Chapter 31


Grass twigs leaves leaves Hive of bumblebees bees

Athadius turned her back on Jade and kept on walking towards their destination.  And they call me a ‘one man army’!  What about the girl who goes off all by herself into an unknown building? Athadius thought.

Birch tree tall tall Brumble bush small small Child girl speaks her plans plans Alone she does not stand stand

Athadius ignored the wind and kept on marching.  They were headed to her hometown.  She had informed everyone their plans the previous night.

If she had seen their sidelong and agitated looks, perhaps she would have informed them her reasoning behind decision.  But then again, her ignorance of the fact that not everyone thought the way she thought just might have blinded her from understanding said looks even if she did see them.

To her, even a simpleton would see that as they would be crossing the Sanhildin desert, they would need food, camels, clothing and various other items to complete their journey.  Thus, stopping by her hometown, where she would be received kindly and given all she needed, was the obvious choice.

Oooooooo yes family family Thin fox trail trail Yellow brown snail snail Blue bird full grown home home home

Emotions Athadius thought she had buried welled up in her chest.  The Thianin’s words echoed in her brain.   “There was an attack on the caravan.  There were no survivors.”

Athadius stood, staring at nothing in particular, lost to the world and even lost to her senses, an occurrence quite rare for the vigilant warrior.  For as the words of the Thianin rolled over her thoughts, she spotted an inconsistency.  And once she spotted one, she spotted another, until inconsistencies were sprouting, sprouting up like weeds!

Her regal posture broke.  She gasped a barely audible intake of breath.  Her senses returned to her.  She was standing like an idiot, and she knew it, but she did not care.  Her whole world now seemed unsteady.  Things she would have bet her life on, now seemed as shaky as Alya when she was terrified.  Suddenly she was having doubts about visiting her home town, but it was too late now. 

 

They traveled on foot for another day before they reached the desert.  Athadius stayed to herself, speaking only when silence was more cumbersome than words.  Disturbed by her discovery, she felt raw and vulnerable to the world.

When they began to trek across the sandy slopes, Athadius brought out her turban and wrapped it around her head, thankful for its security.  Hour after hour they trudged along, Athadius leading.  Though her town was not far from the forest’s boarders, its location was known only to those of Sanhildin blood.  This was their security from any armies who might attack from the woods.

Alya let out a cough, and Ath looked down to find that the small girl wore nothing over her face.  Looking back, she saw that the girls were trying to cover their faces with their sleeves, but to little result.  No wonder they had been quiet lately, they were having a hard time breathing!

You you you take such good caaaaaare of your fellow fellows The wind chided.  And sullenly, Ath had to agree.

Halting, she unwrapped her turban and ripped it in half length wise.  Then she bent over and began ripping her skirt off into similar strips.  Gwen let out a gasp and said something sarcastic about modesty that the wind agreed with, but Athadius paid them both no mind.  She wore a pant like clothing underneath it anyway.  Handing out the strips of fabric, she demonstrated, without words, how to wear a turban.  When her turban was covering her face, Ath let a small smile slip to her lips at the sight of Gwen with a rag around her head.

Sand sand sand common common sand Smile smile smile uncommon uncommon smile

Noon the next morning they reached Athadius’ home.  All five of them were crouched at the edge of a large dune, peering down at the city below.

Athadius pointed to a herd of camels on the outskirts of the town.  “Gwen, Lynn, pick out five camels for our journey.”  Athadius stared at them for a moment.  “Do you know how to pick a good camel?”

“Pat them on the belly and see if they sound like a watermelon, of course.”  Gwen said.  Athadius just stared.

“Check their teeth?”  Lynn asked.  Athadius nodded, relieved to have someone sensible picking out their mounts for their journey.

“Lynn, you might also want to see if you can pull up some water from the ground for them before our journey.”

Lynn nodded.  “It might take some time, but I’ll try.”

“Oh great!  And what am I supposed to do while she does that?”  Gwen asked.  She was a little grumpy.  Crossing a desert without Larry did that to her.

“You could ask the cows if they mind being stolen,” Jade said with a smirk.

Gwen rolled her eyes.  “They are camels, Jade, and I am not one of them, so how would I be able to talk to them?” 

“You could at least try and read their minds,” Alya added.  “I would hate to steal an animal without its consent.”

“We aren’t stealing anything,” Athadius interjected.  “They belonged to…” Ath found she could not even say his name.  Her heart ached again.  She had been their unofficial twenty-seventh member.  They had been her playmates, her friends, her brothers.  Now all they were was gone.  “…To a former acquaintance of mine.  He had no family.  He told me should anything happen to him, I was to get his camels.” Athadius looked at the girls, all of whom were staring at her. “So we are not stealing them,” she explained.  When all four girls just continued to stare, and the wind kept whispering nonsense in her ears, Athadius continued with her plan.

“See that tent with a small red flag?  Ayla use your powers and take Jade to gather food, canteens, clothing, and weapons.  Dress yourselves in the clothes, load up a wagon, and head to the camels as if you were Sanhildin children doing chores.”

“That will be easy enough,” Jade grumbled, thinking of how this tall girl made everything sound like a detestable chore.  Walking on foot through a desert had put everyone in a bit of a mood.

“Where are you going?” Lynn asked.

Athadius looked down at her ‘pants’ and said, “To change.”  Then she locked eyes with Lynn.  “And then to find the truth.”

~~~

He sat where she knew he would be.  Sitting cross-legged on their thickly woven rug, the man sharpened his sword.  Athadius watched from behind.  The man did not yet know of her presence.  He had trained her well.

“I figured it out.” Her voice was sharp in the air.  The man, whose posture had been impeccable, straightened impossibly.

“They said your caravan was attacked and that there were no survivors.  I should have seen through the lies sooner.  If the caravan was attacked in the journey, why did I find the twenty-six bodies of my brothers in the heart of the desert?” She paused.  “If you had been killed, who could have convinced the Thainin to send a girl into the heart of the desert?”

The man stood and faced her.  “Ath,” he said.  His words were neither filled with love nor hatred, sadness nor joy.  For the first time in her life, he said her name diplomatically, as if he were stating that it was morning instead of calling for her out for her.

At that moment, the wind saved her life.  A saber charged through the canvas behind her, and would have pierced her heart, had not the wind pushed it to the side.  The saber sliced open the inside of her left arm, but she barely felt it.  With a move that her father had taught her, Athadius disarmed the intruder and sent him spiraling to the floor.  From the floor, her brother looked up at her, shocked.  His saber was in her hands.  Athadius ignored her brother.  Her focus was on the man, the stranger, who stood before her.  Her words were even and firm, but as cold and as sharp as frostbite.

“Don’t you dare call me Ath,” she said to her father.  


By R. Shinnick

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This blog post is part of a collaborative writing project (The Five Fledglings); if you’d like to read the story from the beginning, click here!

 

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