Copyright © 2009 Steve Shilstone
All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.
We dug holes to sleep in at night. The sun baked our heads in daytime, such was so, even as we walked on icy crunch gravel. I decided to weave a sun blocker hat from the tough fibrous gray tufts of grass. Thus did the brightness bother me so. I pictured in my mind the hats of Cloverian honey traders, but made mine with a wider brim. While I worked at braiding lengths of grass, Kar played with lumps of mud she dug from the edge of a cold muddy sludge bog choked with what I thought were probably gwinlods. That means ‘razor reeds’. They had sharp prickles. Kar shouted “Gwinlods!” when we first saw ’em. Truth, I agreed. Old Mondo’s Gwer drollek story of wanderers searching for Rumin was spiced with gwinlods, shardweg, and wenswag, so said razor reeds, mushworts, and lug vines. You must be careful walking on lug vines. They are slick. Thus is so. So said, to return to my thought, I wove a braided wide brim hat. Kar didn’t need one. She wore her pack on the top of her head and tied the tug lines under her chin. On the seven days so far of our wander in the W’s Three, we’d met no creatures other than each the other, and seen only high flying beeketbwen. That means ‘beeketbirds’. We’d traveled for a long enough time so such that Kar now wore her highboots on the proper feet and gave up hopping. Such very so, again, I wove a braided hat. I put it on and leaned back on the slab of rock where I sat to watch Kar pile mud.
“What are you doing, Kar?” I asked.
“I am the first bendo dreen to wander in the W’s Three and make mud piles with a pack tied to the top of my head,” she replied.
She pretended to faint, falling face first into the mud. After a nince, she rolled onto her back and put her ear glove into her mouth.
My next question for Kar went unasked, shut off in my throat, because right then there a thorn of shock stabbed me.
A muddy, tattered, ragged creature rose from the razor reeds in the bog. It looked Boadlian. I could see blue skin where it was smudging its face clean with the knuckles of its hands. It opened wide round its common brown Boadlian eyes.
“EVERYWHERRRRRRRRRR!” it shrieked.
Kar sat up. I flinched down. Such was so.
“I am the first bendo dreen with a pack on my head to talk to a muddy wanderer. Woeful, are you?” asked Kar calmly after unspooling the ear glove like a red floppy tongue out of her mouth.
“EVERYWHERRRRRRRRRR!” roared the mad creature, our first wanderer, truth.
I stayed low in place. I trusted in Kar.
“It’s a riddle? It’s an answer to a question?” wondered Kar, and she smeared her face and hair with mud.
“EVERYWHERRRRRRRRRR!” repeated the screamer, and it jumped up and down, splashing and tearing at the razor reeds. It growled and shook its face.
The yellow green fire blazed up in Kar’s ember eyes. Such so! She was challenged! Never in the hedge had anyone ever been odder than Karro of Thorns. She was the cracked melon, the jark dweg. The straight stiffness of her back told me she would not allow any such woeful wanderer to surpass her oddness, to douse her pride. She jammed the ear glove up her nose. She ran in little circles, flapping her arms and scrawking like a hedge hen. She tore up razor reeds and stuffed ’em down her shirt. She ate mud and drooled it down her chin. She leaped at the woeful wanderer and screamed, “NOWHERRRRRRRRRRRR!”
The creature left the bog rapidly. It departed, racing off as if on fire, waving its arms and yelping. We watched until it disappeared in the distance.
“I wonder what it meant by ‘everywherrrrrr’?” mused Kar in a voice of triumph.