Solis’s voice rose again. “It is time,” she said. And began to sing.
“As you journey, we go with you . . .”
The rest of the clan joined in. “You don’t venture out alone.”
Adven beckoned. Mayten lifted her hand in a brief wave to her family, then touched Anatolian’s head. The big dog followed her to where Adven stood apart from the crowd, waiting.
Cather stumbled up and grabbed Mayten’s hand. Her usually cheerful face was blotchy and red. Mayten glanced at Cather’s parents. They wept without shame. She was their last child.
And she was leaving them.
Adven turned without a word and headed away from the village, his friend Hunter striding quietly by his side. Mayten had not been formally introduced to the man. She only knew he was to be their woodsman.
She had seen him around, of course. Their clan rarely entertained strangers. But he was older and Mayten had never spoken to him. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he walked next to their new leader. His skin was even lighter than Cather’s. Red freckles covered what she could see of his skin and his hair was the color of rust.
Tray walked behind the men. She knew from his skipping stride he was practically leaping with happiness.
She and Cather brought up the rear, Anatolian by their side.
Song followed them down the road, fading as the distance grew. “Know that you are not forgotten. We await your safe return.”
Mayten swallowed hard, trying not to let the panic rising in her throat embarrass her in front of the whole clan. Cather squeezed her hand and Anatolian walked so close he brushed against her leg.
“’Till the time we’re reunited, carried here upon our song. We trust you to the good Creator . . .” The voices took on an ethereal quality as the group approached the trees and stepped into the chill of the forest. She finished the song in her mind as the sound faded. “. . . who’ll keep you safe from every wrong.”
The path narrowed and they settled into single file with Adven in the lead, followed by Hunter, Tray, Cather, and Mayten, Anatolian at her side. The song echoed in her mind. Would the Creator keep them safe from every wrong?
A shiver ran down her spine. She hoped so, but at this very moment, it was difficult to trust in something she couldn’t see. She let her hand rest on Anatolian’s head, taking comfort in his warm presence.
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