Chapter 32: Detour

Ancient trees from the Fasilmir Forest are cut and floated down the Fasil River, colloquially known as Logjam River. These are cut and shipped to Jinto Panzir for shipment to the rest of the country. — Basmov Hilden, Encyclopedia of Kormar, Third Edition

Kanéko listened to Ruben’s whispered stories as she rested against a tree. The air was warm around her but the shade above her kept the direct heat off her face. It was the perfect spot to doze and she had trouble keeping her eyes open as Ruben’s monotone voice droned on with remembered stories from Lopidir.

Movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Looking up, she spotted Maris staggering back over a nearby hill. Grass and twigs stuck out of her black hair, and her dress had torn in the front.

Kanéko frowned and stood up.

Ruben’s voice stopped mid-sentence as he looked expectantly at her. “She may require your attention.”

Maris’s ears flattened against the side of her head.

“Something wrong?” Kanéko stepped out of the shade.

“Maris Germudrir is learning how to use magic through trial and error. The chances of self injury are high. She risks her safety if she continues to practice in this manner.”

Kanéko shot a glare back at him. “Is there a better way to teach her?”

“I am unaware of any technique suited for learning in this environment. However, I’m not adept at utilizing my knowledge.”

A prickle of frustration and annoyance plucked at her temper. “I’m trying the best I can.”

“There is no doubt of that, I was simply stating a fact. Maris has little self control, and she is prone to excitement. Her injuries are rarely life-threatening but frequent.” Ruben stood up, his shorter frame barely reaching over her hip. “She will be in high spirits once she sees you.”

Kanéko stared at him. “What?”

“Maris Germudrir is quite fond of you, Kanéko Lurkuklan.”

A blush colored Kanéko’s cheeks. She turned away to avoid looking into his blue eyes. She also began to think of gears and plans in her head.

Ruben chuckled once. “I don’t probe into inner thoughts. That would require an intimacy that you have not granted me.”

“Kan! Kan!”

Kanéko looked up. Maris looked completely different as she bounded down the hill. She had her arms open wide for a hug. Her ears were perked up and her tail wagging back and forth. Kanéko spotted wind gathering behind Maris and braced herself.

Maris launched herself forward in an explosion of grass, dirt, and flowers. She flew the last few feet to tackle into Kanéko, slamming her shoulder into the darker girl’s belly and launching her into the shaded area.

Even expecting it, Kanéko could do nothing until they both landed among dry leaves and the soft ground. She let out a grunt.

Maris pulled back, her ears once again against the side of her head. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Kanéko croaked, “but I’m having trouble breathing.”

“And if you can talk, you’ll live,” said the dalpre playfully before hugging her again.

“Off! Off!”

When Maris knelt back, Kanéko pushed herself into a sitting position.

The dalpre squirmed, bouncing back and forth as her hips rocked to the side.

Kanéko giggled and plucked a leaf from the girl’s dark hair. “What happened?”

Ears drooped and Maris looked sheepish. “I got excited. And I was flying really fast. And I fell. And I got wet, so I took a nap.”

In the pause that followed, Maris hopped up and trotted over to the fire. Scraping the remains of lunch—Ruben made it while telling stories—from the pan, she dumped it on three small vomen plates and brought it back. Sitting down cross-legged, she set all three on her lap and began to eat ravenously.

Ruben gestured out in the fields. “Did you see Damagar again?”

“He’s still heading west. And kind of south. Mostly in a big zigzag about… I don’t know, forty leagues wide. He’s doing that land, make a crater, and think hard thing.”

“Forty leagues is excessive,” said Ruben. “That is over one hundred miles which would—”

“But you measure distances all the time, Rub!”

“I do, by sight. Accurate to—”

“And then you can measure my kick when I knock—”

Kanéko sighed and held up her hands. When they quieted, she said, “He’s still looking for us. Hold on.” She walked back to the cave. Coming back with the map from Cobin’s pack, she sat it down on the ground.

Maris reached over and used a finger sticky with food to smear out new points. “Here. And here. And here. And here.”

When she finished, Kanéko peered at the map. She saw an obvious pattern to Damagar’s movements. “Look, if we draw a line…” Kanéko used the end of a charred twig to draw a line through the spots Maris marked. Following it, it led straight to Rock River, the mill, and the tower. “He’s heading on the same route we were thinking about.”

Ruben nodded. “That seems reasonable. He could have picked up that you were heading home.”

Kanéko shook her head. “I told Virsian we were heading home so Garèo would know. And we’ve been going this way for a while. And, this is the route we were taking, along the northern part of this ridge.” Kanéko finished by pointing to the rough hills and ridges to the south, barely visible over the rolling hills.

Ruben sighed. “He is working with a systematic pattern to find us en route but most likely heading toward your destination, Lurkuklan Tower. If we remain here to hide, then the behemoth will arrive first.”

Kanéko worried her lip. “I’m sure Papa can handle him, if Damagar beats us to the tower—”

“Unlikely,” said Ruben but Kanéko ignored him.

“But, we need to warn him. How long do you think it would take for us to get there?”

Ruben said, “At best guess, we’re four days, ten hours out.”

With a sigh, Kanéko looked out toward home. “If Maris could fly both of us—”

Maris whimpered. “Sorry…”

Kanéko cleared her throat. “I have a different idea. Look, we can’t take the main road because these marks are where Cobin and Sinmak have men waiting for us.”

“And they have flying things going that way.”

Kanéko paused, looking up at Maris. “What flying things?”

“There were these three yellow flying things. They looked like a wings about a rod across. And have little tubes on them that jetted air, but they had the same sign as Sinmak’s boat on them. And I saw them and ran away.”

Kanéko shook her head. “I-I don’t know what you mean.”

Maris opened her mouth, and then closed it. “I don’t know how to explain it. They were floating in the air, but moving really fast. They followed the road here,” she pointed to the map.

She pointed to another spot some distance away. “I was over here.”

“Did they see you?”

“I don’t think so. They were going along the road and I was… picking branches out of my hair.”

Taking a deep breath, Kanéko returned to the map. “Then we can’t take that route. That follows the Icewalk River. We have Damagar searching south of that road and the river, right in the path straight home. So, why don’t we,” she trailed her finger down to a river south of the hills near them, “take the Logjam back home? Cobin doesn’t have any men there and maybe we can circle around Damagar?”

“That route is unfeasible,” announced Ruben.

“Why not?” asked Maris. “The mill is on the Logjam.”

“We’re down river from the mill and it goes through rough rocks. We’d be climbing the entire time. There isn’t enough game or plants to feed us. The mill dalpre don’t go upriver either, they have an alternative route along the road we originally planned on following.”

“Yeah,” added Maris, “we just make a barge out of the logs when we send it down, and then take it apart at Panzir before putting it on the train. And, when Bor and Rut deliver wood, they go with. And they take twelve days for a round trip, three down the river and nine back on foot.”

Kanéko grinned. “Why not sail up it?”

“Sail?” Ruben shook his head, “even if we found a sail boat—”

“No, Ruben, I’m saying build a boat, at least a raft. We can use the blankets here from the cave and maybe get some wood. You found all that rope in the cabinet, we can use that. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to keep us floating.”

“It won’t work,” insisted Ruben, “even if we built something, we’d spend most of our time fighting the current. We’d need a very strong, steady wind—”

Kanéko pointed to Maris who blinked curiously.

Ruben continued, “—blowing on us just to keep it moving… what?”

Kanéko gestured again to Maris.

“I fail to see how Maris could help us.”

“Strong, steady wind? I bet it takes a lot less energy to push a sail boat than to fly around.”

Maris’s eyes widened and she let out a barking laugh. She jumped up and down, bouncing. Around her, wind swirled with her excitement. “I can blow it up the river!”

She paused, the wind dying down instantly. “What’s a sail boat?”

The boy opened his mouth, and then closed it. Kanéko could see him trying to explain why it wouldn’t work. She cleared her throat. “Ruben, trust me. There should be some trees in those rocks. We have cutting tools here in the cave. It may not be comfortable, but we don’t have enemies on that river.”

“I… I…” Ruben shook his head, a dejected look on his face. “I don’t—”

Maris spoke up. “Rub?” She patted him on the head. “Kan is really smart. And you think good. And I can make wind. And I want to try. And I know the Logjam. And I’ve done it twice with Rut. And there are markers on the river to tell you where to avoid things.”

“But—”

“Trust Kan, Ruben.”