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 (9 page)

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
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When Lor spoke there was an intensity to his
tone. “Did you recognize any of the men when you got a
glimpse?”

“I know the ‘seeker’ by the tone and
intensity of his mind blast but he was just a dark shape. I did
recognize ‘Dusty hat’ in the group of three.”

“Okay.” Lor said with finality, “Give me the
rest of the pieces. How have you been communicating with Ree?”

Erin reached up and stroked Tempo between his
ears. “I can connect with birds and animals. It is a skill I
inherited from my mother.” Lor nodded as if that confirmed
something that he had suspected. “Tempo is one of three companions.
Keir is another.” Then she changed to a mental voice but again not
calling out. ‘Keir are you near? Can you fly by so Lor can see
you?’ She was surprised by how quickly the Merlin darted over the
horses backs as if he were going for prey on the other side of the
road, startling Lor. “That was Keir.” Erin said with a big smile.
“Keir was a friend of my mother’s and knows Ree. I will introduce
you to Nuit later. She is a Great Horned Owl. Both Keir and Nuit
have a network of relatives and stay in communication with them
between here and Ree’s cabin. Ree can also talk to the wild ones. I
have warned Ree and she is being very careful. She has a host of
‘friends’ keeping watch for her. A few people know of Ree. Her
place is out of the way, in the woods, well beyond the bridge into
Pastarham Province. The ‘seeker’ lost my trail before the bridge
and hopefully assumed that I crossed there. That would have drawn
him away from her. I got a message from her early this morning,
through Nuit. She is well and very alert to people traveling near
her home. She said that she trusts you.”

Lor raised his brown brows and gave Erin a
long even look, then said, “Otherwise you would not have been
totally honest with me. I realize that you had to be cautious
because of the danger but I hope we now have that established
because this is becoming very deadly.What else can you tell me
about ‘Dusty hat’ and ‘Brown beard?” Lor said.

Erin let out a breath and closed her eyes,
visualizing the two men. “Brown beard is about your height and
about three times your girth. I think his eyes were light blue and
he had a notch out of his left ear. His hair was short and curly.
‘Dusty hat’ was a little shorter with lank light blond hair
tapering to his shoulders. He had brown eyes and was slender.
Because he wore a hat I don’t know if he is balding or not.”

“That’s a
pretty good start.” said Lor. “I’ll see if we can subtly get a
description, from others on the train, to add to what you remember.
At least we can circulate this information to those in the guilds
to keep an eye out for them. We also have to pay attention to
anyone talking about people who have died recently. It is possible
that word of the death of Robse and Shamra hasn’t gotten out yet.
I’ll bet these men have done more damage than killing Auntie Jes
and your parents.”

Chapter 8
Founder City

The guild train pulled onto the Gathering
Field at Morraton as the last rays of the sun were disappearing.
Luna was up so there was some light but Erin had eyes only for the
old city. It was breathtakingly fascinating. The cliff face was
dotted with a myriad of rectangular windows, lit from within.
Networked between the windows were narrow ledges, walkways and
stairs, broken occasionally by doors. It was apparent that you
couldn’t get completely from place to place in the city from the
outside but there was a great arching doorway near ground level
with some wide stairs leading to it. Erin could see a massive
entrance hall with people coming and going within. At the side
edges of the old city, almost inconsequentially, were out buildings
of warehouses, barns and small industry but it was the city,
itself, that grabbed the eye. A little in front of the entrance
arch, in the field, was a six sided paved city commons area. At
each point was a tall carved post that some young boys were
scrambling up to hang ‘gather’ flags on and in the center was a
fountain. The area had a lovely welcoming feel that seemed to
capture the dying sun. Erin paused, in amazement, as she realized
that the paving stones were old glow stones!

“That is impressive!” she breathed. Lor
grinned. He had seen the old cities many times but it was a delight
to experience them through Erin’s fresh eyes. “So that is one of
the uses for the spent glow stones. I was wondering. This is so..
interesting. I don’t know where to look next!” she said.

“You can explore some tomorrow and on rest
day. The old cities are a wonder, and you will have time, but for
now we have the basics to take care of. The merchants will
establish spaces all over the field, loosely in expanding circles
from the commons which will be where the musicians and dancing will
take place. We will stop over there to the left. You take care of
the horses. We need to be mostly set up tonight because we start
just after dawn tomorrow. Maybe sometime tomorrow you can care for
the tanner’s beasts. His name is Kennet, by the way.” Erin
acknowledged the information with a nod.

They pulled the wagon in on the river side of
the field and in the second ring from the commons. Erin put Tempo
down to find his food, unharnessed the horses and took them to the
paddock on the left side of the city. There were water troughs and
feed awaiting them there. She brushed, groomed and checked them for
any rubs or injuries then released them to the company of the other
horses. She saw the tanner bringing his in and greeted him by name.
“ Hi Kennet, I just finished with ours. Would you like me to take
yours?”

“No, lad, but you can help me with them
tonight and the work will go faster. Maybe you can look in on them
tomorrow sometime, then come to me and let me know how they are.
How does that suit you?” he asked.

“That would be fine. I’ll give them a quick
brush down tonight, while they feed. That will make them more
comfortable after the days travels.’ she nodded to him and started
to work on the first horse while he led the others to the
trough.

When Erin joined Lor with a couple of buckets
of water for their use, she saw that there was to be a few communal
cook fires. Apparently they were eating with the weaver’s guild
woman, the herbalist and Kennet. She mentally reminded herself to
watch her speech and how she moved to ensure the ‘boy’ disguise
remained intact. She put the buckets down and helped Lor arrange
the stones and display equipment for rapid set up at dawn. “Be sure
to wash up for supper, Terran. We will be eating any minute.” Lor
said, treating her as the boy she needed to be seen as. “While we
are visiting after dinner, call Tempo in to meet our friends. They
need to know your ‘pet’ is not a threat.” Erin nodded and while she
was washing she silently told Tempo what they were going to do. It
would be a way to protect the little skunk and her identity as
‘Terran’.

Lor and Erin, carrying bread, joined Kennet
at the fire. The little round herbalist was there grilling some
tubers, sausages and peppers. She looked up and smiled at their
arrival. “Lor, that bread looks good! It will go well with Kennet’s
sausages and my vegetables. There is Tassy with the cider. How is
your face, lad?” she said, punctuating each statement with a quick
nod to the person addressed.

Lor’s white smile grew large with enjoyment
of her manner. “Flar, this is Terran. He is on a journey seeking
his Uncle Cron, his only living relative. He is good with animals
and is helping me with my team and occasionally checking Kennet’s
also. Terran, Flar is of the Herbal guild. She not only gathers and
grows herbs but is skilled in blending and the apothecary arts. She
also acts as healer, on occasion. Not many herbalists do all of
that. Her guild, like many, often have specialized members. There
are those that just know what to gather and grow but don’t know how
to skillfully blend.”

Erin, bobbed her head at the woman. “Thank
you for the soap and your kindness yesterday.” she said to the
herbalist.

Lor looked at the weaver, who had paused
beside the group. “Tassy,” and he nodded respectfully, “This is
Terran. I believe you heard his story. Terran, Tassy, travels
frequently between towns and cities representing weavers all across
the realm.”

Erin looked at the woman, willing her to only
see the boy and to not recognize her. “You have a lot of fine goods
in your wagon, Tassy. I stopped and admired them yesterday. I’m
sure you are very popular where ever you go.” she said in all
seriousness.”

“Thank you, lad. I’m sure Lor appreciates
your help. Welcome to the fall guild train. If your uncle is
anywhere near a town we should run into him eventually. If not this
trip, I can inquire of him when I make my rounds.” she offered.

“That would be great. I would appreciate it.”
responded, Erin.

Flar called them to dinner and they sat
around the fire enjoying the fare and the companionship. Erin
mostly remained silent and let the conversation eddy and flow
around her. The meal was slowing down and the last few bites were
disappearing when Lor asked Tassy if she had heard anything about
Auntie Jes.

“I had just heard yesterday that Auntie Jes
had died suddenly.” the guild woman said sadly. “She had been
preparing dyes for the nubbly hand spun yarn she was known for,
when she took violently ill. A neighbor smelled an acrid stench
coming from her workshop. Apparently she had been preparing the dye
and had been over come with a fever and collapsed. The pot had
boiled dry and that is what the neighbor had smelled. He got her to
bed but the fever was so high that she never regained
consciousness. She died just a few days ago. People were coming up
to my booth all day and telling stories about how she would
sometimes sit in the sun of the commons, here, and spin while she
visited with people. I had one young woman tell me how she used to
watch Auntie Jes spin and the threads seemed to twist and bind
together all on their own. She said that Auntie Jes must have been
spinning forever because she did it so effortlessly and always
seemed to be in her seventh decade.” she shook her head.

“She will be deeply missed.” Kennet said,
“There was a couple who were admiring a vest I have. It was in that
amber color that Auntie Jes loved to wear. The woman was deeply
distressed about her passing. She seemed to always be here sitting
over there by that post. I assumed the old gal was indestructible.
Her wit and charm will be remembered.”

Lor gave Erin a subtle sign like he was
petting something. Erin verbally and mentally called Tempo and the
little skunk came out of the shadows and walked over to where Erin
was sitting then did the double front paw stomp. There were
surprised exclamations and the two ladies started to rise and back
away. Without looking up at them Erin quickly said, “Don’t be
alarmed. This is Tempo.” and she returned the greeting with a
couple of slaps on the ground with her hands. Tempo stood on his
hind feet and put his paws on her knee. Erin lightly ran her
fingers down the fur of Tempo’s forelegs and admired the long claws
the little skunk had for digging. Then she looked up and addressed
the group. “Tempo hasn’t any family either. His manners are
impeccable and he will not spray unless he is attacked. He is quite
intelligent and we have been traveling together for some time. He
actually has been helping Lor by staying in his wagon bed during
the gather. No one would think to steal from a wagon with a guard
skunk.” Erin picked up Tempo and put him on her lap, stroking the
little skunk from the tiny white line between his ears and down his
back. “He has a slight musky odor but it is not offensive. I
sometimes carry him on my shoulder as I work. Let Tempo smell the
back of your hand and he will remember your scent.” So saying Erin
got up with Tempo in her arms and looked to the members of the
party for permission to approach them. Lor grinned as he stood and
gently scratched the little skunk behind his ears. Pretty soon
everybody was talking about skunks, what they eat and their habits.
Everybody wanted to know how they met and were inthralled with the
story of Tempo paragliding in a bag on Erin’s chest. The group
broke up for the night with comments and plans for the next day’s
events as everyone returned to their respective wagons.

“I think that went well,” said Lor softly, as
they returned to their wagon. “Tempo was a hit with the group and
they will watch out for him. We also learned what happened to
Auntie Jes. How does that match up with what happened to your
parents?”

“It matches exactly.” said Erin closing her
eyes briefly in memory. “My guess would be that she touched
something that was sticky with the poison, perhaps when she was
preparing the dyes for the yarn. I am left with a lot of questions.
Why kill innocent people who everyone respects and loves? What is
the motive? Why poison? Who are these people and what do they have
to gain? Are they going to continue and how can I stop them? This
is just too awful!”

“Slow down!” said Lor, “One: You are not
alone, now. You have friends with Ree and me. We know as much of
the story as you do and have a vested interest also. You will do
nothing without including me! Not only would it not be safe but
there are advantages with working with a small set of friends. We
have brains and skills too. Do not act alone! Two: You are more
invisible and are somewhat protected with me because the ‘seeker’
and his cronies are keeping their eye out for a young woman
traveling alone. Do not forget that you are on their list. Trust
me! Ree does! Okay?”

Erin looked up at Lor and gave a sheepish
smile. “Sorry. It was a little arrogant and reckless of me to think
that I was the only one affected and that you are just a method of
disguise. Thank you for being part of my team. I won’t leave you
out.”

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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