Tothelea: Chapter 8
They rode on, the rocking of the wagon lulling Harmony to sleep and easing
Trevor's many aches a bit. Trevor felt, somehow, relieved. He knew there was
still danger. They were still too close to White Sands. It would be easy for
word of Harmony's survival to get back. And who knew where Weilin was? Or
where he would go? Come to think of that, Trevor had no idea how quickly
Carlu could fix Weilin's boat, nor how quickly it could sail. Could Weilin
sail to Merlon that fast? Get there ahead of them? How long would the wagon
trip take, anyway?
Again, Trevor had no answers to his many questions. He would ask Morton, as
soon as he could think of how to ask without giving too much away.
That was it, he thought, figuring out the key to his sense of relief. I'm not
in charge. Morton is in charge. As long as we're riding with him, I'm not in
charge. But along with that thought came the knowledge that he would not be
riding with Morton forever--if even for very long at all--and would at some
point have to face up to the responsibility for Harmony that was now his. And
probably sooner than he would like.
The sun reached noon, and Morton broke the silence. "Trevor, can you drive a
"Uh, no. That is, I never have."
"Well there's nothing to it. Get up here, would you?"
Trevor set down his staff, his hand sweaty where it had gripped the staff, and
climbed up to the driver's seat with Morton. Harmony stirred, and watched
"Normally," Morton said, "I'd stop to get us some lunch. The boys back
there--that's Jagob and Berl--they've got food and they'll eat when they're
"We have a Pious Jagob back in White Sands," Trevor observed.
Morton continued "But driving by myself, normally I'd stop to get some lunch.
We'll make a little better time if you can drive for a minute or two."
Trevor nodded. "I'll try. How?"
"You hold the reins, like this." He handed the leather straps to Trevor,
showing him how to position them in his hands. "You pull them--gently--left and
right to keep the horses true to the road. Of course, they're good horses and
mostly they drive themselves anyway. But if there's a rut or a big rock or
somesuch, well, you just steer them gently around it." Trevor held the reins,
his hands clenched around the straps. Nervous about being in charge of such
"Good lad!" Morton said, as he hopped into the back. He busied himself,
rustling through sacks and crates, picking out bits of dried meat and fruit,
cheese, and dry bread for them to eat. He handed some to Harmony, and set two
more portions on the driver's seat next to Trevor. He retook his place, and
took the reins back from Trevor who was thankful not to have encountered any
rocks or ruts in the meantime. Trevor took his lunch, thanked Morton, and
climbed back to sit with Harmony.
They ate, Trevor glad of the food. It occurred to him that they never had
stopped for a proper breakfast. Well, no worries about that now. Trevor
offered harmony his piece of cheese, which she took in wordless exchange for
her dried meat. They finished their lunches quickly, and washed them down
with more water.
Stomachs full, and thirsts quenched, the rest of the day passed pleasantly.
Morton seemed a good fellow, and Trevor allowed himself to nap a bit in the
afternoon, after quietly asking Harmony to stay alert and wake him if anything
happened that made her nervous. Which, Trevor thought, covers just about
everything that could happen.
When Morton determined that the horses had gone long enough for the day, he
guided them off the road at a flat spot and they made camp for the night. One
of Morton's hired men--Trevor wasn't sure which was which--found some wood and
built a fire while the other one prepared food for supper. Morton rustled
around in the wagons until he located a couple of extra blankets, which he
gave to his passengers.
"Thank you," Trevor said. "It was very cold last night."
"No water, no blankets," Morton observed. "You must have left in a hurry.
Quite a hurry." He seemed to be fishing for a deeper explanation, but Trevor
didn't trust him that much. Not yet, anyway.
"As quick as we could," he answered. Morton introduced them to Jagob and
Berl--Jagob was the tall one, as it turned out--as they sat down to eat. Berl
eyed Harmony in a way that made Trevor nervous, and he did his best to give
the man warning looks while they sat around the fire. They seemed to think
Harmony was Trevor's wife, which under the circumstances, was a
misapprehension Trevor did nothing to correct.
Supper ended, and Jagob went off to clean the cookware. Morton asked Berl for
a song. Berl fetched a small instrument from his wagon, and began to play.
He played a pleasant tune which Trevor thought he might have heard somewhere
before, and then a couple more which he sang along to. These were common
tunes, and Morton joined in the song. After a bit of encouragement Trevor
began to sing as well. Harmony hummed a bit, but didn't sing herself.
Between songs, while Berl adjusted the tuning pegs on his instrument, Trevor
leaned over to Morton and whispered "I don't want to cause any trouble. But
you tell that man of yours," he nodded his head slightly, indicating Berl, "he
needs to stay clear of her. That goes for both of them, actually."
Morton replied, in equally hushed tones, "I don't want any trouble either.
I'll take care of it."
The songs lasted a while longer, until the chores were done, the horses all
tended, and bedrolls laid out. Morton laid out his bedding in the clear
center of the lead wagon, while Trevor laid their borrowed blankets out on the
ground nearby. Near enough that Morton would be able to hear, should Berl try
anything in the night.
Trevor crawled under his blanket, Harmony next to him on one side, and his
iron staff on the other. Warmer, and feeling, if not entirely safe then at
least safer than he had in quite a while, Trevor listened to Harmony fall
asleep before letting sleep take him as well.
He dreamed that Harmony was running. He was running after her. She was
trying to tell him something, but there was a scarf tied around her mouth and
all he could here were muffled words. The loose ends of it flapped behind her
as she ran. He had almost reached her, when she stopped suddenly. He barrled
into her, colliding with a thump that jolted him awake.
Harmony was thrashing in her sleep, and her elbow collided with Trevor's sore
ribs a few times more before he could sit up and get hold of her. He held her
shoulders, gently but with plenty of strength, and lifted her to a sitting
position as she awoke.
"Ssh, Harmony! Don't wake the others!" he whispered. He looked around, and
saw both Berl and Jagob still lying quietly. Harmony rubbed her eyes.
"Was it the nightmare?" he asked. She nodded, her breathing quick and
"Do you want to tell me about it?" She shook her head no.
"Okay. You're all right now," he said, putting his arms around her. He held
her until she had calmed down, and then they lay back down to sleep.
Trevor awoke the next morning to Harmony gently shaking his shoulder. The
smell of breakfast cooking washed over him. Still stiff, but less so than the
previous morning, he rose and shook the kinks out of his joints. Breakfast
was porridge and slices of thick bacon fried in a skillet. When the meal was
over, Trevor noticed that camp had been packed up, and everything was
essentially ready to go.
"You should have woken me sooner," he said to Morton. "I should do my share."
"Ah, Tomorrow's soon enough for that," Morton replied. "Besides, talk to your
wife about it. She wouldn't let us wake you. Didn't say a word, mind you,
but she made herself plain enough."
Trevor spared a glance at Harmony, who was wandering nearby in the weeds,
looking for who knew what.
"I don't mean to pry," Morton added, "but does she speak?"
"She does, just not much. Never has. She's shy. I guess I'm just used to
"It's just, I couldn't help but hear last night about her nightmare. I'm a
pretty light sleeper, myself. You'll get that way, too, when you get old like
me. But before you woke up, it sounded like she was saying something, only I
couldn't make head or tails of it."
"Really? When I woke up, I was dreaming that she was trying to say something.
But it wasn't anything real."
"Well, I heard her say something. It was something like 'E-yeah bed in no
way, and hear again.' Does that mean anything to you?"
Trevor shook his head. "No, not a thing. Are you sure that's what she said?"
"Pretty sure. Or something not far off from that. She said it three or four
"It's probably nothing. She babbles sometimes, but that's mostly when she
Morton paused, deciding what to say. "Listen. I can't tell a man how to keep
his wife, but you'll do well to keep an eye on her. You'll have more trouble
than you reckon on otherwise."
"What do you mean?" Trevor demanded.
"Like you say, it's probably nothing. Only, you say you left White Sands in a
hurry, and yesterday I got the feeling several times that there was someone
behind us. Only, I never saw anything."
"I can't be sure, mind you, but I've been driving wagons a long, long time.
You get a sense for when someone's coming up on you from the front or from
behind. Like you can hear the horses before you can really hear them, you
Trevor did know. It was like how, after working for Yun long enough, he could
just tell when to add more charcoal to the fire. He couldn't put his finger
on it, but he could just tell when it was the right time to add more, while
the fire was still hot enough to work, but before it too cold.
Trevor nodded. "You think someone's following us."
"Like I say, I can't be sure. But if there is, I'll wager you know more about
it than I do. So you keep an eye on that pretty wife of yours. I don't
figure you're the sort to attract trouble, Trevor, but I think maybe trouble
has a way of finding her."
When the last odds and ends were packed up, Morton ordered his men to mount
up. Trevor called Harmony back, and they took their places on Morton's wagon.
Early that morning they stopped at the next stream--here it was, finally!--to
refill their water barrels. Otherwise, the day passed much like the previous.
Long hours of the gentle sway of the wagons and the countryside sliding slowly
To break the monotony, Morton gave Trevor a few more lessons in driving
wagons, and told them tales of his adventures on the road. Trevor enjoyed the
stories well enough, although they did make him feel like a kid. He didn't
have any stories to share in return. Nothing that compared, anyway, except
for the business about Weilin. And Trevor wasn't about to mention that. He
glanced backwards, often, through the day's riding, but never saw anything to
confirm Morton's suspicions. They made good time and reached Derey just after
Morton led the wagons around behind Derey's one inn--he had obviously been here
many times before--to where there were troughs the horses could drink from.
Ordering Jagob and Berl to watch the wagons, he motioned for Trevor and
Harmony to follow him. Trevor grabbed his staff and their bag of food, and
they followed Morton inside the inn.
The common room was quiet. Only a couple of people inside, having a meal.
They probably owned the pair of horses Trevor had seen hitched in front of the
inn. They gave the threesome a glance as they entered, but little more.
Morton located the innkeeper to inquire about rooms. "You'll have to pay for
your own room, if you want one, and supper" he told Trevor. "That's not
included in the price of passage, you understand." Trevor nodded. He turned
to discuss the matter with Harmony while Morton arranged his own
"What do you think? Would you like to sleep in a real bed tonight? Or out
under the stars again?" Trevor like the idea of sleeping under a roof--and
away from Berl--but was loathe to spend money if he didn't have to. Harmony
shrugged, leaving the decision to Trevor.
Trevor thought about it, and decided it came down to two things. "How much
are the rooms?" he asked the innkeeper.
"Two silver," the man replied. He was a round little man, with bushy white
sideburns sticking out from either cheek. He looked at the staff in Trevor's
hand. "And no fighting. I don't want no trouble, you understand?"
"We agree on that, then. Are there locks on the doors?"
"Locks? Goodness no, but they do latch shut."
It would do, Trevor thought. The thought of a good night's sleep, enclosed on
all four sides and relatively free of worry, was irresistible. He could
probably work something out between the door handle and his iron staff to lock
it, or at least to make a lot of noise if anyone tried to enter. He nodded
his approval of the deal to the innkeeper and reached for his money. He was
uncomfortable retrieving the coins from their hiding place tucked inside his
belt, out here where everybody could see, but what choice did he have? He
added a satchel, and some sort of proper purse to his list of things they
needed. He handed the coins over.
"Come on then, you three. I'll show you the rooms." The innkeeper led them
through a doorway out of the common room and down a short hall. He indicated
a pair of adjacent doors.
"Take yer pick," he said. "They're like enough to the same."
Morton opened the door nearest to him and looked inside. Trevor took the
other, and with Harmony went in. It was a small room, and spare, containing a
single bed with a bare straw mattress and a wooden chair. There was a single
small window on the wall opposite the door, closed with wooden shutters. Out
in the hall, he heard a tinkle of coins, and Morton saying "we'll have some
supper, and then draw me a hot bath after, would you? It's been a long, dusty
ride." The innkeeper grunted, and he heard both men retreat back towards the
Trevor wondered, briefly, about leaving their things in the room or taking
them back to the common room. He felt uncomfortable at the thought of sitting
to eat supper while carrying his staff. It would be awkward, at best, and he
didn't want to invite any extra attention. Besides, there didn't seem to be a
way to the room except through the common room, so there seemed little danger
They had a pleasant enough supper with Morton. Berl and Jagob seemed to be
taking turns having dinner, and Berl was in the room now, although eating at a
separate table. He gave Trevor a polite nod, but kept his eyes off of
Harmony. Good, Trevor thought. Morton must have had a word with him.
"Will we be leaving first thing in the morning?" Trevor asked.
"No. I have a bit of business to attend to, but we ought to be off well
"Do you know, is there any place here where I might buy a few things?
Bedrolls, packs, and the like? We've never been to Derey before."
"Well, there's a general store. That's your best bet, I'd think. If they
don't have what you need, you can always get it in Merlon." Morton chewed a
last bite of stew, and added "I'll wake you up before I leave in the morning.
Show you where the store is."
Supper finished, Morton excused himself for "a long, hot soak," and left
Trevor and Harmony to their own devices. Not that there was really anything
for them to do after finishing their meals besides sleep. Trevor told Harmony
to take the bed, and set about seeing to the door latch while she laid her
blanket out on the mattress. He had intended to wedge his staff into the
latch handle, so it wouldn't turn, but that wasn't going to work. There
wasn't enough space between the handle and the door. He settled on simply
leaning the staff against the door, its top resting in the narrow crack
between two of the door's wooden boards, trusting the staff to fall and make
lots of noise should anyone try to sneak in.
As for the window, all Trevor could think was to sleep directly under it
himself. Which, he thought as he spread his own blanket on the floor across
from the doorway, was just as well; if someone did sneak in through the door,
he didn't want the heavy staff to hit him when it fell. Secure, well fed, and
mostly warm, Trevor had what felt like the best night's sleep in weeks.