Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | June 25, 2009

The Water-voice

Bailey Island, ME. June 20, 2009.

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Part 1: Glass For Seeing

Part 2: Where the Peaks Meet Sky

Part 3: Circle of Seven

Part 4: Homefamily

Part 5: Tinderdeer

I might actually get used to this traveling thing. For one thing, all I’ve got to do most of the day is walk. That’s better than running after a wayward homebrother or scrubbing dirty clothes or practicing stone spells I can never get right.

And I get to walk right behind Wes if I want. He obviously knows I’m shadowing him, and finally he talks to me.

“See that tree coming up? Don’t let the tinderdeer eat any of those flowers.”

Well, it wasn’t a “how are you?” but I’ll take it. I prance ahead to the tree and pluck one of the ruby red blooms. It smells faintly sweet, like sugar.

“For you, sir! As a token of my favor should we run into any horrible beasts.” I present the flower to Wes, touching my forehead with an outrageously exaggerated gesture of respect. Either he’ll think it’s a joke and laugh, or maybe he’ll actually accept it.

My heart thumps as he stares at me in surprise. I guess he wasn’t expecting humor from the boring, hopeless girl. One of the tinderdeer turns a curious nose toward the flower, and I snatch it away.

“You don’t think I would actually eat that, do you? I just wanted to smell it.” The water-voice swishes past my ears, so I hold the flower out for the deer to smell.

“Rune!” Wes grabs my hand and drops the flower on the ground, crushing it under his boot. Everyone turns to stare at us. Even Y’nessa peers out of her cart. “She was trying to poison the tinderdeer!”

“It said it just wanted to smell it!”

“What?!” Wes finally laughs, only it’s not the happy laugh I was hoping for when I offered the flower. It’s a dark laugh like he thinks I’m crazy. “The tinderdeer told you that?”

“Yes.” I back away from the tree of blazing flowers, and I can hear Wes slapping the deer’s rumps as he steers them all to the far side of the trail.

“Rune thinks the deer can talk!” he jokes to Rolph, who just shrugs his shoulders.

Thanks for the support, little brother.

“Crazy kids.” Kilton brushes past me with Enid, and soon I’m behind everybody but Y’nessa’s cart. Still I don’t move.

I bite my lip. Maybe I’ll just turn around and go home. It’s only three days away. I could make it.

“Come here, child.” Y’nessa’s crackly voice beckons me. “The deer spoke to you?”

I let the first set of wooden wheels roll past me, and I look up to see the old woman’s creased face frowning at me from her seat on a pile of rain jackets.

“I was just pretending,” I say. “I wouldn’t have let the deer eat it!” I couldn’t stand to have her send me home. If I chose to go home, that was one thing. But if I failed so bad that even the Mother of Stones didn’t want me any more… I’d have to become a hermit living in the trees.

Y’nessa nods. “I suppose it is too much to hope for.”

“What? What’s too much to hope for?” The back wheels of the cart roll past me, and I have to trot to catch up.

“It’s been a hundred years since the last time a stonebearer found a bondmate. Such gifts are beyond the likes of me.”

Something was beyond the Mother of Stones? Something boring little me might be able to do? Wait, I wasn’t just pretending, I wanted to shout. The tinderdeer really did speak to me.

But Wes and Rolph were jostling each other up ahead.

“That tinderdeer wants to go to the bathroom! It told me so,” Rolph joked.

“Hey, Rune! Come translate for us!” Wes shouted back. “Was that blart sound a tinderdeer fart or a ‘how-do-you-do’? I can’t tell.”

I clenched my fingers around the timebox in my pocket and walked as slowly as I possibly could in the tracks Y’nessas cart dug into the dirt.

Part 7: Akula

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