starless part eight
Sally stepped out on the grey tarry muck that lined the streets and sidewalks of the little village of Rockbridge. She smiled to herself. Her mom had taught her that. One must always smile. It made people think you might just be up to something. That made her smile more as she glanced up at the greying clouds that would bring more and more of the grey stuff. Her wooden shoes that her father had fashioned for her worked well through this tar, instead of slipping, she used them to slide. Her two poles helped her to move faster and faster, as she coasted down little hilly spots and pushed up as the terrain would dictate. Her heavy med sack swayed from side to side as she headed towards her future.
Today was the day of graduation. She had studied hard to replace her mother, the town's only healer. Today, she would face the elders to answer the questions put forth. Today, she would become a leader of the town, representing the healing arts. She could never make James understand why she wanted to learn. He always called her a cockeyed optimist... Perhaps that did describe her best, but he made it sound like she was wrong. Is it wrong, in the midst of all this grey muck, to make the best of it? She pondered, knowing that her beloved mother had left her all the notes of the history of the colony, all the antidotes of the various poisonous plants, all the herbal medications for colds, for scraps, for pneumonia, for.... well, Sally thought, for just about anything. With that confidence, Sally concluded, looking forward to a time when this world would heal itself, made her smile even more.
As she entered a long section that wound through the outskirts of the town... she smiled again, as she passed by James' house. Halting, she made her way to the door and knocked. The boy opened it and looked out at the girl.
"Master James, I must go quickly but I wanted to give you some of this." She held up a cheese cloth bag with various herbs inside. "Steep it, and let it cool tepid, then give it to the baby. Your mother brought your baby brother by yesterday and he seemed congested. After the bag cools down, rub it on his back and chest. The smell will help keep the congestion loose. I have made three doses. He needs to take it once a day." She looked into the solemn face of the fourteen year old. She felt like he had grown too old for his years.
The boy just nodded.
"Your brother will be all right. Master James, everything will be all right."
"Did you not hear the blasts, last night?"
Sally sighed. "Master James, I did. But right now, it is far away. Let us take this day and enjoy it."
"Easy for you to say."
"That may be. Until we have news of what is causing this, there should be no need to worry."
"You sound like the rest of them."
"Master James, I never disbelieved you."
"If only my father..." he trailed off, his voice still saddened after all this time.
"You act like you are the only one who ever lost someone." She stated crossly.
The boy raised an eyebrow at that.
"Sounds like you are a bit testy."
"I wasn't till I talked to you. I must be going. Today is the day."
"Oh. Today, huh? Well, thank you for the medicine."
"Um, here is some straw bread, I made this morning. Eat it, and be healthy. Bye, bye." She shoved a cheese cloth wrapped rectangular shaped package into his free arm. Then, turned and was gone, leaving James watching her knapsack swaying back and forth. He stood there until she was out of sight.
James shook his head while he closed the door.
As she finally neared the place of learning, she smiled as she saw the austere presence of the oldest elder in charge of Architecture. Sirus Smythe was a genius and leader of his guild. He turned to see her coming, squinting at her as if to focus. So much had been lost, since the planet turned grey, she knew he needed bifocals and the materials to make them did not seem to be able to be found on this planet. But she had her mom's books on optometry and as soon as the rainy season had passed, she would figure out how to use the materials at hand to make him a pair. As she neared, she waved and smiled at Sirus.
"Ah," Sirus gave an awkward bow to the wee girl of seventeen. "Good day to you, Miss Sally."
"Why, thank you, Mr. Sirus. I feel that today will be good day, as every day opens up many opportunities."
He simply shrugged and gave her a slight smile, seldom if ever seen.
He turned, as she followed. "Are ye ready, Miss?"
"Aye, Sir. I am."
Another elder joined the duo, A short burly man with a grey and black beard, Mr. Irwin Johnson, walked double time to keep up with the other two.
"You sound awfully sure of yourself, Miss Sally."
"Well, I know my trade. I would never try to tell you how to spin your pottery, Mr. Irwin."
The man chuckled. "I should think not, Miss Sally."
As they entered the Main House, she stopped at the stoop and touched the door, then brought her hands up to her mouth.
"May the truth of the matter always be found."
"May the heart of the matter always be heard."
May the conviction of both bring the matter to a close."
She clapped her hands three times, as did the two elders on either side of her. She walked in leaving her shoes and poles in side the door.
She removed her rain gear and placed it along the hook. She stepped on the green-stone that was the flooring of Main House. It was a stone that looked as hard as granite but had a smooth bouncy feel to her feet and allowed her feet to feel warm. Her white tunic that hit at her knees was made from another plant endogenous to this planet, it simply repelled all stain. It breathed as she breathed. Her blond hair was plaited into one long french braid, adorned with only her mother's gold comb, an heirloom from earth. She walked past the white walls of honor that held the names of those who had gone to their rest. Honored heros, every one, that had hone out the mountains for the treasures underneath.... those were the days of the past. As she walked to the next room, she entered into the sanctioned hall. The town meetings were held in the room she had just left. In the sanctioned hall, the elders bestowed the honors of becoming the next guild master, after having been placed as an apprentice.
Sally remembered three years ago, when she had asked to become an apprentice to her mother. She had been given the honor, only to have her beloved mother die in a landslide the following year. Her commission was left to her alone. She was driven now for the colony had no medicine woman to help with the sick, the wounded, the women giving birth. She took all of it on. Each time she had helped someone, she felt she had kept a promise to her mother. Today... Today... She would become an elder, too.
She walked into the center of the room as she saw her escorts slipped past her and make their way to their designated places. Sally felt a calm slide into her very soul. She wondered if her beloved mother was watching.
"Miss Sally. You have completed a hard apprenticeship, these three years. Are ye ready, Miss?" stated the Guild Master of Art.
"Yes, Mr. Mike."
"I shall turn the Guildmaster of Literature to inquire of your readiness."
A tall thin bald man stood up. He held open a book. Then closed it.
"Here in lies your documented accounts of the last three years. The people you have treated, and their outcomes. What is your summary?"
Sally gave a gentle smile. "The first year I treated ten broken bones, which I set. They all healed well, save two who have maintained a limp, but are still able to walk. I treated fifty illnesses, of which two died. I birthed ten babies and lost one." She paused, swallowing hard so as not to let her voice cracked.
"The second year I treated twenty five broken bones, of which all recovered without any residual problems. I treated seventy five illnesses, and lost five. I birthed fifteen babies. Of which, all are alive." She took a deep breath to finish.
"The third year, I treated thrity broken ones, of which all but one recovered. That poor soul was lost because the insult was too great to heal for one so old. I treated one hundred and fifty illnesses, of which two died. I birthed twenty babies, of which all lived, but lost two mothers."
The men watched the girl very closely.
"What say ye of your failures?"
"I know that I still have much to learn. I also know that when it is time for someone to leave us, nothing will keep them here physically, but as long as I carry them within my heart, I can hear their voice. I can remember their face and I learn from them."
"It sounds like a heavy burden."
"it can be, Mr.Will. But I also remember alt of those folk that were healed and returned to their family. That gives me hope, that is what I am here for."
"Well spoken, Miss Sally." Mr. Will sat back down.
"We will hear from the Guild Master of Pottery..."
Sally answered each of the questions as honestly as possible. The day grew long.
"Finally we will hear from the Guild Master of Architecture, Mr.Sirus."
The austere man stood up.
"Miss Sally, what do you make of the blasts that were heard, coming from the direction of Paradise Mound?"
Sally was a little shocked by this question, but then realized, the intent. There was no military here. The colonists had chosen to become tradesmen, and form guilds, to maintain the colony. Those that were science and military in nature chose to go to Paradise Mound.... it seemed like a magnetic pull to the people with inclinations of such. She had mused long enough. She took a deep breath.
"It could be volcanic in origin or thunder from the storms... but no other evidence has shown to prove that." She paused remembering how the villiagers had scoffed at James. She looked at the leadership and took a deep breath.
" It feels like as the blasts get closer and closer that something will happen. Not having the facts, I choose to be optimistic. Whether the blasts are from nature or are manmade, Paradise Mound needs our wares, our talents, our products. I don't think they will come and take from us."
"If the blasts are coming from Paradise Mound, and are man made, how would you fight should they come to take what they need?"
Sally looked deep into the grey eyes of her friend and mentor.
"We would have to find out what they want from us, before we could answer that. The Ridge in winter has always been our best defense. I suggest that perhaps a scouting party should be sent to see what is happening out there... while we prepare for the worst."
"Spoken well, Miss Sally. You may wait in the outer hall while we make our decision."
Sally turned and walked past the exit of the inner hall and stood in the center of the room.
A quick note of gratitude.....
This is a continuation of a stage coach story involving three other wonderful writers. Emichael wrote the last chapter that I continued from, a very talented writer. He will write part ten, as well. Slarty O'brian, the initiator of this wonderful story, wrote the first chapter, the fourth chapter and the nineth chapter. Motown2Chitown wrote chapters three and six.
It may seem confusing, but just follow the links, and like the yellow brick road, you will hopefully find OZ, hee.
I stand in awe of my three compatriots on the this project and pray that all that come to read of this story, enjoy it to the fullest. take care and happy reading.