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Now, if you will,
To be alone on the game trail can be a blessing and a curse. As relaxing as it is to enjoy independence of motion and all the surrounding beauty of the great outdoors, the mind unchecked can be a troubling companion.
Such was Ashton’s condition on the trail. The brisk fresh fresh air filled his lungs and he was energized by the new environment.
Surrounding him were enormous deciduous trees, the likes of which he had never seen before.
The meadows of flowers stood freeze dried and upright, a treasure trove of medicine that Ashton took advantage of collecting.
A lifetime of growing up outside was of great advantage to Ashton. His knack for snaring small animals would greatly reduce his need to go into town. When he did, he would have hides to sell that did not belong to the Alderman.
A slow burning anger came over the Ashton. If it wasn’t for his mother instilling a little sense in him, he would kill that sorry landlord.
And had he not been nearly starving, he wouldn’t have trapped that squirrel and he wouldn’t have run into Yara that day.
He wanted to curse so badly, but he promised on his mother’s grave that he would not.
Yara. Stupid Yara. The thought of her sharing his catch with a suitor made his blood boil.
He promised her a castle, a wheat and potato field and paid for his words in real blood. He would show those wretched longboatmen.
They thought his mother was a witch. Such superstition had contributed to his mother’s death. Even Yara and Jasmine thought he had mystical powers and could turn someone into a mermaid of all things. They really believed it though he had never given them any reason to think so.
Zahra had bought into all that foolishness as well. He relived the conversation over and over in his mind.
“Oh Ashton, we aren’t speaking in a way you understand. Your feet never leave the land. Let me put it this way and perhaps you will understand. What does every girl dream of being? ”
Ashton remembered his response.
“a princess I suppose.”
Zahra was sharp of tongue. “every girl of the longboats dreams for the grace of a dolphin, the sleekness of a ray, and the voice of a siren. To have her likeness carved on the bow of a ship and be sung about by every oarsman is her heart’s desire. Perhaps you do not have the courage to be her husband.”
He could rationalize the heart’s desire of the coastal women; it bordered on idolatry.
His mother, while very likely wanting Patrick in her life was able to forgo such desires to raise him. For this he was grateful.
At the moment, Zahra’s words of him lacking courage rankled the most. He didn’t know if he possessed any or not, but the next time he set foot anywhere near Pitmerden, he would bring plenty.
His thoughts drifted to Jeptha the woodcutter. He was probably the closest thing to a father he would ever get.
Ashton doubted he would be out here with the confidence he possessed without the kind man taking him in and later sending him off outfitted and flush with coin. Ishaan was quite the mentor as well, telling stories of far away places and imparting a little about knife work.
Galvin, the Bard now, he was irritating.
Ashton, spurned by Zahra for having no courage, resolved to make public example of Athyes, the Hahyrst shopkeeper for attempting to press him to the merchant ship.
As he warmed himself at the Wanton Thief, cold, wet and shivering, he plotted pointed justice with his dagger when he was approached by Galvin, a bard. From his jester apparel, a long thin stiletto blade revealed itself. With finesse, he lifted Athyes’ gold chain off of Ashton’s neck and placed it in his pocket. His words were serious, sincere, and somewhat silly, but the point was made.
“I see in your eyes, the spirit of murder, Be true to yourself, and be a birder. Once, I too was firmly accosted hard, But used word instead, for I be the Bard. Let me use this chain,hate no longer burn, With words and a flourish, this chain return.”
The Bard did indeed return the chain, and saved Ashton from a poor choice, and embarrassed the shopkeeper in another way. Athyes knew how the chain was aquired, and it was a sufficient deterrent of its own.
While grateful, Ashton tired of others rescuing him from trouble. From one situation to the next, it was the same old thing day after day.
He wanted to bridle his own draft animals and make a place for himself in the world.
Life to Ashton was as if a story was written around him but not about him.
Ashtons thoughts returned to courage. He knew he had an uncontrolled tongue that put him in a bind on occasion, but farming and paying rent with his mother were what he knew.
Was courage always about bloodshed? It seemed to be in everyone’s world but his.
As Ashton coddiwomppled through the forest and his thoughts, several things became crystal clear to Ashton. First, being driven, but without purpose was of no practicality.
Second, letting others define him would hold him back, and third, well, he lost his train of thought and continued his coddiwompple until it came back to him.
The thought came back. It was not a good one to let slip.
If he were to exact revenge on someone, it had better be important. His slow burning anger was wasting a lot of energy directed everywhere. He would work on being more collected.
There was no end of things to be angry about, but one thing was certain. If he yet lived, He would have a reckoning day with his father’s murderer, Pontus Urinitus of the Carsiolians.
He hardly knew where Carsiolia was, let alone La Longi, where a King James ruled. Who was King James? He was pretty important to Jeptha and the Alderman, but was of little concern to him.
As he followed the coastline, the smell of the sea drew him out of the confines of his brain. Ashton was alone on the game trail, his mind more in balance and at ease.
He enjoyed the beauty of his travel, walking relaxed, independent.