” She gazed into the minstrel’s eyes.

Odeena looked down at her, concerned, “Can you sit up a bit? You need some water.” She stretched over Berri to get the water skin.

Berri tried to sit but the accidental contact between them, as they tried to move around without disturbing the shelter, slammed Berri’s heart to a rapid tempo and she collapsed with a shivering sigh. Berri thought she was going to die. Odeena was worried, she unstopped the water skin, slid a hand under Berri’s back and encouraged her to drink, “Just a bit.”

Berri took a couple big gulps, then Odeena drank some, replaced the stopper and leaned over to put the skin back where it had been. The tickle of her hair, the smell of her skin and the intimately close proximity overwhelmed Berri. Her lip quivered, her nostrils flared. Odeena gave her another concerned look as she started to shift away. Before she could settle back on her blanket Berri reached out and grabbed her arm. Odeena was startled, her expression questioning.

Berri did not know what she was doing, her mind reeled, she thought she might be holding Odeena too tightly. She let go of her wrist, “Do you think you can hold me?”

“Sure Berri, here.” They lay down, the minstrel let Berri rest her head on her shoulder, they settled a bit. Then Odeena placed her other arm so than her hand rested gently on Berri’s stomach, “Is that okay?”

Berri nodded, she dared not speak, the relief she felt was overwhelming. After a while she sighed as her pent up tension receded, she closed her eyes and wondered why she was crying. For a long while Berri’s mind skirted along the edges of sleep. She thought back to many years earlier when she and her sisters had gone into Swampdon to get some supplies they needed for the homestead. They had talked about boys as they often did, and although Berri was inexperienced on such matters her sisters, all older than she, had not been. Pretha had talked about her encounter with Dellam Grey, the way she had felt and what the two of them had done to each other. At the time her sisters’ giggling and knowing looks had been confusing and maybe a little disgusting. Now though, Berri thought she better understood, even if Odeena was not a man. That was alright. Ijah had six wives and only two husbands between them, after all. Not to mention Odeena was the prettiest woman Berri had ever met. Well, maybe Holly was prettier, but Odeena was way more interesting than any of her sisters.

Berri faded back into a fitful sleep. She dreamed of her home and the war.

A noise in their camp startled Berri awake, her sudden movement woke Odeena. A moment later she heard Osran say, “Think okay now, sands most settled.”

Ijah suggested, “You should wake the other two. Especially if we have to get moving.”

“Best we move. Strange weather, maybe wind, maybe rain. Both can be bad.”

Odeena gave Berri a hug and sat up a bit. Berri rolled over to her side of the shelter, “I hope Horse is okay.”

“I’m sure she’s fine.”

Osran gave their shelter a shake, “Wake up now. We be walking.”

A bit of sand fell within the shelter, Berri grabbed her satchel and then crawled out. Odeena followed.

“Everyone alright?” Ijah asked.

“Am good.”

“Where’s Horse?”

“Sweet as a peach.”

“Berri, see if you can find Horse. You two, get the shelters down, I’m going to take a walk around, see if there’s any trouble lurking.”

Berri dusted herself off, found her old shirt and breeches then headed out, opposite of the direction Ijah went. She heard Osran ask, “What is peach?”

She did not hear Odeena’s reply, too concerned about Horse, who had left the camp likely looking for better shelter, maybe drawn to nearby water. There were not many high points around their position, but Berri headed to the nearest raised area, hoping for a better view. From her somewhat elevated vantage she looked around, no immediate sign of Horse, but to the west she thought she saw tracks.

Everywhere around them there was sand, around the camp there might have been a couple hand spans of accumulation. As she trudged further west the depth of the sand receded, she found impressions, slightly filled in, that indicated Horse had wandered off this way. She followed the tracks for another half yat, Horse was in a slight depression where a small pool from a spring had attracted the animal. Horse heard her approach and gave a snort.

“Hello to you too. Oh, look at you, you chewed right through the sack.” Horse swished her tail and moved to Berri.

“It’s alright, the storm is over. Here let’s get rid of this, you’ve made a mess of it.” She untied the improvised hood they had put over the horses head, “There you go.”

Horse gave a great shake, dislodging sand and dust. Berri choked on it and moved back. She sneezed. Horse pranced around the area then returned to the muddied water, drinking loudly. Berri lead her away after a while and then swung up onto her back, she could see more of the surrounding land. There was not much to look at, sand and grass for the most part. The sky was still an odd colour, the sun a faint orange disc above. It was still very warm, though the shifting breeze had lowered the humidity a bit. There was still a lot of dust in the air.

As she approached the camp she could see that the others had most of the gear packed and ready. Everyone was happy to see Horse. Ijah suggested, “Let’s eat a bit and then we’ll head out. Osran says we should be on the lookout for wyrms, they are often hunting right after the storms. Also if the wind picks up again from the east, we’re going to have to shelter again.”

Berri found her boots and reclaimed her shawl. She sucked on a piece of jerky as she packed the gear on Horse. They were soon heading out across the plains to the southwest. A while later the wind picked up a bit, blowing from the northwest. She pulled her shawl over her face, wondering how often all the bits of sand blew one way, onto the plains and then were blown back towards the Sudakkar.


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