Read The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling Online

Authors: Holly Barbo

Tags: #animals, #psychic, #sages, #sentient, #low tech, #female role model, #animal companion

The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling (5 page)

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
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The day was one of those beautiful crisp fall
days that Erin loved. She pulled her mind out of her revery and
concentrated on the wind and her wing. Off to her right Keir soared
into view. He enjoyed the thermals also and the novel experience of
flying beside Erin. She was taken with the beauty and grace of this
wild friend. She felt a stirring from the bag on her chest and saw
a little black face with a white stripe peek out. She thought now
was as good a time as any to share some of her thoughts with her
companions.

‘I have been thinking about my disguise and
my plans. The ‘seeker’ is looking for a lone young woman. I could
travel without being noticed if I were a lowly scruffy boy who
tended the animals for a merchant. There are several merchant
wagons on the road these days. They are trying to make as many
stops as they can before the winter makes it impossible to
travel. These are the last round of gathers and business before
they head back to their home bases. I could help a merchant speed
up his work if he did not need to tend his animals himself. Because
I can communicate with animals I’ll get along well with them. But,
to people, I would appear as a simple lad who has a way with
animals. Showing up with Tempo would give believability to that.
The merchant would want me in the background because I am so
unpresentable. In some ways I would be invisible. I couldn’t sign
on with a cloth or spice merchant because my presence would imply
that their goods are dirty or smelly. But there should be someone
that could use me. What do you think?’

Keir played with the wind for a moment before
answering. ‘That would work well as long as you got the right
person to travel with. Sometimes lowly boys get slapped and beaten
by mean masters.’

Tempo piped in. ‘Erin could very gently read
the bad ones and stay away from them. But some of the animals might
not want to be around me.’

‘That may be, my friend, but you need not be
with me always. You could be in the woods hunting but traveling
parallel to the road. Also, if I can communicate to them, they may
not mind your presence. If you, two, approve lets try it. If it
doesn’t work we can always change to another plan. I need to land
soon so I can can catch up with the merchant caravans I spotted a
while ago.’ Keir soared away and Erin worked the lines of her
paraglider to brake and bring her wing to a lower elevation. Soon
Tempo could see the ground coming closer and with a squeak popped
back inside the bag. Erin was as experienced as she had said and
bought them down smoothly. She unbuckled the bag on her chest and
let Tempo out then proceeded to get out of her harness and
carefully fold and pack her paraglider into its bag. Tempo lay down
on the grass and rolled then got up and lightly ran to Erin. He
stood back, out of the way as she repacked. As soon as she had all
of her belongings back in their respective bundles she sat down to
have a bite to eat, offering bits to her little friend. 

The road was about a quarter mile away over a
slight rise and easy walking from where she landed. Brushing off
the crumbs of her meal she got up. Erin paused then ruffled her
hair and rubbed a bit of dirt on her face, then they started toward
the road. Tempo kept pace beside her. It felt good to the little
skunk to stretch his legs and walk after being in the bag for
awhile. Since he had met Erin his sleep pattern was off. Normally
he slept during the day and foraged at night. Traveling with Erin
meant he had to work out a change in schedule somewhat. Right now
it felt good to walk. If he got tired he was sure that Erin would
carry him in the bag or on her shoulder.

When Erin approached the road she stopped and
set her pack down. She wanted to blend into the road traffic. It
might mean that she would “eat dust” but that would add to her
disguise. She felt the best time to find a merchant to “belong” to
was when they were setting up camp for the evening. There were
hours of afternoon travel before that time. She fiddled with her
pack and made like she was busy all the while very carefully
opening her mind to emotions and energies. She was not reaching out
so it should be impossible for the “seeker” to detect her. All she
was doing was “opening the door” to hear the emotional chatter that
was out there.

She picked up her pack and with Tempo on her
shoulder headed for a open spot on the road between wagon groups.
She remembered to hold her shoulders back and to put a slight
swagger to her walk. Her plan was to drift back from her entry
point on the road, letting certain wagons overtake her. That way
she could “listen” as groups went by. If she hadn’t found a likely
“employer” by the time everyone stopped for the evening she could
leisurely stroll forward though the caravans to see if prospects
were better ahead. She was aware that it may take days to find the
right person. In the meantime she could simply listen to see if
anything felt “off”.

Because of all of the Autumn Gathers and
restocking of businesses before winter there were many kinds of
guilds represented in the merchant caravan. The Weavers Guild was
there. Her father had been a member of that one. There was the
Tinker’s Guild with their appliance repair wagons filled with gears
and parts for everything from windmills and washing tubs to glow
stone pedestals and solar panels. Erin also spotted a small wagon
with paraglide equipment and the Tanners Guild cart. The Herbalist
Guild wagon was fragrant with spices and medicinal herbs and the
Archival Guild had books, paper making equipment, paper, paints and
colored inks. There was a Musician wagon and a Glass Maker, a Tool
supplier and the Miner Guild with Glow Stones and jewelry. There
was just about every occupation Erin could think of. Because her
family had lived isolated she had rarely attended the fall and
spring gathers but it was definitely fair time. That meant that
there was a strong possibility that she could learn something if
she could become part of them. merchants were information
gatherers. It was the nature of the trade.

Erin kept her mental door open. There were
tired road weary people in the train. Some seemed bad tempered and
others had mild curiosity when they saw the scruffy boy. She
rejected the grumpy ones automatically and the ones who would not
want a “smelly, dirty” boy near their goods and watched the wagons
and the animals with the others. The tinkers wagon was overloaded
and the dray animals exhausted. That was a problem she couldn't
fix. The small paraglider and tanner wagons didn’t need any extra
people. The best bet, out of this set, was the Miner Guild or the
Tool wagon. Both were understaffed.

The Miner Guild had two wagons. She studied
them out of the corner of her eyes. The wagon with the glow stones
was being pulled unevenly and the animals were wearing out. She
approached them slowly, coming up along side of the four horses.
She quietly greeted the animals, not wanting to startle them.
Apparently they were too tired to be surprised that a human was
talking to them. One of the lead horses, an older chestnut, had one
eye that had a slight film. He tended to pull to the side he could
see better. The other lead animal was a young strong bay gelding
and was chaffing every time the yoke pulled him to the side. The
two horses harnessed closer to the wagon were of mid years and even
temperament but were being rubbed by their harnesses every time the
front two pulled against each other.

The wagon driver was frustrated with the
battle on the reins. He was a slender man, in his third decade,
with compact muscles. His brown, dust covered hair was pulled back
with a strip of leather at the base of his neck and his grey eyes
reflected his fatigue. Erin dropped back to be even with the driver
and called out a greeting. “Good afternoon, to you. How has your
travel been this fine day?”

“Has been a very long day. I seem to be
fighting the reins of these beasts continuously. We’re going so
slow that I have been dropping further behind and eating dust. I’m
hardily tired.” the driver said with a sigh.

“I’m pretty good with beasts.” Erin offered.
“If you’d like, I could check out your team and see if I could
locate the problem. Looks like people are stopping for the
day.”

She helped the driver pull over under the
trees and unharness the horses. When he got off the wagon Erin
noticed that he was a bit over a head taller than she was and moved
a little stiffly after a day sitting and fighting the team. She
took her time going over each horse and their harnesses then she
approached the driver and explained what she found, concluding
with, “You need to put the Chestnut by the wagon next to the Roan.
He will be steadier if his good eye can see the horse next to him
and not have to see the road. The lead set should be your two Bays.
I could check the harness for rub areas and if you have the leather
I’d mend them. I’ll rub down the horses and care for them for the
night, if you wish.”

“I’d be grateful, lad. I appreciate your
help. I know my cargo and am of the Miner Guild. I don’t know
horses at all. I thought all I had to do was hitch them up and say
‘giddup’ or ‘whoa’. I haven’t had this much trouble with a team in
all of my travels. It has been frustrating! My name is Lor. What is
yours?” he said holding out his hand. They shook hands briefly.

“Terran”, Erin said. Lor acknowledged the
introduction with a nod then with a tilt of his chin toward the
horses, said “Take care of them. I’ll feed you dinner and we can
get acquainted.” He gazed at the boy for a moment then turned back
to his tasks.

Erin stroked the soft furry back of the small
skunk on her shoulder, to wake him then set Tempo down to forage
with a mental request that the skunk to stay nearby and keep an eye
out. Then she led the horses to the river for a drink. When she
came back to camp she tethered them for the night and fed them,
brushing them down as they ate. Thankfully they had not rubbed any
sores which would have made travel difficult. She went over the
tack carefully making sure everything was padded properly for the
next day. Erin was pretty tired herself, being up since dawn.

Lor had been watching the ‘boy’ work as he
set up camp. When she was finished with the horses she turned to
the small campfire. “You are good with animals, Terran. I see you
travel with a skunk. I hope it doesn’t startle easily because that
would indeed ruin the trip.”

“Tempo and I don’t have any family but each
other.” said the ‘boy’. “He will mind his manners as long as
someone doesn’t try to harm him.”

Lor turned to the campfire and dished out
some food for Terran. The aroma coming from the plate made her
mouth water. “Tell me about yourself. How did a lad, such as
yourself, come to be traveling alone but for a skunk as a
companion.” Terran, haltingly, told the story of her father getting
cut working on the windmill and the infection that killed him. She
continued with the tale of her mother dying from grief and his
searching for the relative he didn’t know. As she finished the
story it was nearing second moon rise and the light of the night
altered from the silvery glow that came from Luna to the beginnings
of the ruddier hue that Cear gave off. She was really exhausted and
the shadows showed on her face. Just as Cear crested the hills to
join Luna in the sky she sensed Nuit landing in the tree behind
her.

“You are tired. Bed down here. We’ll talk
some more in the morning”, said Lor quietly.

Erin got out her bedroll and stretched out.
She was nearly asleep when she felt, in her mind, a smack of anger
and frustration. The ‘seeker’ had lost her trail and was furious.
The mental slap was strong and ‘loud’ enough to be felt without her
reaching. She jerked in surprise. “What is it?” Lor said, “Are you
alright?”

“Sorry, I guess my muscles were more tired
than I thought. They just gave me a ‘long day’ twitch. Good night,
Lor”, and Erin pulled her blanket up around her shoulders and
closed her eyes.

“What was it?”, said Nuit in her head.

“It was the ‘seeker’. He has lost the trail.
My guess is that he has been searching for the last few hours and
was hoping that the light from the second moon rise would show what
the sunset didn’t. But the trail is gone. His rage and frustration
was very loud, even at a distance. The next day or so could be
dangerous for Ree if he should run into her.”

“I’ll pass the word back through my family.
Meanwhile you need rest. We are watching.” Nuit silently flew off
and Erin fell into a deep sleep. At first she was troubled by
dreams of a shady figure stomping and ranting in a moonlit forest
clearing but those faded and her sleep became restful. Across the
fire Lor lay on his bedroll, seemingly asleep but he had been
watching the mysterious lad twitch in his sleep. When Terran’s
sleep quieted he relaxed his vigil and took his own rest.

Chapter 5
The Guild Train

Dawn came with the stirring from each wagon
up and down the the caravan train. Erin woke to find that Tempo had
snuggled up to her back sometime in the night. His body warm
against hers. Lor was sitting up and stretching in his bedroll.
Erin had been thinking some and decided that there were some subtle
things she needed to adjust in her disguise. She rolled up her
bedroll and put it back on her pack then left to take care of the
call of nature. While she was in the bushes she took her
handkerchief out of her pocket and tied it around her forehead. It
might keep some of the sweat out of her eyes and would draw
attention to her scruffy haircut. Next she carefully removed the
bracelet from her wrist and with the help of Tempo, who had
followed her, retied it under her bicep and above her elbow. It
looked more like where a cocky lad would wear it and was less
likely to be noticed under the shirt.

Returning to camp Erin approached Lor. “Can I
continue to help with your horses and travel with you, at least
until I find my Uncle Cron?”

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
2.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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