Continued from Part I.
The kārvān advanced slowly, most encampments staying in one place for days or weeks. Food was scarce, and the surrounding countryside barely able to support the travellers. So the people spread out, foraged and hunted what they could, visiting neighbouring camps to trade spare food along the line.
This was how the boy, Jakob, made his way towards the vanguard. He took pouches of spices from his Mother, wrapping and packing them into his sack along with a few clothes and his knife. Then along with his dog, Hexa, he set out in the early morning light.
On the first day’s walk he passed through two camps similar to his own, filled with familiar faces. They took him in, fed him, petted the dog and wished him well on his journey. Old man Krake gave him a walking stick fashioned from birch, a memento of life back in the city.
The first night Jakob spent on his own, lying in the low branches of a tree, propped against its trunk, Hexa sleeping underneath. He had done this many times before, but never before had sleep in the tree brought such vivid dreams.
He dreamt he was a holy man sent to a heathen realm. The people there, all etched with bizarre tattoos of mythical figures, greeted him with violence. They chanted a name, “Negma, Negma!”, placed a noose around his neck, and dragged him along the ground through their dusty towns. To silence his protestations, they placed a poisonous frog in his mouth.
He awoke as the sun rose, dream still echoing around his skull. Filled with a sense of disquiet, he stroked Hexa’s fur and kissed her between the ears. She nuzzled his hand, and her affection returned calm to his spirit. He gathered his things, and dog and boy continued their journey to where the next encampment lay at the foot of the distant hills.
To be continued…