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June, otter


Write the Thing

I need to write more...

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June, otter
She clenched her knife tighter and stabbed forward, clearly hitting flesh. It was enough to cause the person to reveal their form. He was a man, paler than the richest house wife, his eyes sunken into his head, and he was completely devoid of twins. Ulorna was able to pull her other had out of the block, and stab him right through the heart, causing him to go rigid and drop straight to the ground.

A look over her shoulder revealed that Bohs had too dispatched his attacker.

“Are you injured?” he asked.

“Only a scratch,” she said, holding up her arm. He removed some more cloth scraps from his pack and began wrapping her arm with them, tying them off hastily.

“Take your pack and your bow, we need to move.” He began packing up the little supplies he had out and Ulorna shouldered her pack, quiver and bow once again. Once they were both ready, they dossed the fire with snow. “Tell the wolves not to eat this meat,” Bohs ordered her. “I have a feeling they will listen to you.” She repeated the message to the wolves still circling around them and they howled in return.

“They reek of something foul,” the wolf told her. “Of course they will not be taken into our jowls.”

“Goodbye!” Ulorna called as she and Bohs began running south out of the forest.

Bohs never offered up information of who the attackers had been, and Ulorna chose not to ask. They traveled from dawn to dusk, and he set a quick pace which was difficult in the beginning as she ached more and more at the beginning of each new day. But the aches began to subside after a week of keeping the pace and not dropping. Each night when they would stop, she would stay up until the moon reached its peak in the sky, and then wake Bohs and fall asleep herself.

The pace set soon showed its merit though, as the days grew longer the further south they went, and she soon felt hot wearing her cloak during the day. The further south they went, the slower the pace began and soon Bohs asked her to warn him when they would pass by a town with a lot of horses.

“Why?” she inquired.

“Many horses, they might be willing to sell two,” he said.

“I have no barter for such a thing,” Ulorna told him. He chuckled and tossed her something. She caught it and felt well-wrought metal in her hand, with a man’s image imprinted on it.

“Even as north as we still are, coins are the best way to pay for something. I imagine it would take a great portion of a crop to barter for a horse.” It did not matter, for when they finally found a place that would be able to spare two horses, Bohs declared them not fit to reach the capital. He did the same with every town thereafter and told her to keep her feet on the lookout.

And the further south they traveled the more and more life she could feel under her feet. Some of it was strange and new, animals she had never before felt. When she told Bohs, he laughed.

“Well, of course! Did you expect every place to be as isolated as your mountain village?” he asked. “In the towns by the sea, they build great ships to travel across the large oceans and trade with other places to get different creatures than were first here, and have yet to make it to your isolated village. Mageling, I would get used to surprises.”

“What did you call me?” she asked as they began climbing a hill.

“Mageling,” he said. “As in a young mage, which I am now certain you are. I could not quite sense it at first, but I think that’s because of the way you feel life through your feet as you do. You direct much of your magic there. But I think with some training you should be able to divert some of that feeling away unless you need to feel such large areas. Then you can practice other spells.”

“How do you know I am a mage?” Ulorna asked. They reached the top of the hill, and stopped to look down at a grand town—it was larger than anything she had ever seen, even with this trip south and stretched out a league on their path.

“I know because I am a mage,” Bohs said, trotting down the hill.

“If you’re a mage, then why didn’t you use magic to defeat those who attacked us back in the Forest of the Wild?” she asked, sliding down after him.

“Doesn’t that ever hurt your feet?” he asked.

“It’s rare something hurts my feet,” she retorted, “Even the hard, packed dirt of the south. I’ve been climbing mountain rock on these feet since I could walk. They are the toughest part of my body. And you didn’t answer my question.”

“Sometimes, when someone is tracking you with magic, it is not best to use magic,” he said. “It is the reason I have not done magic to heal you, or for any other reason and will not do magic until we reach the capital and I can deposit you in the Mage School and speak with the elders there. It is also the reason I will be teaching you no magic as we go and request that you do not attempt to learn any. After all, you’ve been traveling with me for a number of fortnights now. If I am caught my enemy, you will likely die as well. Keep that in your thoughts should you want to try. And try not speak to any more ancient animals like that wolf pack.”

“Should I stop feeling then?” she asked. Bohs stopped in his tracks and turned to glare her down.

“You can?”

“Of course,” she said. “My uncle taught me how when he was showing me the ways the energies are different. I can spread it out if I know what’s there and am only looking for a general body count, or bring it closer in, if I am looking for a particular soul. I can stop doing it as well, and bring the energy into me. It makes me nervous, but if you can sense danger, I suppose I’ll know when to push it out to sense those there who would hurt us.” Bohs snorted.

“And here I thought I would have to keep you looking for horses until they capital.” He began stalking toward the large town again.

“What?” she asked.

“Your feeling is least readable when it’s spread out,” he said. “If I had known you could simply stop, I would not have told you to draw it out looking for horses. Draw it into yourself. No doubt you’ll give yourself a headache feeling all these people in the city anyway.” Ulorna frowned, but brought the feeling inside, close to her chest. Bohs sucked in a great breath and held it for a moment before releasing it with a great huff. “Come along Mageling. Let us see if we cannot find a room for the night.”

Bohs did not stop at the first sleep house they saw, or the second. They were in the middle of the city, the streets lined with many strange wares and wonders, Ulorna found herself struggling to keep up, when Bohs finally entered a sleeping house with a green pig hanging above the doorway. Inside the house stank of sweat and dirt, worse than the feast hall back in the mountains had. The stench most likely came from the riotous men who sat drinking from large mugs and pulling half clothed women, who screeched in halfhearted protest, onto their laps.

The man at the bar of the main room looked up as Bohs came to the counter and he cried, “Bohs! Been two cycles since I’ve seen you! What brings you back this way? Rumors been you’ve been up North freezing your ass off!”

“Traveling to the capital,” Bohs explained. “Need a room for the night, with two beds.” It was then the man behind the counter noticed Ulorna, and he squinted at her, his head tilting up and down on his neck so many times that Ulorna thought it might snap off.

“Well, then, acquired a companion?” He said the word companion with the same look on his face some of the village men had when they mentioned that some of her mother’s beauty had rubbed off on Ulorna.

“My daughter,” Bohs spat. “Acquired from the high lands where I left her.” The ice in his voice was a welcome change for she had begun to sweat in the overcrowded room. “One night, we’ll take dinner in the room. And it had better have a lock and a bolt.” The man at the counter instantly lost his cheer and fetched a key from underneath the counter, holding it out for Bohs. Bohs dropped several coins on the counter and took the key from the man, ushering Ulorna to the stairs. “Keep your eyes down, and stay with me.” Bohs folded his arm around her waist guiding her until the passage up the stairwell was too small for them to fit side by side. Then, he pushed her on ahead of him until they came out at the top.

As he matched the number above the room with the number on the key, Bohs spoke again in low tones. “Let that be a lesson to you Mageling that some men believe all women are theirs until they are proven wrong.”

“Am I yours then?” she asked, leaning against a wall, as he pressed the key into a hole. He looked up at her and squinted.

“I would never do anything to you against your will. And even if you were willing, not even then. You are a young maiden and I an old man, and there is something you do not yet know.” Ulorna looked at him, as they entered the room, not for the first time noticing that their dark hair and dirty colored eyes matched.

“How false was your claim that I am your daughter?” she asked. “After all, you did collect me from the high lands. And why would you go into an ancient forest where even the trees could speak to me, if you were truly avoiding magical things so as not to be caught by this enemy. Not many people could navigate such a place without getting lost, perhaps not even a mage. My uncle and I only managed with the very earth and the souls upon it as our guides. How did you know where to go? And why were you that far north in the first place? It did not help you in hiding.”

Bohs remained silent as she spoke, examining a crack in the wall.

“There are things you do not understand,” he whispered.

“You have been good to me these moons we have traveled together,” she said. “I have seen the disgusting ways of men and knew they would wait for me when I became a woman, but you have no such ways. Or at least I have not seen them. I do not question that you are a good man. But I must ask this of you.”

“Sometimes not knowing is best.”

“I have spent my whole life not knowing!” she screamed. “I do not want a moment more of it!”

“Quiet!” he hissed at her. “There are men who might kill you for being my daughter. And you never know what ears a wall may have.”

“Do you want to hear the story of how I became coiled in my mother’s stomach?” she asked, tears streaking down her face, and chocking her throat. “During the fertility harvest to thank the earth for its food and pray that it would be good again when the frost thawed, my mother was approached by a man. This man was a traveler; he did not belong in the village. He gave my mother a strange herb which made her unable to think. He took her away from the rest of the villagers and forced himself on her. In the morning he was gone. She did not remember what he had done, only his dark hair which he gave me. This is a story I have been told my whole life, and in the same breath been told I am worthless and unwanted. Tell me that you were not this man, with the whole conviction of your heart, and I will believe you.”

“I can tell you nothing you do not already know,” he said, reaching to brush away her tears with his thumbs. “But trust the goodness you feel in me, Ulorna. And some time I will tell you everything. But I cannot now.” He turned back to the door. “I’ll go and see about our dinner. Bar the door behind me, and when I call for you to open it, use your feeling to make sure it is me.”

He left the room, and she bolted the door after him. It was only then that she staggered to the bed and collapsed upon it, sobbing as she had not done since she was a child.

Bohs returned later with her supper. Ulorna let him in, and sipped at the greasy broth the inn had prepared, though soon left it be, and climbed into the bed and slept.

They did not speak the next morning as they departed from the inn in the quiet of the dawn light. They did not speak as they traveled through the city or even out of it. They said nothing to each other for days as they traveled down the long roads. They passed through more small villages, though staid in none. They did not speak until they approached another large city, and Bohs said,

“Your skin is becoming burnt. We’ll get herbs here and I’ll make poultice to help it heal. And perhaps get you different clothing. You must be baking in those.” Ulorna wondered if this was how men of the south garnered affection, by buying things. For the men of the north merely expected you to be quiet and would occasionally hit you. Still, she managed to mutter,

“Thank you,” because it seemed the closer they got to the sea, the hotter the days began, and her travel clothes were becoming quite uncomfortable, the thick clothe making her skin wet and sticky.