Home > The Second Blind Son (The Chronicles of Saylok)(4)

The Second Blind Son (The Chronicles of Saylok)(4)
Author: Amy Harmon

“I am not a woman either.”

“But you are . . . a girl?”

She frowned. “Yes. Can’t you tell?”

“I’ve never met a . . . young . . . girl. There aren’t many girls in Saylok . . . and there are no girls among the cave keepers.”

“Who are the cave keepers? And what is Saylok?” she asked, but her throat was growing tight with panic. Where was she? And what was wrong with this boy’s eyes? They reminded her of Gilly’s eyes. And Gilly was dead.

“This is Saylok.”

Saylok did not look so different from home. Trees, rocks, towering cliffs, and a white-sand beach rimmed in forest.

“This beach is Saylok?”

“This whole land. But we are in Leok, a part of it . . . though no one lives along this stretch because of the storms.”

“No one but you?”

“No one but me . . . and Arwin.”

“Who is Arwin?”

“He is my teacher.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. He’ll be back. Sometimes I feel him watching. But not now. Not for days. I think he’s begun to believe I can manage without him. It is part of my training.”

“You are training? For what?”

“To live on my own.”

Why would he want to live on his own? Ghisla did not want to live on her own. Yet she did. She would forever be on her own. She swayed, already wearied, wanting to sink back down to the sand and fall back into the river of dreams that had brought her here.

“Come . . . I will take you to the stream,” the boy said, turning away. She watched him for a moment, not certain if she should follow.

“I will not harm you,” he called, but did not slow. “You have nothing to fear from me.”

She hurried to catch up, toddling along behind him. He moved easily. Uprightly. But he led each step with the butt of his stick.

“Can you not see?” Ghisla asked, the realization seeping through her addled thoughts.

“I cannot.”

She didn’t know what to say. His voice was unconcerned, and he moved with surety and even grace, aware of his footsteps but not hesitant or fearful.

“How do you know where you’re going?” she whispered.

“I have been here many times before. I live here.” He smiled toward her, as though he thought her funny, and she stared up at his cloudy eyes once more, flabbergasted.

She was not watching where she placed her feet as she climbed past him and she tripped, falling heavily to her hands and knees. A spray of rocks tumbled down the slope.

He stopped immediately and extended a hand in her direction.

“Are you hurt?”

Her hands were raw, and her right knee was scraped. As she watched, blood beaded along the deepest welt, but no real harm was done.

“I am fine,” she said.

“It might be easier for you if you follow behind. You will have time to stare at me after we’ve stopped.”

She didn’t try to defend herself but took his hand to rise and then fell in behind him, watching the path with more care.

He picked his way over rocks and up a small rise to a copse of trees where a small stream tumbled between the trunks.

“Here. The water is sweet and cold, but take care to stay on the banks—it deepens abruptly. You can wash your wounds as well.”

“I am not wounded.”

“You are not bleeding?” he asked mildly.

She frowned, caught in her lie and not certain how he could possibly know such a thing.

“Are you certain you cannot see?” She waved her arms to test his claim.

“The air moves when you do that,” he said. “I can hear you . . . and feel it. And blood has a very particular scent.”

She stopped flapping, embarrassed. “You smelled my blood?”

“Yes.”

“Where am I bleeding?”

“I don’t know that . . . but the flesh on the knees is much thinner than that on the palms. And judging from the sound of your fall, I’m guessing your knees are bleeding.”

“Only one of them,” she grumbled. “It doesn’t even hurt.”

“I think it does. Do you need my help?”

She ignored his question and moved past him to the creek. She paid heed to his instructions, though, and stayed on the bank, drinking her fill from the water that rushed over the smooth rocks. When she was sated, she rinsed the salt from her arms and legs and washed her bloodied knee, careful to do so without a wince or murmur. He waited nearby, his head tipped in such a way that she guessed he was listening the way most men watched, counting her swallows and marking each move she made.

“I will refill your flask,” she offered when she had finished. “The one I emptied.” But he approached, crouched beside her, and did it himself, his head still cocked, keeping track of her.

When he rose again, tucking the flask into his belt, she rose too, suddenly fearful she’d offended him, and that he would leave.

“I am Ghisla,” she said.

“Ghisla,” he repeated with a nod. “How old are you, Ghisla?”

“I have fourteen summers.”

“Fourteen?” He sounded surprised.

“Yes.”

“You are . . . small?” He asked the question as though he wasn’t certain he was correct . . . or he wasn’t certain she was being truthful.

“I am very small. My mother said all our people grow slowly.”

“Your mother?”

“She is dead.” Her voice was dull to her own ears, but the boy didn’t say he was sorry or ask for further explanation. He was simply quiet, as though waiting for her to tell him more. She didn’t.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“I am sixteen. We are not so different in age,” he said slowly.

“You are tall,” she said.

“Am I?” he asked, interested.

“Do your people grow big?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know because you can’t see?” she pressed.

“I don’t know because I . . . don’t . . . know my people.”

“Do you have a name?”

He seemed to think about that. “Yes.”

She waited, but he didn’t offer it.

“What shall I call you?” Her voice was sharp now. She was weary. Not scared. Not anymore. Just weary. Her bones ached and her belly growled in hunger, and the water she’d filled it with sloshed angrily against the hollows.

“You can call me Hod.”

“Hod?” What an odd name. It rhymed with toad. She wondered if he would suddenly hop away. She hoped he wouldn’t. She needed him. She had grown very tired all of a sudden.

“Yes. Hod. That is what Arwin calls me.”

“Arwin . . . Your teacher?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe Arwin can teach me too,” she murmured.

Hod frowned, confused.

“But . . . you can see,” he asked, halting. “Can’t you?”

“Yes. But I don’t know how to live on my own.”

His face smoothed in understanding.

“I am very tired, Hod,” she said. “I am very tired and very hungry. And yes . . . I need your help.”

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