The Amulet Saga
Volume Two: The Traveler
Other stories in this series:
Rose stared down the dusty road in the direction the thief had gone until long after the sun climbed over the hills to the east. Myrta sat beside her, silent for a long while.
At last, Myrta put a hand on Rose’s arm. “What do you want to do now, m’lady?”
Rose choked back the tears that clouded her eyes and lodged in her throat. “I don’t know. He took our money and our clothes and even our food. I suppose we must go home. But I don’t even know how to get there without a horse. It’s been days since the last village, even on horseback. We’ll starve before we get anywhere. And there’s no telling how long it will be before my father’s men come this way. We can’t just sit and wait to be rescued, either.”
Myrta stood and brushed the dust from her backside. “Very well, then. If we cannot go back and we cannot stay here, we must move forward. Come along. There’s no time to waste.” She reached a hand down to Rose.
Rose grabbed it and heaved herself up. She stood in the road, staring in the way the thief had gone, while Myrta picked up both their cloaks and shook the dust from them.
Myrta handed Rose her cloak. “You still have the amethyst clasp. If need be, you could sell it.”
Rose nodded, only half listening. She glanced back the way they had come, half hoping to see a dust cloud announcing her father’s soldiers. If they came, some of them could return her home, while the others went in search of Sir Billham, the thief.
But no cloud of dust appeared, and Myrta was already walking down the road, continuing toward Nynthavin.
Rose followed. There wasn’t really anything else to do.
By afternoon, sweat and dirt caked every inch of her body. Her body ached in places she didn’t know existed. She’d taken off her dainty riding boots when the blisters that wore away at her feet became raw and started to bleed, and now she stepped carefully over the road in torn stockings.
Rose straightened her weary back and looked through the dusty glare to where Myrta pointed. “What is that?”
“I believe it’s a farmhouse. Come on. At the least they will give us some water.” Myrta pressed forward, not seeming to be in nearly as weary and sore as Rose.
Rose followed, straining with every step.
Myrta knocked on the farmhouse door. A young woman, not much older than Rose, with a baby on her hip and a toddler hiding behind her legs opened it.
“Greetings, good woman,” Myrta said. “My companion and I were travelling to Nynthavin and were set upon by thieves. They took everything we had, down to our food and water. Do you perhaps have something we could eat and drink? We will gladly help with any chores in exchange for whatever you can spare.”
The woman nodded. She pointed to a stone cistern a little way from the house. “Help yourself to some water. I’ll bring you some meat and bread.”
Myrta bowed. “Thank you, kind lady.”
Myrta led the way to the cistern and drew a dipper of water. She handed it to Rose. Rose gulped it down, splashing it on her face and chest in the process. Myrta continued to dip and hand Rose water until Rose was satisfied, then drank some herself.
A few minutes later, the farm woman emerged, without her children, and handed Myrta a parcel. “There is some meat and bread and cheese, there. You are welcome to it. I don’t need any help with chores.”
Myrta bowed. “You are kind and gracious. We thank you heartily for your hospitality. Could I trouble you to tell me how far it is to the next village?”
“You can reach it by nightfall, if you hurry,” the farm woman said.
Myrta nodded. “Our thanks again. May the Creator bless you.”
The woman raised an eyebrow, as though that was an unfamiliar phrase to her, but nodded. “Best of luck. May the goddess guide your way.”
Myrta took one more sip of water, then pulled Rose along back to the road.
“She could’ve at least let us stay and rest a bit,” Rose grumbled.
Myrta shook her head. “She was smart. She has a home and a family to protect. She doesn’t know us. Doesn’t know if our story is any truer than Sir Billham’s. She didn’t invite us in, and she didn’t give us any excuse to stay. She’ll watch us until we’re out of sight, and she’ll be wary for the next few days, but her family will be safe. And she fed us and gave us water. She did more than we can fairly expect. We’re beggars now, Rose, and until your father comes for us, we must behave like it.”
Myrta opened the parcel and handed Rose a thick chunk of soft bread. It was almost the best thing Rose had ever tasted. She tore off big bites and swallowed them hardly without chewing. Rose then handed her some meat and cheese, eating some herself while they walked.
Just as darkness settled over the land, Myrta pointed to a light in the distance, at the base of the next hill. “That must be the village. Come on, Rose. We can rest soon.”
One light turned to two, and soon a handful of them, glittering in the valley. As they walked, the lights became windows, and the windows nestled in buildings.
“A house. Perhaps we can get help there,” Rose said as they approached the first building.
Myrta shook her head. “Follow my lead, m’lady.”
Rose nodded. She was too tired to object.
Myrta walked to the green in the center of the village. The road circled it, and shops lined the road on the other side. Myrta paused and looked at the signs before continuing.
“This way.” Myrta walked toward a two-story inn called the Wayward Peddler.
Rose followed her around the side of the building to a back door that stood open, revealing a hot, fragrant kitchen.
Myrta knocked. A robust woman in a stained apron came to the door, and Myrta told her the same story she’d told the farm woman.
The woman nodded. “Come on in. I can spare a morsel to eat. One of our regular girls is sick and didn’t come in tonight, so you can serve in the tavern to earn your dinner and a place to sleep if you like.”
Myrta bowed. “We would be most grateful. I fear we have nothing suitable to wear, however.”
The woman eyed their once-fine garments.
“As you can see,” Myrta said, “our clothes are worth quite a lot once they’re clean. A person might get a small fortune for them if a trader came by. We would be willing to part with our gowns in exchange for a few days’ wages and some more sensible clothes.”
The woman rubbed her chin. “I’ll see if anyone is interested. I do have some extra dresses you can wear for tonight, at any rate.”
She led them to a back storage room and handed them each a coarse brown dress and stained apron.
“Come on,” Myrta urged as soon as the door shut them in. She handed Rose some of the food left from the farm woman. “We can eat more and sleep as soon as we do some work.”
When they were changed, Myrta put their cloaks in a burlap bag with the rest of the food from the farm woman and tucked the bag in the corner of the store room. “I’m hoping she won’t think of the cloaks when she gets the gowns. Above all, we must keep the amethyst safe.” She looked at Rose. “Are you ready to begin your new life as a tavern maid?”