Friday, March 7, 2008

Chapter Six

Sethyr sat on the cot of the hut in which they had been staying. She had long since exhausted her curiosity in the contents of the jars and other knickknacks that filled the shelves around walls of the hut. She only half watched Brayden kneeling near the other cot engaged in his evening prayers. The rest of her attention was occupied by using her arcane skills to make a frayed rag flop around the floor like an injured mouse. It danced to the rhythm of Sethyr’s waggling finger. The wisewoman’s cat was enjoying the demonstration, pouncing again and again on the rag, playfully batting it with its paws and occasionally bringing it to its mouth to double-check that there was no mouse hidden inside.

“I cannot understand why you let Vijhan get away,” Sethyr said, sighing.

Brayden opened an eye in annoyance at the interruption, but quickly finish his prayer with a sign of peace. He rose from his knees, albeit a bit slowly, and sat down on the cot.

“He did not get away, I let him go,” he replied. “I gave him my word.”

“You even fed him and gave him supplies. I know you gave your word, but what will you tell the orphaned child of the next peasant that cur kills?”

“We can’t assume that something tragic will happen. I have to have faith that Chanti led me to the right decision.”

With a flick of the wrist Sethyr sent the rag flying across the hut, landing in Brayden’s lap. The cat leapt after it in pursuit. Startled, the protector jumped to his feet, sending the rag and the cat flying in separate directions. The cat twisted in mid air, landed gracefully on the dirt floor and scrambled out of the hut as if he had been rehearsing it for months.

“What in the blazes are you doing?” Brayden shouted. He stared daggers at Sethyr, who simply reclined on the cot, pointedly not meeting his glare.

“What can I say; it is my nature to be difficult. Just like it is Vijhan’s to be savage.”

“Let us not have this discussion on a folk’s nature, or must I bring up the Cairnfolk, your own people?”

The rebuke made Sethyr’s head snap around, meeting Brayden’s glare head on this time.

“I concede the point, but I still don’t trust Vijhan to keep his word.” Sethyr’s countenance softened, as much as her scaly features could. Brayden had made his point well, even if it did sting.

“Well, it is beyond us now. He was, however, quite helpful after we got him talking.”

“So, how do we proceed? Are we to take up this village’s cause, Brayden?”

“I feel that Chanti has led me here, so I must see to this village and their plight. I cannot demand you do the same. However, if you choose not to I would sorely miss your company.”

Once again Brayden cut directly to the heart of Sethyr’s feelings. Perhaps the protector would feel differently if he realized that the mage was female, but Sethyr did not feel confident enough to reveal this tidbit to her friend just yet. After all, she would sorely miss his company as well.

Sethyr hesitated before answering, looking thoughtful.

“You can’t rid yourself of me that easily. Someone, other than Chanti, needs to watch your back.”

Brayden bridled at the causal mention of Chanti.

“Don’t get upset,” Sethyr said quickly, attempting to defuse his anger. “I simply meant that I am in closer proximity, thus able to offer convenience as well as support.”

“Oh course, I should understand that better…Its just …sometimes I feel like I don’t know you at all,” Brayden said.

An uncomfortable silence sprang up between the two. Brayden sat back down on the cot and stared down at the floor. Sethyr flicked her fingers and resumed rag’s dance near the open doorway, but the cat did not reappear. After a few moments she let the rag flutter back down to the floor, lifeless.

“You know I cannot abide silence,” Sethyr said, her voice tight with exasperation. “Perhaps someday you will know everything about me, but until that day, you must be satisfied to simply trust me.”

Brayden’s head swung upward, his eyes meeting Sethyr’s. “Yes, that is enough for me, as is your friendship.”

Another silent moment passed, but with out the tension of a few moments before. That had been replaced with a pleasant contentment, an acceptance of the status quo.

Sethyr broke the reverie with a shudder. “Enough musings of the soul; now is the time for a plan.” She sat up, elbows on her knees and stared at Brayden.

“The first thing we must do is find out the identity of the hooded fellow is that was employing the canids,” Brayden said.

“Uh, yes, of course, but how. Vijhan didn’t have any idea who it was. The only thing he could tell us was that the chap was spicy. What, pray tell, could that mean.”

“Um, I was hoping you had an idea, Sethyr. I am the faith half of our partnership, not the think half.”

Sethyr croaked a belly laugh. “Congratulations. It sounds like you are also the humble half as well. I wonder what that says about me.”

They both shared a laugh at the comment.

Sethyr flicked her nictitating membranes to clear moisture from her eyes. Extreme emotions often caused the Cairnfolk to exude protective mucus over their eyes. Brayden had first misinterpreted them as tears, but Sethyr had assured him that was not the case. The protector had not commented but to him it seemed to serve much the same emotional purpose as tears did for humans, even if not physiologically.

Sethyr signed deeply. “So, I had better deduce what spicy means. Perhaps he is a merchant and handles spices often.”

Brayden nodded, looking hopeful.

Sethyr continued, “But I simply can’t believe it could be that easy. Hedgewise is not on any significant trade route, so why would a merchant bother. Even if they wanted to establish a new trade route, the village would prove useful as a stop. But, what use would it be if it were deserted? No, I do not think it was a merchant.”

“So what is the alternative?”

“Hmm, perhaps the spice came from the fellow’s food. You humans tend to stin…I mean smell of the food you eat. I can’t understand how you stand all that sweating. If this is true then that tells us something. Either the fellow cooks with such spices or has a companion that does. In either instance, that marks them as a foreigner. Perhaps all we must do is find this foreigner.”

Brayden frowned. “If we do that aren’t we as ignorant as those that accused you because of your race?”

“No, they rushed to judgment. I do not fault their suspicion, for at least they were thinking. Not considering me as a possible threat would have been the ignorant thing, given their recent circumstances. No, I see their fault in condemning me without more thought.”

“You are more forgiving than I might be I your place.”

Sethyr snorted, hissing a laugh. “Brayden, you can worry a conversation until there is no meat left on the bone. We have our clues. Now we must simply follow where they lead.”

“Easier said than done. Our only trace is the spice Vijhan mentioned. How is that of use?”

“Well, he also told us where he and the other Canids laid in wait for this hooded one to contact them. We can use this as our starting point. We best be wary of those other Canids.”

“You are right in that,” Brayden agreed. “I hope they have fled. Without Vijhan to lead them I think they would be much less ambitious in choosing their prey.”

“Even so, we must be careful. I just hope we can locate their old camp. Perhaps we should have kept Vijhan with us until he could lead us there.”

“It is too late for that now. I hope his directions will be enough.”


Brayden and Sethyr gave their packs one final check before shouldering them and emerging from the hut. Despite the early hour most of the people of Hedgewise were gathered to see them off.

Brayden obliged the peasants by flashing them a warm smile ad waving broadly.

“Peace to all. We greet you all this fine morning.”

Sethyr simply nodded at her friend’s words. The villagers did not pay her much attention anyway, so she was not concerned. It did, however, irritate her that they seemed to have completely forgotten how she had single handedly staved off the Canid attack only two days before. It was at times like these that she really felt out of place among the humans. It was as if she was invisible, and that was quite a blow to her ego.

Brayden strode through the crowd waving and greeting everyone with his booming voice. Sethyr slipped in behind him, riding in his wake through the crowd. As they neared the edge of the village they found Ernst waiting for them, a burlap sack in one hand and wearing a wide smile.

“Good morning my friends. The folk of Hedgewise wish you a good journey,” Ernst address them loudly.

“Thank the gods you are leaving,” Sethyr translated under her breath.

“We have gathered food for your journey.”

“We hope this is enough food to get you very far away,” she said quietly, again translating what she thought Ernst truly meant.

Brayden turned slightly toward her. “Hush now,” he whispered, having heard her quite comment. He turned back toward Ernst and addressed the crowd.

“Our thanks for your hospitality, Ernst. We will remember Hedgewise fondly.”

The crowd cheered in response.

“Now we must be on our way. We bid you farewell.” Brayden gave one last wave and resumed his departure.

The crowd cheered again, parting to let them pass. Sethyr remained close behind the Protector, ignoring the cheering villagers. They emerged from the crowd, moving out of the village, toward the surrounding forest.

Unable to contain herself, Sethyr spun back toward the village and waved with an elaborate flourish. She bowed deeply and shouted, “Thanks for the bath.” The stunned crowd became silent. Most looked hurt and embarrassed, but Sethyr did not care. They had nearly killed her and the more the villagers were reminded of their deed, she felt the less likely they would be to repeat it.

Sethyr spun on her heel and hurried after Brayden who was nearly to the treeline. As she caught up he spoke without turning.

“Was that really necessary?”

Sethyr snorted in annoyance. “Necessary, no. But warranted, I’d say it was.”

“As long as it made you feel better.”

“You know I always have to have the last word.”

“I know.”


“I’m glad we can put it behind us now.”

“As am I,” Sethyr said, finally having the last word..

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