By Zentara Shadowsoul
In the pale light of a misty dawn I rode out of the near-deserted Zigandi camp and crossed the bridge that was already thronged with people heading for the Autumn Fayre. For the next five days virtually all of the clan would be busy trading. Only the very young, the very old or the infirm remained within the camp.
I had stayed to watch the Blessing, an old rite performed by the clan chief and the mystics of the clan before they had left for the Fayre. Such rituals were considered vital to the well-being and the successful trading of the Zigandi and I was well used to seeing them. Today, however, the Shay within me had set me further apart. Standing in the shadows I’d felt separated, not only from the rite itself, but from the people. My whole being had screamed that this was not where I belonged. And I had sensed a wrongness, an unease, amongst certain of the clan. From Carney and the small group around him there was a rippling of darkness, a rift growing between them and the others. I managed to tell Isolda before she left but she seemed unconcerned.
“It is known that he is impatient,” was all she said, implying that the Elders were well aware of the situation. I hoped for Isolda’s sake that Carney and the rebels would do nothing to endanger my grandmother.
As I rode westwards, I fingered the talisman that Isolda had given me the night before. A diamond-shaped pendant emblazoned with the Black Eagle that represented the god Ekchua, it was the Zigandi emblem for travellers and traders. Four tiny sapphires were set at the north, east, south and west to cover all directions. The sun and moon were meant to encompass day and night so that at all times the god would protect me. I had strung it onto a leather thong and it now hung about my neck, although I wasn’t sure that I believed in the power of Ekchua any more. However, I valued the gift, and the Blessing that went with it, extremely highly. Isolda would remain with me and within my thoughts as I journeyed, of that I was certain.
The day was cool and damp, despite the rain having ceased. Ghost twitched his ears and snorted occasionally but seemed reasonably content as we moved westwards, against the tide of people making their way toward Corim. The High Road was wide here, originally a relatively safe highway through the Whittan Forest. Now there were few trees near the road. I passed lumber yards and workshops, warehouses, large farmsteads surrounded by acres of fields, clusters of houses and taverns. The occasional hamlets were busy, bustling with activity and strong odours, including those of baking, tanning, sweat, smoke from fires and stoves of home and industry, all mingling in the air. Even outside of the built-up areas it was hard to escape from the scents and the destruction.
For the first time in my life I began to see what humans had done to the land and saw the scars made by farmers and lumber-jacks. Whole areas of ancient forest and natural habitat had been destroyed, the occasional lonely tree or stump signalling what had once grown either side of the road. I woke up to the reality of life in Rohinval and the further I rode, the stronger my despondency became. Everywhere seemed as if it was dying or being smothered with crops, buildings and other man-made structures. This wasn’t how the land should be.
By the time dusk darkened the countryside I felt depressed. Even Ghost seemed quiet, perhaps sensing my mood or perhaps just tired from our long journey. Eager to reach my destination I hadn’t rested much, nor had I travelled as slowly as the days before reaching Corim. I patted Ghost as the dim lights either side of the track that led to the Traveller Rest came into view. In need of food as well as sleep, we turned off the road and Ghost almost trotted toward the small huts and stables clustered around a cobbled courtyard, with an area set aside for wagons. Here, I would camp for the night.
And here my search for the truth of who I am will surely begin in earnest.
To discover more of the making of the talisman see my other blog, here. Thank you.