Chapter 1 Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 2 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Chapter 1: Reunion

“In the dark of the moon, the child will be born to bear the mark of the ancients. When the Makers’ Art fails men’s grasp, the get of all tribes will overreach them. As the lodestone is drawn to the pole, his path will end at the beginning. None before him shall know the ancient gate, yet within him lies the key to its power. Like the fire that creates even as it destroys, his choice will save or doom all mankind.”

Prophecy of the Crystal Shadows

Devon was bored. He preferred to keep himself too busy to think, but life in Guardian Village didn’t always give him that option. Between seasons like this, he always found himself wondering what life was like in the cities to the south. Exciting events were always unfolding there, no doubt. But not here in this sleepy rural village clinging to the shoulders of the Barrier Mountains.

The late summer air was starting to turn crisp. Fall came suddenly and with little warning, and old Geoff’s surefooted herd was visible on the lower slopes to the north, driven down from the higher grazing valleys by an early frost. He would need ranch hands soon to help him thin the herd for the coming winter.

Geoff was a stingy old rancher who would just as soon give away blood as golds, but he was a good rancher for all that. He knew from hard experience that keeping the oldest goats through the winter would weaken his young kids and milk producing dams so much that he risked losing the best of the herd before spring thaw. So every fall, he hired local boys like Devon for as little gold as possible to help him get the oldest of the flock to market. Most of them were sold live. A few were turned into meat, hide, hoof, horn, and whatever else the renderers could get out of them.

Devon didn’t enjoy the thinning, but it kept him busy and conserved his summer golds during the lean times between the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall. But Geoff would put that chore off until the weather forced his hand, another two or three quints at least. Devon was stuck with little to do and no way to avoid spending his hard earned money.

In the summer Devon was a guide for the rambles, touring caravans full of wealthy landowners and powerful mystics. The landowners came in search of diversion from idle days in the Fertile Plains, and the mystics came in search of respite from the sand storms in the Great Desert. They paid well, and at only fourteen seasonturns Devon was already one of the most skilled guides in the Barriers.

Autumn brought the wagon trains full of traders to barter grains, spices, crystal, and glass for Guardian Village’s goats, metal ore, grapes, sourpears, wine and cider. During the flurry of the Harvest Bazaar, traders always required errand runners, messengers, and delivery hands.

In the long winter, Guardian Village was mostly isolated, so Devon spent golds then, augmenting them with what he could get for hauling firewood and clearing paths for the council.

The spring was little better. Planting or pruning in the orchards earned him a meager income. The spring melt also opened the metal works where Devon could pan in the raceways or dig in the tunnels if he was desperate enough. Mine workers made a choice Devon didn’t relish, between a quick death in a cave-in or a flash flood, and a slow lingering death from raceway foot or tunnel lung.

“Wool gathering again I see!” A familiar ruddy faced figure strode up the gravel-strewn path into the market square, to Devon’s enthusiastic surprise.

“Fronek! But…” Devon sputtered incoherently for an eternity before breaking into a sly grin. “You’re early!”

“Now is that any way to treat an old campaigner? Bah! Mind your manners or I won’t be telling your favorite stories through the long dark winter! Now quit sitting there like a lump! Come give an old man a hand with his gear!” With that he unceremoniously dropped his rucksack to the ground and continued up the road toward Mabel’s Inn. He left Devon to scramble off his perch and heave the bag made of ancient creaking leather to his shoulder. Unaware that he was leaving his boredom behind him for good in a slowly settling cloud of road dust, Devon followed in Fronek’s lengthening shadow.

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