Scouting Ahead

"Does anyone remember that story Shotek used to tell?"
"Which one? All that boy ever did was tell stories, and you could never tell what was real and what was made up."
"The one how he met Divana."
"Oh, that one's my favorite."

Winter in the foothills of the Nadagas let up earlier that year than in previous years, but the group seemed intent on staying in the mining village until they thought winter was over. And it was driving Shotek crazy.

He liked the constant moving the wandering lifestyle entailed, and the snow's early departure and green poking up from the rocks poked and stoked this love back to life.

"What are we waiting for?" he moaned when he was told---for the seventh time in three days---that they were staying a bit longer.

The Avo---the wisewoman---was the only one at this point who could put up with his nagging. "Lady Winter may find she forgot her shawl and return," she told him, "and might catch us in the plains."

"But what if she doesn't?" the young man pressed as he fiddled with his card deck. "We're losing valuable time!"

"Are we?" Her voice carried no sharp edge. She was actually quite fond of young people, and it did no one in the group good to dismiss them.

Shotek nodded. "I---I mean, we---might miss something, something important!"

She spotted the grip on his cards shift as he spoke, and she raised her eyebrows. "Do they speak again?" He nodded, and swore he saw a smile flicker onto the Avo's face. "And did they speak to all of us, or to Shotek?"

He paused, then much smaller he said, "Me. But it's nothing far, only a day north," he added hurriedly, "and I think it's really important, and it's really soon."

"We go that way in three days, but I see nothing wrong with scouting ahead."

And nothing more needed to be said. Shotek collected the few things he needed and set off following the river north along the edge of the mountains. By nightfall he could see the village ahead, and came to it properly by the time the village started to get itself moving.

Mejaran was nothing spectacular: a tiny village split by the river whose occupants rarely saw anyone from beyond the mountains, or indeed saw much beyond the mountains themselves.

Shotek had no idea of any of this, of course, and took the people's stares as nothing unusual. He was odd-looking, even for one of the wandering sort: something about his frame sat crookedly, but it was difficult to tell what to tug to straighten everything else out, and his eyes' urbanity didn't line up with his already-weathering skin. And of course he sported the patchy tumbleweed's wardrobe, which tended not to do any favors.

Shotek, however, was not one to rely on happenstance favors.

The End

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