An excerpt from a larger story.
Sunrise is supposed to be a thing of hope; a rising out of darkness to the return of the light. It is supposed to be glorious, magical, and full of possibility. Not for me. Not any more. With the coming of each new day the fear, which I thought could not get any worse, grows exponentially. Which is why, the moment the curtain of night draws back from the sky – the very instant it grows light enough to perceive shapes in the shadows – I stow my belongings in my saddlebags, fill up my water skin, and move on.
Even breakfast has become a meagre affair, a ritual of necessity rather than the pleasure. Most days I force down strips of cold, salt pork in the saddle and wash it down with fresh river water. Riding beside the turbulent and spirited Hael does have its advantages. I never have to go off course for water, though some days the banks are so high that I have to ride far before I can reach it.
The sky has been growing steadily lighter for over an hour and the smooth tan flanks of my mount are darkening beneath a light sheen of sweat as streaks of fire begin to bloom above the eastern horizon. Herald for the sun’s imminent arrival, it’s gentle touch warms the cool, cerulean sky with broad strokes of amber and persimmon, carmine and amethyst. A strong night wind has chased away the clouds of yesterday, leaving a vast, empty canvas for dawn’s flamboyant pageantry. It’s the kind of day I might have loved.
Despite my mood, there’s a part of me that can’t help noticing the opulence of the land I ride through. The changing of the season, the cooling of the air, and the growth brought on by the rains have turned the wide prairie into a thriving tumult of waving wildflowers, trailing shrubs and aromatic herbs. Splashes of vibrant colour and sublime scents assault my senses – the heady tang and zest of Syndra’s profusion tempting me to turn aside and rest. But it’s been three days since I crossed the river Pery and turned north. Three days and still the mountains are nothing but a distant grey blur on the horizon and no matter how hard I push the horse, or how little I sleep, they never get any closer.
All the hope I have lies in those mountains.
Above the craggy foothills and the watchful forests, far beyond the furthest settlements of my people, is the spring that our ancestors call the Tears of Kallarys; the source of the river that I now follow. I must get there. Soon.