John Horne

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Epilogue: A Reunion of Friends

April 15th, 2008 · No Comments

The time flew by and no one was more surprised than Garyth when Samir announced one day at breakfast that he and Al-tir would start out the following morning for the mountain city. He said the lame horse was cured and he was naming him Meeta, after a brave horse in one of the clan’s fireside stories. He added that Steven’s horse would be returning with them to Xenar, but the saddle Steven had been using would remain with Meeta.

Carlten suggested that Tarn and Meeta could carry Garyth, Steven, Terry, and Sarena down to Bridgeboro, where Steven would get transportation to Riverhaven to give his report, and Terry could visit with her father. He quickly added that, even though Garyth was home again, Terry was a member of their “clan” now and they could no more do without her than they could allow Randal to return to Dryish. He and Gracie would look after the herd while they were away.

Samir and Al-tir spent their last day getting things sorted and packed while Garyth and Steven went out to hunt up some game to smoke overnight for the travelers. Merry brought out a beautiful shawl she had woven for Al-tir. Many nights Merry had stayed up late working on this gift, and Al-tir was overwhelmed. For her part, she presented two decorative combs, exquisitely crafted from tortoise shell, to Garyth and Steven.

“These won’t look very good in your hair,” she said, “but I am certain you each know someone who would love a pretty comb.” They thanked her and assured her that they knew a couple of goatherders who might like such finery.

The household was up very early next morning to say good-bye to Samir and Al-tir. Garyth and Steven accompanied them down to the valley floor and across the rubble pile, where they all dismounted and said their Godspeeds in the fashion of the clans. Then Al-tir embraced Garyth and whispered to him, “God bless you, horse brother. I will miss you very much. Perhaps I will join next summer’s expedition just so I can come back here.”

Garyth could find no words except, “I’ll miss you too. Please do come back.” As he and Steven rode back to the house, Garyth contemplated how Al-tir had never before addressed him as horse brother, a term of deep affection among the Xenarian clans.

When they neared the house, Steven said, “We have some presents to deliver to the high meadow, and some news too.” So they stopped just long enough to pick up things Merry wanted them to deliver to the girls, and then headed up the trail.

Terry and Sarena were delighted to see them but they were hurt that they didn’t get to share in the good-byes. They loved the combs from Al-tir and they immediately headed for a pool in the meadow stream to catch their reflections. Then Steven told the girls he would be leaving in a few days. His news was first met with silence.

“You can’t go if they took your horse,” Sarena finally blurted out.

“I guess I’ll have to take Meeta,” Steven answered, with a sly wink at Garyth.

“But then Meeta will be stuck in Bridgeboro,” Garyth countered.

“Somebody will have to go with me to Bridgeboro to bring him back,” Steven answered, looking at Terry.

“I think that somebody should be me,” Sarena quickly replied.

“You! You wouldn’t be able to find your way back home,” Garyth snickered.

“Don’t look at me,” Terry chimed in, “I don’t want to leave here to go anywhere.”

“What would you think if all four of us rode to Bridgeboro?” Garyth asked, unable to maintain an innocent face any longer. “We have Tarn and Meeta. We couldn’t gallop but it would be a lot easier than walking.”

“We have to look after the goats,” Terry replied.

“That’s all taken care of,” Garyth responded with a big grin.

Both girls were chasing him now. “You know something more and you’re teasing us, but we’ll get it out of you!”

They were laughing so hard he found it easy to dodge them. “Dad has it all planned out,” he shouted. “He and Gracie will come up here and we four will go to Bridgeboro.”

“We made a pact to meet there in autumn,” he reminded Steven and Terry, “and we can still do that even if it is a year late.”

“I’ll go so long as I can come back here with you,” Terry declared. “Winters are far too warm in Bridgeboro.”

Garyth reached for Terry’s hand. “I won’t leave you in Bridgeboro,” he promised. “My mother would not let me come back without you. After Sarena, you’re her favorite daughter.” He winked at his sister. “In fact, I think you are her favorite and Sarena is second.”

They finally sat down on the grass and began to lay plans. Steven did not want to delay more than three or four days, as he still had a long trip beyond Bridgeboro. Since they had gotten a lot of meadow grass cut over the past several weeks, Garyth thought they should leave as soon as his parents permitted so they could return when the cut grass had cured and was ready for storing. When the boys headed down late in the afternoon they told Sarena and Terry that they would return the next day with a departure date.

The change of guard in the high meadow took place on the third day after Samir’s departure, and the four young travelers left for Bridgeboro the following morning. They spent the first night at Jerrod and Violet’s farm and hardly got to sleep before dawn since Garyth was made to tell of all his travels. They stayed an extra day before heading down to Stockton.

After Stockton, it took them five days before they crossed a stream and rounded a bend and Garyth saw Meg and Meron’s farmhouse. They were given a joyful welcome and not allowed to continue that day. The family made place in the house for Sarena and Terry, but Garyth and Steven slept in the hayloft. The next morning Meg sent them off with bear hugs and lots of bread that she had baked overnight. They knew that on horseback they could cover the distance to Bridgeboro easily, so they stopped to eat beside the creek where Garyth had eaten a leisurely lunch with Hinton. Just as they were finishing, Sarena heard a distant clatter and asked what could be making such a noise.

“I think I may know,” Garyth said, as he and Terry mounted Tarn, and Steven and Sarena settled onto Meeta. They trotted back onto the main road just as a huge dog approached, leading a horse and wagon. Garyth and Terry both jumped down and ran to meet Hinton.

“Well,” Hinton exclaimed, “I recognize Steven and Terry and Carlten’s fair daughter Sarena, but who is this young warrior who rides a foreign horse?”

Garyth threw his arms around Hinton. “Just a simple Wyeland goatherd,” he said, smiling. “You are going the wrong way since we’ve taken all the bread Meg had in the house. You’ll just have to turn around and return to Bridgeboro to hear my tale.”

“Turn around Jessie,” Hinton called out to his horse. “I wouldn’t miss that story for anything.”

So the four, with Hinton, arrived at Bridgeboro in high spirits. There Hinton and Smyth heard Garyth’s tale from start to finish and would have gladly sat through a second telling. Terry was reunited with her father and step-family, knowing she had another family who loved her and awaited her return to the mountains. Steven obtained a horse from Wilton and continued his journey to Riverhaven.

Sarena and Garyth found hospitality at Bildon’s farm and prolonged their stay for a week. To their great surprise, Bildon gave Terry a horse of her own to ride back up to the high valley “so you can come back for visits more often.” His words revealed that Bildon expected Terry would not stay in Bridgeboro but would return to the mountains, and he was not surprised when Garyth asked his permission to marry his daughter.

“Garyth, I would be honored to have you for my son-in-law, and we will make the trip to witness the wedding. I know Terry loves you, but whatever I may say, she will speak for herself. You must never take her for granted.”

Garyth found that to be very good advice.

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