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My Name is Honor: Chapter 6
"You've been there?!" I sputtered, nearly choking on the piece of jerky I'd been chewing
"Yes." Orin said, sounding bored. He leaned his head back against the wall, eyes lazing shut.
I hadn't noticed how tired he looked, his usually piecing eyes listless with heavy dark circles beneath them. Though I could hardly restrain from prodding him further, I too leaned back and kept quiet. I could not sleep anymore, but sat absently stroking Archu's coarse fur while Orin snored softly, trying to put my mind around the events that had taken place. Carrick would certainly be hunting me this very moment, the Council will have been notified, they will have sent more apostles to relay their instructions and oversee the search. I knew him well, and Carrick would not stop until he looked upon my corpse. I wondered what Orin's family would do, to discover him missing. It would not take long for news of Kaya's demise and my fugitive status to reach them, and probably even less time for them to put together where he had gone. If he had simply disappeared as was his original plan, he would have been searched for, yes, but could have avoided death. Now it was certain. He would be put to death on sight, and it would be on my head. I resolved to do anything to make sure that did not come to pass, perhaps there would be a way if (and most likely when) the time came to bargain for his life, the give up myself and allow him to escape, anything, but I knew I could not die with the guilt of his death n my conscience. It occurred to me I'd had none of these thoughts concerning Kaya's life and though it chilled me, I held not a scrap of guilt within me for taking her life.
I was still pondering how calloused I had become when Orin snorted awake a few hours later.
"How long have I been asleep?"
"A few hours. I think it's getting dark outside, the crickets have started."
"You should have woke me."
He stood, stretching his legs, and offered his hand to help me up, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly when I ignored him and got slowly to my feet on my own.
"What now, then?"
"Now we get the horses saddled and move on, we have alot of ground to cover tonight if we are to make our next stop by morning."
"Our next stop?"
Orin sighed, tossing his saddle onto his horse. "Have you always asked so many questions?"
"Well, yes. " I answered simply, struggling to lift my own saddle up onto the small mare who now seemed impossibly tall.
Another sigh as he took the saddle from my hands and set it onto her back with ease. "You're still weak, leave it to me for now. There will be plenty of work for you later on."
I stood back, annoyed with my body and it's lack of cooperation. In no time the horses were ready, saddlebags packed and after one final look around, Orin extinguished the candle. I had yet to figure where the exit was, at all the walls appeared closed, overgrown with vines and mosses. Orin pulled back the veil of foliage to reveal the failing light of dusk. He stood listening a moment before allowing Archu to go out ahead of him. Once mounted and on the move, I began to feel some of the sluggishness leave my body, though it was still apparent I would need some time to fully recover, I felt I was well on my way. As we rode, Orin instructed me to keep quiet.
"This is not a pleasure ride, Honor, this is not a time for discussions. We need to keep our senses sharp and focused on any sign of pursuers. Understood?"
His tone annoyed me. He had always spoken to me so politely, and now it seemed he was giving me orders.
"Yes, I believe I understand. As long as you can understand that I am not, in fact, a child."
A look of amusement came over him as if he thought what I'd said was cute. It was infuriating.
"Indeed you are not."
I followed his instructions strictly, though, and spoke not a word until the first rays of sun began peeking over the distant hills. We had entered a deep valley, cut down the middle by swirling, rushing river. At one end of the valley was a steep rocky outcrop, where the river was fed by a waterfall. We rode in from the opposite end and at once, it felt all wrong.
"Orin, there's only one way out of this valley."
"That's very tactical of you, but I assure you it will be fine. No one will come here."
As we neared the waterfall and I began to feel it's cool mist on my face, Orin pulled his horse up abruptly.
"Here" He dismounted in a fluid movement, and walked directly at the sheer rock cliff draped in the same vines and moss as the ruins we had slept in previously.
I took note of the similarity but was too tired to ask and climbed down from my own mount as Orin began unsaddling his horse
"Orin, what-?" he cut me off
"Her's as well, you should be able to pull it off easy enough. Bridle too. We can't take them from here, better to send them home." He ordered curtly, eyes on his task.
I felt to urge to press him further but with great effort resisted and did as he said. The mare trotted away a few paces easily enough, eager to be rid of her burden. Orin's stallion, however, lingered even after the bit had been pulled from his mouth. Orin stood at his head, speaking softly to him and stroking his nose, it was clear this was not a moment I was involved in. I watched in silence as the sun grew ever high in the sky, the cover of darkness retreating even faster. Finally, Orin stepped back, pointing the stud's nose away.
"Alright then! Go Home!" He commanded loudly, waving his arms.
The stud hesitated, but at the insistance of his female companion, the pair bolted away at last, back the way they had come. Orin watched them go a moment longer, scooped up both saddles and went to where the vines hung thickest. With his free arm, he pulled them back to reveal the mouth of a cave, just big enough for us to enter.
"Come on." he called, though I'm not sure if it was to Archu or myself, we both followed.
The cave was dank, dark and cold. Orin stopped just inside and turned to me.
"Give me your hand."
He reached out quickly, grasped my hand, and we kept moving, deeper into the looming darkness. It wasn't long before the path curved sharply and we turned out of sight of the cave's mouth.
"It's so dark, how do you know where we are going?"
"I've been here many times."
Orin stopped, once again with no warning, and I nearly ran into him. Somewhere in the pitch black, Archu panted. I heard the horses's saddles, bags still tied on, dropped to the ground. How he managed to lug them, so cumbersome with our sleeping furs and supplies still tied on, and hold on to my hand, eluded me. He was stronger than I'd thought. He let go of my hand and I heard rummaging, the spark of a flint again as he lit another small home made candle. We stood in a small alcove which appeared to have been carved out of the rocky earth. It was set in just enough so that we were out of sight from the mouth of the cave. Orin set the candle aside and unrolled my sleeping fur, tossing it to the opposite side of the alcove.
"Get some rest." He grumbled; another order.
"You first, I can stay up a while." I challenged passively.
His hands stopped working at untying his own bedroll, broad back expanding as he drew a slow deep breath, head dropping low between his shoulders. Even with his back to me, I knew impatience and irritation when I saw it and he had been increasingly so since I'd woken the night before. When he spoke, his voice was soft; restrained.
"I realize it is not in you nature to do as you're told, just as it is not in mine. However, there are times when we must. It's a lesson I had to learn when the time came and this is the time for you. I'm in no mood to banter with you."
Warmth crept into my cheeks. "I was only offering to keep watch first." I mumbled, dropping onto my fur.
Orin laid down his own bedroll and settled onto it, pulling a whet stone from his pocket and his knife from its sheath.
"Rest." His tone implied no room for further argument.
Gritting my teeth, I leaned back against the cool stone wall and listened to the rhythmic grind of his knife against the whet stone lulling me, against my best efforts, to sleep.
When Orin woke me again, he had gone back to his mild-mannered self, gently shaking me by the shoulder.
"Honor, wake up and eat something." It was the last of our food stores, a handful of jerky, two apples and a small bag of what looked to be horse grain. I rolled the grain around in my hand, unsure, it was sticky and smelled of molasses.
"It's sweet feed, was for the horses but it's perfectly good for us as well." I shrugged, too hungry to care, and ate ravenously.
When I'd finished, Orin took from his bag a fresh bandage and small clay pot wrapped in sheep's skin.
"Let's hand a look at that wound."
I marveled at how his large hands could work so delicately as he cleaned the slowly healing gash in my throat, spread more of the salve he'd taken from his home on and redressed it.
"How does it feel?"
"Much better, hardly any pain. You should get some rest now that I'm up, I could go out and fetch some fresh water from the river."
"No!" Orin shouted suddenly, taking me firmly by the shoulders. "you must never while we're here drink from the river, do you understand? We have water, and if we need more I will go up to the top of the waterfall and get it. NEVER from the river below. Alright?" His eyes bore into mine, as if trying to drive home the importance of what he was telling me.
"Alright... Gods, Orin, what is wrong with the river?"
"It is full of the dead."
The words brought an involuntary chill to my spine. "What do you mean, full of the dead?"
He only shook his head. "Not now, Honor. I know you have many questions, but I can't explain everything to you right now. Just do as I say and don't drink from the river. In fact, I want you to just stay within the cave until Rafter gets here..." He trailed off, looking past me towards the cave's opening. "He should have been here by now..."
I knew the name at once, and just like that forgot my many questions about the river.
"Rafter? That insane fur trader?" I queried, incredulous, as I recollected the image of the imposing mountain of a man who had come to our village a few times a year to sell furs and wild game. He was known for having the most beautiful pelts, but because of his surly demeanor and reputation as a crazy hermit, more beast than man, most knew no more than that about him. Once he had nearly knocked Carrick in the dirt while the two argued over the price of a particular fur, the other children would dare each other to near his cart or touch it, only to be sent shrieking away when Rafter caught them. A small laugh escaped me as the image played through my mind.
Orin turned on me with unexpected ferocity. "He's NOT insane, don't say that again. He is a great man, and the best hunter to be found, and he has been my mentor since I was a child."
"I'm sorry Orin...I didn't mean to... I just didn't realize."
Thankfully, Orin's anger seemed to dissipate as quickly as it had come. "It's alright...but keep in mind, he will be the one who saves our lives, not me. You will need to show him more respect than that when he arrives.
I wanted to be angry with him, snap back that I did not need some deranged fur trader to save me, nor did I need him ordering me who to respect and how to behave, but the words would not come and the anger to fuel such a rant was overtaken with heavy shame. Orin had risked his life to get me away from a certain death I had brought upon myself.
Where is your gratitude!? I chastised myself silently.
While I carried on my internal discussion, Orin had been speaking.
"Did you hear me?"
I snapped back to attention. "What?"
"I said for you to stay here. I'm going to try and get us something to eat."
"Let me go with you." My voice came out more pleading than I'd wanted, I did not want to stay alone in this strange place.
"No. You don't know how to hunt, you will learn soon enough, no doubt but for now Archu and I will be better on our own. Stay here." He crouched down before me, eyes locked on mine. "You are smart and strong of heart, I know this, but there is still so much you don't know, so much you will learn. Until then, I must keep you safe, and to do that I need you to listen to me occasionally. Alright?"
Now it was his eyes that did the pleading, as if willing me to accept what he'd been trying to get through my head for days. I did, in fact, need his help and there was no shame in it.
"Alright then. I'll stay right here." I conceded, hugging my knees close to my chest as a draft swept through the cavern.
For the first time in days, a full, bright smile spread across Orin's face. "Thank you." With that, he stood and fetched his sleeping fur, draping it around my shoulders. "Better?"
"Yes, thanks." I tried not to look at him, feeling somehow that I'd lost our little battle of wills, and appeared weak and ignorant to him.
I heard a chuckle as he fished through his satchel for something. "You are not weak, you know. I know you are conflicted inside, probably this very moment. Torn between fighting me for no apparent cause or listening to your reasonable side which tells you I am a friend."
"I hate it when you do that." I muttered.
"Speak my mind."
Orin laughed again and, finding the small coil of rope he'd been looking for, came back to kneel in front of me.
"We are the same, you and I. I can see your thoughts written plainly across your face as I'm sure you have seen mine. Now, keep quiet and maybe try to sleep some while I'm gone. Once Rafter arrives we will not see sleep for several days, I imagine."
With that, he called Archu to his side and the two slipped away into the darkness. For a while, I did what I could to stretch my limbs in the space I had, sifted through the saddle bags to see what supplies we had. After that, I sat with my thoughts, which eventually carried me into a deep sleep, where I dreamed of Kaya's dead eyes staring off into the ether. When I woke again, it was not Orin's gentle voice calling me from the blissful shores of slumber, but a beastly snarl and searing pain... I jerked fully awake at the now familiar feeling of a knife to my throat,pressed against the healing wound.
" Can Ye hear me, lass? Don't you move an inch, I will open your throat in heartbeat." The voice growled in my ear.