Chapter Ten: An Account of our Journey Through the Mountains

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It was ten more days before the mountain girl came back. Everyone was awake by then and we were sitting around the fire roasting some meat. It was still pretty early in the morning when the girl entered the cave.

“Good news,” she said. “I have found your friends.”
“Wonderful,” said Ichoi, looking at the entrance.
“But this cave is not large enough for all of you,” the girl said. “I will need to take you further into the mountains to my village. There will be a place for all of you there where we can spend the winter. Come, we must prepare for the journey.”
“Winter already?” asked Riglo.
“Well,” said Wallia. “We left Sontai about a month ago and it was nearly the end of summer. It’s autumn now and winter comes quickly in the mountains.”
“I guess so,” said Riglo. “We never had much of winter on the peninsula.”
“So are Chaman and Moxi already there?” I asked the girl.
“They are on their way,” the girl said, gathering some food into sacks. “They are taking the long path by the river. We will go through the pass, which is quicker, so we should arrive about the same time as they.”

We left that day. The mountain girl said that it would take us a week by our path, but I wasn’t sure if I believed her. She led us over, under, and through various rock formations. Several times we had to jump over small canyons, which seemed huge if you should look down. I noticed Ty was keeping silent and wondered if he liked having a female guide. But the girls absolutely loved her and kept up with her better than any of us.

“You know,” said Jojo, panting beside Riglo and me on our third day of travel. “I wonder why the other cave wasn’t big enough.”
“I was wondering that too,” said Riglo. “It’s just two more people right? There was room. What do you think Leroi?”
“I dunno,” I said. “Maybe if we’re supposed to spend the winter somewhere, she thought it’d be nice if we could stand up.”
“Good point,” said Riglo. “She does seem a considerate kind of gal don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” I said, gazing ahead at our guide. “Very considerate.”
“Hmmm,” said Jojo. “I think I know who he wants to be paired up with.”
“What?” I asked, not really paying attention.
“Nothing,” said Jojo, with a slight snigger in his voice.

We spent the nights in caves even lower and smaller than the first one. I was usually stuck in a small hole with Jojo on one side and Riglo on the other. Riglo would hardly move at all but Jojo twisted a lot and snored up a storm. When I would finally get to sleep, the girl would be there again.

“Okay you bums,” she laughed one morning, tapping me in the head with her foot. “Just a few more hours and you can sleep all you want. Now move.”
“Aw Mom,” grumbled Jojo. “Just four more minutes.”
“I think I’m stuck,” I said, stretching my arms out of the hole.

I was just going to grab some rocks to pull myself out so I was a little surprised when the girl took hold of my wrists and gave a tug. I slid out easily and stood in front of her.

“Uh…thanks,” I said.
“Now get your lazy friends up,” she grinned and skipped down the path.

I looked back into the hole as Jojo grinned back at me, blinking and raising his eyebrows. Riglo was still sound asleep.

We regrouped on a ledge large enough to hold all thirteen of us and the girl pointed ahead.

“If you look to the east,” she said, pointing. “You can see where the River Misee runs out from the Great River Silps. In the valley of those rivers is where the Mountain People of the South have their three villages.”
“Of the South?” asked Wallia. “Are there Mountain People of the North as well?”
“Sadly yes,” said the girl in a softer voice. “Or there were. Deep in the mountains, not far from the divide where the River Nix runs its way north and the River Silps flows south, there were four villages.”
“The Grumans I suppose,” Bri said in a low voice.
“Yes,” said the girl. “They only invaded the mountains long enough to destroy our people. Many hid in caves, but all were found. None survived save I alone.”
“But please,” I asked. “If you don’t mind…how did you survive?”
“That,” said the girl. “Was the work of the Great Spirit.”

Of course we wanted to hear more, but the girl insisted on moving on with the journey rather than the tale. But we all kept up with her and finally she spoke again.

“For many moons the Mountain People, North and South, have not believed in the Great Spirit,” she said. “Oh we knew of Him, but He was merely a thing of tales and legends. I didn’t believe myself until our villages were invaded and I saw my family slaughtered. I hid myself in a very small hole, one only a child of six such as I could fit into. There, I prayed to the Great Spirit, calling to Him that if He be real, to spare my life. I stayed there and called out to Him for three days, at which time I dared venture out.”

The girl looked up and I saw that there were tears streaming from her dark brown eyes and down her face.

“I saw the Grumans leaving by way of the River Misee,” she said. “I was the only one left. I even traveled to the villages of the North only to find all of them gone as well. Yet that convinced me that the Great Spirit really did create the world. And to this day, He is still in control of it.”

At this she suddenly stopped and turned to us.

“I think it is not a coincidence that you have escaped Sonchia,” she said. “Nor that you have found a survivor of the forest people.”

Ty stared at her, gaping.

“Or that your friends are bringing the five left from the people of Monlan,” the girl continued.

We all stared at each other.

“This is the will of the Great Spirit,” she said. “He is bringing us together to restore our peoples. It is for this reason that I was allowed to survive.”

With that she turned and kept going.

“Did you tell her about the prophecy?” I asked Simron.
“No,” he said.
“She’s never asked anyone anything,” Riglo told me. “Ichoi says she keeps to herself and he’s never had a chance to explain what we’re doing.”
“You know,” I said. “I think she really figured it out on her own.”

Simron grinned.

“The King will be most pleased with this one.”

In another hour we reached the valley. It would have been absolutely splendid at one time. The ground was lush and green and the rivers flowed with clear water. But all that could be seen of the villages were a few stone foundations covered in weeds.

The girl led us away to the base of another mountain, which we saw had a small opening to a very large cave. Several houses could have fit into it and there were smaller caves and tunnels at the other end. The girl showed us several that could be used to sleep in, one with a fire pit and an outside opening that could be used for cooking, and two with running water. The upper water cave would be used for drinking water, the lower one as a bathroom. Everyone instantly memorized where each was so we wouldn’t confuse the two.

After the tour, we settled in the best we could. I found a small cave that was spacious enough for Jundon and Chaman and I to sleep in. At this point, I wondered when Chaman would be joining us, and I was starting to miss him. I hoped that he would still want to share the cave.

I ran to the main cave when I heard the commotion. Seven people had arrived, two receiving cheers from the rest of us. When Chaman saw me, we ran to each other and embraced.

“Where’ve you been man?” I asked.
“Oh wait till you hear,” he laughed. “Moxi can tell you more than I can but I guess you need to write it down anyway. Come on, you need to meet these guys.”

He pulled me over to a group of strangers that Moxi was introducing, two guys and three girls. Both of the guys were wearing large hats and the one had a brightly colored bird perched on his shoulder. One of the girls looked about Jundon’s age and was already laughing and chatting with him. The two older girls stood behind her and waved at Chaman. The Monlanian girls were wearing plain brown shirts and skirts that only came to their knees, quite unlike the modest Sonchian fashion for females. The two boys also wore pants that only came to their knees. I also saw that all of the newcomers were wearing tall leather boots and Chaman and Moxi were too. I also saw Moxi take something off of her nose and that it looked a lot better.

“This is Minu,” Chaman said as the girl who waved came over to us. “This is Leroi.”
“The scribe,” Minu said, glancing at the quills sticking out of my pocket. “Oh you must hear what happened and write it down. Quite an adventure for us you know.”

It took a while for everything to settle down as everyone wanted to get to know the newcomers. Finally, Moxi sat with me in one corner of the cave with Chaman and their new friends.

“We all need to be here,” she said. “This way nothing will get left out and we can have a full record of what happened.”
“Good thinking,” I said, quill in hand. “We almost lost hope of finding you guys, but I guess you were taken care of.”
“We certainly were,” Moxi said.

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