Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Forty Nine

Chapter Forty Nine began at 9:08 pm on September 20, 2006

With the help of the other villagers, Peter and Paul were able to bring in the harvest and get the fields ready for the autumn by the end of the week.

Each day, Gilly and Anna and the others made the trek in the morning to help at Helena's with the cooking or in the fields. Inga traded duties with Meg, Doris and Polly, entertaining the youngest children while watching the road for any sign of Sebastian.

In the evenings, after dinner was served, Andy would sit with Nan and read, and Paul and Peter would discuss the day's events with Adam.

The women would sit in the front room with handwork, talking over the next day's menu and relaxing. Nancy and her husband had decided to stay with Helena until the harvest was over, so the house was full of activity and love and warmth.

Each evening, Nancy's husband would bring everyone up to date on the search for Sebastian. They had begun to look further than the village boundaries.

On the second day of looking, they had found a rude camp under a large stone overhang with Sebastian's rucksack and signs of a scuffle. But nothing since then.

Helena put on a brave face, but in the evenings, she cried herself to sleep. And Peter, for all his bluster, stood a little less straight and appeared more tired.

Anna and John, for their part, spent their evenings deep in conversation -- and trying to reassure John's siblings that everything would be fine.

Esmeralda was just there, calmly overseeing the healing process and lending a hand as needed. Every day, Nan was a little less uncomfortable when they moved her. Every day Adam was a little more ornery and a little more able to be useful in the kitchen. But he still spent a lot of time with Nan, telling stories and playing games.

Everyone was looking forward to the end of the harvest. Peter and Paul and Daniel would move on to help some of the other farmers, John and his family would return home. Life would return to a more leisurely pace.

But Sebastian spent his days hauling water for animals, schlepping out the wagon, helping the cook gather wood for the fire. On rare occasions, he got to ride when one of the drivers wanted a nap. Otherwise, he was now walking with the others.

As he thought, the party followed the less inhabited side of the river toward the sea.

By now, he knew most of the men's names. They just called him "boy." There was little conversation during the day, but in the evenings, when the bottle came out, he heard some strange tales. He finally figured out that these were sailors, and they were heading back to their ship after getting the supplies for the next voyage.

Sebastian didn't know what would happen when they arrived in the port city. He assumed the sailors would take him aboard.

He wasn't sure how he felt about this. He knew his mother would be frantic if she knew.

He worried a bit about Adam and Nan -- whether they were going to be okay. Whether Nan was even alive...

But he had no chance to escape as someone was always watching him. And when they came to a settlement once or twice he was tied up and gagged and placed in the back of the wagon again.

Everywhere they went, there were birds in the air. Large black birds that seemed to follow the group for a while. Little black birds that sat on branches and silently watched the wagons roll by.

The night before John and his family left for home, the family held a big party -- still at Peter and Helena's, though Nan was able to be carried out to the front room for the occasion.

They invited everyone who had worked the harvest, and since half the village had helped in one way or another, a good number showed up.

Starting mid-afternoon, the house was filled with activity. A large buffet was laid out in the formal dining room, and people could be found in every corner of the house, in the garden where benches were set out and in the barn which had been swept clean for the occasion.

In the evening when the lamps were lit in the barn, Peter took out a horn and Paul found his viol. Inga, who had a lovely voice, sang and beat the tabor, and the dancing began.

By then, Nan had been tucked back in bed, and Andy had returned home with John and Anna's family.

Adam and Ava took a turn on the dance floor, kicking up their heels in a contest with Nancy and her husband.

Sebastian spent another night wrapped in a blanket near a fire, surrounded by strangers.

And in the morning, John and Anna hitched up their horse to the cart and took their leave of Gilly and Paul. Tears in everyone's eyes. It would be months before they were together again.

In the morning, Sebastian was awakened earlier than usual and handed a bar of soap by the youngest man who directed him to wash up in the river.

Though the water was cold, he was glad to be clean after so long. He took a little extra time to shake out his clothes and air them a bit on some bushes.

By noon, the party had crested the last hill before the river delta, and they looked out upon a huge city, split in two by the river.

On the north side, huge ships and shipyards, cattle pens and foundries, and the hustle and bustle of industry.

On the south side, more ships, market places, tall buildings and green squares, and a protective, encircling wall on the land side.

Sebastian looked at the biggest place he had ever seen, and then the road took a turn and the city was lost to sight. The young man caught his eye, "Just a few more hours and we'll be there."

"We'll be where?" thought the boy...