Posted by: jolantru | April 30, 2010

Sixth Branch: Journey Innerlands [Interlude]

The decision was finally made. Half of the City folk chose to follow us, Auri being a respected member of the community. They really listened to her words. Another half decided to remain or move out to look for safer ground. The earth undulated beneath our feet. The Earth magic users kept warning us of danger. Benyi warned us not to leave, his young eyes pleading with us.

“You will be lost,” he said. The journey had aged him. “Please. Stay.”

We led a straggly bunch of people: men, women and children. Triads, Pairs and groups of Apart. Weary, shoulders laden as if by an invisible weight. Some wore only the barest minimum of clothing, hastily put on when Anak Jamu blew her top. Josh kept staring at the faint ridge of snow-tipped mountain, hazy blue and magnificent.

It was going to get cold, he said to us privately, when we rested for the night. The noxious fumes were easing now as we moved Innerlands, replaced by cleaner air. We held each other in our arms. I knew that the other Triads and Pairs were doing the same thing. The stars glimmered coldly, unmoved.. They gave us no comfort for the night.

The landscape was slowly transforming before our eyes. Craggly rocks gave way to green hills, dotted with lichen-covered boulders. Here and there, we saw trees, planted by our ancestors when they first settled down in the Innerlands, growing sparse, but resilient. Their trunks twisted and turned, evidence of the force of wind. A particular tree twinkled with prayer bells and glass shards hung like pendants on the contorted grey-streaked branches. It leaned to one side, stretching forth with its sparse crown. I lingered there the longest, staring, just staring at the different colors. Home. I thought about our little apartment, now gone. Gone. I reached out to touch one of the glass shards. Its edges were smooth. Beach glass, I realized with a pang in my heart. Tumbled smooth by sun-circles of water and erosion. I hung a piece of clear glass tied to a strip of leather on one of the branches. I want to go home. Please. Listen. Please?

Brilliant silver drew my eye to the source: a swiftly flowing band of water cutting through the green hills. I soaked in the beauty of the place, even though it was all too strange to me. I was a daughter of the sea. Josh, however, seemed to grow more livelier, energized. He moved about, helping the women carry their sacks, chatting animatedly to Auri.

Auri moved purposefully, striding ahead of the motley group. By now, we had picked up more stragglers: folk from the inbetweens, affected by Anak Jamu’s eruption. We looked like a village on the move.

My beloved stood stock-still, her hair wind-blown. I joined her, peering into the distance. My breath caught in my throat.

An unruly line of covered oxen-drawn carriages was weaving its way through the plains. A herd of animals followed the carriages, churning up a dust cloud. They were headed towards a cluster of stone buildings. Thin columns of smoke spiraled from multiple chimneys.

It was a caravansari.

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