Chapter 14 – The Pilgrim Trail
“To begin a thing at all is the hard part, no matter what it is. To keep going is not, no matter how hard the going might be. This is a truth difficult to believe and harder still to remember, but no less true for that. ” – Black Kath’s Tally Book
“Was that really the best course of action?” Kel asked.
“Silence,” was Dena’s answer, and Kel had to accept that until she chose to give another, if in fact she ever did so. They had both dismounted to examine the huge berm of stone and rubble that blocked the Snake Pass. Worse, Marta and her companions were on the other side.
“I didn’t want Marta harmed so long as she was leading me to the Fifth Law,” she finally said.
“And Marta could not have done what you did?”
“Of course. So why didn’t she?” Dena asked.
“Perhaps she had another plan,” Kel said.
“The next time we’re together for tea and cakes, you can ask her,” Dena snapped. “For now I need to know what they’re doing.”
They led their horses back down the pass until they could move behind a bend that kept them out of sight in case anyone climbed the rockfall. Then Dena made Kel transform into a gull and he flew back down the pass. Dena waited with whatever patience she could muster until he finally returned and perched unsteadily on her should on webbed feet.
“There is one servant remaining to guard their supplies. They went into this cave on the side of the cliff where the overhang had been but they haven’t come out yet. If I try to go in, they’ll see me.”
“You think she doesn’t know I’m here, now?” Dena asked.
“Well…no, now that you mention it. She certainly knows that someone is nearby, if she didn’t before, which was rather my point when I first asked about the landslide. Though, to be fair, if she doesn’t already know that she has a shadow, she’s not the witch you think she is.”
“I’m not afraid of her,” Dena said. “I will see this through no matter what.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure whether that fact would matter to her even if she did know.”
Dena ignored that and sent Kel scouting back toward Conmyre to confirm that there was no one approaching from that direction. “We’ll camp here for tonight. Once Marta and her party have moved on, I can reduce the blockage enough to get us through, but I don’t dare risk it until then.”
“As you wish, mistress.”
They found an overhang where the softer stone had crumbled away, and it didn’t take long to clear enough space for the bedding. Kel, now human again, built a small fire and prepared a meal of hard bread and broth, then checked their provisions. “We have enough for a few days yet,” he said. “We’ll be fine as long as we’re not delayed too long.”
“I want to know what Marta could possibly be thinking now, exploring a cave when she should be traveling to wherever she’s going.”
“How do you know it’s not the cave?” Kel asked.
“Would she let herself be ambushed and almost killed if she had known about it? I do not know where she’s going, but I do know that cave wasn’t her destination.”
“And yet it presents itself, so she’s pursuing it, whatever that distraction may or may not represent to her.”
“She needs focus,” Dena said, pausing to soften a bit of bread in the last of her broth. “This is a waste of time.”
“And yet we’re following her,” Kel said. Continue reading