Reunions Are not So Easily Attained
Minta awakened slowly, hearing the soft
whispered sounds of a little girl’s voice. Opening her eyes, she fully
expecting to see the little girl before her, but all she saw, as the
tendrils of the vivid dream drifted away were blue-gray metallic walls. Minta wished she could remember all of the words the little girl
said to her. They had been
in Diego’s language. All
she really remembered was the one sentence, “It is all right.”
The little girl’s hands had been outstretched, whether
beckoning or in supplication, Minta didn’t know which.
Her fair-skinned face was framed with dark brown hair.
Her equally dark eyes sparkled with mischief and laughter.
They reminded her of Diego’s.
Minta got up, showered and dressed quickly in
the riding clothes that had been provided to her shortly after their
arrival. Minta had not been
happy that the twins were out there without her or anyone else around
them for protection, but after her experience the last time she had been
on this planet, Jerintas had decided that she should remain on board the
ship until the children had found out about Diego.
Alejandro and Maria Isabella looked enough like the people here
that they would be safe if they just did what they had been instructed
to do. And enough discreet
spying had been done to determine that the political climate was
somewhat better than it had been before. She still feared for her children, though.
Twelve was entirely too young to be out on one’s own, even if
she had been told by those more knowledgeable than her that they were
more mature than most twelve-year-olds. She sighed. When
she had scolded them about returning back to the ship later than they
should have last night, they had just grinned, telling her that they had
seen their father from a distance and would find out more tomorrow.
She had been so excited that the scolding was immediately
forgotten. Diego, mi
amor, finally you are so close.
As she finished pulling on her soft leather
boots, Minta looked down at her hands, still a bit sore and stiff from
the surgery that had been performed on them before they had left Rantir.
It still seemed strange to see only four fingers with the thumb, even
after a month. Jerintas
had not been happy about that, just as he had not been happy with the
twin’s request for their twelfth birthday presents.
However, the advantage of being one of the First Born was that
you often got what you wanted. As
the First Mother, she, too, usually had her wishes fulfilled.
When the twins had made their request six months ago, Minta had
thought that the dream she had all but given up might possibly be
Pulling on her riding jacket, she glanced in the
mirror and frowned. Darkening
her hair made her feel older, but that, like the surgery had been
necessary. The stark
whiteness of her hair had set her apart, just as her amethyst eyes and
her dark skin had. There was nothing she could, or rather, would
do about the skin and the eyes, but the hair . . . that was an easy
She knew that Jerintas was aware of her ulterior
plan, she had hinted about it enough.
If all went well, she would be remaining here, this time for
good. There would be
nothing that would keep her from staying with Diego.
Not Jerintas, not superstitious servants, not even Hell itself. Sighing, she slipped out of the little room and padded almost
silently down the narrow corridor to the airlock. It must be early. She
heard only the faint whispering sounds of the ships’ internal
workings, but no sounds of anyone up and about in the corridors of the
This trip had been carefully planned.
The ship was well hidden with a repelling force field that kept
all prying eyes away, even animals turned from the invisible barricade.
Pushing a small indented button, Minta watched as the airlock
door slowly opened. It was
still night, but faint tendrils of daylight tinged the eastern hills.
She stepped out and listened to the slight whoosh as the door
closed behind her. Looking
up, the Rantir woman saw stars twinkling merrily, and for some reason
they reminded her of the little girl in her dream.
Minta remembered the cool breeze that had came
from the ocean early in the mornings when she had been here before, and
while she felt it now, it did not have the cold bite that it had
contained before. It was a
different time of year, she reminded herself, and though Diego had told
her that his land was temperate all year round, it definitely had
seasons. According to the
geological survey, this was the middle of the dry season.
Ah, that is certainly fine with me, she thought, laughing
softly to herself. She remembered the soaking she had received the first night
she had spent on Earth. But
then that first night was the last night that she and Diego had slept
together. His warmth had
taken the chill of the cold rain from her and his presence had comforted
her in the strange land she had chosen to adopt.
She shivered thinking of having those strong arms around her
Insects chirped and buzzed, and in the distance
Minta heard the barking of coyotes and the scream of a successfully
completed hunt. A
mountain lion, perhaps? She
tried to remember everything Diego had taught her about this world in
the short time she had been on Earth before, but she had not seen any
need to assimilate it all at that time, as she had thought that she
would be here forever. The
nickering of horses led her down the slope where the twins’ mounts had
been tethered. They were
eating the grass placidly; having realized in their own way that nothing
would harm them. She rubbed
the muzzle of the palomino and wondered if she still would be able to
ride a horse. It had been so long.
Then wryly, she wondered if she could even remember how to saddle
But Minta was restless and didn’t want to go
back to the ship. She would
make the attempt and just ride within the circle of the force field. The palomino rubbed her shoulder and she decided that this
one would be the most easily saddled.
Standing beside the tack, she contemplated what she needed to do
first. After she had been
shown the basics of horsemanship, someone had always prepared a horse
for her to ride. At
Diego’s hacienda there were servants to cook and servants to
clean, servants to saddle the horses and, of course a servant to always
accompany her and Diego wherever they went.
Usually Bernardo. Would he still be alive? she wondered.
She hoped so; the little mute had been a firm anchor for her
during her weeks on Earth. He
had made sure that she understood any local customs that Diego or Don
Alejandro had neglected to inform her of, made her laugh when she was
discouraged and had listened to her practice the catechism when Diego
couldn’t be around to help her.
Picking up a saddle blanket and a saddle, Minta
half carried, half dragged them over to the calm horse. The palomino just looked at her, indifferent to her efforts.
The blanket settled easily on the horse’s back, but the saddle
was another matter altogether. With a deep breath, Minta boosted the saddle up, but she
hadn’t put enough lift into it and the saddle slid off and onto the
ground. It took one
more try before she was able to heave it high enough to get it to stay.
She pulled the cinch straps through their buckles and drew them
tight. The gelding nuzzled
her from behind as she was bent over as though making fun of her clumsy
efforts. Minta laughed
softly. “Ai, you must be
patient with me.”
Next she found a bridle and puzzled a moment
over the placement of the bit in the horse’s mouth.
Then remembering, she carefully drew the straps over the
horse’s ears, making sure the bit was between the animal’s teeth. Standing back, she looked in satisfaction at her handiwork.
Taking the reins as she had been taught, Minta grasped the saddle
horn and, putting her foot in the stirrup, pulled herself into the
saddle. “I have not
forgotten,” she said, exultant. It
felt good to be back on a horse. She
had so much enjoyed the rides with Diego, and she wished he were there
with her now. Maybe Jandro
and Mari would be able to talk to him today.
Soon, she thought. After
so long, another day would not matter.
She rode down the gently sloping hillside, then
turned the horse’s head to make a circumference of the hill, not
wanting to go outside of the area of the force field.
As impatient as she was to see Diego, she was going to work with
Jerintas this time. Minta
wanted nothing to go wrong in her quest to be reunited with her beloved.
Soon Minta saw the first rays of sunlight
peeking over the eastern hills, sunlight that turned the hills to the
west into seas of gold and orange.
It was a sight that she had forgotten in her absence of almost
thirteen years and one that now made her happy beyond measure.
Some mornings when she and Diego had ridden, and the clouds were
riding heavy and dark in the skies, there was a rosy or red cast to
them, much like always existed on her world with its large red sun.
Diego had explained that such color in the morning usually
indicated that there was rain on the way.
Most of the time, he was right.
After she had returned to Rantir, she had always felt that her
home world’s sun made her world somewhat dreary.
She stopped the palomino to watch the bright
yellow orb rise above the hill in front of her, holding one hand in
front of her eyes to soften the glare.
The warmth seemed to flow through her hand, resting on her face.
She almost felt as though she were glowing, the sunlight was so
strong. “Soon,” she
said aloud. “Soon I will
enjoy this everyday.”
In the half-awake corner of his brain, Jandro
heard the sighing whisper of a cabin door.
Pulling on his clothes, he left his room and went out into the
silent corridor. Another
soft whoosh told him someone had gone outside.
Curiosity found him at the same airlock looking out into the
darkness of the pre-dawn. A
wraith-like figure walked down the hill, presumably to the place where
the horses were tethered. The
sound of an owl’s cry floated to him from the delicately sparkled sky
Silently Jandro followed the figure, wondering
who it was. He hid behind a
boulder while the shadowy figure gathered tack and saddled one of the
horses. As he watched,
Jandro began suspecting that the figure was his mother.
At first tentatively and then with increased sureness, she
saddled and bridled the horse. He wondered where Mother was going and
was tempted to call out to her, but he hesitated.
He knew how hard it had been for her these past twelve plus
years, being separated from Father.
And despite her treatment at the hands of some of the people
here, he knew how much she missed this planet.
He would just follow behind and not bother her, making sure that
no harm came to her.
He remembered his preparation for this trip; the
hours spent riding animals that closely resembled horses and taking care
of their tack. But nothing
could compare with the exhilaration that he felt when he first mounted a
real Earth horse. The first
time he sat in the dust looking up into the whiskery face of one of the
horses that had been discreetly culled from a herd of de la Vega horses,
he wondered if he would ever be able to ride.
However, he had soon become comfortable in the saddle and now
felt perfectly at home riding.
He laughed, remembering how they had changed the
venta marks after the horses had been stolen.
He and Mari had had a very heated discussion as to where on the
original brand and just how much of a change they should make, even
though the horses would be returned eventually.
When his mother finally mounted the gelding and rode slowly down the hill, Jandro came out from hiding and saddled the larger horse. When he began to bridle the gelding, he looked at it in surprise. It was too short for his horse’s head. Now I will have to find Mother, and soon, before that gelding gets that bit out from between his teeth, he thought, looking down the hill where she had disappeared into the darkness.
He quickly adjusted his bridle, put it on the
bay and mounted, following the same path his mother took. He caught up with her as she was watching the sunrise, but
before he could do or say anything, she rode off, straight down the
hill, first slowly, then with increasing speed as the slope gentled and
It soon became apparent to Jandro that the horse
had control of the rider and not the other way around.
He heard other horses somewhere nearby and watched as the
palomino turned and headed toward them at a run.
In growing alarm, he followed, trying to catch up to Mother and
stop her before something happened.
He shouted, but it was swallowed up in the pounding of the two
horse’s hooves. Jandro
was unable to catch up with her. Slapping
the gelding’s rump with his open hand, he tried to get more speed.
His mind conjured up visions of the palomino slipping and falling
on her. Then his own horse slid on loose stones, scrambling for a more
solid foothold, and the boy had to pull him up slightly.
The palomino continued its headlong rush, speeding up across
valley floors, slowing down only slightly when the paths narrowed,
steepened or became rockier.
His mother’s gelding crested the far hill as
Jandro was crossing the valley behind it.
By the time he reached the top of the hill, his mother had
already reached the bottom of the slope and dismounted.
She was near a small herd of horses, picketed in a valley filled
with milling, mooing cattle. Below
him, he saw a man with a rifle, watching her intently.
Then he raised the weapon to his shoulder. In alarm, Jandro,
dismounted, quickly tied his horse to a tree-limb and then crept up
behind the guard. Chagrined
that he had not thought to bring any weapons, he looked around
desperately. His eyes
spied a fist-sized rock and he snatched it up as he rushed closer.
The unkempt guard was watching his mother so intently that he had
no idea anyone was behind him until the rock crashed against the back of
his head. By the
Ancestors! Jandro thought as he watched the man slump unconscious to
the ground. I actually
did it. Jandro gathered
up the dropped weapons, a rifle, pistol and a knife.
He looked back down slope, hoping to see his
mother returning up the hill, but was dismayed to see that several men
had captured her and were dragging her toward their camp.
She struggled, but was unable to break away. Squinting to see more clearly in the intense morning light,
he thought that he saw one slap Mother to the ground. Angry, he jerked the musket to his shoulder and sighted along
the barrel. But although he
had been trained in target shooting, this huge thing was too difficult
for him to aim properly. He
feared hitting his mother. He
blinked away tears of frustration at not being able to help his mother. I have to do something!
But what? he thought.
Not coming up with any definite ideas, Jandro
decided to get rid of any other guards the same way as he had the first.
That would make it easier to rescue his mother if some kind of
opportunity afforded itself. Seeing one about twenty meters down slope, Jandro crept up
behind him and clubbed him with the musket, this time taking the time to
tie him up with strips of the man’s own shirt.
He gathered up the guard’s pistol and stuck it in his banda,
grabbed the rifle and ran at a crouch toward the next guard’s station,
where he followed the same procedure.
He did this two more times until he was behind a tree directly
overlooking the rustler’s camp. From
his vantage, the cattle were in a mass to his right and the main
entrance to the narrow valley to his left.
The men were still laughing, taunting Mother and
pushing her from man to man. They
had not done more than jerk her around and slap her at present, but
Jandro despaired at not being able to help her.
He was still afraid to try shooting for fear of hitting her.
His fist clenched around the rifle stock. He felt his teeth grinding together in frustration.
What can I do? he thought in anguish.
Then he jerked in surprise as the answer came to him…Jerintas!
He could go and get Jerintas.
But that meant that he would have to leave
Mother here. He pondered
briefly, but felt that there was no other way.
This was something that he had to do.
There were still five men down there, too many for him to deal
with. Reluctantly, he
turned to go back to the ship, hoping that his mother would still be all
right by the time he got back with Jerintas.