The ride down Forest Road was quiet, with only the tromping of the horses
and the creaking of wagon wheels to break the stillness. It was enough to make
him watch the woods on both sides of the road with more nervousness than was
usual. Never before had he hesitated going into the woods alone. Whatever
killed the Himelsí sheep had changed that.
As he neared town, the dense mass of forest thinned slightly, and small
homes became visible among the trees. Narrow lanes split off from Forest Road,
slipping past fenced gardens and areas for livestock on their way in toward the
homes. Like most of the residents of Omer Forest, the people of Kindelís Grove
had been careful to cut back only as much as was needed to create a place to
live, thus preserving the beauty of the forest that had drawn them here in the
He saw people working in their yards and waved to them as he passed. They
called out greetings and an occasional question. How was his mother? Did they
need help with anything around the house? Were they getting ready for the
Festival of the Dragon? He returned their greetings and answered their
questions, amused by their concern but thankful the world still contained such
He loved living in Kindelís Grove and wouldnít trade it for anything. Heíd
spent enough time in Trian and had seen enough of politics and how the
bureaucrats acted to know he didnít like it there. People in the larger cities were
rude. Most were so caught up in their own affairs or with trying to get ahead of
everyone else that true friendship seemed not to exist. He hated that kind of
mentality and had decided long ago to spend as little time in Trian as possible.
He didnít care that it was his birthplace; Kindelís Grove was his home.
As he passed the Transtin home, Seril and Mikka, once again late for
school, ran out to the road and asked for a ride into town. He waved them into
the back of the wagon and listened as they argued about whose fault it was that
they were late. It was much the same as the dozens of other arguments heíd
heard in years past, and they said so much so fast that he quit listening. A short
time later he reached the natural clearing that held the village of Kindelís
Several hundred people lived in the village proper, most of them in snug
little homes which often doubled as businesses, and yet things were quiet and
peaceful. The main road through town was hard-packed dirt and wide enough
for wagons to pass three abreast. Boardwalks lined each side, connecting the
rows of buildings and offering a place to walk out of the dirt. There were people
moving about on errands, some buying, some selling, and every one of them
working hard to make Kindelís Grove a prosperous place.
As work-minded as they were, however, they still made time for visiting
with friends, and he saw many standing in the doors of businesses and homes.
Others sat on benches in the shade of the covered walkways where they could
chat about one thing or another. Children still too young to be in school
scampered about, kicking balls, laughing, and chasing each other in the same
games he had played as a child.
Near the center of town, the Transtin boys released a flurry of thank yous
and jumped off the wagon, racing toward the schoolhouse as if their lives were
in danger. Considering that Thrinda Lisenbre was still the schoolmistress, they
probably were. He watched them go, then turned back to the task of returning
the dozens of greetings he was getting while trying not to run anyone over with
Aíshan had grown testy by the time he reached Zanderís Mercantile, and
Jase had to spend a moment calming him down. It made him wonder if the big
black resented the idea of being used to pull a wagon. He was a warhorse, after
all, trained for battle, not for lugging a cart. He spoke soothing words to him,
but Aíshan continued to toss his head and stamp his feet, and Jase realized the
only way to appease the disgruntled animal now would be to let him run all the
way home. If there was one thing Aíshan had, it was a desire to run.