Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chapter Nine


In this latest chapter The Pride Group finally reaches it's destination in the Braithorian Mountains, and Amara finds that civilization is more than a point of view... 


CHAPTER NINE


                Amara stayed away from Graw after that night, staying with Khane for the rest of their journey, who did not question the move. Occasionally she spotted Graw up ahead as he pulled his share in the cart, and when they made camp she purposely avoided him, keeping with Bas a’ Rhinn, and with the unyielding push of the Shaman, it took little time before Amara was able to conjure up fire. So long as she had something, likened to kindling. When she did, the fires burned hotter and longer than any made by flint and steel, as such she was tasked with conjuring the Bonfires at night.

The heavy snow gave way to half-frozen grasslands that strained for the sun through the harsh cold. The days were steadily growing shorter, and the storms more severe. All around them were tall green tress, with long spiky needles, as the Pride group traveled through them, Amara could hear crows and ravens as they cawed and flitted through the high branches, knocking heavy limbs and sending snow down over them.
                 It was almost mid-day when the forest opened and the Braithorian Mountains reappeared. Large snow capped, jagged black stone rose up for miles in front of them, at their base were a multitude of buildings, with smoke ebbing into the clouds above. There were paths carved out of the snow, leading down into the Raepuwa permanent encampment.
               They had not prepared her for this. Before her, everything moved, and the Raepuwa carried on with their lives. This was a town, like any other, the mountains and forests shielded it from the harsher weather, allowing it to flourish and grow.
               “Did you think we lived like animals?” Portia asked with a huff as she pulled her cart by Amara who had stopped walking.
                “I had no idea.” She half-whispered, as Khane came up beside her, putting her hand on the small of Amara’s back, giving her a not so gentle shove forward.
             “Come down and meet the family.” She teased. “They will be most curious about you, it’s been along time since we had a stranger in our territory, that we let stay.”
                  “Thanks... I think.”

****

                Once the Pride Group had been spotted, the meandering of the town stopped. Horns blew echoing through the mountain valley, and the Raepuwa formed in the square cheering and clapping. Young ones bounded through the snow, playing and fussing with those ahead of Amara and Khane, causing them to stop and start as they all made their way to the square’s center. They were handing out small treats and toys. When the carts finally circled and the rest of the Raepuwa gathered, Amara watched as Graw, Enwa, and Bas a’ Rhinn himself, who Amara had yet to see lift a finger as to work, with the others began unpacking the carts, throwing bundles out to the crowd.
               “Each family gets an allotment.” Khane smiled. “Herbs, meats, fabrics, canned fruits and jams. All packaged up while we were in Vrystra and Andestin. That was where we were before we back tracked for you.”
                  “I was in Andestin...”
               “We know dear, you did tell us at the fires. Come on, I am sure Bas a’ Rhinn’s anxious to see his family, so I will take you home with me. It’s not as spacious as your home, but it is cozy and warm.”
                “Warm is always good.”
                “I should say so.”

****

                They walked through the groups, some of the parents pulling their children back as Amara passed them, their dander up at the sight of an unknown. She was getting the feeling that she was indeed the outsider, and most unwelcomed. Khane tried to assure her otherwise, but Amara was not convinced. The buildings were scattered and all connected by well cleared out paths. Khane’s home was indeed warmer than the outside, not by very much, as it looked to be heated by a single wood stove in the center wall. When they entered, it was quiet, but only for a moment as heavy thuds raced overhead. Amara looked up, her eyes following the sounds across the ceiling and behind her to a staircase, where three young Raepuwa came rushing down, two females bickering for room on the stairs, only to be beaten to the bottom my a smaller male who slid down the polished banister, flicking his tail at them as they argued.
              “Stop pushing!” Khane guffawed as the young male wrapped his arms around her pulling her in a half turn. “Amara those two hooligans are Esty and Theta, and this.” She grunted picking the other up.         
             “This is Wren.” The child buried his face in his mothers neck, nuzzling her as he purred. “He’s a little shy.” She smiled, petting down his back. “Wren, say hello to Amara.” She cooed.
Wren looked up at her, and gave a gentle wave.
           “No, Wren, use your words.” A man’s voice traveled down from the top of the stairs. A human voice, not the garble Amara had begun to grow accustomed to from those Raepuwa who spoke to her on the journey.
           She looked up, surprised. He was handsome, fair skin, pale green eyes, with a thin mustache and beard. His shoulder length hair was parted at an angle and reddish brown.
              Wren looked up at him, then back at Amara. “`Ello.”
              Amara smiled, she could not help herself. “Khane, you didn't tell me you had a family.”
             “You did not ask.” She answered, putting Wren down and meeting the man at the base of the steps.   
             He put an arm around her, rubbing his face against hers before kissing her on the mouth. “Is he still having issue with ‘H’ sounds?”
           “When it suits him to be cute.” The man answered. “I see we have a guest.” He put out his hand to Amara. “I'm Crevan, Khane’s life mate.”
              “But you’re a regular guy?”
            Crevan laughed. “Does that surprise you? Ah, no matter, all that matters is my girl is home. Now maybe those two will actually learn something. Esty and Theta have made a mockery of my attempts at good old-fashioned reading; they want to listen to everything on that tape player you brought back from Liridon. They seem to think I can just materialize them.”
            “What’s a tape player?” Amara asked as Esty and Theta teased their father with pokes and stuck out tongues.
             They stopped, looking at Amara strangely.
          “Haven’t you never heard? It’s for playing tapes?” Theta answered, her voice crystal clear, as she smiled, Amara noticed that she did not have the prominent upper and lower canines of her mother.
         “Haven’t you ever, Theta. It is not, Haven’t you never, that is a double negative. I'm sorry, she is still learning.” Crevan apologized heading into the room beyond. “I've just made some bayberry tea, would you like some?”
               Amara looked to Khane, unsure.
          “Ah, go ahead, he won’t bite you, I’ll be just a second.” She waved Amara off, as the children all began chittering at her.
            Amara followed Crevan into the kitchen portion of the house, here too there was a wood burning stove, and on the top, a teakettle just starting to whistle as he quickly took it off the burner.
         “I have to make sure I grab it before it blows. The noise cuts right through them.” He explained seeing Amara lift her brow in question. “So where did you meet Khane? Vrystra, perhaps?” He gathered cups from a cupboard above his head.
              “Actually I met her while I was face down in a pile of Portia’s furs.”
              “Really?” There was suggestiveness in his voice. “I didn't think Portia went for your type.”
              “Uh, no, sorry I should be more clear.”

****

             Amara went on to explain what had brought her to be with the Raepuwa. Crevan told her that he was once a teacher in the Emertreal Cloisters of the Dynasty. A university for the clergy who ran most every part of the country. From Vrystra, to the borderlands of Lower Lyme. They were the government, the law enforcers; each town had its sect, and they were not the kindest of rulers. The only thing that kept them from the Raepuwa was the Braithorian Mountains and their belief that they were all savages. The only reason any Raepuwa were allowed in their cities was because they had the market cornered on Woolenbeast hide, which otherwise would be expensive to import. Even then, they would only deal with the females. Who could hide beneath masks and clothes, it was there that he met and subsequently courted Khane. The event putting a wedge between him and the clergy. He left his post for her camp, and never looked back

****

              Khane reappeared; she looked exhausted, the trip finally catching up with her. She had settled her children down and now came to fetch Amara, to show her where she could lay her head. Tonight they would rest, for tomorrow was a Celebration Day. Amara feeling the way Khane looked, happily obliged, following her along the lower level to a room just behind the stairs.
           “It was supposed to be the pantry, but because it’s bordered by the two rooms down here with the stoves, and one above, it was too warm and nothing would keep, even with the window opened. But I think you will be just fine.” Khane smiled.
         Amara sat on the bed; the mattress was soft and had a mild bounce. She glanced briefly out the window at a couple of children throwing snowballs. She smiled softly. “Thank you. For everything.”
            “No problem, something tells me you’ll be of more help to us in the end, than we ever have been to you.”
             “I somehow doubt that.”
             “Don’t be so glum. And don’t think you have to stay in here, feel free to move around as you please. But if you go outside, please do put on a fur. There should be fresher ones than that in the closet there.” Khane pointed out the door, before making her exit.
           Amara cracked the window, lying on the bed with her eyes closed, the children playing outside sounded like any other. It was a good sound.

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