Real Life TM has intervened temporarily which means I’m not getting time to update the zine quite as often as I’d like. However, this should calm down soon and in the meantime, here’s another cute little story from Jeff, as part of his Marogas Hills tale. I hope you enjoy it – and don’t worry, Jeff assures me there’ll be another episode soon!
They had climbed the hills and found a passage between two of them when the sun came up. There was an area like a natural bowl made of hills and a steep rock wall in the middle of the hills.
“There,” Zinack said, pointing to a clump of dark green bushes amid the rocks. They could see a patch of darkness through the thick greenery.
“The caves?” Zayas asked.
Zinack nodded and signaled for quiet. Zayas wondered why, if they were alone.
They climbed over the rocks and past the brush to a low opening in the reddish stone. Zinack pointed and Zayas followed him into the cave. Once inside, Zinack breathed a sigh of relief.
“We should be safe now,” Zinack said. “Even if they track us, they won’t be able to come in here.”
The inside of the cave was about the size of the back room they usually slept in. The roof was low and Zinack stretched his arm up and touched the roof. Zayas looked around; there was what looked like a tunnel toward the back of the cave.
Zayas was going to ask something when he felt a breath of wind from behind him and heard a sound. A deep sound, like a huge animal breathing. Then there was another rush of air.
The cave was breathing.
Zinack nodded. “There’s a wind hole a little further down the cave. Just steer clear of it if we have to go in deeper.” He felt along the walls of the cave and peeled what first looked like shadow but was a black moss. He sniffed it and smiled, then he tore the sheet of moss in half.
“Here, have some of this,” Zinack said, handing it to Zayas. “It’s good as long as it hasn’t gone yellow.”
Zayas cautiously tried the moss. It was surprisingly salty but tasty. He hadn’t eaten anything since their rations at sunset.
“This is good.” Zayas said. “How did you know about edible cave moss? Did that water cave monk tell you about it?”
“Something like that,” Zinack said. “I read about it when I was in school. The monk confirmed it would be here.”
Zayas shook his head. He had never learned to read, it was not considered necessary for a slave to read but Zinack had not always been a slave.
“We’ll be safe here, but don’t try to step out of the cave,” Zinack said. “We’ll figure out where we’re going after we’re sure nobody is tracking us.”
Zayas nodded and finished eating the moss.
Zayas woke with a start.
The angle of light from the opening meant he had been asleep for a few hours. He was huddled up next to Zinack, his soft breathing and the breath noises of the cave had lulled him to sleep. It must be near Middle-Day.
He reached up and put his hand on Zinack’s shoulder; he was still asleep. Zayas realized he was staring at their bare arms where the binding tatts had been. Zayas realized he couldn’t remember sleeping this late, or even being allowed to sleep this late. He smiled as he lay his head back on Zinack’s chest.
He heard a sound form outside the cave. In the distance but getting closer. Talking. And barking. Trackers! And their dogs!
Zayas shook Zinack awake and clamped a hand over his mouth and then pointed at the cave entrance.
The sounds were coming closer.
“We need to run.” Zayas whispered.
“We can’t.” Zinack said.
“To the back of the caves,” Zayas said scrambling to his feet and pointing to the dark hole in the far wall.
Zinack grabbed his arm. “No. We can’t go to the lower caves. They are back there.”
“They?” Zayas asked but Zinack hushed him. The sounds of the dogs were coming closer.
“In there,” came the voice. “They’re in there!”
Zinack clenched his fists. Zayas glanced around the floor and walls of the cave looking for rocks, branches, anything to use as a weapon.
“I will die here before I let anyone become my master again,” Zayas muttered.
They could hear the dogs and trackers just outside the cave entrance and even see their shadows. Then there was a low, guttural roar that swelled around them and then a cold wind from the back of the cave blasted past them almost knocking them over. They could hear the wind roaring outside the cave and see dust and leaves swirling in the daylight and then they heard the screaming of the men and the agonized howling of the dogs.
Then the wind died down into silence.
“The power of the Dal Lords,” Zinack said. He looked pale.
Oh, Zinack, what did you get us into? Zayas thought.
“We cannot stay here,” Zinack said. “By middle-week all three moons will be in the sky. We must leave here by then.”
“Where do we go?” Zayas asked.
“Toward the Moonrise,” Zinack said. “Along the edge of the desert. We will be out of the domain of our Master.” He shrugged. “That is all I know.”
Zayas held Zinack and they kissed, but Zayas noticed Zinack was still shaking.