Tothelea: Chapter 7
Trevor woke, stiff and sore, to Yun gently shaking his shoulder. "Up," he
said, "let's go out to the smithy." Trevor blinked the sleep out of his eyes
and sat painfully up. Every part of him ached from yesterday's beating and
exertions. Harmony was up already, rummaging through Yun's spare kitchen for
something to fashion breakfast from.
He followed Yun out the door and on the short walk to the smithy. Yun
motioned him in, and walked over to the pile of bar stock. He picked through
the pile briefly. Trevor was confused. They were going to work? Yun settled
on a rod, and tossed it to Trevor. Trevor caught the iron easily enough, and
Yun turned to pick another from the pile. When he was satisfied, he turned to
Trevor and asked, "How's that? Is it too heavy for you?"
His time working for Yun made the question almost rhetorical. "No. Of course
not. Yun, what are we doing?"
"I'm no particular fighter either, Trevor. It's a stupid line of work to go
into, but I did learn to use the staff a bit when I was younger." He whirled
his rod around with a bit of a flourish, then stopped it cold with a slap
against his open palm.
"I can't teach you what I know, not in a whole day, and certainly not in an
hour. But an hour is about all you have before you and Harmony should be on
your way. It'll be enough for me to show you a couple of moves."
Trevor nodded, and asked "How do I hold it?" Yun positioned his hands, his
feet, and they began.
"You're strong, Trevor. You can use an iron staff where most other folk
settle for oak. You may not have any training, or any experience. But your
strength, that's your advantage."
He told Trevor that for defense, he should put his mind on the middle of the
staff, not the ends. He showed Trevor how to block the easy attacks, simple
frontal ones and some intended to knock his feet out from under him. The iron
rod, while not heavy for him, felt awkward in his hands. Yun led him through
a sequence of the moves, several times, and then told Trevor to practice while
he watched. Critiquing, here and there.
After a half hour or so of this, Yun said "Trevor, I could take one of these
rods, and work it a bit. Maybe put a bump in one end, and a couple of kinks.
Let it rust, and nobody would know it wasn't an ordinary oak staff until you
hit them with it."
It was an interesting thought, but something about it bothered him. Trevor
pondered while going through the sequence again. "No," he said, after a
moment. "No, I couldn't do that. If you come after a man who has an iron
bar, and he hits you with it, you deserve what you get. But if you come after
a man who has a stick, and he hits you with an iron bar, well, that's just not
"Ah, you shame me, lad," said Yun, good-naturedly. "You're too good for these
hard times we're living in. Well then, take your pick from the rod-stock,
find one that's the right size for your hands. I'll cut it down to length for
you before you go."
The rod Yun had selected for him was, actually, about right. His thumb and
forefinger just fit around the circumference, and the weight was just fine.
Resting one end on the ground, the other end came just about to his eyes.
"This one is good," he said.
"Well, all right then. Let's get back inside. We'll wrap up some bread and
cheese and such for you to take."
Packing didn't take long. They had the clothes on their back, Trevor's iron
staff, and the sack of food.
"I'm sorry I can't send you off with more than that, Trevor," Yun apologized.
"No, thank you. Thank you for everything, Yun. If you hadn't believed
me... I don't know how I would have managed."
Yun offered to give them the blanket off his small bed, along with the food,
but Trevor refused. He just couldn't bear to make Yun any poorer, not after
Yun had already given him so much. Trevor took a moment to count the money
his father had hidden under the stone. Another 87 gold pieces, sure to come
in handy. There was nothing left to say but goodbye.
Trevor and Yun shook hands. "If you ever do come back, you're always welcome
here, Trevor. Harmony too."
"Thanks. I'll send you a letter, if I can, when we land somewhere."
"You practice those blocks, hear?"
Trevor and Harmony left, the early morning sun bright on their faces. They
walked quickly, and with purpose. Trevor wanted to be well clear of town, and
past their ruined home, before people were up and about.
They soon crested the hill. What a mess! Their home, reduced to a rectangle
of black and gray, and another where the woodshed had stood. Even now, he
almost couldn't believe that it was real. Harmony saw it too. She pointed,
dropped the sack of food Yun had given them, and ran off towards the ruins.
"Harmony, wait!" Trevor stooped to pick up the sack, and then ran after her.
Trevor saw her veer left off the road a little ways before she reached the
wreckage, as though she were running behind the house. He followed as quickly
as he could, although the sack and the iron staff slowed him down so Harmony
continued to gain distance.
She ran between the buildings' footprints, and then left to the burial plots.
She reached them, and fell to her knees. Trevor caught up to her moments
later. She was frantic, her hands running to all the flowers she had planted
on Jedith's and Trea's graves. Save for bits of ash that lay everywhere,
their father's grave looked empty and barren. Harmony hadn't had the chance
to plant anything there.
And now she never will, thought Trevor. The idea that his father's grave
would lie unattended made him angry. That this was so because his daughter,
who would have tended it lovingly, had to leave town because his father's
death--which was an accident--made it unsafe for her to stay, made him furious.
The irony of the situation was just too much. Trevor had an impulse to turn
around, and march straight to the boat house, and personally tear every bit of
Weilin's stupid boat to pieces.
But it was just an impulse, and it quickly passed when he heard the pitiful,
girlish moans coming now from Harmony. Trevor watched her, and realized that
everything she had planted and tended was dead. Wilted by the heat from the
fires, the tender plants had slumped to the ground. The ones closest to the
woodshed had themselves burned to ash.
Trevor knelt down to comfort her, laying the sack and his staff on the ground.
She looked at him. "Why, Trev?"
Her face was covered in tears, which dripped in an almost steady stream from
her chin. The look of grief and misery on her face broke Trevor's heart.
Trevor started to explain, but stopped. The explanation was itself absurd.
None of this made any sense.
"I don't know, Harmony. I don't know."
He held her and let her cry, her tears soaking through his shirt. As he held
her, he couldn't help but look at the ruins of the only home he had ever
known. It was, truly, an ugly mess. Ugly, and, what was it? Something about
it struck Trevor as... off. Just not right. It took him a moment to realize.
It was the sun. This part of their property was always in shadow in the
morning, because the sun should still be hidden behind the house.
But the house was gone, and the sun reached his face. The warmth of it,
reaching him in this spot, at this time, where there should be shadow, brought
home the reality of it.
"Harmony, we have to go." He stood, lifting her up with him.
He held her face, made her look at him. "Harmony, I'm sorry about the
flowers. About the house. About Papa. I'm sorry we can't stay and build a
new house and plant new flowers. I wish we could. But we can't. We just
can't. It's not safe for you here. We have one chance, right now, to leave,
because everyone thinks you're dead."
She added confusion to the mix of emotions playing on her face.
"Harmony, they thought you were in the house yesterday, when they burned it.
They were trying to kill you, because they think you killed Papa."
She shook her head 'no,' and pointed to Dannel's grave. Amid a few footprints
in the soft earth that must have been left there yesterday, Trevor could make
out signs of Harmony's hands on the soil.
"You... you weren't in the house when they came yesterday, were you?" She
shook her head no.
"You were out here, tending to Papa's grave." Nod.
"And when they came, they must have had torches and been yelling and shouting.
They frightened you, and you hid." Nod.
"And when they set the house on fire, you ran to the forest." Nod.
Trevor smiled. "Papa saved you, Harmony. You would have been inside,
probably, except you wanted to make his grave beautiful like the others. Papa
Harmony nodded, but Trevor wasn't convinced that she understood what he was
saying. Still, there was a certain justice to it, a certain poetry. He could
see consequences, spreading like ripples, from Weilin's first attempt on
Harmony's life. That those ripples had ruined his second attempt too, well,
Trevor couldn't help but smile.
Still, they had to go. He picked up his staff and the sack, which he handed
back to Harmony.
"Come on. We have to get moving." He took her hand, and led her back to the
road. They walked briskly, and in silence, in the cool of the morning. They
were soon past the outlying farms that still called themselves part of White
When the sun was high overhead, they stopped at a small stream to rest and
eat. Trevor began to think ahead. How far was it to Derey? Close to fifty
miles, he thought. Perhaps twice as far to reach Merlon? How far could they
walk in a day? Five miles? Ten? Trevor gauged the contents of the sack. It
would never last. Could they find things to eat along the way? Would there
be an occasional farm, far from anywhere, where they could buy food?
Trevor had no answers. He leaned over to take a drink from the cold stream,
and had another thought. Water was going to be a problem. Yun had given them
food, but in the rush to leave no one had thought to include a water skin or a
bottle of wine or anything. This stream was the first they had encountered
the whole day. How far would the next one be? Trevor began to worry. Could
they find something, or make something, to carry water with?
Trevor fetched the leather money pouch out from its hiding place inside his
waistband. No good. The leather was worn, and cracked in places. Whether
from age or ill treatment in the heat of the fire, Trevor couldn't tell. But
it would never hold water. If only they hadn't had to leave in such a hurry!
If only they'd had time to plan a proper trip! If only... If only Weilin
didn't want Harmony dead. That's what it came down to. And Trevor still had
no inkling why.
That's it, Trevor promised himself--and Harmony--silently. No more rushed
actions. No more rash impulses. She only has me, now, and by Arshoeoa, I
won't let her down.
When they finished eating, Trevor made Harmony drink from the stream until she
simply refused another sip. Then he drank deeply as well.
"Come on. We have to go." They resumed walking, but at a more measured pace.
Still covering ground, but not rashly so. No sense wearing ourselves out in a
rush, Trevor thought. Don't know when the next stream will be, so best not to
sweat too much.
The afternoon sun beat down on their backs. They were far from home, now.
Farther, Trevor suspected, than he had ever been in his life. Trevor
practiced the defensive moves Yun had taught him with his staff as they
walked. They hadn't seen a farmhouse for what felt like hours, and hadn't
passed a single soul going the other way. Trevor's mouth was dry, and the
knowledge that they had no water made him that much thirstier. He had no
choice but to endure it.
Some while later, Harmony stopped suddenly and tromped a few paces off the
road, out into the sparse tufts of, calf-high grass. She bent down and picked
something. She broke the leafy stalk in half as she returned to the road, and
handed one piece to Trevor. She plucked a leaf from the stalk and began to
chew it, motioning for Trevor to do the same.
He sniffed the plant. It smelled spicy, sort of peppery, but with a sweetness
to it. It was appealing, so he tried a leaf. The leaf was strongly flavored,
surprisingly so. But it brought a coolness to his mouth that was a great
"Thanks, Harmony. What is this?" She shrugged an 'I don't know' and kept
The sun dropped low in the sky, and Trevor began to get anxious for another
stream. It would be best if they could camp at a stream. But they were
tired. Neither one of them was accustomed to this much walking, and Trevor
still ached considerably from the beating he had taken. Trevor considered the
options, and decided they would walk until nightfall, unless they found a
They didn't. The sun set, and reluctantly, Trevor told Harmony to stop. It
was tempting to continue on, in the hope of finding water soon, but somehow he
knew that would be foolish. No sense walking in the dark, he told himself, no
sense risking a twisted ankle or worse. He led them a ways off the road, far
enough that he didn't worry about being spotted during the night should anyone
happen by. At any rate, they had no way to start a fire, so once it got dark,
there would be nothing to do but sleep anyway.
They found a grassy spot, marginally more comfortable than any other, and
declared it to be camp. We need a tent, Trevor thought. And a cook pot. And
flint and steel. And, and a lot of things, he concluded. No sense making a
list of things he couldn't get for them now. Harmony wandered about in the
day's waning light, and returned to camp with a fistfull of various plants,
including more of that spicy one. Trevor rationed out some food from the
sack. He would plan on five days to reach Derey. Had they gone ten miles
today? It certainly felt like it. With Harmony's contributions, the meal was
pleasant--different--if not particularly filling.
Trevor lay down on the grass, glad for the chance to rest. Harmony lay down
beside him, and one by one they watched the stars come out. The air grew
chill quickly after the sun set, and Trevor added blankets to his list of
things they needed, and selfishly regretted not taking Yun's blanket after
all. Harmony moved closer to him, turning onto one side and settling her head
on his shoulder. He put his arm around her to help keep her warm as she
pressed her body to him.
She doesn't mean anything by it, he reminded himself. She's just trying to
stay warm. She doesn't understand these things the way everyone else does.
But Trevor understood. Set against the terror of almost losing her, the
closeness of her, the softness of her, felt good in a way that made him deeply
Well. She needs the sleep. She doesn't need to be burdened with my
She fell asleep quickly, and he didn't push her away.
Trevor stared at the stars, tired to his bones. But sleep, like the moon, was
a long time coming.
He awoke before dawn, shivering, and horribly thirsty. Harmony was not beside
him. He sat up stiffly, feeling the effects of two very difficult days. He
looked around for Harmony, and in gray predawn light saw her foraging, not far
off. He looked down to the road, which was of course just as deserted as it
had been the evening before. He picked up their belongings, and went to meet
up with Harmony.
Her hands held bundles of leafy stalks she had picked. She offered him one,
and began to nibble at the other. He thanked her.
"Let's get moving," he said. "I'm chilled to my bones. Let's walk a while
and warm up before breakfast."
Talkative this morning, Trevor thought. They walked down to the road, and
onward towards Derey. The sun rose, shining in their eyes, making them
squint. The road here rose a bit above the sea, and they could see
unobstructed to the horizon. Trevor looked, out of idle curiousity for ships.
If there were any out there, He couldn't see them for the sun's glare.
Trevor nibbled on his greens as they ate, but his mouth was dry he was forced
to go slowly. They were tasty enough, if not especially filling. An hour, he
thought. We'll walk another hour, then stop for more food. He prayed they
would find a stream by then, too.
They walked and walked, but no stream came into view. Trevor could tell that
Harmony's feet were beginning to drag, just a bit. His worry picked up
He was about to give up, stop for a while, and ask Harmony to find the
moistest, juiciest plants she could for them to eat. They had to get
something wet in them. The nearby sea, taunting them with salty water, only
made it worse. But then, he heard hoofbeats behind them. Soft, distant, but
hoofbeats. And at a walking pace, not galloping.
"Harmony, stop. Listen." She cocked her ear, and heard it as well. They
turned around, and made out the far-off shapes of horses and wagons, still
tiny in their sight. Trevor was torn between hiding while the wagons passed,
or asking them for help. But there was no choice, really. Who knew how far
the next stream would be.
"Harmony, head off the road a little ways. Hide. I don't want anyone to see
you. I'll see if I can buy some water or wine from the wagonmaster. Don't
come down until they're gone."
Harmony looked a bit puzzled, but nodded, and ran off into the grass. Trevor
watched her go, to make sure he had as good an idea as possible as to where
she was. With Harmony, you could never be sure, but he was damned well going
Trevor waited, fetching out a few coins while he waited. He didn't want to
show where his money was kept to whomever these people should turn out to be.
He stood in the middle of the road as the wagons approached, forcing them to
stop. He resisted the temptation to turn his head, to look for Harmony,
frightened of giving away her presence. The wagons drew close, and stopped
only a few yards in front of him.
"I'm sorry to make you stop," Trevor began.
"Are you Trevor?" the wagonmaster asked, from his seat high on the first
Completely surprised, Trevor could only nod. He didn't recognize the man, and
didn't feel like trusting him. He'd had his fill of strangers, lately. He
held his iron staff firmly, ready for any trick the stranger might try.
"Fellow in White Sands, blacksmith I think he was, told me to look for you."
Trevor eased a notch, but remained wary. He reviewed in his mind the blocks
Yun had taught him. He felt completely unready for a fight, and prayed it
wouldn't come to that. He wanted water, and food, and for them to be on their
way. Preferably, he thought, in that order.
"I need water. Can I buy some water from you? Maybe some food, too?"
"No. But you can get in the wagon. Your blacksmith friend said I should give
you passage as far as Merlon. Don't worry," he added, "he said you'd pay for
it. Ha!" The wagoneer laughed deeply, but honestly, at his joke.
"Food and water comes with the price of passage. Don't worry."
"That would--Thank you," Trevor managed.
"Only, wasn't there supposed to be two of you? Your blacksmith friend--"
"Yun," Trevor interjected.
"Yes, that was it. He said you'd have a girl with you. What happened?"
Trevor had to make a decision. Trust the stranger, or not.
"How much?" he asked, "For the ride, I mean." If the man wanted too much--or
too little for that matter--Trevor would know something was wrong.
"Depends. Is it just you, then? Half a gold piece for just you. A whole
piece if your girl's here as well."
Trevor considered. It sounded fair. Steep, he thought, for just sitting on a
wagon, but with meals included... Trevor's stomach helped him decide.
"Yes, she's nearby. Can't be too careful, you understand."
"Oh, no offense taken, lad. You run fetch her, and we'll be on our way."
Trevor nodded, and turned to where he had seen Harmony hide.
The man added, "I'm Morton Halfbender. I know your name already. Trevor, is
it? What's the girl's name? Your blacksmith friend said he'd rather not tell
me that. None of my business, I suppose, if it comes down to that, but we'll
be a few days on the road and I'd feel uncivil not knowing what proper name to
"Her name's Harmony. But she doesn't talk much."
Trevor ran off to find her, and the two of them returned to the road in short
order. Morton indicated a place in the back of the lead wagon where they
could sit, and then gave a sharp click to his horses, and they were off.
Harmony seemed uneasy in the wagon. Trevor racked his brains, trying to
recall if she had ever been on a wagon before. Yes, he recalled finally.
Once or twice when they were little, they had caught rides into town on
farmers' wagons with some of the other kids. More as a lark than out of any
real need. Town wasn't that far away. But that had been a long time ago, and
Harmony had always shied away from horses and other farm animals.
Particularly the larger ones.
Trevor helped her settle in while checking out the rest of the wagon train.
There were two more wagons, drawn by a horse each, tied one after the other to
the back of the lead wagon. Behind that was another wagon with two men seated
up front, one driving. Morton's hired men, no doubt. In all it was six
wagons, heavily loaded. The five behind them were covered with canvas,
protecting their contents from view and from the sun. Morton's wagon was less
heavily laden, and seemed to contain provisions for the trip.
Trevor swallowed a dry swallow. "Excuse me, sir,"
"Call me Morton. Everybody does. 'Sir' is for folk, well, folk finer than
me, that's for sure."
Trevor crawled forward, and handed Morton a gold piece. "Sir, could we have
Morton rolled his eyes, saying "Oh, goodness me! I'm sorry, lad. What a host
I am, eh? Yes, there's a barrel, right there," he turned and pointed.
"There's a cup inside. Help yourself."
Trevor opened the barrel--the lid was loose and was clearly opened often
enough--scooped out a drink and handed it to Harmony. She took the cup and
"Aran, lad! You mean to tell me you set out to walk to Merlon without any
water? When did you pass that last stream?"
Trevor told him. "Why, lad? It's pretty dry through this stretch. It must
be twenty miles to the next. About a half a day before Derey, it is. And
then, none till the town itself!"
"We, uh, we left in a hurry," Trevor explained as Harmony handed him the cup.
Trevor quenched his own thirst. No water had ever tasted so good to him.
"Well, you've made good time, I'll give you that. From what your blacksmith
friend said, I expected to catch up to you before nightfall yesterday."
"I wish you had."
Morton let out another of his sharp belly laughs. "I'll bet you do, lad.
I'll bet you do." He turned, and gave Trevor a closer look, up and down.
Noticing, but not commenting on, Trevor's bruises. "Well, you rest a while.
Looks like you could use a bit."
Trevor sat back down next to Harmony, leaning against a sack filled with
something firm but yielding. Oats, maybe? He made himself as comfortable as
possible, and closed his eyes to rest. But he held tight to his staff, and
made sure to stay awake.