Saturday, December 19, 2020

My Writing Journey - Part 7

Today I am sharing the second half of Chapter 4. This scene is Myra learning to survive alone in the woods with her "borrowed" mare. It's a work-in-progress and things might change.

This is my last sneak peek of the year. I have included links below if you missed any of my previous posts. If you think you would like to be part of a future street team and receive ARCs (advanced reader copies) for honest reviews, then please join my private Facebook group. I will also eventually set up a newsletter and then you can follow me there too. I appreciate you guys following along on my journey. Thanks!

P.S. All the photos you see are mine. It's nice being able to combine my photography with my writing.

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Check out today's excerpt below!

Here are the previous posts:

Here is today's sneak peek:
Chapter 4 - Part 2

Myra turned her thoughts back to riding. It was slow-going, riding at a walk without a road through unfamiliar terrain. Her horse seemed to take an interest in their new surroundings. Myra regretted not knowing the mare’s name. Earlier that morning, she was so distracted with the task at hand and her nausea a constant reminder of what was at stake that she had forgotten to ask what the horse’s name was.

Her mare was a general-purpose horse. She was a good horse for riding but also for working on the farms. When the Livanians had closed themselves off from the rest of the world, they had been selective in which animals to keep. The rest of their animals were sold or traded.

Myra was glad that she knew how to ride. There were many living in the Walled City who couldn’t. Myra and Nula had to learn several skills like horse-riding and music, being of noble birth. It’s funny how some things never change, even when the world was no longer watching.

Myra rode her mare at a steady walk through the mixed forest of broadleaf and coniferous trees. To the west was the cold ocean. To the south was the warm sea. She had seen the ocean once and knew about the sea from her geography lessons.

Her parents had taken them to the ocean when she was fifteen and Nula seventeen. They had gone on horseback with a small entourage. It was an educational excursion. King Ronan wanted his girls to learn more about the land and to see the ocean. He knew that reading about these things was good, but experiencing them was even better.

All that riding made them sore, but Myra didn’t mind too much. Being adventurous, she enjoyed it for the most part. Nula, on the other hand, was out of her comfort zone and pensive. She was similar to their mother in that regard, both being quiet for most of the trip. Myra was glad that her father and some of his advisors were good conversationalists. They were also willing to answer her questions about the forest. At the time, she had no idea to the extent that she would be relying on that information in her future.

This time though, Myra was heading away from the ocean in a south-easterly direction. She used the sun’s path to guide her, as well as the moss and spider webs. She knew that moss usually grew on the north side of trees and spider webs on the south. The journey was relatively peaceful. The days were warm and somewhat humid. Every day she saw squirrels running up trees and sometimes deer or a hare scampering away. She could hear the birds chirping, the wind rustling the leaves, and the crunching of dried underbrush beneath her mare’s hooves. Ordinarily, she loved nature, but not this much. Its vastness reminded her of just how small and alone she was. She found talking to her mare soothing, and it reassured them both. It still irked her that she didn’t know what to call her. She would have to remedy that soon.

Myra had brought some bread for the first few days and enough dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and cured meat to last her for a while. At this point, cooking wasn’t necessary. She could always find nuts, berries, and other edible plants like wild asparagus and dandelion flowers. These could be eaten raw, but the dandelion roots would require boiling in water to reduce the bitter taste.

Her horse also needed to eat, so she put her knowledge of plants to use. She was well-aware that grass didn’t grow in forests. Once a day, when it grew warmest, Myra would take a rest stop. While she ate, she allowed her mare to move about freely to graze and browse. Myra would also encourage her to eat by feeding her out of her hand. When she closed her eyes to take a nap, she would tether her horse near the edible plants.

She did the same at the end of the day, except, instead of tethering her horse, she would tie a highline. It gave her horse more room for browsing on edible trees and bushes and grazing on wildflowers. She had learned about tying a highline when she was making preparations to ride off with Damien. She had even practiced the knots ahead of time.

Every evening, after removing the saddlebags and saddle, she would brush her mare and clean her hooves. Then she would put up the highline by stringing a rope at about five feet high around two sturdy trees. When she finished eating and was ready to sleep, she would fasten the mare to the line using the halter rope, making sure the halter rope was long enough to allow for eating and sleeping.

Nights under the stars were unnerving. Unfamiliar sounds felt threatening, especially with everything shrouded in darkness. Myra didn’t dare risk making a fire, which could alert scouts of her presence. At least the moonlight was comforting when its light filtered through gaps in the trees.

Before lying down for the night, she would first place the broad hemp sheet that her blanket was rolled in on the ground and then her blanket on top of that. The hemp sheet protected her from the damp ground. It was also good insulation and resistant to mold. It even repelled insects. She rather liked not waking up in the night with something crawling on her face.

It was exhaustion that caused her to sleep soundly every night. She would fall asleep with her face wet from tears and awake wet from dew. Getting up was the worst. She always felt stiff and sore from hours in the saddle and sleeping on the ground. Her nausea was also more pronounced in the mornings. She found that eating dry bread while she still had some, as well as nuts and dried peach slices, helped her stomach to settle.

Myra sat on her blanket on such a morning, a couple of days into their journey. She was slowly chewing on a peach slice to settle her queasy stomach when her mare sniffed what was in her hand and then nibbled at it. Myra giggled, which caused her mare to feel uncertain and pull her head away. “It’s okay, girl. Here, try another one,” she said encouragingly and held out another slice. The mare tentatively reached for it. Myra gently stroked her head. She seemed to enjoy the treat and attention.

“You know, since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, I’ve been thinking of giving you a name. How about Peaches?” The mare pushed her head against Myra affectionately. “Okay, it’s Peaches then,” Myra said with a smile.

The days were warm, with some humidity, and the nights cool. Every morning a glistening layer of dew covered the forest, carrying the scents of decaying logs, damp soil, fresh wet trees, and sharp pine. Oddly, these scents never made Myra feel queasy. She even found the pungent earthy smells comforting. The early morning air filled her with a sense of new beginnings and possibilities.

When Myra rose and began moving about, the dew-covered leaves would inadvertently drip down onto any exposed skin. Sometimes cold water droplets would run down her neck, causing her to shiver. Being hit by wet leaves while riding was unavoidable. At least the forest didn’t stay wet for long, and she could always cover up with her hooded cloak. Myra preferred wearing linen in the summer, as it was a breathable material that didn’t cling to the skin. In her bags was a set of woolen clothes for when the weather turned cold.

There were scouts permanently patrolling the land on foot. They had shelters where they could sleep at night, but sometimes they patrolled a wider area and then slept outside. Well-maintained dirt roads led to each shelter. A pair of horses pulling a wagon would arrive at each to restock the food, water, and other supplies weekly. Fresh scouts would drive the supply wagons in, unhitch the horses for the night, and then take over scout duty the following day. The following morning, the scouts being replaced would harness the horses and drive the wagons back to the city.

Myra avoided these dirt roads as best as she could. If she came across one, she would take the time to sweep her mare’s hoof marks off the path. Myra didn’t want to invite trouble. Hopefully, she didn’t encounter Livanian scouts that were good at running long distances. It’s the only way one would be able to catch her on horseback. She didn’t know what would happen if she got caught, but she didn’t want to find out.

Twice it happened that a scout did spot her. Both times it was Myra’s fear that spurred her horse into a run. Myra had no time to think, only to feel panic. Peaches sensed her fear, and being an animal of prey, assumed that a predator was after them. Thankfully, they were never injured beyond a few scratches as Peaches ran, and they never got caught.

One of the most challenging parts of the journey was crossing the river. Thankfully, it was summertime, so the water level was low in places. Crossing the river in the winter would have been impossible with the melting snow and winter rains.

Myra rode for some distance, looking for a safe place to cross. The more frustrated she grew, the more unsettled Peaches became. Myra had to remind herself to remain calm. Eventually, she discovered deer tracks in the damp soil leading into the river. This discovery encouraged her. At this point, it was a gradual descent into the river.

Peaches lived to please, and Myra was grateful for it. She was going to need her mare’s cooperation to get them across. Having made up her mind, Myra mustered all of her confidence and kicked her horse forward. Peaches picked up her feet and snorted disapprovingly, but after much coaxing, she obeyed and stepped into the water. It took her a few moments to find her footing and to adjust to the sensation of the cold water pushing against her front and hind legs. Myra could feel her horse beneath her trying to maintain her balance. The smooth river stones were shifting underfoot, and she could hear the muffled sound coming from the water as her mare’s hooves clacked against them.

Peaches carefully picked her way across, snorting her displeasure, while Myra used a reassuring tone to keep her calm. She was relieved that the river never rose so high as to touch Peaches’ belly, which would have frightened her further. When they reached the other side, they climbed up the incline. She leaned forward in the saddle to assist her mare, and they made it safely onto Bariny land. That feat awarded Peaches lots of praise and pats on the neck.


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