The Seer – Snippet 28
“I like this, Diri. I want to stay,” Amarta said softly to Dirina as they lay together on blankets by the fire, Pas between them.
Warm. Fed. The smell of woodsmoke. Spices in the air from the stew, surely the best stew she had ever eaten.
“We’ll have to prove we’re worth it,” Dirina whispered back.
Amarta rolled onto her back and stared at the rafters overhead and wondered what made a person valuable enough to feed and shelter them.
Not her visions, certainly. As she looked at her sister and nephew, she realized that this morning on the raft, but for a few inches of luck, they would have had arrows through them. Because of her.
In memory she saw the hunter’s eyes watching her, bow raised.
There was no reason for anyone to come after Dirina and Pas, except for her.
With that, she made a decision: she would do no more foreseeing. Her visions were why they had been forced to leave every place they ever might have called home. It was what made people hate and fear them. Here they had a chance, with Enana and her sons, whom Amarta already liked enough that the thought of staying was a fullness of hope, filling her chest the way the stew filled her belly.
They would prove themselves. They would work hard. And Amarta would not speak of her visions. Not to anyone.
Another look at her sister, who had drifted off to sleep in exhaustion, and Pas, with his mouth open, his beautiful face sweet in the peace of sleep.
This was what she wanted for her family: food, warmth, and a safe place to sleep.
Better, she thought, would be to not have the visions at all, ever again.
So, she resolved, she would bury them. Deep in the ground, like some bit of rotten meat, where they would not be able to hurt anyone.
In the months that followed they threw themselves into the work, doing everything possible to help the family. Washing, mending, cooking. Planting seeds. Weeding.
Dirina made sure Pas was never a burden, always keeping him close by, warning him not to bother anyone, until it became clear that he had already charmed Enana and her sons, who were happy to supply him a lap or a hug and tell him stories at night.
When they left the farmhouse with Enana to go to the market, Amarta wore clothes as loose and baggy as possible, hair cut short and ragged the way the boys did here. She talked little, kept her head down, pitched her voice as deep as she could, and called herself by another name.
But mostly she kept to the farm. There was a lot of work, but it seemed easy, and she realized that it was the company that made it so; she had never before met people so willing to laugh, to make light of any difficulty, and to give each other a gentle brush or squeeze as they went through the day.
Spring became summer, longer days letting them do more in the fields, collect wild herbs, stack wood for winter. Harvest promised a good yield, if the rains came when they should.
But no — she pushed that thought firmly away. The rains would come when they did. She did not know any more about the rains than anyone else.
Bit by bit, Enana trusted them, giving them work to do without her, meals to prepare, even sending one or the other of them to market with a few coins for the grains and fruits and nuts they did not grow themselves.
Best of all, the whispers of the future grew fainter and fainter until Amarta could barely hear them at all. She had nearly forgotten how much a part of her life they had once been.
One dawn morning as the soft light of the sun promised another warm day that she felt eager to begin, it finally occurred to Amarta that she was happy.
She worked even harder.
Amarta adjusted the pack on her back as she hiked the forest road. She’d found everything Enana wanted except pickled nut paste. Next week, the vendor promised, repeating how sorry he was, despite Amarta’s assurances. By way of apology he had given her a bread roll shot through with thick berry jam.
She was speechless at this generosity. Perhaps this was what people did when they weren’t busy hating you for knowing too much about them.
It wasn’t that she was hungry — she ate better now than she could remember — but the roll was special. A sweet gift, something that was hers and only hers. She had forced herself to wait to eat it, wait until she was out of the village market, past the houses, over the brook, and near the halfway point back to the farmhouse, by a hollowed-out cedar. There she paused a moment, took it from her pocket, unwrapped the cloth, and took a bite.
The buttery bread and tart jam was delicious. Before she knew it, she’d eaten half. Save some for Dirina and Pas, she told herself sternly. She wrapped the rest, put it in a pocket.
Birdsong and squirrel complaints accompanied a distant hum of flies and bees contentedly going about their summer business. Her bare feet fell comfortably against the packed dirt of the road, calloused from months of barefoot walking made more attractive by her turnshoes having grown tight this last year as she got older.
A glance up to where pine and oak and maple met thickly overhead told her it was nearly noon, which meant plenty of day left to work the fields or help wherever Enana needed. And to share the rest of the bread roll.
Around her the underbrush was thick with ferns and flowers. Having learned their names and what they were good for, she was tempted to stay awhile and pick red and white bleeding hearts or blue sour tangle. Even stinging nettles, now that she knew how to harvest them without getting stung. More likely, Enana would appreciate getting the bag of groceries sooner.
What a change, this life of such pleasurable choices. Living with Enana and her family, she nearly felt she had a home. Indeed, she was now willing to admit, in the privacy of her own heart, Enana reminded her a little of her own mother, so many years gone.
And all this gladness because she had silenced her visions. It had taken work, but in a way it was also easy: if she didn’t ask herself any questions — not even half-questions or sort-of questions — the visions would not try to answer her.
Which meant her life was her own. Foreseeing a possible future seemed to draw her onto that path, making her a part of it, no matter what she wanted or intended.
Two squirrels furiously and noisily chased each other up a tree, over a branch, and leapt across to another trunk. There, she thought; just so: knowing which branch they would take would make no difference. It did not make her bag of groceries lighter. It did not make Enana’s stew taste better.
The only thing her years of foreseeing had done was cause her and those she loved pain, put their lives in danger. That part of her life was over. Now she was like everyone else. Now she saw only what was in front of her.
For a brief moment, memory of a dark figure on a horse at the edge of a river.
No, that was the past. She pushed it away.
It brushed her, then, the barest chill of vision, like a sharp winter breeze stabbing through this thick, hot summer day. Images tried to form in her mind.
“No,” she said fiercely, waving her hands as if to brush away flies.
A deep breath. She inhaled the smells of grass and earth around her, felt the light breeze that brushed her skin.
She thought of Pas. He would smile when she got back home, dash over to her, reached up to be lifted. She imagined his small fingers. Imagined, not foresaw.
A nagging feeling came over her. The road before her curved around a blind rise.
Vision was trying to tell her something. She pushed it away.
After supper she would play games with Pas. She would teach him new words. Maybe Enana would tell them a story.
Her steps slowed.
He couldn’t have tracked them here, not after so long. Could he?