Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Twenty Two

August 17, 2006

**Today the story continues with more of Paul's adventure, but we need to bring the family back together...**

As Owain and Otto went about their business in the market that morning, they heard the rumor that the doctor had been called to their mother's house.

"Probably Doris again," opined Otto. "I bet she ate too much again," agreed Owain.

They continued on, helping merchants set up stalls, bringing in straw for the cart animals to stand on (made clean-up easier), helping older people carry their purchases home.

Mid-afternoon, a new rumor began to circulate, that the doctor had been driven home by a stranger.... in Gilly's cart.

Owain looked at Otto, and Otto grinned. They said nothing about the strange man, but listened to the rumors grow as the afternoon wore on.

Finally, the merchants were loaded up, the stalls cleaned, the old straw tossed out and the tables wiped down. Otto and Owain wearily walked through town toward their mother's home.

They were greeted at the gate by an excited Andy and Gray, full of news. Jokingly, they grabbed the boys and swung them upside down, pretending to get more information by shaking them.

Nan and Olivia came to the edge of the porch, dolls in their arms and waited their turn.

The twins put the boys down and picked up the girls, carrying them around the house to the back, the little boys trailing behind -- and in front and in circles.

The commotion brought Anna to the back door with a fussy Sarah in her arms. "Boys, can't you keep it down a little? Some of us were taking a nap." But her eyes were twinkling and a smile broke through.

Otto sent Andy inside to get a couple of towels, and Owain set up a basin in the shade to wash the worst of the grime off.

Paul poked his head out of the stable, "Hello boys, John and I are just reshoeing the donkey. We'll be in soon."

In no time, it seemed, The family was again gathered around the table in the front room. Doris sat in a comfortable chair in the corner, sipping broth from a large mug.

The twins were soon brought up to date on the story, and Paul continued.

**The next bit leaves off all quotes on what Paul says...**

When we woke that morning in the loft of the tavern in the walled town at the base of the mountains, we found that several men from another party had lost their pockets.

Fortunately, we had been reminded to sleep lightly and with our bags under our heads. Still, it left us with an uneasy feeling.

We soon had our wagons and carts hitched up and made our way to the center of town, to learn whether the supplies we needed could be acquired there. Our intention was to gather the foodstuffs we needed on our way back, but we had lost some large chain and metal fittings in the storm that blew us off course.

We had been told that mines in that region produced good quality materials. And with the ship's quartermaster and first mate along, we were confident we could describe our needs to any competent blacksmith.

We were disappointed to learn that a mine had collapsed the week before, and all available hands were busy lifting and digging to get to the trapped miners.

Naturally, we offered our services, but with no experience in mines we would have been ineffective.

So we decided to leave some of the men and wagons behind to help haul the debris from the mine, including the quartermaster and first mate; and the rest of us pressed on.

We followed the river for a day, moving parallel to the mountains. It was a nice change from the climbing of the previous two days.

The weather was nice, and we shared stories and jokes as we walked along.

Toward dusk, we found a farm we had been told of; not too big nor prosperous, but the farmer was pleasant enough and had an extra barn we could shelter in. He invited us to dine with his family.

We brought out some of our supplies, and shared some preserves with them for the biscuits.

It was a pleasant evening, and passed quickly.

Thinking ourselves safe, we fell asleep...

and were rudely awakened before it was light by huge men with dull stares and large clubs.

The men didn't speak, just kicked us awake and pointed to the animals and carts. We were outnumbered, and hitched up in record time.

The farmer's house was dark as we left the yard, no movement or light, nor even smoke from the chimney. It was dark and cold, and the plants that in the evening had seemed well cared for; in the light of the dawn were shriveled and dry.

Rather than keeping to the broad, easy road along the river, the men soon directed us over a rickety bridge and up a rocky path toward the mountains.

It soon became clear that the larger wagons would not make it. So they were abandoned and pushed off the side of the path, skittering and falling apart as they hit trees and rocks below. The huge men laughed every time another wagon had to be abandoned.

Further and further into the mountains we climbed, stopping only once when we reached a dry meadow with a bitter spring at the edge. Our captors seemed comfortable enough to let us wander while they rested in the shade of the only tree.

The donkey was the only animal left, and my little cart the only conveyance. As much of our foodstuffs as we could pack were loaded in, and our bedrolls.

The rest of the trunks and bags we lugged as best we could between us.

Strangely, the mute men did not seem interested in anything we carried.

All too soon, it was time to move on. There were just eight of us: the young man who had seen a tree move, the sailor who had seen a face in the pool on the second day, three men from a place far from our home who spoke a language more like music than speech; and myself and three others from around our mountain here.

The youngest among us looked more and more frightened the further we went. And he started to lag behind.

It wasn't too long after the rest in the meadow that he dropped out of site completely. Rather than go back and get him, though, our captors urged us forward with gestures and swings of their clubs.

At the close of the day, we came to a pass in the mountains. Broad and wide, with many tumbled down rocks, the wind blew fiercely here.

The men pushed us toward an overhang, mostly hidden by scraggly trees and twisted shrubs.

They directed me to go in first, pushing the cart over some rocks that were too big for the wheels.

The overhang was just high enough for them to walk without hitting their heads, and went back further and further. It became very dark.

Just before the light failed completely behind us, I could see a bit of gray ahead. And the men kept pushing us forward as day turned to night and the light faded in both directions.

**back to normal mode**

Paul sat back, and Gilly brought out tea and fruit tarts for dessert. The children were eager with questions, but Paul had talked enough. Instead, he asked questions about their school, their friends and their work.

It was a pleasant evening, and soon everyone was headed to sleep -- to dream of strange places and strange peoples.

**end of story for tonight**