Starlight Dreams

 

 

 

Chapter Five

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 fulfilled. 

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 sacrifice.  

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 spacecraft.

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 again. 

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 one. 

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.”

 

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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 above. 

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 smoothed out.

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.

 

                                      

 

Chapter Six
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