There are a number of things they never tell you in any of the books, Dale thought with a grimace. One is just how badly it hurts to sit in a saddle! Darkness had fallen and they had stopped for the night. He was sitting on the ground, rubbing the soreness from his legs, wincing as his fingers worked out various knots.
Kheri glanced up from the fire he was building and grinned. “Something wrong?”
Dale made a face at him. “Not a thing, except I think my legs are permanently damaged.”
Kheri chuckled. “Wait’ll tomorrow, it’s really gonna hurt. But you’ll get used to it. Just takes a few days riding. You didn’t do too bad for the first time.”
Dale snorted. He continued rubbing and thought back over the day’s ride. His horse had sauntered along the road for more than an hour, snacking on every plant they passed. He’d finally lost his temper and smacked her on the rear. She’d reacted by rearing and making a mad dash through a stand of trees, resulting in a near collision between his forehead and a low hanging branch. He rubbed at the aches in his legs and shook his head.
Kheri blew on the fire and added a few twigs to it. “Shouldn’t have hit her so hard. At least she stopped arguing.” He added a couple more twigs to the fire and grinned at Dale again.
“I seriously hope nothing worse than a mosquito happens along tonight,” Dale said, trying to stretch the kinks out of his knees. “I really do.”
“Yeah, me too.” Kheri added a larger piece of wood and gave the fire his complete attention.
Dale stood up and stretched, then set about unsaddling the horses. He piled the tack on the ground near a tree, spread the blankets out near the fire, and then sat back down on one.
Kheri finished with the fire a short while later and started rummaging through the saddlebags. He frowned and dug deeper. After several more seconds, he sighed and looked over at Dale. “You know… we don’t have any water.”
Dale stared at Kheri without saying anything for a long moment then closed his eyes and sighed. “You’re right, we don’t.”
“We also don’t have anything to carry it in.”
Dale opened his eyes, irritation plainly written across his face, then lay down on his blanket with his hands behind his head staring up into space. “That wasn’t something I needed to hear,” he muttered.
“Sorry. Thought you better know.”
The tone of Dale’s voice was sharp and Kheri winced. “We could always go back and buy a couple water bottles.”
Dale didn’t respond.
Kheri quietly closed the saddlebags and set them to the side. He stood; staring at the fire for several minutes then went to check on the horses. They were happily grazing on the grass, tethered to a nearby tree. He brushed his hand over his horse’s flank and looked back at Dale. His nemesis was still lying on the blanket, staring up at the sky and Kheri’s stomach twisted into a knot. The older man had been so clumsy on the horse that he’d forgotten his fears for a while but now they returned with a vengeance. “It wasn’t my fault!” he muttered. “I asked if there was anything else we needed!” Yeah, but you should’ve thought instead of just asking, he chided himself. Just ‘cause he’s in charge doesn’t mean you stop thinking. He stared back at the fire for a bit longer then turned and walked off into the night.
Dale gazed up at the stars. We could go back to town and buy water bottles, but that’ll put us back an entire day. We might as well not have started until tomorrow. We have to have water though; we won’t survive long without it. He sighed wearily and put his arm over his eyes. We passed a stream not too far back. We can move camp for tonight. Maybe there’s an inn or something up ahead. The road’s in pretty good shape. People must travel on it. Surely they don’t just camp out the entire way to wherever they’re headed. He moved his arm and stared back into the night sky. The moon had not yet risen and the stars glittered at him like sparks against a velvet background. I wish I knew where I was. He searched the sky once again for anything familiar. I’m probably not even in the same galaxy I started in. I wonder how long I’m gonna be stuck this time. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, then glanced around the camp and frowned.
Kheri was gone.
Closing his eyes, he stilled his breathing and listened. Insects droned ceaseless mating calls, undisturbed by anything. An owl hooted in the distance, while nearer at hand he could hear the horses moving about as they grazed.
Dale took a deep breath and concentrated. My powers aren’t gone, they’re just blocked. I can do this. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
A horrible resistance arose in him as he fought against the residual effects of the warp and he broke out into a sweat. Let go! He sucked in air, clenched his fists, and struggled harder. A throbbing began around his temples, bolts of white light shot through his vision and for a moment his entire being seemed to catch on fire.
Dale gasped and squeezed his eyes shut, throwing every ounce of his will into the fight. The universe resisted him for what seemed like an eternity, then suddenly something gave way and the night opened up around him.
He opened his eyes and sat panting, elated by his victory. I wonder how much I got back. Closing his eyes against the night, he reached out with his thoughts.
Trees, brush, insects, and other assorted objects stood out sharply in his mind as he scanned. A sphere of clarity extending fifty yards in every direction surrounded him.
Not far, but a lot better than nothing. It’ll take me time but I’m not stuck here forever!
He opened his eyes and stood. Kheri’s continued absence brought him back to an immediate problem.
I’m going to have to go after him. I just hope he doesn’t get himself killed before I find him.