The Meek Valley Incident: Part 8
Is it over? Did the week actually end? For really real? I need to ask because WOW it was "a week".
Possibly two, although for my hubby taking the brunt I think he'd agree to saying it was a month crammed into seven days. As an undetailed summary of mostly unrelated occurrences, I can say that toxic work environments suck, finances in 2020 are a wild and unpredictable thing, so-called colleagues can be real jerks over the phone, and deaths in families are never feel-good moments (even when it's not close family).
But, this week must be over because Sunday is tomorrow. For some of you reading this, it's Sunday right now and that means the new week is already starting in a lot of places. This is a bonus I have from living in one of the globe's final time zones: I get a sneak peek from you future dwellers into the happenings of the next day before it even gets to me. Sometimes that can be a comfort.
As an added bonus, nobody in the house was sick this week. (Aside from mental health, ya know?) We've been having colds circulate though since reopening started and the kids have been doing in-person learning. This week, however, was snot-free! I claim that as a win simply because I can ;)
The writing side of things was quiet due to the real life happenings, but I did steal a couple hours for reading and editing in my big manuscript. Those characters are talking to me again and I needed to get reoriented in the story. I really like this world, so hopefully real life settles down and I can schedule the needed time to write.
Hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
8. Running Conversations
Tor stopped at the very edge of the fire’s light, Tam pausing to look back a step later when she noticed her brother wasn’t beside her. Justin stood, looking back and watching a few freed prisoners help each other down, then he looked around at the bodies of the guards scattered around the camp before turning to stare again at the man who’d helped him escape. Who was still helping him. Tor only shrugged and invited Justin to follow with a silent gesture. Justin swallowed his reservations and started walking the way he’d just been invited.
They paced at a jog for the rest of the night and well into the next morning, eating lightly as they went rather than stopping. Tor called a halt as midday was nearing, taking a fold-up chime clock from his pocket and setting it to alarm in four hours as Tam rolled into her blanket to sleep. Justin wrapped into his blanket, but forced his eyes to stay open in spite of exhaustion. Tor chuckled as he wrapped up and lay down back-to-back with his sister.
“I still need you to take her safely out of Opat with you,” Tor stated, yawning behind his mask. “You’re safe from me as long as she’s safe.”
Justin still waited for them to fall asleep before he allowed himself to.
When he woke, Tam was melting snow in a metal pot over a pocket flame and Tor was jabbing him in the shoulder with the sheath of his sword. The scout was sitting up and had his mask off, but was still wrapped in his blanket. And he was grinning.
“Tam stole my clock and made us oversleep by a half-hour,” he stated quietly, rolling his eyes as he pulled his arm back to hang his sword on his belt. “She’s a brat,” he added, loud enough that she threw a hard bun at him rather than handing it to him. He winced as if the stale bread had caused injury, catching it easily before it hit the ground, and the two of them bantered through the quick meal.
Justin ate his bun quietly, mostly ignoring the conversation. Tor included him as if he was participating anyway. It was the same every time they stopped for the next three days. Justin tried hard to find Tor irritating, or at least mildly annoying, but was constantly confronted with the engaging personality of the scout being too similar to his younger cousin, Bernard, and found himself listening to the conversation more often than not. He shocked himself almost as much as Tam when he laughed at one of the gearblocked jokes Tor cracked as they were jogging on the third day.
“What was it you were arrested for?” Tor asked directly on the fourth day as they were eating before cleaning up and starting the night’s run.
“I wasn’t,” Justin answered.
“What do you mean?” Tor pressed, making a face at the limp carrot in his hand before starting to eat it.
“I wasn’t arrested,” Justin repeated around a mouthful of stale bun. Both siblings stopped eating to stare at him. “You were right when you said you’d overheard that I’m a sailor. I’m a bosun. I build and fix ships,” he added when they looked confused at the title. “We were ashore to resupply. I needed a new drill because mine broke. I got hit with some kind of dart and woke up tied up in the wagon with three others from my crew.”
“You’re serious?” Tor asked. Justin nodded in reply and pushed the last bite of bread into his mouth. Tam looked down to stare at the bun in her hand and swallowed the bite she’d just taken as if only now noticing how bad it tasted.
“There were only two of you at my village,” Tam stated quietly, still not looking up.
“Renden and Lark had already been killed,” Justin told them. “Renden by the sword in one of our first escapes. Lark was too old for wearing the heavy chains.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you and your friends,” she said, making eye contact and holding it.
Justin looked away to pick up his jacket-made satchel and sling it across his shoulders as he stood. “We should get moving,” he stated.
They joined him quickly. He expected that Tor would remain as uncomfortably quiet as Tam but, just like Bernard would have, he starting chatting again almost immediately as if there’d been no interruption to the usually friendly conversation.
The jog that night was quiet as they all saved their breath for running at the pace Tor set. The widening moon provided extra light and, after midnight, Tor took advantage of the visibility and they parted with the road. It clouded over and started snowing as dawn began to lighten the east, around the same time that Justin realized they were dropping in elevation. They ran for long after midday, hours past when they usually stopped, and got to the place that Tor had been aiming for when they would have been waking up on a typical day. Justin eyed up the little cabin from the edge of the trees, not wanting to get too close.
“It’s a summer resupply shed,” Tor explained in a whisper. “It’ll be empty right now, or occupied with people or animals that aren’t supposed to be in there,” he added, pulling his mask on and straightening out his uniform. “Just wait here,” he ordered them. He jogged over alone and unlocked the door ratchets, pulling the door open and then ducking inside after a quick glance at the interior. “It’s empty,” he called out from the door, pulling his mask off again. The assurance didn't make Justin feel any better about the shed.
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A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!