Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twelve

Weslyn Gossard let her horses choose their own pace as they drew her wagon down the hard-packed dirt road from Necras to Abem. She had checked and rechecked her load of porcelains and mechanicals before heading out this morning to make sure the jostling of the wagon wouldn’t shake a gear loose of chip a cup or a vase.

But now, her goods were far from her mind. It had been days since the incident back in the city, and that man, Draegon, was still on her mind. She couldn’t help but feel bad about what he had had to do to keep his freedom-- giving up whatever life he had to become a Seeker. That was just another loss of freedom, in her mind. Just by looking at Draegon, seeing his eyes, she had known the truth of things. It was so upsetting that the fellow Jonal-- by his eyes a greedy, uncompassionate man-- should win out, forcing not only Draegon but also Roark into the Search. Her father had always said she had an eye for appraisal, not just for goods, but for people too. She had never really believed him-- about the people part, anyway-- until that day.

She couldn’t get Draegon out of her mind now, and it wasn’t just because of his eyes. Yes, they were very pretty eyes, dark green and full of emotion, but there was so much more to him, more that made her unable to push him from her thoughts. Overall, she was definitely attracted to him in a physical sense, and she kept finding herself sighing over his shoulders, his chin, even that strange pale hair. And then her thoughts would wander to his poise as he told his story, as he demanded to take the oaths. She had to admire his spirit.

Yes, her father was right. She could appraise people well, and she had judged Draegon correctly.

A strong bump that shot her up out of her seat and set her bottom back down hard brought her back to awareness of her surroundings. She was far off the road, her horses still at that lumbering pace of theirs, amidst the brushy plain lands of… somewhere between Necras and Abem. She couldn’t even see the road from where she was. All around her was just scraggly bushes and grass and… there, to the side and behind her and not all that far off, another wagon. Squinting her eyes, she tried to get a better look at it.

The wagon was drawn by what looked like a huge horse, far bigger than either of hers. There was no cloth covering, no carriage house… this wasn’t a merchant’s wagon or a transport wagon. It drew closer, and she could make out that it was followed by a small crowd of people on foot, and every head among them was light-haired.

Weslyn’s heart caught in her throat. It was a Keidenelle wagon! And they’ve seen her; they’re heading straight for her. She almost thought she could hear that gigantic horse picking up speed. It was a big black beast, racing toward her over the uneven ground. For the terrain, that kind of speed was dangerous.

But she would have to go faster than that if she wanted to get away with her life. She urged her team into a walk, then a trot, and finally into a gallop, ignoring the jostling of the wagon beneath her as the bumps and pits on the ground rattled her to her bones.

Lydia must have gotten a little too close to the tree the starlings were nesting in, because out of nowhere, a pair of them dive-bombed at her head, chasing her away and sending her running across the courtyard.

She could hear them gaining on her, but she dared not turn to look behind her. The first arrow to thunk into the side of the wagon startled her into yelping; the second arrow made her scream outright. They began to fall like rain. She was surprised to find herself wondering how they could shoot so well while running-- there was no way the owners of those arrows were all crowded into that one wagon.

She hunched her shoulders when she felt an arrow part the air a finger’s length from her cheek, then pitched forward as an axle broke and the wagon went straight down beneath her. She bounced against one horse’s rump and hit the ground next to the team, picked herself up without even trying to catch her breath, and ran. Part of her gave a thought for the horses-- hopefully they would either somehow free themselves or maybe be rescued-- and for her wares-- they’re not worth risking her life to save!

The starlings kept at Lydia, chirping frantically and swooping around her, until she tripped over Ryan where he sat in the grass. She toppled right into the middle of the space between him, Joanna, and Emery.

She found herself suddenly in the arms of one of the Keidenelle, and she beat at him with her fists as well as she could until she heard a woman’s voice. “Look, I don’t like his music much either, but that’s no reason to thwump him like that.”

Opening her eyes, Weslyn looked up into the face that had been stuck in her mind for days: Draegon’s. She collapsed against him, and the details of her morning rushed out of her so fast she could hardly stop for air. At least he seemed to understand.

“Keidenelle?” Draegon repeated. His face darkened.

“We can do one of two things,” said the woman’s voice. Weslyn suddenly noticed Draegon’s companions. One was the broad soldier Lady Ara had sent along to keep an eye on Draegon. The other was a slim, petite woman with a saucy look about her. “We can either stand our ground against these Keidenelle and hope to get rid of them, chase them off… or we can run.”

“With both our horses riding double,” the soldier put in. “We’d never keep ahead of them.”

“I’ve got two more horses back at my wagon,” Weslyn muttered.

“Where’s the wagon?”

She pointed. “On the other side of the oncoming Keidenelle band.”

There was only a moment between her lowering her hand and the sound of steel on leather. The big soldier had drawn his sword, and Draegon had produced some knives from somewhere on his person.

“You’re actually going to fight them? There are dozens of them!”

Draegon turned to her, his green eyes fiery. “And we’ll kill every one of them.”

“But aren’t you Keidenelle?”

The fire turned to ice. “I am no more Keidenelle than you are.” He looked insulted. “We fight."

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