Sunday, July 10, 2005

 

the child, seventy-nine


They moved on that day. Sword practice first, then breakfast. Then breaking the camp.

It seemed strange, after three full weeks in this one place, to now pack up and leave it. While the others were busy with folding up the tents and bundling up the tent poles - and how odd that one pole looked, the replacement pole that Stone had found, the one he had used to defend his life with that first day here - Starr gathered the canteens to fill them one last time at the pool.

Stone went with her.

She knelt at the side of the cool clear waters, cleansing each canteen before filling and corking it. Stone stood at her side, guarding. The light breeze was playfully rippling Starr's hair, though, distracting him. How beautiful, his bride-to-be!

'Starr,' he said softly.

She looked up at him, her eyes shining. And then her sweet smile quite vanished.

What? Hand flying to the hilt of his sword, Stone turned to see what she was seeing. And saw nothing.

His eyes darted round the empty woodland surrounding them. 'What is it?' he hissed.

'You don't see anything?' she whispered back.

'No,' he answered. And saw her visibly relax. 'What is it?' he asked again.

But she was not attending - not to him. Her eyes fastened and focused on the unseen, darting now here, now there, watching.

Stone wanted to kneel beside her, to look in the same direction she was looking and from the same angle. But he remained standing instead, still ready on an instant to draw that deadly sword if he needed to.

She knelt, watching. Slowly, a different relaxing came over her, and she sighed. Her eyes closed.

And opened again, to look up at Stone. She smiled at him.

'What did you see?' he asked.

'It was the battle.'

'What battle?'

'Your battle. With the wolves, not far upstream from here.' She came to her feet then, the canteens laying forgotten on the ground beside her as she began to point and gesture. 'I saw you running, with the two wolves after you. I saw you splash through the stream, and turn, and confront them. I saw the one start to circle behind you, and how you bloodied it. Then hit the other with the stick and sent it sprawling. Then killed the first one...'

'No offense, Starr, but - you heard me tell all this story.'

'Yes. But now - it changes. You killed the first one. That one is dead. The other...' she lifted her hand, pointing. 'It's still circling you, looking for an opening. Looking to break in through your defenses, Stone, and do you great harm.'

Her eyes were tracking something so convincingly, that once again, Stone looked to see what she was seeing. And saw nothing.

'You see that?' he asked. For he was wondering why, if she saw a wolf tracking him, she had smiled up at him so.

'It is after you, yes, Stone. But I also saw a hand reach down and clothe you in armor. In particular,' and her own hands raised to mimic the action she had seen, 'I saw a sturdy helmet being placed over your head.' Her hands placed the unseen helmet, so to speak. And then they fell away to her sides.

She laughed. 'Oh, I'm so weird, Stone! You sure you want to get mixed up with me?'

Another glance all about to be sure he saw nothing dangerous - and then he gathered Starr into his arms.

'Dearie,' he whispered into her hair, 'I wouldn't miss this for the world.'

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