Continued (December – 1026 YD)
Mitchas cantered into town, gliding past the workshop. Kesia had heard the hooves and moved to the window; on seeing him ride uphill toward Kengar’s, she dropped her chisel and raced along in his wake.
__She found her uncle’s door open, and overheard their exchange.
__‘What do you mean, gone?’
__‘We were travelling to Miggest, and set up camp south of Bescon—’
__‘By Archoak Forest?’
__‘What remains; it burnt in October. Tàvae asked to continue on, but the sun was falling and the horses spent. When I woke in the morning she was gone.’
‘And the mare?’
__ ‘Still tethered with my own ride. Her bag was gone also.’
__‘Why in the name of Lenyol were you travelling to Miggest?’
__Kesia stepped forward into the kitchen. Her uncle had sank to the table.
__‘Kesia,’ he scolded, ‘Come back later.’
__Mitchas looked to her, his hair damp with sweat. A strong odour of horse and heat came from his clothes.
__ ‘I saw Mitchas—’
__‘Come back later, Kesia.’
__Kengar stood and escorted her to the front door, closing it behind her. Chastised and upset, she began downhill; Kengar watched to ensure she had no intention of returning before resuming the conversation in the kitchen.
__‘She needed to get to Delus,’ Mitchas explained. ‘I was escorting her.’
__ ‘And you left no word for me? Did you think I might have been interested to know?’
Mitchas frowned. ‘She is not your charge, Kengar. Nor yours to monitor.’
Kengar paled with anger.
__‘I searched for her in the forest and up in Bescon. I went to the border, which the guards told me none had crossed for weeks. Perhaps she decided to go on alone, crossing the border through the forest—after the fires, it would be simple to traverse.’
__Kengar nodded. It was possible; she could travel through the ashes to within twenty miles of the capital. The surviving trees would provide cover.
__‘I searched all along the route home.’
__ Kengar nodded again. ‘Thank you.’
__Mitchas bowed his head and began to take his leave.
__ ‘What of your mare?’ Kengar inquired.
__‘I gave her to a farmer in Bescon. Hard times lay ahead for the north.’
Kesia and Toran walked through the fields, picking at the long grass.
__Sadness had settled over Toran when she repeated Mitchas’ words. He had suggested a walk to speak privately, yet had said nothing in the two miles they had wandered.
__A nearby ash tree broke the sun’s dominance of the pasture land, and they went to it for shade.
__‘Will you tell me your thoughts?’ Kesia ventured.
__ Toran collected a twig. ‘Your aunt and uncle… have been having troubles. Her research was something he opposed, I gather because it was dangerous in some way, though I do not know why. She was fearful, and sent me to Alendae to lay low for a time. You said she disappeared by Archoak Forest?’
__‘So said Mitchas.’
__Toran tossed the twig, or the tiny pieces that remained, to the ground. ‘Then they took her.’
__‘It… it’s just a feeling. Never mind. Kengar will find her, if she is anywhere to be found.’
__ ‘How can you say such a thing?!’
__‘Sorry—sorry. Listen: when I went to Alendae, I took some papers with me, and hid them in your rooms. They appear blank but bear the marks of transcriptions I made for Tàvae. I knew she wanted her work protected, but felt my involvement a risk. I will copy and translate them in time—we must keep them secret for now. I do not know the nature of your uncle’s work, but he is well connected, and has the means to locate her.’
__Kesia gave a weak smile. ‘She’ll be fine. Perhaps she went into hiding.’
__Toran brightened. ‘She may have.’
__‘I am planning a trip to Alendae in the new year. You are welcome to join me?’
__‘Thank you. I think I will.’ They were quiet for a time. ‘So, what new tricks have you got to show me?’
__Kesia grinned. She pressed her hands together, raising her fingertips to her lips. She listened for the wind; waiting; and hearing it, grasped it, hurling it as she spun, propelling it through the fields to make deep trenches in the grass.
__The grazing cattle were significantly less impressed than Toran.