Today is a continuation of my story “Oracle” which I just now named, but I started last week with The Horizon. Enjoy!
Scree skittered down the smooth sandstone slope past Aimee. Someone was following her. They had been following her for the last two miles. She knew it was one of the watchers for the small town that lay just another five miles ahead of her, but until now they had been content to just observe. Either they were really clumsy, or this was a warning for her to stop.
So, she stopped.
“Who are you, and why are you here?” called the unseen voice. Rough, but young. Male. Probably late teens or early 20s. There was panting in his voice. Not very athletic.
Aimee guessed that the one who called to her was a good twenty paces to her left. The scree came from her right. Every village had at least two watchers. The larger cities had entire outposts. Ever since the fall, no one trusted strangers.
“I am the oracle.” Aimee answered. She did not raise her voice. Her words would carry to both watchers the same as if they stood next to her.
“We don’t need your kind here, witch.” Came the second voice. Older. Smoother. Hesitation when he insulted her. Rehearsed insult, but not a belief he held. Interesting.
“I am only passing through,” Aimee said with the same soft reply. “I need only a meal and a night’s rest.”
“You…you heard him…w-w-witch.” The first voice trembled. Younger now. His first call was meant to make him sound older, more intimidating. Aimee smiled. He was very young.
“I am no witch. Only one who speaks truth and light from…”
“You misunderstand me, witch. Junction Pass does not welcome you. Turn east, you may make it to Donalan before night fall.”
“I came from Donalan. Have you not marked my path? I must go to Terrace Bluff. Junction Pass is on my path, unless you wish me to climb Tocatta on the west there.”
Two mountain peaks loomed to the east and to the west in the distance. Tocatta, the lower of the peaks, was easy to climb, but it would take her three days instead of the one day if she took the pass between them where Junction Pass lay.
“Looks like you’re going to have to climb,” a bolt on a rifle slid into place. The older watcher was steady. He might not believe what he says about her being a witch, but he was true to his duty.
Aimee closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and smiled. Everything about the man now filled her mind. Both he and the boy were clear and vivid.
“Put the rifle down, Bryan. You know I mean no harm to your village. Let me pass, and you will be the better for it.” She spoke to his thoughts alone. He faltered, lowered his rifle, and stood silent for a long while.
“Just one night?” Bryan trembled for the first time.
“Just one.” Aimee said softly.
“Wait, what?” cried the other boy. “She’s a witch! Right?”
“Shut up, Goose. The lady needs food and a bed. She’s nothing more than a lady traveling to Terrace Bluff.”
“But…” the other boy protested.
“Nothing more, got it?”
A pause. “Yeah, I got it.”
“Thank you.” Aimee said. She headed toward the village, neither watcher followed.
One night. She gave her word. She hoped she could do what needed to be done.
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