AN: Please R&R – hope you like! Sorry for the really really long wait between chappies!
Chapter Seven: Hope
Sari aimlessly wandered the surrounding hillside for several days after saying farewell to the Knight and his squire. Having forgotten to ask Aaron (or Feln, for that matter) about a map, and having absolutely no idea about the location of any towns or villages near Tirragen, it seemed to Sari that she could wander forever without any contact with human beings.
It was nearly sundown on her fourth day of loneliness when Sari stumbled upon a small village. Building her will to reveal herself to those surrounding her, Sari walked towards the small town. Farmers worked in fields surrounding the small houses and eyed her nervously as she walked past, head down modestly. She walked through the humble village gate and on to the centre of town before she was rudely stopped by a middle-aged man carrying a staff.
He grabbed her arm, forcing her to halt. "What do you want in Alois, girl?"
Sari stared at him for a moment and then gently prised his fingers off her arm. "My apologies, good sir," she said, curtseying briefly. "My name is Sari and I am but a wandering traveller, seeking some hospice for the night."
The man looked her up and down deliberately. "You look like one of them desert scum, girl. What do you want with us?"
Sari took a deep breath to control her rising anger and replied with as politely as she could, "My people asked me to leave. I have come seeking a new home."
"If your own people don't want you, what makes you think that we want you? Here," at this, the man took a step back. "You haven't . . . you know, killed anyone, have you?"
The wind began to pick up as Sari tried, unsuccessfully, to control her anger as it started to spiral out of control. The man, sensing that the unnatural wind was originating from this unnerving Bazhir girl took another step back and called out in a very shaky voice,
"Marcus, Marcus, come here at once!! I, I, we need your help!"
A second voice sounded in the distance, "Quit your whinging, Kirt, I shall be there in barely a moment!"
Kirt, still shaking visibly, took a third step back from Sari and called again to the mysterious Marcus, "Good sir, I think you should come right now."
Sounding annoyed, Marcus called, "Alright, I'm coming!"
Sari barely had time to register the fact that someone else was coming. The sky turned thunderous and lightning appeared to strike a dead tree nearby; a child screamed and the village of Alois was suddenly a hive of activity, people rushing this way and that in an effort to escape the unnatural storm. Sari flopped to the ground and closed her eyes in a vain attempt to stop the storm before it destroyed the whole town and the people in it.
Suddenly Marcus grabbed her by the wrist and yelled in her ear.
"Girl, stop that at once!"
The shock of being addressed in such a manner (and, in fact, that anyone had tried to approach her when she was (as she saw it) a danger not only to herself but to others around her) cut the storm off just as it was building to its climax. Sari opened her eyes and felt herself calm automatically. She looked up at the sky and saw it had returned to its normal colour.
"Girl, what by the name of the Great Mother were you doing? You could have killed us all! That much magic! It's a wonder you're still alive yourself!"
Marcus shook Sari with such force that she felt slightly ill. Breaking out of his grasp, Sari placed her hands at her temples in an attempt to ease a newly developing headache.
"Do you know what this is, Kirt?" Marcus continued, turning his focus from Sari. "She's got the Gift! Untrained, mind, but a powerful Gift nevertheless! This could be the answer!"
Smiling broadly, he turned back to Sari, while a bewildered Kirt simply stared open mouthed at Marcus. "You, girl, what's your name?"
"Well, Sari," he continued, with a fluid bow, "I am Marcus of Alois, a travelling horse trader, well, I was until recently when the village sorcerer died. Since then, I have been trying to sell horses from Alois and protect the village. This," with a gesture in Kirt's general location, "Is Kirt, our Headman, and my esteemed older brother."
Marcus smiled broadly at Sari, who couldn't help but smile back at him.
"Sari, my dear, did you know that you have the Gift?"
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
"And you're untrained?"
Again, Sari nodded.
"And I overheard my honoured brother saying that you're an outcast of the Bazhir?"
For a third time, Sari nodded, sadly this time.
With another nod in Kirt's direction, Marcus continued. "I have an offer for you then, Sari. How would you like to stay here in Alois and learn hone your gift? I can teach you how to use and control your gift and then I can go back to being a horse trader and you can look after Alois. It's a win-win situation!"
Kirt sighed dramatically. "That's fine, younger brother, make decisions about my own village without consulting me."
Marcus grinned at him. "But brother, it is as I have said, a win-win situation. Sari seems to have excellent potential, and this way you go back to having a proper sorce . . . my apologies, sorceress in attendance to protect your village from bandits." Turning to Sari, he added, "so, how about it?"
Sari found herself nodding in the affirmative and was dragged off by the exuberant Marcus to meet his wife. Kirt followed at a safe distance, still slightly shocked by the sudden turn of events in his village. It looked like he'd have a sorceress to protect them again much sooner than he'd thought, excellent.
Later that night, having spent the rest of the afternoon talking with Marcus and his wife and then finding a small room in the only inn in the village to stay in, Sari unpacked her paltry possessions and pulled the map out from its hiding place. Sari opened it up and stared at it. Unable to read or write, she had no idea what the map said, but could follow the tracks to the star at its top, where she assumed the dominion jewel would be kept. Sighing to herself, she folded it back up and tucked it away for safe keeping. She hoped that Aaron had been right, that the seekers would find the map and find the Jewel. In the mean time, she intended to do her sworn word and keep it safe.
Lying down on her cot, Sari's mind began to wander. For the first time since she had left them, she thought about the Bazhir and her home. Sighing deeply, Sari turned over and closed her eyes, willing for sleep.