Terra Incognita – Chapter 1

Ember didn’t remember much about her life before she met Sorley. What she did remember was very fuzzy and out of focus, like her life before was a dream. The color of the world before she met him was dull and the color of the world after she met him was vibrant. Other changes started to happen after a while as well.

First she started to be able to get glimpses into what Sorley was seeing, hearing, and eventually even thinking. The latter she only really glimpsed when he was thinking particularly hard about something.

Second she was starting to learn how to speak in the language of humans, more specifically in english.

– – –

“Well, Sorley. What games should we play today?” Ember ran in a little circle at the foot of Sorley’s bed. “Maybe we can chase a couple of rabbits around the meadow and trap the slowest one for dinner!”

Chuckling softly Sorley swung his legs off the bed and began to dress for the day. “We’re supposed to gather components for dad’s big spell today, remember?”

“I know I know, but after that?” Ember reversed her circle then ran over to the window, nudged it open and disappeared outside. “I’ll be right back!”

With his clothes on for the day Sorley went to find out what was for breakfast. Ayla was in the kitchen setting out some home-baked bread and home-churned butter next to the smoked meat.

“Good morning sleepyhead. You’re father’s already outside getting your packs ready so hurry up and eat!”

“Morning mom, I’ll take a slice to go. Can’t keep dad waiting too long.” Sorley quickly spread butter onto a slice of bread and grabbed a piece of smoked meat. “Can’t forget Ember’s breakfast either.” He stuffed the bread into his mouth unceremoniously and grabbed another piece of smoked meat.

Ember walked into the room, her paws wet from the morning dew. “Sorley, you’re sixteen now, it’s time to get some manners!”

“I remember how old I am!” Sorley mumbled through his mouthful of bread. “Here, this is for you.” He tossed the larger piece of smoked meat at her and she caught it in her mouth.

“Thanks!” She started chewing on the meat.

Sorley swallowed the remaining bread. “Now who’s talking with their mouth full?” He popped his piece of meat into his mouth and hurried out the door.

“Wait for me, and thanks for the breakfast mom.”

“You’re welcome Ember. Make sure to keep those two on track, will you?”

“Unless I see a rabbit, or a squirrel…or a butterfly.”

“At least you’re honest. Better run along, they might leave without you.”

“Sorley would nev-”

“Hey Ember,” Sorley yelled, cutting Ember off, “if you don’t hurry we’re leaving without you!”

“Or not.” Ember ran through the door and nudged it closed after her.

– – –

“So, what are we looking for next?” Sorley asked, shoving the jar of mushrooms into his shoulder bag. “The snout of a wild hog?”

Ember started sniffing the ground then straightened up and pointed like a bird dog. “There’s one that way if we are.”

Marcus shook his head slightly. “Look, I know it’s about lunchtime, so we’ll catch the hog to eat, but only use hog’s snout in emergencies. It can be a little problematic, but if it’s your only option it’s better than nothing.” He motioned Ember forward. “Lead the way.”

The hog was actually a passel of four hogs so Marcus and Sorley ended up taking them all out. Hogs in the region tended to reproduce faster than their predators could keep up. Unfortunately they knew wild hog meat was fairly gamey so when they brought it home Ayla would have to smoke it and mix it in with other meats or they would get sick of it quickly.

“Well, that was an interesting find, and we also got quite a few tusks and tails out of that too.” Sorley was loading the four carcasses onto the small hand-cart. “Those can be used for things, right?”

“Better than the snouts, and we can also use the hooves. I’ll powder some of them for you. Hoof powder is great for fast casts. You just grab a pinch and throw.”

“Ooh, kinda like mom’s been having me practice with the old flour.” Sorley pulled a pinch of it from a pouch at his side. “It’s pretty weak cause it’s just regular flour, but it’s been interesting playing around with it. Makes a decent explosion too.” Sorley through the pinch into the air and it went up in a puff of smoke and a loud crack. “It’s fun to just mess around with.”

A loud whinny came from just north of their position and the sound of galloping hooves began to approach.

Sorley’s eyes got as large as saucers as he turned to Marcus. “Crud. I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone would be nearby.”

Putting a hand over Sorley’s mouth Marcus grabbed a fistful of the flour and threw it straight up into the air. “Et invisibilia nobis,” he whispered as the flour dusted Marcus, Ember, Sorley, and the cart. “Let’s hope they don’t have hounds with them.”

Moments went by and Sorley started to wonder if the spell would last before the horse and its rider approached. Finally the tension lessened when he heard someone say, “it was probably just a branch. We need to hurry back anyway, the Grand Inquisitor called for all of his lieutenants.”

The sound of three horses walking away on dry leaves made Sorley start to relax when Marcus’ hand tightened around his mouth and turned his head towards the left. There he saw a woman slinking through the woods as if following a trail, then she circled the area a few times before heading in the direction the horses had gone.

After what seemed like an eternity the spell ended and Marcus released Sorley. “You didn’t do anything wrong, but you need to be more careful. If the inquisition finds us we’ll be hung by our toes and burned as demon worshipers.”

“I’m sorry dad.” Sorley hung his head and began pulling the cart back towards the house. “I’ll start scanning before I cast from now on.”

“Good, but I should’ve realized what you were doing before you could throw the flour in the air.” Marcus shook his head and scooped up Ember to follow. “I’m losing my edge because we’ve been in isolation for so long. The absence of danger makes a man careless.”

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