Papa cradled me in his arms as I shook violently. He held me closer to his chest squeezing me tight, but the shaking wouldn’t stop. The fear of facing the reality of my vision keeps me from opening my eyes. I can here Ama’s voice shooing away my audience, their questions going unanswered. “Here, give her this.” I heard Ama say to Papa. “It will help calm her down.” Papa put a small vial to my lips trying to encourage me to drink after a few tries I give in. Calmness washes over me, and I drifted into a dreamless sleep.
When I woke this time, it was barely dawn. Out the window, I could see the tiniest sliver of the sun on the horizon. I was in Ama’s wagon. Her beautifully woven gold and purple blankets hugged me shielding me from the cold, crisp air. My muscles ached as I climbed out of bed to see what was going on. The hear voices coming from the front of the wagon were thick with frustration and fear. This is my fault. I must tell them what I saw. The old door creaked as I pushed it open alerting anyone close enough to hear that I was awake. Papa paced the floor frantically, as Mama and Ama sat at the little table in the corner of the room. Before I could fully step out of the room, Papa was at my side to help me in. “It’s okay Papa. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. In all my years of being a traveler, I have never seen someone react that way in their first vision. You’re not fine.”
“Oh, hush up! You big fool, she’s already Terrified enough without you making it worse.” Ama interrupted. “Come sit and tell us what you saw. I promise it will be fine.” I took a seat next to Ama, she took my hand and caressed it gently. The softness and warmth of her hands brought comfort to my soul as if everything would be fine as she said, but it was false hope. I told them what I saw, the horrible bees, death, decay, and hollowed eyes filled with darkness just before everyone turned to ash. The look of despair in their eyes said it all. “Are you sure they were bees?” Mama asked.
“Yes Mama, I’m sure. What does it mean?” The pounding of Papa’s large feet shook the wagon making its old wood whine under stress.
“In visions, bees are a sign of sickness and death, but as you know with visions, nothing is certain. We can live our lives as normal as possible, and nothing could happen, or we could fight against what fate has decided to show us and doom could consume us all. It’s not up to us.”
“I can’t just live normally after seeing what I’ve seen; there has to be something I can do. Wasn’t there a story of a seer in the mountains, the one on Violet Mountain!” My mind desperately searching for a solution. “The story says she sees all outcomes. She can tell me how to change my vision.”
“Lenora, that’s just a story, and one that’s older than I am no less. If any of it were true that seer would be dead by now, I will not lose you because you’re out trying to find someone who doesn’t exist.”
“How could you say that Papa? These stories are the stories of our people. If there is no truth behind them why would we continue to tell them for generations? If there is a chance I can stop this, shouldn’t I take it? I can’t go out there and tell everyone that they are going to die. How could anyone live peacefully after that?”
“You will do no such thing.” Ama interrupted “We have no reason to tell anyone out there what you saw; it would destroy them. What you saw is not set in stone but even if it was, what good would it do to tell them if you can’t change it. Let them live happy lives and if doom comes then so be it, but if not, we will have saved them the pain and suffering of knowing of this terrible vision. Let this be our burden to bear, and ours only.”
“You’re right.” Papa agreed. “This doesn’t leave this room. We will carry this burden alone until it comes to pass, or if you have a vision of a different future. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Mama and Ama said in unison. Papa stared me down waiting for me to agree. A defeated sigh escaped my lips, and I forced the words from my mouth.
I’m sorry but I can’t. My mind was made up. Come nightfall I will set out to find the seer and save my people.
Papa spoke to our people on my behave explaining that I had a terrible reaction to the Midnight Sailia essence, but all was well. He told them that my dream predicted years of great travel and fortune to come. He was a good liar. The crowd believed him, and everyone cheered and celebrated. I could bring myself to face them so, I watched from my window, as the day slowly passed me by. Their happiness was bittersweet as I knew it was all a lie. Desperate to keep things the way they’ve always been I began to pack. In my mind I repeated a mental list of all I would need for my trip: food, water, maps, coin, medicine, Muchi, and Essence. I threw my travel garments in my satchel and headed out in search of the rest of the items. No one seemed to notice me amid all the celebration. Seeing everyone so happy had me convinced me that Papa had done the right thing, for now at least. Now, it’s my turn to make sure it stays this way.
The rest of the day went on, as usual; everyone laughed and ate. The Elders told stories at sunset as children did their best to act them out. Now was the perfect time to gather the rest of my things. The coin and maps were easy. Mama and Papa were enjoying the stories, so their wagon was left unguarded. I sneak in quickly and snatched a coin pouch and counting its contents to myself: four gold, twenty silvers, and Thirty coppers. The map of our most recent travels sat out as if it had been waiting for me. When I step out I saw the sun had just dipped below the horizon, so I knew I had to hurry. I shoved them in my pack and headed to Ama’s wagon next; she had the maps of the Seers.
Her wagon was dark and void of her warm presence, but I knew that wouldn’t last long. Fumbling through drawers and cabinets turned up nothing but vials of unknown concoction and trinkets from all Ama’s travels, none of it was anything I could use. The last cabinet stood out with colorfully stained glass doors and was high above all the rest. That must be it. Pulling up a chair I climbed to reach its handles. It opened with a creak and rolls of maps tumbled out on to the floor. Laughter and voices seem to grow closer as everyone started to turn in for the night. Times up. Frantically I rummaged through the hoard of maps when one that read Mountain Seer caught my eye. I Stuffed it in my satchel quickly and put the rest of them back in the cabinet as neat as I could. I peeked out the window and saw Ama making her way to her wagon. She was slower these days, so I had time. I tore through more cabinets looking for medicine but came up empty. Where could they be? Flashbacks of me as a child seeing Ama put medicine in the drawer under her bed entered my mind. I dash for the drawer, but the creaking of the door told me I was out of time. I reached in a grabbed the first vials that fill my hand shoving them in my satchel with the rest of my things.
“Oh! Hello dear, you startled me. What are you doing in here alone?”
“It’s okay dear, calm yourself. I know what you’re after.” My heart froze in my chest.
“Of course. You want the essence. It’s okay. I know you must feel horrible but inducing the vision again won't change its outcome. It's best you leave it alone for now.” I relaxed and released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
“I just thought it might help.” Ama embraced me warmly and kissed my cheek.
“The only thing that will help is time.” she smiled a comforting smile. “I am about to have my evening tea would you like to join me? We can talk more if you’d like?”
“No, that’s okay. I’m going to turn in as well.”
“Okay dear, I’ll see you in the morning.” Guilt stabbed my heart.
“I love you Ama,” I said giving her a quick hug and left before the tears burning my eyes could escape. I ran into Mama and Papa headed to their wagon. I kissed them and said good night as I would any other night and headed to my wagon to wait. I surveyed the items my satchel eliminating items from my list. Eagerly I examined the vials I managed to grab. There were five vials two of which were antidote solutions, the other two were for pain, and the last, a bottle of sailia essence. Luck was on my side. I tucked everything neatly away in my pack taking care not to break the vials. The sun had completely set, and the settlement was quiet save for the birds and creatures that scurried around at night. It was time to leave. There were three things left on my list to gather on my way out.
Muchi, my horse, softy neighed as I approached. She greeted me by nuzzling her nose against my hair.
“You have to be quiet, okay girl? I have a few more thing to grab then we can head out.” I dressed her in her traveling saddle filling it and my water-skin with food and water from our traveling storage.
“Are you ready girl?” She shook her large head no. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Are we going to do this now?” She shook her head again “Fine.” I caved knowing precisely what she wanted — fishing out a bright red apple from the barrel. Muchi stomped with excitement when she saw the juicy apple in my hand.
“Is this what you want.” Without hesitation she gobbled it up off the palm of my hand, juice flying has she crunched into the ripe apple flesh.
I took a moment to say goodbye to my people silently. I’ll be back soon, and I will save you all from the horrible fate I predicted. Muchi nozzle my hair again letting me know she was ready and with my heart heavy, I mounted her and rode off into the night.
Time seemed to stop on this never-ending road to Tamworth. My first stop. This road was much lonelier without my family by my side. The last time we traveled this road, it was a happy time filled with laughter and the warmth of knowing home lay ahead. Now if I don’t hurry it might be the last place my family ever travels.
The sky was still black and speckled shimmering stars it gave no hint at how much longer I had until morning, but I need to rest soon I could feel Muchi tiring. In the distant laughter and shouting echoed out into the night air telling me we weren’t far from town. Hold on just a little longer girl we’re almost there. Riding over our last hill the gates of Tamworth came in to view.
Hordes of people entering and leaving the city swallowed us up as we road through the gates. Traveling the streets outside town were eerily quiet, but here it was as if no one slept. The streets were alive with merchants and traders, dancers spinning to the beat of drums as people clapped along. Dismounting Muchi would bring less attention to us, so we walked side by side with our heads down. The crowd seemed to be heading in one direction. Ahead was a strip of taverns where the sounds of lousy lute playing, drunken singing, and laughter echoed into the night air. I didn’t recognize the song, but everyone around me seemed to love it. The singer ended with a belch loud enough for me to hear out here, and the crowd burst into laughter. I was close enough to see the entrance to the largest Inn and tavern. The rundown sign read the Sapphire Lagoon. Around the side of the Inn, was an empty stable area for horses. Muchi didn’t need much convincing to get her to go in; the bucket of oats in the corner was waiting just for her.
“I’ll be back soon,” I whispered to her as I secured her reins.
Inside, the tavern was much larger then it looked from the outside. People were seated above on the balcony level and below at what seemed like at least fifty tables. Every table was full, and everyone one had a drink in hand. A large stage stood to the far right waiting for its next entertainer. “Hello Love, I’ve never seen your face in here before.” A large man with jet black hair and tattoos covering both arms called from behind the bar waving me over. “What can I do for you?” He asked with a polite smile.
“I need a boat…I was hoping someone might be able to tell me where I could find one. I’m heading to Violet mountain.” I replied hopefully.
“Violet mountain! That’s one I haven’t heard in years. What is a young lady like you doing trying to get to Violet mountain alone? Crossing the black sea is no easy feat even with a crew.”
“It’s imperative that I get there as soon as possible. I’m looking to leave tonight.”
“Whoa now slow down. Even if you had a boat and left right now, you would never make it. Strange things lurk these waters at night.”
“Okay… thank you anyway.” I said unable to hide the defeat in my voice as I turned to leave. I’ll have to find someone else to help.
“I’ll tell you what,” He called out seeming to know what i was thinking. “I have a small boat, I can take you for ten coppers, but you’ll have to wait until morning, how does that sound?”
“Of course, first thing in the morning.”
“Okay! You have a deal. I usually do my fishing early before dawn. I can have you to the next Island before tomorrow evening.”
Leaving in the morning will be risky. Someone may notice I’ve gone and head this way. But something told me that finding someone else at this time of night wouldn’t be easy.
“Since you will be staying until morning I can set you up with a room in our Inn, the streets are rough at night, especially for young women. You remind of my little sister god rest her soul. If someone had been looking out for her, maybe she would be here today.” He smiled a little trying to hide the sadness. “What’s your name and where are you from?”
“My names Lenora, and my family and I are travelers, so home is where my family goes.”
“A Traveler…You might want to keep that quiet in this town many people aren’t very fond of travelers here. Thieves and liars, they call you, which I think is just ignorance, but in my Inn and tavern anyone is welcome, so you have nothing to worry about from me and mine. My names Kenith, but my friends call me Ken, if you need anything just let me know. I have to go serve these drunkards before they wreck my place.” His smile turns stern instantly as he went to shout at a man dancing on his tables.
I took a seat at a single table away from the crowd and watched as everyone enjoyed their drinks, sometimes a bit too much as people spilled splashing others in the group as they danced and rocked to the music. Ken moved swiftly in and out of the hordes of people calling everyone by name and in kind of a strange way it reminded me of home. When he saw me, he waved and headed my way.
“There you are, sorry I haven’t been back to check on you, it’s crazy in here. My wife wanted to make sure I got this to you. It isn’t much, but I will keep your stomach full.” He placed a bowl of stew in front of me with a small loaf of bread. The smell filled my nose, and my stomach instantly began to rumble. “Go head eat up, you don’t want it to get cold.” He said as he patted my shoulder before returning to his robustious customers. The first spoonful left my tongue in shock. The delicious stew ran down my throat warming every inch of me with each bite I took. Consumed by the flavors of my stew, I hardly noticed a pair of eyes watching me as I ate. When our eyes met, he laughed and returned his attention to tuning his guitar.
“What’s so funny?” I asked the strange young man.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just you looked like you were enjoying that stew.” He pointed to my mouth. “You got a bit on your face.” I wiped at my face with my napkin, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.
“No problem.” He said unable to hide his smile.
I returned my focus to my food, but my eyes couldn’t help but drift back to him. I watched as he tuned and polished his guitar so intimately as if no one else existed. His instrument seems to be taken better care of then him as it glistened like new against his well-worn traveling clothes. His hair was dark with wild waves that fell into his eyes as he moved, and his brown sun-kissed skin revealed he wasn’t a stranger to long hours on the road. Is he a traveler like me?
The crowd got quieter as the last performer finished.
“Looks like I’m up.” He said as he stood with his instrument and a confident smile. His icy blue eyes met mine for a moment before he headed to the stage and my cheeks burned yet again.
Ken’s voiced boomed throughout the tavern. “You all are in for a real treat. I’ve saved the best act for last so shut up and let the man sing.” The crowd erupted in laughter then quieted down to barely a whisper as the young man made his way on stage.
His confidence commanded his audience’s attention as their eyes were focused only on him waiting eagerly for him to play. He looked just a couple of years older than me but his eyes, even with their childlike sparkle, said he had seen many things. He sat on the stool and played his first chord. Then his fingers danced over the strings not hitting one sour note. The crowd stayed silent and hypnotized by his playing, and then he opens his mouth to sing. His voice, powerful and smooth, is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. “Travel home my lady” was the song. I knew it well. My Papa would sing it to mama all the time, but I’ve never heard it like this before. It was as if his voice had been made for this song. When he finally finished the crowd was quiet for a moment then burst into a roaring cheer. He played two more songs leaving the audience more engaged with each verse until he brought his performance to a close. Everyone except two men at the bar cheered as he took his bow. They set back silent with evil intent in their drunken eyes.
“My names Liam and it was a pleasure to play for you tonight.” He took another bow and climbed down from the stage.
“Sorry Everyone its closing time, but if you liked what you saw tonight, you could leave a gift at the bar for your favorite performer as you clear your tabs for the night.”
Everyone began to clear out as they left their tips at the bar. Among all the commotion I spied Liam gathering his things quickly and flying out the door. Moments later the men at the bar followed him. This is not your concern. I thought, trying to convince myself, but something in me knew this wasn’t right. Instinct took over, and I ran out after them. Hopefully, they didn’t make it too far. I didn’t see Them out front, but I heard two voices from around the corner. A thick broken tree branch was kicked off to the side of the Inn. It looked sturdy, so I picked it up just in case. I followed the voices.
“You little bastard how dare you show your face around here after we told you never to come back.” One of the two men said.
“Tamworth is a free town. I’ll go where I please. It’s not my fault you feel threatened by my presence. Tell me, does your lady ask of me often?” Liam teased angering the man pinning him to the wall. “I’m going to kill you!” The man yelled as he grabbed Liam by the neck. The other man that was with him backed away. “I didn’t come out here for this Jim. You said we would only rough him up. I’m no murder.” He turned and ran from the ally not even noticing me as he ran by. I could hear Liam begin to struggle for air as the man gripped tighter around his neck. My mind panicked, but my body was sure. I ran straight for them my weapon in hand. Swinging as hard as my muscles would allow, aiming for his head. The sound of cracking bone echoed throughout the alley on impact and a warm liquid splatter on my face. The man choking Liam dropped to the ground twitching until finally going still. Frozen, I couldn’t take my eyes from the man on the ground with blood running from his skull. “Oh shit! I think you killed him.” Liam said through strained vocal cords. I still couldn’t speak or move. Did I kill a man? Liam ran to the Inn and reappeared with the Ken. He approached me slowly.
“It’s okay.” He spoke in a calm voice as he pulled the tree Limb from my clutched hands and dropped it to the ground. “Everything is going to be fine I’m going to help you.” Ken reassured me as he did his best to wipe my face clean of blood. I could hear his words but somehow my mind couldn’t comprehend them. My mind was filled with the sound of cracking bones and the sight of the lifeless man laying at my feet. What is to happen to me now?…I’m a murderer.
To be Continued...