Tothelea: Chapter 6

Yun arrived near sunset.  The flames had turned to smoke, and even the smoke
was dying down. 

"Oh, Trevor," he said.  "I came as soon as I heard."  He surveyed the scene,
shaking his head.  "I'm so sorry, Trevor." 

"They were after Harmony." 

"Where is she?  Was she inside?" 

"Yes, I left her... Well, I think so." 

"Come on," Yun said, pulling Trevor to his feet.  Every part of Trevor's body
ached.  He could see that Yun's jaw was clenched, holding back his anger at
this crime.  "We'd best check through it." 

As the sky turned orange, they picked through the black debris.  It was still
warm, but not dangerous as long as Trevor took care to avoid hidden embers.
Yun's hands were so tough and insensitive to heat from his lifetime of
smithing that Trevor wondered if ordinary fire could even hurt him.  Maybe Yun
could have gone into the burning house.  Trevor shook his head.  No.  Nobody
could have gone in there, he told himself. 

They searched for a few minutes, finding nothing but charcoal and ash, bits of
pottery.  But no bones.  Trevor resisted hope, not wanting it to be dashed.
There was still a lot to search through.  But he couldn't stop it.  If anyone
in this world could slip out unseen and hide from that mob, it was Harmony.
Trevor prayed that she had done so.  But his prayers brought him no comfort.
As they worked, cold terror welled up in him in the thought of finding
Harmony's bones among the ashes. 

A while later, Yun spoke.  "Trevor," he said, "they'll come back tomorrow.  If
they really meant to burn her, someone will get the idea to come back and make
sure.  They'll pick through the ashes just like we're doing." 

"So?"  Everything was burned up.  Gone.  Why should I care?  Let them look.
What did it matter? 

"So, Trevor, think.  If there's anything that might not have burned, anything
you don't want them to loot from here, now is the time to find it.  Did your
father keep any money at the house?" 

Yun.  Always thinking the practical thoughts.  "Um, yes," Trevor answered
after a moment's thought.  "He did.  There was a loose stone on the
hearth. Papa kept a pouch in a small hollow underneath it.  I don't think he
knew that I knew about it.  But of course I found it years ago.  I never took
anything from it." 

"Well, you'd best take it now.  It's yours by right, anyway.  I'll keep
looking for Harmony." 

Trevor nodded, inwardly glad to have something different--something safe--to
look for.  He made his way to the fireplace, several feet of its stone chimney
still standing.  The rest had come down with the roof, it looked like, pulled
along by the falling timbers.  Stones were piled several deep, and Trevor had
several minutes work to clear them from the hearth.  He pried up the loose
stone, and picked up the leather pouch hidden underneath. 

The touch of it surprised him.  He remembered it as a cool, moist thing, kept
there next to the earth.  Now it was warm and dry, the fire having driven away
all the moisture.  He felt the weight of it--not a lot of coin, but Trevor
knew every bit would help and that he would be grateful for it--and tied it
onto his belt.  The thought of money gave him a moment's panic, and his hand
darted to his belt, feeling for the money he had gotten from Carlu.  He
exhaled sharply in relief.  It was still there. 

Trevor turned back to the other, less comforting, search.  The two men worked
side by side, making their way from one end if the ruins to the other.  The
sun dipped below the hill to the west, and Yun said "I don't think she's here,

Trevor offered a silent "Thank you" to the Aravolir, and said "No, I don't
think she is."  Trevor hadn't wanted to voice his hopes, hadn't wanted to jinx
them by saying them out loud.  But now, maybe it was all right to allow
himself some relief. 

Yun asked "Where do you think she would have gone?" 

"I don't know.  Usually I would look behind the woodshed, but that's gone too.
She'll be frightened."  He tried to think like Harmony.  What did she like?
What brought her comfort?  "She probably went somewhere far.  Somewhere
private.  Maybe to the woods, where she hunts mushrooms." 

"Well, you find her, Trevor.  You need to find her before anyone else does." 

That, at least, Trevor wasn't worried about.  Nobody could ever find Harmony,
even Trevor, unless she wanted to be found.  But then, before there was never
Weilin to worry about.  If he was a magician, he might be able to find her.
Trevor's worry resumed. 

Yun continued, "You find her, and come stay with me tonight.  But you can't
come together.  If anybody sees you, they'll be looking for her as well.  You
find her, and tell her to sneak to my house after you.  You, do your best to
look sad and beaten when you come." 

Trevor nodded, seeing the sense in Yun's orders.  The light was fading fast,
and Trevor couldn't remember if there would be much moon tonight.  He didn't
want to be looking for Harmony in the darkness.  There was no need for
goodbyes, so Trevor set off at a run for the nearby forest. 

Still aching from the beating he had taken, he couldn't run very fast.  He
prayed to Arsirea that his guess was correct.  All the color had faded from
the grass, from the trees, when he reached the darkening forest.  He called
out to his sister, begging her to hear him, to come to him. 

He walked more or less at random, up and down the gentle slopes of the forest
floor.  It was too dark now, much too dark, to conduct anything like a
thorough search.  He had to hope, and pray, and trust to luck that he would
find her. 

No, to hell with luck, he thought.  Trust to justice--if there was any justice
in this world at all, he would find Harmony safe and unharmed, in exchange for
the injustices that the past three days had heaped upon them. 

He walked on, stopping every minute or so to call out.  He saw stars appear,
winking in and out behind trunks and branches.  He stumbled in the dark over a
rock, or maybe a branch, and jarred his shoulder against a tree.  He cried out
in pain, the pain in his shoulder releasing the pain in his heart.  Where was
she?  He sank to the ground, leaning against the tree, sobbing loudly now.
Papa would tell me to buck up, he thought.  But he didn't care.  There was no
one to hear him, and he made no attempt to subue his cries. 

He sat, and sobbed, and slowly calmed down.  His mind turned to the
inevitable: what next?  What would he do without his father, without Harmony,
without anybody?  His hands found a stick on the ground, and he idly picked it
up, began peeling the dry bark from the wood.  He could work at the smithy,
Yun would let him do that, but how could he stay in this town, with these
people who had taken the last of his family from him? 

No.  He had to leave.  He would find someplace else to live, someplace with no
memories where nobody knew him, and open his own smithy.  Start over. 

Another thought entered his mind.  Yes, start over, but after Weilin.  He
would get Weilin, that's what he would do.  Weilin wasn't going to stay here,
not for long, anyway.  Trevor would follow him, hunt him down, and extract
justice from his sun-withered hide.  Magic or no magic, he would have justice.
The stick snapped in his hands, fists clenching around the pieces.  He threw
them aside. 

"Trev?"  Her voice came from very close.  Trevor jumped up as though the
ground had kicked him. 

"Harmony,"  He had to struggle to see her.  There was a moon rising, after
all, but it wasn't full and it wasn't high above the trees yet.  She came
toward him, offering something from one outstretched hand.  Trevor scooped her
up into a bear hug, holding her tight.  He held her for a long time, praying
thanks to Arsirea, to the Aravolir, to every god and goddess he could name. 

"Trev?  All right?" she asked. 

Trevor released her, and nodded.  "Yes, I'm all right.  I was worried about
you.  I'm sorry, Harmony, I--"  He stopped.  He wanted to say he was sorry for
leaving so early that morning, for not thinking that the townspeople would
come after her, for not protecting her.  For not being a better brother.  But
he didn't.  She seemed more worried about him than about herself. 

"Yes, Harmony.  I'm all right."  He couldn't help but smile there in the
darkness.  She handed him the thing she had been offering earlier.  He took
it.  It was a mushroom.  A big one. 

"Trev, eat," she said. 

Trevor sniffed at it.  She had rubbed it with something, some kind of leaves.
It smelled... It smelled good, is what it smelled.  Trevor was suddenly aware
that he hadn't had a thing to eat since breakfast.  "Thank you," he said, as
he bit into it.  It was delicious. 

He took her hand.  "Come on," he said.  "We should go."  He ate as they made
their way out of the forest.  The moon rose high, making the going easier, and
it was simple enough to follow the land downward as it sloped toward the sea.
Eventually they reached forest's edge, still a little ways from the road.
Trevor looked around.  They were, perhaps, a mile from town.  A little less
than that from the smithy and Yun's adjoining home. 

Trevor told her the plan, making sure she understood as he went.  He
concluded, saying "Ok, I'm going to go on ahead.  You wait a little while--but
please, not too long--and then you follow."  She nodded. 

"And make sure no one sees you."  Another nod.  "I mean it, Harmony.  No one.
This is important."  She nodded again, more fervently. 

"All right."  Trevor thanked her for the snack, hugged her again and kissed
her forehead, and set off for the smithy.  He slowed his pace as he reached
the town, hunching over and drooping his head and shoulders.  Doing his best
to look dejected.  He didn't know if anyone saw him, but the thought that they
did, and that he was tricking them with false confirmation of their attempted
on Harmony's life, pleased him and did much to lighten his mood.  Let them
believe it, he thought.  Let Weilin believe it.  That, at least, and a quick
departure from White Sands would keep Harmony safe. 

Trevor reached Yun's door, and was quickly admitted.  He caught Yun up on
finding Harmony, and then paced nervously, waiting for her to arrive.  He
looked around while Yun busied himself with fixing supper for them.  Trevor
was surprised; he had never, despite working for Yun all this time, been
inside the man's house.  It was spare, very spare.  Yun was a lot poorer than
Trevor had realized.   

He continued to pace.  He was about to suggest that he go back out to look for
Harmony again when she slipped silently through Yun's door.  Aran!  Trevor
thought.  We have to get out of this town.  I can't take this worry.  Still,
he did his best not to let his worry show as he welcomed Harmony, although he
could not help but hug her again.  Harmony looked up to Trevor's face, and in
the light of Yun's house, saw his bruises and scrapes. 

"Trev not all right!" she scolded, admonishing him for not telling her
immediately what had happened to him, when she had asked.  Trevor explained
briefly what had happened when he had come upon their burning home, reassuring
Harmony over and over that it was nothing serious, that he would in fact be
fine.  At last, Yun announced that the food was ready.  They sat down to
supper, and talked as they ate.

They sat down to supper, and talked as they ate. 

"We have to leave White Sands," Trevor said. 

"Aye, you will," Yun agreed. 

"I think we'll have to walk.  At least for a little while.  We can't afford
horses, and anyway, Harmony doesn't know how to ride.  And I don't want to go
into town to find a ride on a caravan, either.  I don't want to see any of
those people, ever again," 

"Aye.  Stay out of town." 

They were quiet for a time, while Trevor filled his empty stomach.  Yun broke
the silence.  "Trevor, can you, well, can you fight?" 

Trevor couldn't help but blush at the question, and how he had comported
himself against the mob.  His whole life, in fact, he had never really been a
fighter.  Once, not long after Harmony had come to live with them, Pious Jagob
was to come to dine with them, and Jedith had sent him to the market to buy
some things for the meal.  Trevor had been accosted on the way home by a gang
of tough kids, led by a boy named Roney who was a few years older.  And much
bigger, Trevor recalled.  They had taken the food from him, and when he had
protested the unfairness of it, demanded that they give the food back, Roney
had offered to let Trevor fight him for it.  "Just you and me.  One on one,"
he had said.  "That's fair, isn't?"  Of course it wasn't, and Trevor still
rankled at the memory.  Roney had, of course, whipped him with one hard slug
in the stomach.   

"No.  Not really." 

"Well, that could be a problem.  You've never been far from White Sands, have

"No.  Never even been to Derey." 

"Let me tell you then, and listen well.  You can't go travelling out on the
road with a girl as fair as she is without some means to protect yourself." 

"But, there's no time now!  I can't stick around here long enough to learn

"That's true enough.  Well, you two finish up your supper.  You need to get an
early start.  I'll think on it tonight." 

The rest of the meal was uncommonly quiet.  There seemed little left to say.
Harmony took it on herself to clear the table when they were finished, and Yun
put together a pair of makeshift beds for them. 

Trevor fell into bed, aching and exhausted.  But glad.  Harmony was with him,
and even if nothing was ever going to be the same, somehow he knew it
would--someday--be all right.