Gabriella looked up as Andrew and young Elise entered the cabin, wearing solemn expressions. She marked that they each bore traces of tears on their faces. Seas, she hated to have exposed them to this, but there was no subtle way to introduce one to violence and death. These children had never been exposed to this sort of thing, even in theory. She sensed that they knew it was a part of reality, but that in the world from which they hailed, very few people were in fact exposed to it. So sheltered were they in comparison to the children of this land, or even her own island, both of which bred children who had seen, if not carnage of this nature, then at least the occasional sword or knife fight resulting in an ofttimes grisly fatality. Such was an element of life. Just as loving and marriage and birthing were elements of life, so too, was violence. Gabriella tried to imagine life without violence, such as in the world which had produced her Outlanders, but conceded defeat. 'Twas too fantastic.
“Is Fiaz back yet?” asked Elise quietly, so as not to wake any of the others.
-- Here. The Kin’keska caravan has moved on, east and north. They expect the others to catch up to them. --
Gabriella heard the zary’andu as clearly as if he had spoken aloud. Fiaz appeared from around the kitchen, where the side door had been left open for his return. He paced over to his young mindmate and butted her with concern, forcing his inky black head beneath her hand. Their pale faces indicated that, though they sustained no physical injuries, shock abounded, as was true with all the Outlanders....
“Have some water, and then we will care for the iros and the wagon they left behind. And then, I am sure, you will want to wash up, yes?” Gabriella invited them. As the two gulped greedily mugs of water from the pitcher, Gabriella tried not to gloat over gaining two more iros. Certainly the wagon the Kin’keska had been directing contained supplies she would find useful. In removing their weapons, she found their swords fashioned of poor quality, scarcely better than pot metal. However, the knives she had confiscated, bejeweled hilts atop blades of fine craftsmanship, implied theft. They would fetch a nice price at Spring Market. Inasmuch as that went, they now claimed the means to journey in a wagon of far more significant size, for Terruth City was many days’ ride by the iro stride, and doubtless even more drawing a wagon and six people.
Tchah! Only a season and a half remained to get these Outlanders proficient enough in the language so that no peculiar accent such as that which impeded their speech now would be noticed. One look askance and there could be trouble.... And all of this in a season and a half. There would be a setback in weapons’ training, what with their accrued injuries, she thought as she led Andrew and Elise outside. No matter, cold weather rapidly approached, and she could begin their lessons in tracking.
She grimaced with distaste as her boot slipped a little in spilled blood. Yet another detail requisite of resolution before attending Spring Market: appropriate attire for her brood of Outlanders. Looks askance would be aplenty with the appearance of a zary’andu, though she expected that Fiaz would prefer not to attract attention to himself. ‘Twas best if the strange garb they wore escaped as much notice as possible. Gabriella could address the girls’ clothing, but seamstress she was not, nor could she acquire mens’ clothing from the air alone; the poor representation of a shirt she had designed for Dar, now ruined, had quite palpably evinced her lack of skill. Nor was she a tanner, she claimed a very limited ability to repair or fashion boots of a kind for herself should the need arise, as it had occasionally, living here in the Illyth and simply traveling to the nearest town was not an option. But for five children, whose feet would still continue to grow for a fair amount of time yet?
Gabriella showed Elise and Andrew how to untether the iros. I could cry for the sight of these beasts, Gabriella fumed when she witnessed the condition of them. Long and matted, their hair certainly showed no evidence of being properly shorn over the last season, judging from the length of it. Dirt was encrusted into their skin in spots where they had lain in the mud. Skittish and easily frightened, as if they were horses, their behavior spoke of mistreatment. Ofttimes chosen over horses because of their stable temperaments, iros rarely frightened easily, partly because their eyes were on the front of their faces, as opposed to either side, as with horses. These beasts hadn’t encountered washing, currying, grooming, nothing, nor had their tack been maintained, which accounted for the awful stench that permeated the pitiable creatures and their tack, such as it was. The iros grew especially jumpy whenever Elise approached with the fresh scent of zary’andu about her.
“I think they smell Fiaz,” Elise opined aloud, voicing Gabriella’s thoughts, as one of the beasts attempted to rear.
“Yes, you are right. Why don’t you go and open the stable? Put our two iros there in one stall, and we shall lead these deprived beasts to the other stall. It will be a tight fit, but we will build on to the stable presently.”
Andrew made a sound of disgust just then. “Augh! Do they always smell this bad?”
“These beasts have been mistreated, so naturally, the symptoms of poor condition afflicts them,” Gabriella explained, amused by the sight of the red headed youngster breathing through his mouth. She handed him a lead, and they followed Elise to the small stable. Delighted again at possessing four iros now instead of two, Gabriella showed Andrew and Elise how to care and feed them, and then they pulled the wagon behind the cabin, to take care of in the morning. There would be many things to unload and probably, knowing Kin’keska, plenty of junk to dispose of. So much work lay ahead....