The wicked heroine, p.38
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.38

           Jasmine Giacomo
 

  ~~~

  The next day finally saw the end of the dunes. All afternoon, the caravan progressed along a high row of dark grey, columned basalt cliffs, where the road followed a wide cut into the stone itself. The sea was beating itself happily against the stone just a short distance away, and the lure of fresh seafood drew cooks and their servants down the gentle slope to the tide pools. The scouts reported the end of the cliffs could be reached just before sunset, so Geret ordered the caravan to push on just a bit later than usual. Half an hour before the sun dropped behind the horizon, the head of the caravan came around the last corner of the cliffs and saw the rolling palm forests of Kirth laid out before them.

  Geret smiled with relief and wonder, looking at the glorious view. Dozens of tiny, puffy white clouds dotted the western half of the sky. Ahead of them, both sides of the road swarmed with thousands of rustling palms, their first crop of dates still tight and green on the stems. The low sun blazed directly into Geret’s eyes, and he felt the heat of the day radiating off the dark cliff face to his right. He turned to his closest companion and asked with a smile, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

  Rhona looked at him, her face reflecting her intense discomfort. “Can we please get off these things now?” she asked, tilting her bright hair so one cordage braid brushed the mane of her longsuffering horse.

  “We’ll make camp soon,” Geret assured her, pointing out the spot down at the edge of the palms where the scouts were already clearing the ground.

  Rhona whimpered, but said no more.

  Sanych looked over at her in sympathy. She turned to Meena, but the older woman spoke first.

  “No. It’ll be just as bad tomorrow if I do. Calluses grow for a reason.”

  “Are we stopping soon?” Ruel asked tiredly from behind them, where he rode next to Salvor. “I’ve heard of the dirtbound–sorry, the landfolk–getting seasick, but I didn’t know it was possible to get horse-sick.”

  Salvor chuckled. “It probably only happens to the Sea Clans.”

  Ruel smiled agreeably and was about to speak when his cousin overrode him.

  “It’s just him. I’m not horse-sick.”

  Geret folded his lips inside his teeth for a moment in exasperation. She’d been like this all day, sniping at Ruel over trivial things. They were only half way to Yaren Fel, and already the girl was driving him mad. Sure, she was vivacious, but she was also aggravating! Geret had a sudden, out-of-generation feeling: surely his father had looked on him this way, every time a prank had gotten out of hand. As the odd sensation settled into Geret’s brain, he felt old for the first time in his life.

  “Wisdom, that’s just wonderful,” he said aloud.

  “The view, or the stopping soon?” Meena asked, shading her eyes with her hand for a moment, as she looked ahead to the halt spot.

  “Everything. Everything’s just wonderful.”

  “Can’t be that shiny–” Rhona started to say.

  “You,” Geret clipped, pointing at her. “No more talking until I say you can talk. Once my tent is set up, you and I will have a discussion. In fact, I want you to help the tent crew raise it yourself.”

  “But—”

  Geret snapped his fingers to halt her speech. “You think just sticking you on a horse all day is the worst thing I can come up with?”

  Rhona opened her mouth again, but managed to refrain from speaking, and closed it. She breathed quickly through her nose, staring out at the retreating shoreline.

  Sanych thought she saw the sparkle of a tear in one of the Clan girl’s eyes. “Good thing there’s more than one kind of callus,” she said in a low voice.

  Meena hmmed agreement.

 
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