David watched Chief Elder Jeremiah and Simon walk from the meeting house.
The pale blond hair of the older man had been clipped short. Simon’s brushed
his shoulders. The brighter color of his didn’t detract from their similarity.
Their body shape and their walk seemed identical. The older man draped an arm
around the younger man’s shoulders.
How did Paul feel about the rejection? His expression hadn’t changed. Did
the inclusion of his older brother in the group leaving Sanctuary trouble him?
David didn’t like the idea of Simon being part of the exploratory group.
Though subtle in his words, Simon was a trouble-maker. Just thinking about
traveling for weeks and months in his company caused David to swallow against
acid rising in his throat.
Tension peaked. David left the stage. To give himself a feeling of peace
he paused near the colored glass windows. With a finger he traced the green
circle representing Erda, the rayed scarlet orb of Sola and the yellow crescent
of Luna. Would the Three protect them on the journey? Did the worship of the
goddesses remain anywhere but in Sanctuary?
Elder John and the other elders marched down the steps. Paul started to
follow but was waved back. He joined David and the three others followed. As a
unit they stepped outside into the deserted moonlit courtyard.
“We need to implement our plan.” Paul led them to the benches beneath the
barren sugar maples. “We’re free to go.”
David crouched in front of the bench where Paul, Ruth and Deborah sat.
Gabriel leaned against a tree. “What plans have you made?”
Paul shrugged. “We pack and leave.”
“Do you have any of the old maps?”
“Why?” Gabriel asked. “Surely the land has changed.”
“What about supplies? How much can we take?”
Paul laughed. “I’m glad you’re with us. The goddesses knew you were
needed for practical matters.”
“I’ve been gathering and packing medicines,” Deborah said. “I have an
entire kit a Healer needs including instruments and material for casts.”
“I have copies of every song of praise for each ot the four celebrations
and a collection of every instrument I can play.”
Ruth grinned. “There’s nothing special I need.”
Paul shrugged. “I have a few books but that’s all. I suppose we’ll need
food and maybe a cow, chickens and a goat.”
David sucked in a breath. He didn’t believe their lack of knowledge. Were
they that naïve? How could he tell them they were fools? “Just how do you plan
to transport all you think we should have? We’re an exploratory party not
Paul shook his head. “I figured we’d each have a riding and a pack horse.
They owe us that much.”
David leaned forward. “Maybe they do but have you seen the land beyond
His four companions shook their heads. “Have you?” Gabriel asked.
“I figured a way to banish me would be found. There are boulders as big
as a cow blocking the way. The trail through is narrow. To move horses through
the passage, we would have to move those rocks. The Elders wouldn’t permit the
barrier to be open. Though you want to have wagons, the slopes are steep and
rocky. We can take what we can carry on our backs.”
“Maybe there’s another way out,” Deborah said.
“Would they tell us?” David asked.
Paul rose. “David, take care of the supplies. Thinking about what to take
and what to leave makes my head ache.”
“Is that the only reason…” David began. He stopped when Paul slapped his
“You know I’m not practical. You always were.” He waved to the others.
“We’d better go to the kitchen before all the food is gone.”
David remained beside the bench. He felt more alone than ever. He watched
them walk away. He had no family to sit with. His mother was banished and
forbidden to enter the village. Deborah
would sit with the Healers. He rose and walked toward the community kitchen.
The long building was mostly wood except for the stone cooking area.
He entered the dining area. Narrow tables along the wall held a variety
of food. David joined the line and took a platter. A slab of bread with the
center cut into a bowl he filled with a savory stew. He selected cheeses,
slices of ham, chicken and several sweets. With a mug of tea he carried his
meal to a table in the corner with a single chair. He ignored the waves of his
fellow herdsmen. He needed to be alone to think of the change to come and to
plan for the trip.
Questions abounded. Why had Paul waited to reveal his plan? Why had the
elders agreed? If David had known about this, he could have found the things
they needed weeks or months ago.
For so long he’d been isolated from his childhood companions. How well
did he know them now? Paul was a dreamer who had infected his friends with a
vision of what he believed should happen in Sanctuary. David wondered if he’d
been spared the infection and how long his immunity would last. Someone had to
think of the practical aspects of the venture. If he hadn’t decided to join
them he feared they wouldn’t have survived the journey through the Gap.
His emotions bounced like a fabled rubber ball from hope to despair and
back. Though he welcomed the chance to leave Sanctuary, the presence of Ruth
and Deborah in the group brought risks. All of his friends had spent the past
five years in studies, not learning how to live where there was no support from
those who shared their talents. Could he keep them safe?
David’s thoughts raced. He tried to list all they needed to carry. How
much weight could each person carry? He needed Ranger packs with their metal
frames that had many uses. Lined and oiled ponchos could double as blankets.
Food, clothes, weapons.
How could he remember everything? What if he forgot something vital to
their survival? He needed a slate. The moment he finished the sweets he carried
his platter and mug to where people washed the dishes.
Then he sought the head stockman. “I won’t be working with the flocks.”
The older man nodded. “May the Three protect you. You have been an
“Thank you for the blessing.”
“Keep your eyes open for pastures and grassy hillsides. We need room for
our expanding stock.”