starless part 12
Jane Right stood at the crossroads. It brought her back to the past as if it was happening again. She knew ahead of her was the path straight through the mountains if she turned left. It would be an arduous journey, filled with fear of landslides from the constant precipitation. She shuddered, if the landslides did not kill, the terrain itself might. If she turned right, it would take three times as long by going around the mountains, again, filled with its own peril as the valleys were probably flooded and foothills would be as equally slippery. Damned if I do and damned if I don't, she thought to herself. She squared her shoulders with determination, and turned left. That would be the path that Thomas would have taken. The Phantses came from the mountains... they were surefooted beasts of burden given their size. What she would have done to have gotten one, but they were reserved for the calvery. Not for the common man.... Phantses were known to be extremely proud, loyal beasts that had a stubborn side that only responded to someone dedicated to taking care of their needs... She pondered often about that... It was indeed a symbiotic relationship that truly sometimes appeared like the Phantses kept the men as pets, than the other way around.
Her musings returned to another time she had ran away. At age thirteen, over being laughed at by schoolmates and teased mercilessly about her red hair, she caught no mercy from home. Her mother and father too busy with their lives to recognize that their only child was in mental anquish of wanting to belong. She walked past the closed well. Stopping, she turned on the spicket after pumping the handle and took a long drink, then filled all her bottles from it. Not much had changed.
Her memories flooded into her with her first encounter with the well. That was before the advent of the grey tarry rainlike substance and it had been an open well. Someone had not tied the rope adequatelyl and the bucket fell in. She stupidly went to grab it, and of course. did a head dive into the damp darkness. She shuddered remembering the long night ahead as no one heard her cries, clinging to the bucket itself to keep her head above the water. The rope just out of reach. Then she heard him....The boy who saved her... Thomas. He stood over the well cursing loudly about having no bucket to draw water. She managed to squeak out the word help. He quickly pulled up the rope that was dangling in the well, tied it around himself and went down. He pulled the two of them up.
As he got them to safety, and sat her down on the grass, he gave her a once over, and smiled.
"You have the most prettiest hair I have ever seen." He blurted out. Then realizing what he said, he blushed and quickly stated. "Let's get you to my ma. She will get you fixed up in no time." He brought her to a mud hut just over the hill. The woman took her in as her own, helping her to get cleaned up and warm by the fire. Surrounded by the dirt floor and dirt walls, Jane had never felt so accepted.
Her stomach filled with strawcose stew, she slept on the floor in hand made quilts. she was lost in her dreams. She slept so deeply that when her father's men had been sent to find her, she did not wake up to the knock. The men misunderstood seeing her lying on the floor...not moving. They drug Thomas' mother out, calling her a kidnapper, threatening to hang her right on the spot. Thomas took on the men to rescue his mother, for they would not listen to such beggars. Jane woke out of her deep sleep to Thomas' voice begging for mercy. She ran out and saw Thomas bloodied. His mom stood there with a noose around her neck as Jane called out to the lead man and told him what had happened. The woman was freed and Thomas was offered a chance to go to Paradise Mound and join the military. The leader had been impressed by his fighting ability and the fact that he had saved Jane. They asked the woman to come with them to Paradise Mound. Thomas' mother flatly refused. She would stay waiting for her man to return.
Jane smiled at how they would watch each other when the other was not looking. It seemed they were of the same mind.... They should be together....All these years, the feeling was still the same.
She felt the terrain start to slant upward and knew that it was going to a hard as she slipped down, again and again. She stopped and removed her walking shoes that she wore in town and opted for the heavy spiked boots, used to navigate the mountains. She sighed again.
No one knew about her dreams. She had kept them hidden from everyone out of fear that they would think her mad...save Thomas. She was beside him when one of her waking dreams had hit her, and she was forced to reveal her secret. Thomas just held her, reassuring her that she was sane. It was simply a gift, not a curse. But from that day on, Cameron Battersby became her bane. He must have listened in. He would show up at every social function. He would find an excuse to visit their house at meal time. Whenever she would go for a walk, he showed up. Whenever she went to visit her friends, he would either tag along or already be there. It was almost uncanny. She could not shake him and today, when she had fainted, he was there to carry her to her father. The coldness that crept inside her as the shear thought of him carrying her, touching her at all, made her decision to follow Thomas more and more the solid choice. Cameron was not the type to travel through the mountains this time of year.
Sally shuushed along the grey streets. Her heart was singing. She had passed.... and all she wanted to do was to tell James. After all, he was like a little brother to her. She took a quick short cut through the stables and stopped quickly. A chicken coop had been demolished. Watching the owners, run around the slippery street trying to chase down the chickens, made her grin. Children came out of the woodwork in order to watch such a spectacle, giggling and then joining the men in fetching the clucking birds to return them to cages that someone else had went to get. That was why she loved this place... people would give their help if they saw effort placed by another. Be lazy? And you were on your own.
She bypassed the frey and went as fast as she could. Someone yelled her name. She glanced back to wave and then.... too late. She saw three men who were standing in the street in what appeared to be a heated argument. Yelling out a warning, she threw her shoes sideways and dug her poles in but the momentum remained forward. As she opened her eyes, after the impact, she was staring into the eyes of her mentor and friend, Guild Master Sirus, along with the pottery master, and the Music master that she had just met today. Arms and legs entangled, it took some time to extricate the four. People laughed at the site, as the prominent leaders tried to maintain decorum, only to find themselves, joining in the joke. One must never take oneself seriously, thought Sally.
She bowed most profusely. "I am so sorry, fellow guildmasters."
They returned the bows, after making sure they could still bend.
"Why are you in such a hurry, young Guild Master healer?" asked Mr. Irvin.
"Oh, I wanted to tell Master James of my new position."
Sirus stopped at that. An epiphany struck him.
"Come along then, the three of us will accompany you to go see the young man. After all, he is of age to choose soon."
She smiled and stated, "Fine. I am hoping for an apprentice myself
Naively the healer headed to James' house as the three older seasoned guildmasters followed. Sirus sighed heavily.
"Why such a heavy sigh, Sirus?" Inquired the music guild master whose ear could catch any nuance of a song or a conversation.
"I was just thinking... two years ago, we lost so much in that landslide."
Irvin nodded. "Yes, we lost Sally's mother."
Sirus spoke as gently as he could to prevent any revelation of his scathingly brilliant idea that was quickly formulating in his mind, after all, he would be a poor master architect if he did not lay a foundation first.
"Alas, that is not all we lost that day... We lost young Master James' father."
"Ah, yes. How could I have forgotten that?" Irvin added. "Another great loss for the community."
"As I recall, he was an important man..." Sirus paused. "What was it he did? I must be getting old." He looked at Irvin who shook his head, unable to remember either.
The Guildmaster of Music looked back at the two men. "You obviously have not listened to my songs... He is mentioned in the record of our villiage."
"Really?" Sirus asked, as innocently as he could.
The Music master glared at the two other men. "How can you forget so easily? That is why we commemorate in song. James' father was the greatest hunter/tracker of all time."
"You are right. He was a master tracker and hunter." Sirus added quickly.
"That is right." Irvin agreed.
Sirus walked straight ahead. Finally, we agree on something, he thought.
And with that, the three Guild Masters followed the newby to James' house.
To be continued on the site of the wonderful writer and instigator of this story, the famous Slarty O'brian. I followed the equally exhuberant writer Motown2Chitown who wrote the previous chapter, who followed the insightful Emichael who wrote chapter ten. Take care and happy reading.