It was a warm morning when we woke up from our first camp together. There was a dawn light just beginning. I felt the absence of my routine of getting up for morning ritual and was at a loss of what to do. Well I had said the day before this could be fun being free to do as we will.
I looked around and saw that Josie was already up fixing a fire and the brew. Salome was waking up just behind me. The horses were up and grazing. The air was still but filled with those wonderful fragrances and I could smell the dirt. I reached out and grabbed it with my right hand. Had I dreamed? No was the answer. I noticed something that struck me odd. The horses were all standing and facing the direction we were to go once ready. It was a sign I thought and I jumped up to greet the new day and my sisters.
In the bottom of my bag were my clothes. I like to sleep naked if I can. They were warm and inviting as I put each piece on. I also like skirts rather than pants and pulled and packed a few of my favorites. After my shirt was on I stood up with skirt in hand pulling it over my head, dropping it in place and proceeding to the fire pit barefoot. Soon Salome was doing the same. Josie and Salome are like me and wear skirts most the time. Josie had on her favorite one which was black with no pattern. She handed me a cup of brew as I walked up with no emotion on her face that I could read. In a couple of minutes Salome did the same and Josie's face remained the same. We have seen her like this before and knew she had something serious on her mind.
“I've been thinking. When we are in a valley like this maybe we can push the horses a bit to see if their stamina is up to it. Twenty miles a day is good but would it not be better to go thirty? Reaching Grigori sooner then later seems preferable to me. If the days go as yesterday did we have no other driving need to occupy our time. Collecting and salvaging along the way should not take up much time. And there seems to be little to talk about. Our evening and mornings could go swiftly. Before we know it we could be laughing with Grigori!”
It was apparent that she had been up long before us and must have had a few cups of the brew already. Salome and I sat down at this point looking at her and then at each other while Josie continued do miscellaneous chores.
I finished my first cup and stood up to get the pot to pour more. I filled Salome's cup also. Having not spoke yet that morning my voice was obstructed and I began again to speak after I cleared my throat.
“I see the wisdom in your words. Not knowing what the future holds there is no doubt finding Grigori before the snow flies would be a wise choice. Besides, the sooner Salome can get back to Sinjin the happier she would be.” Salome just smiled.
“Well then. Let's eat and be on our way.”
We ate and had our morning constitutionals. With our swift efficiency we cleaned up the camp, packed our saddle bags and saddled the horses. Before we were even gone insects had come to eat our scraps and birds had come to eat the insects. The first to arrive were was a few mountain chickadee with the song I love. Their two note song, high then low pitch were a pleasant way to single our ride.
That morning while talking we decided to call ourselves The Badb. In our teaching we learned that the Badb means crow and is a war Goddess. She is known to cause fear and confusion among soldiers to move the tide of battle. She may also appear prior to a battle as foreshadow. At the time we did not know how coincidental this would be to call ourselves The Badb.
Shortly after we left camp the old road signs changed from US 87 to UC 287. At the time it meant little to us but it was here our mistake occurred. Or was it a mistake? In hindsight it was not. We rode uneventfully for two more days camping that last night in a place that had a faded sign that said Ennis. There was a fallen down bridge that also had a faded sign that said “McAllister River”. We decided to cross there and make camp, still following the road marked US 287.
We again set up camp and went to sleep as we had been doing. This night I had my first dream that I remembered when waking on this journey. I dreamed we were riding down the road much as we had been. Above us was an eagle flying, holding a rabbit in its talons. My horse was feeling like I had no control and was just allowing it to choose our path. I was not afraid but did wonder where we were headed. As I was looking up I saw more birds coming following the eagle until they numbered an even dozen. With the eagle I recognized they numbered thirteen. Thirteen has always been a magical and positive sign to me.
Josie and Salome were riding seemingly unaware of the birds. My eyes began to look elsewhere and my vision was enhanced. I seemed to be seeing many miles away and I began to float into the sky behind the thirteen. I could see a great river in the distance directly in our path. I saw cities that were large yet uninhabited. As my vision expanded further and I realized I was seeing hundreds of mile ahead. To the north I saw great mountain ranges. To the south also. Our path seemed to be following a river through a wide and fertile plain. The riding was easy and the horses where traveling at an even, yet hurried pace. Looking to the ground as I flew with my enhanced eyesight I saw the rubble all around and piles of bleached bones here and there and I passed and left the birds, my horse and my sisters behind.
Looking down I saw Grigori at the base of a strange looking land. He was pointing to a great river and I knew he was telling me to follow it. I had been flying south and at a point the river turn to the north and I continued to follow. At a point I began to spiral downward until I was standing on the ground. Grigori was there also. He started to point toward the northwest. As I looked in that direction I swiftly was reversed in my travel, landed siting on my horse and awoke with a start. My dream was over.
I got up as usual and while having breakfast I told my sisters a detailed account of my dream. They found it quite interesting and it was on our minds the whole day. What could it mean? It was the next day that the answer began to unfold.
Again our day started out with what was now becoming quite typical. The day before the ride began with us following the road that was heading generally west and slightly north. At a point it went decidedly north. This day we had only been riding for a couple of hours when we came to a place that was called Twin Bridges. Still following the road we traveled for an couple more hours when Salome pointed out that road sign now read US 41.
We stopped and looked around as Josie pointed out that we were traveling south, not northwest. We all were astounded that we must have been mindless to have ended up there. Talking about it, remembering back the last time we remember seeing the other road sign number was the day before right after we broke camp. Josie said we should turn around and head back to Twin Bridges. I pointed out that we needed to go all the way back to Ennis because I believed that was where we made a wrong turn. To do that would put us days behind and all the time we gained by riding faster and longer days would be for naught.
It was at this point as we contemplated our situation that my horse reared up for a moment and began to continue south along the road. Simultaneously we heard a sound in the sky. Looking up it was an eagle with a rabbit in its talons. As if one cue Josie and Salome's horses began to follow me and mine. The rode a bit faster and came up beside me.
“I do believe the die has been cast. We are taught that it is in dreams our world is made. Perhaps it would be wise to follow what appears to be your dream made manifest, trusting in the spirits that this path is best, even if we do not understand this day.”
This was a unusual formation of thought and sentence coming from Josie. We pulled on the reins of our horses stopping them. My mind felt like it was being lost for a moment in a twilight state between the worlds. We discussed it briefly and it was decided that what Josie said would be the adopted opinion of us all, come what may.
For the next five days we traveled south and the days were uneventful again. The scenery was much the same also. But on the last day the landscape did change in an almost unnoticeable way. The buildings did not appear to have just collapsed because of weather and time. Many of them seemed like they had turned to ash. The landscape felt eerie and quiet. We came to the largest city we had seen thus far. It appeared to have been empty for many years and it had those same characteristics of building and homes burnt to ash.
We kept traveling and a day and a half later we came to another city, larger than the last. It too was deserted but the building were not ashen like the last. There were many roads here and when we looked to find the number we had been following we say many numbers on similar signs. So we decided to chose one because of its numerology value which was road 86 which was broken down to 5, a number of magical significance to us. And so it was we followed onward. At first our path continued south and then began to go east. In two and a half days we came to another large city. As we traveled through it I recognized landmarks that were in my dreams and this was the place I had seen Grigori pointing to the north west. This gave us added impetus to move along. We went through the largest city we had ever seen but oddly, we thought, it too was deserted.
It was on the eighteenth day after our encounter with the city of dust that we were sharing the binoculars while riding through an almost desert-like landscape. It was there that we spotted for the first time other people on our journey. We had been gone from home now for a month, sooner than Magu thought it would take us. That combined with seeing other raised our spirits. We saw four groups that day. There was a large group of people going north and appeared to have come from the west. They were a caravan of travelers pulling wagons and riding horses numbering as many as at least two-hundred. Flanking them was a group just on horses also riding north. The most interesting people we say were traveling south of us. There were only four of them and by the way they were dressed we recognized them a Redeemers. We could not imagine what they were doing so far north and west of their typical lands.
It was midday and we stopped and talked to decide what we wanted to do. We were excited to see people but we all felt that we did not feel it was time to reveal ourselves and chose to keep hidden and continue northward. We chose to ride through open land east of the others going north much like the people only with horses. They did not seem to notice us. But we decided to take Madu's blessing and use magic for the first time.
Magic ritual is a part of our daily lives and we have no disbelief in its working. We have come to learn that many do not believe in ot practice magic. One of the gifts we have among many is that we know how to make ourselves unseen by normal eyes, blending in with what is around us. This we call the Glamour. In order to make this magic stronger we stopped in our travels and pulling out our staffs we did ritual together to obscure our presence and the presence of our horses. None of us had ever tried to do such a thing so immense. It took a lot out of us yest we traveled the rest of the day before rest. That night we made no fire and allowed the spell to disperse and unsaddled the horses. Even given the circumstance we slept well and in the morning we rose early and got on our way, again preforming the ritual in order to travel unnoticed. We had only been riding for a couple of hours when out of nowhere we saw Grigori riding up to us!
He spoke to us saying, “I know you are there. I felt you in my dreams the other night. I do not know why you are her but I am so very pleased to see you. I hate to not talk much at this point but we must hurry. I am going to ask you and your horses to push yourselves beyond what may seems your endurance because I wish for us to be in a certain place in two and a half days. This will require little rest but I have faith in you and your horses. Once there you all may rest for a few days. All will be revealed once we are there.
Grigori's horse is an especially powerful creature and we found it difficult to keep up with him. As he warned us, we traveled long and fast. Fortunately there was plenty of grass and water so they did not thirst and neither did we. We ate while riding from our packs only stopping to drink a few time per day.
After those days were done we came to a beautiful place surrounded by trees and thick lush plants everywhere. Grigori told us we were going to camp here for the rest of the day and night but once camp was organized he needed to tell us something and ask us for a favor.
And so it was that Grigori made clear what was happening here and the reason we were sent by the seers was revealed and understood by us. He had not expected us at all. He told us that we had just rode into a great war. A war that involved many peoples and a war with unknown conclusions. But it was a war he felt must be won by those he called his friends.
He told us in detail about the peoples and it was then that we first heard of Pythia being with him and her importance in this war. He revealed to us places we had never heard of, their peoples and the importance of a place called Genesis. He told us about the enemy they were fighting. We realized they were the large caravan we had seen.