Evvy wiped her forearm across her forehead and rested her hands against the small of her back. She surveyed the field. It hadn’t worked quite as easily as she’d hoped but with Jayat’s help ploughing, they’d uncovered enough land to put in a small crop. They’d all waited anxiously for the first green shoots to appear. Evvy had spent most of the time reminding herself that people were worth more than rocks and that she couldn’t bury Nory just because she spent every evening telling them what a waste of time it had been.
She reached out her senses and felt where the little rocks were being shoved around by roots. She’d sent the big rocks back down after they’d done their jobs and even the medium ones to make for easier ploughing, but in the back of her mind it was also because, no matter what she’d told Rosethorn, plants were always going to be rock breakers and she was going to send her friends out of harms way.
“You’ve got dirt on your face.” Meryem pointed out. She was sitting on a large flat rock Evvy had pulled up for her, picking chaff out of a bowl of wheat.
Evvy glanced down at her arm, it was smeared with ash and she could imagine what it looked like mixed with the sweat on her brow.
“And you’ve got dirt on your dress,” Evvy replied. Meryem laughed. Everything had dirt on it. The rain that had fallen a few weeks ago had washed the worst of the ash from the trees and grass but it still collected in every cranny and crevice and pilled up in the gullies and creeks. Every time it dried the slightest wind would send it in puffs that got under any door and through every crack. They covered the water vessels even inside after the second time a slight breeze had left a speckled film on the top. It got better with every rain as more and more of the ash was washed closer to the sea and as Evvy had spent a long, boring week moving rocks in streams to help them flush but it would be years before all of the ash was gone.
Evvy’s magic had taken almost a month to be helpful again and nearly two before she was able to just barely touch Luvo. She still wasn’t at her full strength and Luvo had scolded her for trying to push too far when she wasn’t ready. She’d pouted a while before Nory had told her she was being a child and if she didn’t have something magical to be doing she could help with the laundry.
Her work in the streams and fields to clear the ash left her magic low enough in the evenings that she knew Luvo would scold her again if she reached, so it wasn’t until the crop was nearly at harvest that she felt the banked fire of Luvo against her magic.
She touched carefully and she could feel his pleasure.
Hello Evumeimei. You magic feels much renewed.
It was the work of mere moments to slip into her magical self so she could see as well as hear him. She hugged him to her, her magical arms wrapping around his solid bulk.
Luvo! Are you close? Is Rosethorn with you? Is Oswin?
She could feel his chuckle.
Always so fast you meat creatures. He replied. Yes, the captain says we are four day’s sail with the right winds, we had to go further as Carnelian and Flame’s new island makes the normal route dangerous. He chuckled to himself. Rosethorn is with me. You are glad it has taken us so long to return to you, she was very worried and angry with you but I think time has eased it some.
Evvy shrank back a little, Rosethorn angry was a thing to fear.
Don’t fuss little one. The worst of her flame has cooled, she will fuss but she has missed you. Oswin wishes to know of his young.
They are still safe and well. Nory is a tyrant but Jayat and I have been ploughing and planting. Rosethorn should be glad to know how much I’ve learnt. Meryem still follows me but is also well.
He says that is good to hear and sends his love to them. He returns with his other children and they mean to stay.
Evvy was pleased. Starns needed its people and she couldn’t imagine Nory and Jayat anywhere else. Jayat still hadn’t given up on the idea of marrying Nory and she thought she could see Nory softening as even her harsh words could not frighten him away.
The road to Sustree is blocked by rockfalls and the river has changed its course but I will move what I can if you can find mules to carry you.
Luvo hummed in agreement and she settled beside him, the work that had to be done could wait a few more minutes.
Evvy could tell that Nory did not believe her at first.
“Four days? You can speak with them so far offshore?”
Evvy did not bite back. Of all she had done here she was most proud of not replying to Nory in kind.
“I could have spoken to them long before but Luvo made me promise I would not reach when I was tired. They will only land in Sustree in four days, it will take much longer for them to reach us. That’s why I have to go and help clear the road.”
“Can I go?” Meryem asked, her voice excited. She had held up remarkably well for a small child but they could see she missed Oswin. Evvy winced. She tried to be careful of Meryem but clearing rock would be dangerous if a child was to wander the wrong way.
“No!” She didn’t think she’d ever been so pleased to hear Nory snap. “Someone needs to keep us fed while she goes and moves rocks.” She didn’t even really mind Nory’s rudeness.
“Will you need my help Evvy?” Jayet asked. He was honest in his asking but she could tell he was reluctant to leave Nory. She grinned inside of herself.
“No. It will be a magical working only and safer if you are not near. I will need a mule or two to carry me through.”
She could see Nory begin to frown and open her mouth but Jayet spoke quickly.
“We can have them packed in the hour. Will you leave today?”
Evvy nodded, amused by Nory’s thwarted look, maybe more than just Jayet’s steadfastness was good for her.
“The sooner the better. I should have been clearing them already but there was so much to do in the fields.”
Meryem’s mouth began to tremble.
“But I don’t want you to leave.”
Evvy crouched down next to her.
“I must open the road for Owsin and Rosethorn and Luvo and the others but I will be back for a while. Rosethorn will want to check the plants and make sure they grow as they should before we leave. We will have time to say goodbye.”
The little girl nodded, her lip still trembling a little but Nory held out the Dreadful Doll and they shared a moment of silent relief over the aborted tears.
Clearing the roads was dusty and boring. It was hard for a time while she moved individual rocks but as she watched a trickle of rocks cascade over a cliff she cursed herself for an idiot and moved only those in the lower parts, restarting slides until only stray boulders were left on the road. She could only do so many a day before her magic felt weak and as Luvo came closer and touching his magic easier he kept a close watch on her.
Do not tire yourself Evumeimei. To rush is to falter.
She grumbled but settled down to praise the mules for withstanding the noise and shaking of the slides and eat a little bread.
She was barely a quarter of the way when Luvo reported they had docked. She cleared two more slides that day and coaxed the river stones into a ford across the Makray.
The slides are not so bad here. Luvo reported later the next morning. They had found mules who had been turned loose and grass which had been uncovered by wind before they could starve and had set off with first light. Rosethorn says her vines will move the smaller rocks and crack those that are too big.
He laughed at her instinctual scowl.
They will enjoy new lives Evumeimei and be thankful for the change.
Evvy grumbled something rude and flicked another rock out of the base of her current slide.
It took almost a week before she could feel Luvo so close she could almost touch him with her flesh hand.
Yes Evumeimei. We are on the other side of this ridge. We have just to clear this cutting and we will be through.
Evvy's heart lept.
Tell Rosethorn to stay back. It will be faster if I move them and she will be sad if I crush her vines.
Luvo rumbled a laugh.
I will tell her.
Evvy plucked the first few rocks, sending them further down the ridge where they sank happily into damp soil. She could feel the slide reach its tipping point and called out to Luvo.
Make sure they are far back. The rocks might bounce and I can’t see them to stop them.
They are already. Rosethorn knows your workings.
Evvy smiled and pulled the last rock and the slide began its tumbling movement again. It always made her smile. Rocks liked being still and shiny and pretty but movement was so rare and exciting she couldn’t help but enjoy it with them. The rocks streamed around her and she nudged them off the road and further down the slope until only the last few pebbles moved. She should now clear the road of the larger boulders and stones but the mules could move around them and she could not wait.
The dust had not yet settled but as she came over the rise she could see a cart and mules and people and though she could not see her features she knew the shape of Rosethorn and with a jolt she realised another familiar form showed through the dust.
Evvy threw herself from her mule and approached the two figures and the smaller shape she knew to be Luvo.
You lied to me. She called to him as she approached.
You never asked. Was the smug reply as she came close enough to see their features properly.
Rosethorn’s brow was creased in temper but Briar was just staring at her with a raised eyebrow.
“You idiot child. You nearly got yourself killed.” Rosethorn scolded.
Evvy grinned and threw herself at them, so pleased when Rosethorn opened her arms and allowed her to press her face against the soft green of her habit. Briar wrapped his arms around both of them and Evvy could feel his suppressed amusement. Luvo leaned up against her leg in his own hug.
She was glad to have been missed.