Outside of winter, hitching a ride on passing wagons was a relatively safe way of traveling long distance. The war changed that.
— Gardol de Hastor, The Changing Ways of Transportation
Linsan yawned as she walked along the side of the road. Unable to sleep because of her excitement, she had fretted and dozed throughout the night before giving up near the false dawn. A quick breakfast with the innkeeper’s wife got Linsan on the road and she had been walking ever since.
Fortunately for her, there were villages every couple leagues along this part of the country. Judging from her current pace and her memory of geography, she had another night or two of being able to sleep in public houses before the distances between the villages grew too much. By the end of the week, she would be camping at way stations or in the wild.
Patting her violin case, she tried not to think too far into the future. There was a doubt scratching the back of her head that she had picked the wrong direction and would spend a week walking nowhere only to find that she had lost the trail entirely.
Linsan steeled herself and kept on walking. She would make that decision tomorrow. If she hadn’t seen even a hint of the murderers by the time she had to camp, then it would be time to consider her options.
She let her mind drift to looking across the fields and trees that butted against the road. Even walking at a brisk rate, she saw landmarks hours before she reached them. The glacial pace was frustrating but she didn’t have the stamina to run between villages. However the fantasy of having the ability to move quickly entertained her as the minutes slowly slithered by; her mother had been a play about people who could fly fast.
A creaking behind her caught her attention. Slowing down, she peered over her shoulder while she rested her fingers on the latches of her case. It was a wagon pulled by a single horse. It bounced and squeaked as it swayed down the middle of the road.
As it got closer, Linsan could tell it was driven by a middle-aged woman with pale brown hair and a deep tan. She had a glove on her left hand but not her right.
The driver slowed down and the woman leaned over. Her eyes looked over Linsan from head to toe and back again. “You alone?”
Linsan nodded. “Yes, dame.”
“Walking to Palanis?” That was the next village according to the sign Linsan had passed recently.
“And beyond. I’m heading to Moon Over Stone Waters.”
The driver whistled. “That’s a pretty good hike. About three or four weeks walk, I be guessing.”
Linsan tried not to think about it.
The other woman’s eyes lifted for a moment. Then she looked at Linsan with a nod toward the back. “Want a ride? I’m heading through the villages until Roldal. Then I’m heading west to Gamis but you’ll still be going north there.”
Linsan let out a sigh of relief. “Please? That would really help.”
“I’m Maril, but I have to warn you. I’m not the fastest driver on a good day and this week is slower than usual. I’m in the midst of my cramps and the shits are pretty bad, so there is going to be a lot of stopping along the way. If you are in a hurry, feel free to get off any time but no complaining.”
Linsan was startled. Her mother had never been as frank about her period as Maril. In fact, Linsan’s lessons were just a few short, vague conversations in the hallway.
She gave Linsan a grim smile. “I’m probably not much in the mood to talk either.”
“That would be good. I’m looking for someone, so I’ve been asking in every village along the way.”
Maril smiled broadly and gestured to the back. “Then the Divine Couple have blessed both of us. Crawl in the back and don’t step on the boxes. That’s our supplies and I’d rather not be coming to words over them.”
Thankful, Linsan carefully crawled into the back with a silent prayer to the Divine Couple for helping her along. A wagon would be a lot faster and maybe she would finally catch up.