WARRIORS OF THE WAY
SECOND GREATEST GIFT
I stayed in the water as long as I could. I thought that I might regain my senses as long as I had no contact with the man and the plan seemed to be working until he suddenly appeared in view near the willow trees. He was carrying something and I slipped into a deeper part of the brook and covered myself as best I could. "I have brought you soap and fresh clothing!" he shouted and threw the soap with steady aim in my direction. I caught it with my right hand and he laughed approvingly. I did not move further and he turned his back and spoke to me over his shoulder. "I am going to pick some of these berries and fruit for us to eat. My kill is stewing in the pot and will soon be ready. Take your time and enjoy yourself. I think we are in no danger...now. And just so you know.....your necklace is safe with your other things." Then he retreated and I watched him go with my heart in my throat.
The mind reader had struck again! Or had he? Was he just a good observer of human nature and of.....females? He seemed so experienced in these things and yet, he looked so young. Surely not more than three or four years older than myself, I thought. His face was unlined and unmarked by years and life though he exhibited a furrow between his brows when he was deep in thought and he had a definite cleft in his strong chin that I found most attractive. Today he had some growth beginning to sprout on his face and it gave him a rugged appearance though not a fierce one. "When we have eaten, I will take my own bath and spruce up my rugged face!" he shouted upon leaving the area and I blanched again and ducked my head below the water. Egad! I felt exposed and bare before his remarkable ability.
I waited until I thought it was safe and hurried out of the water and dried myself with towels he had left with the clothing. He certainly is thoughtful, I thought and then looked around to see if I could see two hidden eyes. But I saw nothing and felt nothing watching and I began to dress myself in buckskin breeches and shirt of white linen and pulled on my trusty but stained knee boots. I draped up my wet hair in a towel and went to wash my muddy garments in the stream, beating them against a cropping of rock. By the time I had finished and gathered up my things to head back to camp, my hair was drying and fresh smelling once again and I began to hum a song as I walked. This oasis was so lovely and out of place pitched here in the middle of such a brown and ugly plain. The oddity of it caught my attention as I stood and surveyed the landscape and I wondered how it could be there. Odd sights were becoming normal to me now, I thought. I would have to rethink many of the lessons my teacher had taught me about history and maps and men and life in general.
"Thou hast been stuck in a rut." I told myself passing the tree in which the white bird still sat. Our eyes met and we stared once more as I walked by. I thought I saw the bird give a tiny nod but was not sure of it. As I left the oasis behind, I made better note of the area in front of me. The fields between the man's encampment and my previous one were broad and barren and brown in color. I saw no life there, no hint of living grass or tree or beast. It was unappealing and discouraging and I hurried on the path to the boulders. There were twelve gray boulders in a semi-circle spaced about two feet apart and rising into the blue sky approximately twelve or thirteen feet high. They were smooth and rounded and exuded a kind of security and royalty that made me purse my lips in wonder. I entered the camp and made my way close to the enclosure that sheltered the man's horse. I wanted to meet him and introduce myself. The man had made the horse a similar arbor as for himself there, incorporating trees and boulders and skins and I wanted to examine it.
Before I could step around the shielding boulder, the man stepped out before me leading the silver horse by his bridle. He was without saddle now and ungarbed but magnificent nonetheless. Very tall, he stood, towering above the man who was of no short personage himself. A beautiful silvery color with tinges of black and big dark eyes and hooves with long tufts of black hair like socks around them. The horse neighed and I stopped and smiled and waited until he gave me his consent to touch him. The man stood back and beckoned me forward in greeting and said, "I want you to meet my closest friend. I know he is huge but do not be afraid. He will not step on you, little one." Then the horse stepped forward and thrust his nose into my hand and snorted in greeting. I rubbed his face against my own and patted him happily, feeling in my heart, the now familiar ache of missing Starshine. "This is Redemption." the man said proudly, caressing the neck of the horse with his left hand and looking into my eyes knowing that I was going to ask the inevitable. "Redemption?" I queried, "What an odd name!"
I walked around the horse admiring his height and width and obvious strength. "But perfectly definitive!" the man said smiling, meeting me beneath the neck of the animal. "He saved my life. On more than one occasion." "Oh." I said in understanding and admired the horse even more. "Thou art fortunate. My own horse was such a hero. But he is......gone now." Feeling tears well up in my eyes, I blinked to clear them away and coughed an un-needed cough. "Yes, I know." the man said then and caught my arm and swung me round to face him. "Dost thou remember my promise of last night?" I wasn't sure what he referred to and shook my head in puzzlement. "I told you I had a surprise for you this morning." he murmured. "And so, I do. Wait here." He put the reins of the horse's bridle in my hands and walked swiftly away behind the boulder. Redemption and I eyed one another in silence and then he rubbed his face against me, a horse's equivalent of a hug. I laughed and planted kisses all over his face and ran around him, under him and wondered how I might get up on him, he was so high, but those thoughts were interrupted by the man's return and the appearance of another horse, so unexpected, so wonderful and so incredible that I stood stock still in shock.
To be continued in Episode Ten..................................