East was having fun. A lot of fun. The three chosen for their group had never met before, not really. But for some reason, when they began walking on the first day, they found that they had a lot in common. They had many of the same experiences growing up. Like when you share something with somebody, and they have a very similar experience from their history. It’s like you were made to be with this person. The three of them were able to feel an incredible closeness as soon as they started out. That was four days ago.
When the time came to spread out and walk alone from sunrise until sunset, they weren’t afraid like they had expected. They were sad. They had just spent the last three days getting to know each other, and now they would have spend their waking hours mostly alone, and their nights mostly spent in sleep, recovering. They would miss sharing stories of their youth and the mischief they all seemed to get into and out of without too much trouble or punishment from their parents.
The days seem to pass too quickly as they knew the inevitable was coming. Their inevitable separation. As they arose, they dressed in silence, knowing that as soon as they were ready to leave, the fun would be left behind, and ahead was only loneliness and danger. That was ok, though. They had made a pact. They made a pact before they went to sleep the night before. No matter what happened, they would all make it back safely, and they would be the team who would find the new source that would support the village into the next generation. And they would be friends their whole lives. They had made the secret prayer together they all learned when they were children. Then they had slept, their dreams of a future in new village whose location and life source was chosen by them keeping their thoughts of the dangerous mission ahead.
They dressed, packed their tools and equipment and stood. They gathered on last time, and looked into the distance where they would spend the next six months walking alone, searching alone, surviving alone. They each silently and mutually held each other in high regard, and then turned to leave. The last of the sun was just breaking free of the horizon. They sky was clear, and the day was going to be hot. And long. They started walking.
* * *
Elder was clutching his side, in extreme pain. It was too soon to die. He grimaced and stood, facing defiantly into the setting sun. He turned a full circle, surveying the area around him. He knew where eldest and younger would be meeting. He would get there before they rose for the morning. He would not be left.
He spent the next hours, through the dusk into the night, shuffling towards the directing of the rendezvous. With each step the pain in his stomach lessened somewhat. The more he walked, the more he convinced himself it was merely a passing pain due perhaps to an unnoticed poisonous plant or insect that shouldn’t have been eaten. Must be more careful next time. He checked his water. Plenty left. He knew exactly what plants would produce water, and how to convert certain kinds of earth into water as well. Those were methods that required a certain amount of time, so they were reserved for emergencies. Now he had to focus only on moving in the direction of the rendezvous. The other two needed his skills. The village needed his skills. He would not allow himself to die. Not yet. Not until their assignment was completed. The village council had made sure that each voyager understood the importance of the mission. That was one of the most important requirements. That they understood that they had only two choices. Succeed, or die trying. He was not ready to die yet.
He stopped, paused, and closed his eyes. He sensed his surroundings. There were several small animals around him. Not dangerous. Only curious. Perhaps he could lure them close for food. If he needed to. Not yet. He sensed the wind, the direction. He quieted his mind to be more receptive. There. He could sense the other two. At the camp, there fire emitting a certain smell. Perhaps another two hours walk.
He kept moving.
To be continuedâ€¦