Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | May 29, 2009

Tinderdeer

Pokrovka, Kyrgyzstan. December 26, 2004.

Kazan

Part 1: Glass For Seeing

Part 2: Where the Peaks Meet Sky

Part 3: Circle of Seven

Part 4: Homefamily

The box from my mother seemed to burn through the scratchy wool of my pants. I wanted to run to Y’nessa and ask her what was inside, but Isa’s bark of “No! Not yet” stopped me. I had to wait until the time was right. Whenever that was.

I hate waiting.

One hand kept straying to that pocket as I oiled down the tinderdeer, preparing their delicate fur for the rough weight of all our stuff.

Before I knew it, the deer looked like walking mountains, piled high with bundles, and a crowd had gathered outside Y’nessa’s home.

I didn’t let myself look at any of them too closely. Kids from stone-lessons, homesisters and brothers, Helpers and Stewards and even Guardians had stopped their busy lives for a moment to see us off.

“Farewell!” the voices cried out as Y’nessa settled herself in a cart pulled by the two largest deer. The rest of us were going to walk, each carrying our own blankets.

“May the sky embrace you and the sun shine upon you.”

“Let your way be light and steady!”

“Be true to your selves.”

The last words were spoken by Isa. I felt tears sting my eyes–who would be there to find the right leaves if I scraped my elbow or had a piercing headache? Who would tell me stories at night about ancient warriors and hideous beasts?

Rolph reached out for my hand and I took it.

At least I had my little brother. Spirit knows, I never thought I’d be thankful for that!

We’d only travelled as far as the great river–out of sight of the village center, but still within our borders, when Wes let out a shout.

“Halt!”

He said it like a real guardian, not just one in training, and everyone obeyed.

“This tinderdeer is trembling. See? Look at her fur!”

I looked. It was all matted together, and she shivered in her own sweat. I felt a horrible tinge of guilt as I looked into her deep brown eyes, but I guess Wes couldn’t tell.

“Rune! You were supposed to oil them all down! How could you forget? You know she could start losing fur, and fall sick!”

I know, I wanted to say. Believe me, I’ve never been sorrier for anything in my entire life. But why did he have to be so unbelievably cute? Even while he was yelling at me, I wanted to rush up and run my fingers through his hair. He’d tell me I was beautiful, and then…

“Did you even hear me, Rune? We have to get these packs off and let her rest.”

“I didn’t mean to,” I mumbled as we unloaded bags of biscuits, dried meat, and canned vegetables. “I have this box–” I almost said it. box in my pocket from my mother and I think it’s magic, so there!

“–box of pickled carrots?”

“Put it down over there.” Wes didn’t even look at me.

I set down the carrots and stroked the tinderdeer’s soft white head, scratching around the single bent horn growing from her forehead. “I really do have a special box,” I whispered in her ear. “That’s why I forgot to oil you.”

The deer whuffed in response. People say they’re no more intelligent than rivercats or hill wolves, but I know better.

“Do you think if I tell Wes about the box, he’ll like me?”

To my surprise, I heard an answer. It was muffled like a voice through water, and the tinderdeer’s eyes met mine.

“The timebox is yours. Be true to yourself.”

The same words Isa had spoken, coming from a tinderdeer. Weird.

Part 6: The Water-voice

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