lost and found


sweetheartIt was now nearly dark.  Eurydice was gone.  Persephone was gone.  Ting Ting’s cart had spilled its contents all over the rocks and she was trying to gather food stuffs into bags again and grumbling over broken pottery.  Her donkeys seemed to be tired and were standing with eyes half-closed after the excitement.  Only Demeter was trembling with emotion, Persephone’s clothes scattered across her back, the boots dropped on the ground.  “When I signed on for this trek, I was not warned about shape-shifting, or at least shape shifters who had no control.  I will be reporting this indiscretion to the Donkey Control Bureau,” she said in a quavering but outraged voice.  “In fact, I’m not sure that I can continue with this journey unless I am assured that this will not happen again.”

Tian Shih began to pick up bags and clothing to be placed in the cart.  “The girl is from the Dream Caves.  You know that.  She hasn’t been well-trained in controlling her Changes.  She has never lived above ground.  You know that too…”  Demeter broke in. “We were assured that she had been well-trained and understood the meaning of this trek.”

“No, and neither have I.  The knowledge we had came from Sister Cumie.”

“Sister Cumie?  You mean you skipped the Abbey?”

“We came from the Dream Caves straight to the cemetery.  For some reason the walnut did not work…” but Demeter broke in again.  “The walnuts do not malfunction.  There must have been a reason for you not to return to the ship.  They have a built-in sensor.”

Tian Shih mulled this over.  She did not understand the words “sensor” except as a derivative of “sensory” and “malfunction” she supposed could be divided into “mal” and “function”.  Ting Ting, who was efficiently stowing the bags away, murmured something.  “Yes, Ting Ting?” Tian Shih turned to her.

“Donkey cannot leave once trek has begun.  That was said to me.  Mistress and donkey are one.  Persephone and donkey are one.  This is journey.”  She looked at Demeter stubbornly, but the donkey refused to look at her.

“Is this true, Demeter?  You cannot leave the trek?”  Tian Shih took the donkey’s head in her hand’s to look in her eyes.  The donkey was warm and dusty and smelt of hay and corn and the indescribable horse smell of all stables everywhere.  Demeter met her eyes and they both knew that regardless of Persephone’s shape or location, Demeter would stay with her to the end.

“Then I must find both Eurydice and Persephone before we continue.  I brought Persephone with me—she is my responsibility and I cannot continue with Eurydice.  Do either of you know what shape Persephone has become.  I was busy dismounting when she Changed.”

Ting Ting’s mouth quirked a little and Tian Shih knew that her ‘dismount’ must have looked a little less than graceful.   Demeter shook her big donkey head and said, “I could just sense animal, but nothing more.”  Ting Ting had moved to the donkey and was removing the clothes to fold them.  She stopped and from a button pulled a feather, which she held out for them all to see.  “A bird?” said Tian Shih.  “Or something that has feathers.”

jawbone1bone-graveyardBy now, the sun had set and darkness had set in.  Ting Ting rummaged through the packs she had removed from Demeter’s back and had found flint for fire-starting while Tian Shih gathered wood.  Demeter had been quick to tell them not to burn the bones—she wasn’t very coherent about why they couldn’t be burned, but Tian Shih decided that there was no reason to burn them so they would not take chances.

She and Ting Ting erected the tent and a one-sided covered canvas structure for Demeter and the cart donkeys and arranged their grain and water, covering them with blankets against the night air.  Demeter pawed away bones to make a place in the sand so she could lie down.

Eventually, with everything stowed and the fire glowing, Tian Shih sat with a tea cup in her hands while Ting Ting braided her hair, humming the tune that she had always hummed from the time she was a child.  And even though her donkey was gone and a Changed girl was lost, Tian Shih was comforted.

She could still see small fires dotting the valley and there seemed to be a larger group at a big fire, singing and laughing.  From the way they had come, she could hear the crunching of bones that heralded the approach of another traveler.  As the crunching grew louder, she rose and moved away from the fire in order to see the person better.  One person, one donkey, who halted a few feet away.  Ting Ting backed up next to her mistress and Tian Shih laid her hand on her sword.

“Show yourself please,” said Tian Shih loudly and clearly.  “Otherwise, move on.  We’ve already lost a donkey and a member of our party tonight.”

The traveler and the donkey moved into the firelight.  Pon raised his head to look at his stunned mistress, but Eurydice just hung her head in shame.


One Response to “lost and found”

  1. fairyrainbow Says:

    I think I need to go on the Donkey Trek as well, so many adventures to be had and shared!

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