Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Ninety

I dozed and then woke when I felt something tugging on me.  I opened my eyes to find a tiny face staring at me in distress. 

The child was older than I had at first thought, not a baby at all but a child, small for its age.  I had no choice but to turn loose and it toddled over, squatted, then relieved itself.  Righting its clothes however seemed beyond its strength so I helped and as I did so said, “Well that was very smart.  I had no idea you were so old that you could do for yourself in such a way.” 

The child watched me with bird-like curiosity then pointed to its mouth.  “I’m sorry,” I told her.  “All I have is water but you are welcome to that.  We must be careful though as it is still quite a walk until the next seep.”  I poured some water into a mug and held it so that she could sip.  She sighed and then seemed to fall back to sleep.   

It felt odd holding a child.  Not unpleasant but not something I did much of during my training.  It was also something I had not been taught during my first sojourn at Linderhall.  I’ve treated plenty of children for bumps and bruises so I was not completely without some expertise in how to manage them but rarely had I dealt with one so small and obviously in need of care.  

Knowing the child could not walk the distance we needed to go and knowing that I could not carrying her in my arms the entire way I began to ponder the problem only to doze off.  

“Roo!  Wake up!” 

I startled so badly that I woke the child and almost set her to crying again.  But I swear, it was just like Nat had shouted in my ear.  It took me a moment to convince myself he was nowhere near, playing some prank.  But it was also enough to remind me of the carrier he and my brothers had used for me.  I could not build such a contraption but I could fashion a sling that would ease her burden upon my person and allow me to keep us both covered by the leather cloak. 

I used the stars to get my bearing then picked out a visible point on the horizon to head towards.  It is night time but the sky is cloudless and the stars and moon afford me some light to travel by. Additionally, the land is ominously flat between me and the sharp bits of rock that looked like teeth.  The flatness will make it easier to travel but undoubtedly means that my goal is further away than it looks. 

Slowly and carefully I exited my hiding spot halfway expecting to see something that would prevent me from getting away.  There was nothing and yet I still felt watched.  Gathering the child I fitted her into the sling, settled the cloak to keep out the night, and began to walk.   

No matter my intent I tired in less than an hour but I knew now that the journey was begun it could not be stopped.  I occasionally stumble and the child grabs me for security.  It is an odd feeling.  You would think it would be burdensome but in reality it … well not to put too fine a point upon it, it makes me feel important.  There.  Obviously I enjoy feeling more powerful and in control than I am.  I know there is a lesson there but for now I will simply take what I can get.  It likely has something to do with pride and arrogance.  I will do my best to exercise caution in those areas as I do not wish to fall from my own foolishness. 

I also need to think about practicalities … namely hunting.  I cannot continue without sustenance and neither can this child.  I’ve seen some odd tracks in my travels and I believe they belong to lizards and snakes leaving trails in the sand.  I have eaten both though only domesticated breads raised for such purposes.  My husband considered dessert snake in particular a delicacy.  I think perhaps he more enjoyed shocking certain guests with the presentation at important suppers than the actual taste.  I would say it tastes like chicken as most tried to say but in reality it simply tastes like snake, a flavor all its own. 

I cannot stop this feeling of being watched.  I don’t sense in hostility but I will exercise due caution.  I’ve strained my ears trying to hear anything that shouldn’t be on the wind but nothing stands out.  I am a creature of the forest but the skills I learned from my brothers should at least help me some out here in this wilderness.  I’ve tried to leave as little evidence of my passing as possible.  There is no sense in thinking that any of my people would be hunting me in this place.  So what could hunt me would stand a good chance at being unfriendly. 

I’m starting to babble.  I dislike it when other people do it, I like it even less when I do it, even if I’m only doing it in my head.  I wish the child would talk but she is silent.  Even when she cried she didn’t make as much noise as she could have.  I put that down to being weak but what if it isn’t?  Perhaps she has a medical condition that precludes speech.  I must look her over more carefully when I find someplace for us to stop for the day. 

A few more hours … two, three at most.  Surely that is all I will have to walk.  I can hold on that long.  I hope the child can.

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