The Chronicles of Bitia, Book One: Separation
Dedicated To Micah, my Beni.
Beni leaned low on his horse, walking her quietly through the dense forest. The sack on Beni's back weighed heavily on the sixteen year old. Heavier still was the knowledge that those in his country: Bitia, were depending on him. He could hear horses tramping nearby, whinnying.
Beneath him, he heard a crack. He closed his eyes in dismay. Light, his mare, had broken a stick. An inaudible cry came from the place he'd heard the many horses. Beni kicked his ankles into Light's sides, causing her to gain speed, and run faster. Beni once again pressed himself close to his horse's body as he heard the unmistakable whiz of arrows flying through the air.
" Come on Light; Come on girl!" he urged, sending the horse into a full gallop. He just hoped the mare would live up to the reason he had named her Light. " She's faster then the speed of light!" Beni had been known to boast. The sounds of those on his trail started to fade into the distance.
" Thank you," the boy said, looking up at the sky. The most dangerous part of being a blockade runner was over.
Aliah looked up at the sky where black clouds seemed to float closer. She smiled. Her water starved plants needed the rain. Hopefully it would clear up the lip parching heat that hung like a blanket over Rivirn, a small town in Bitia. Aliah placed her gardening tools in the sack she carried over her shoulder. The fourteen year old smiled fondly at her plants before walking over to where her filly, Pixley waited patiently, tethered to a tree.
" Ready to go home girl?" Aliah asked, patting the animal's soft, velvety nose. A thunder clap boomed, and Pixley moved nervously. " It's okay Pixley. It's just a storm girl." The horse actually seemed to quiet as Aliah stepped into the stirrup, and swung into the saddle. Just then, the first wave of rain began to fall. Aliah tucked her head low, kicking Pixley into a trot. As she rode, she saw, out of the corner of her eye, another figure riding alongside her. A hat was pulled low over his face, and Aliah smiled happily. She leaned low on Pixley, sending her into a gallop. The other rider matched speeds with her, they were now neck to neck. Pixley's nostrils flared as she speeded up, and rode into the Breman family yard. The other rider was in the yard a moment later, and he grabbed Aliah by the waist, taking her off her horse, and swinging her in a circle.
"Looks like you've finally beaten me Ali," the person said, pulling his cloak over his sister. Aliah looked up at him, her heart swelling with love.
"I've been practicing," she laughed. "Oh Beni, I'm so glad your home at last. I've missed you so." He grinned at her, rain pouring off the brim of his hat.
"I missed you too, but now I think we'd better shelter these horses and get inside before the storm gets worse." Aliah nodded, and took Pixley's lead rope in her hand. Beni and his sister shut the creatures in their stalls, rubbed them down, and provided them with some grain that had been saved from the dry land.
Aliah truly looked at her brother when these chores were done. He was quite tall, she would guess six feet. He had dark brown hair curling around her ears, and dark blue, searching eyes. His hat was not as a cowboy would wear, but rather floppy. He wore a long sleeved, light blue shirt. On top of this Beni wore a dark blue vest, laced across the middle. He also wore a pair of brown pants with the bottoms tucked into his high black boots. Last of all was the forest green cloak Aliah was now wearing.
She herself was dressed in a simple brown work dress, her long brown hair tied back in a handkerchief. The girl wore no shoes as she had been working in the garden, and was saving them for special times.
"Let's get inside," Beni said happily, laying his arm across his sister's shoulder. Giving Pixley a final pat, Aliah followed her brother into the rain.
"That's good soup mama," Beni said, scraping the last of it from his bowl. Mira Breman smiled softly, clearing away his dishes. The woman's nut brown hair was tied back in a loose bun. She wore a dress like her daughter's, except that hers was grey.
"We have much to be thankful for," Hema Breman said seriously. "Not everyone has stock, and our crops did better than many others." The rest at the table nodded soberly, all except for young Lili, who was watching her brother, a twinkle in her brown eyes. She jumped up, her light blond braids flying, and ran over to Beni.
The little girl was wearing a short white dress which she wore to school, that came just below her knee. To add a little color, the seven year old had insisted on wearing a blue vest over top. She, like her sister, wore no shoes. The older brother looked down on her, an affectionate smile on his face.
"Ah, how may I be of service, my Princess?" he asked in the manner of a knight. The child giggled.
"I'm not the Princess! She lives at the capitol." Beni nodded, taking Lili in his lap.
"Aye, she does live in Ramar doesn't she?" The girl nodded. Beni pulled a small package out of his vest pocket.
"This, my sweet, is for you." The little girl didn't hesitate to grab, and open the package. Her eyes instantly went wide.
"Candy!" she cried excitedly. The package continued several peppermint sticks.
"Now be sure to eat them slowly," Beni warned. "It might be a while until I can get more." Lili nodded, already licking one. "Ali," Beni said next. Aliah looked up with interest.
"Yes brother?" she asked, smiling.
"This is for you," Beni said, handing over another package. Before she opened it, Aliah felt the package, finding it soft. She quickly took off the brown paper, and her face lit up at what she saw.
"It's lovely," she announced, lifting out a sky blue shawl with navy colored flowers embroidered on the hem. Beni grinned.
"I knew you would like it." He went on to give his parents gifts. Mira received a silk, rainbow colored scarf, which she quite loved. Hema, who was a wood carver, was given a beautiful little ivory handled knife with silver designs on it.
"I will think of you every time I use it," Hema said, sliding the knife into it's little silver sheath. Beni snapped his fingers.
"Ah, I've just remembered. Father, have you finished with the arrow shafts yet?" Hema took his new knife out again, and began scraping at a long piece of wood.
"Aye, I've finished about a hundred and fifty, with more on the way." Beni cleared his throat.
"Well then, I suppose I'd best deliver them at the town square. He fetched the shafts as Aliah looked outside.
"The rain seems to be beginning to stop." Beni nodded, pulling his hat and cloak from off a peg near the door.
"All the better. Light and I shall have a peaceful trip into town." Lili and Aliah waved as their brother got Light ready and rode off.
"That boy has wandering in him," Mira observed.
"Aye," Hema said, kissing his wife. "He gets it from you."
"Captain Radli?" A man in a brown uniform turned at the sound of Beni's voice.
"Ah, lad," he said, his face breaking into a jolly smile. "I see you have returned to us. Any close calls?" Beni nodded, thinking of the men on horseback chasing him.
"But not Brohdenites laid a hand on me."
"That is good." It was a dangerous time to live in Bitia. A nation beside them, Brohden, had decided to take over the smaller country. Now Bitia was in drought, and a blockade had been set up to keep supplies from entering the country. But there were a few brave men and boys that were sneaky enough to slip through without being caught. Such a person was Beni.
"I've brought some weaponry, and food." Captain Radli nodded.
"Let's see the weaponry lad." Beni pulled a sack from his saddlebags, and handed it to the man. He lifted out iron arrowheads, the points tied in cloth. They were made in Elindoor, a country known for their forge work.
"Very nice," the captain conceded. "Do you have shafts to be attached?" Beni nodded, pulling out the shafts, all tied together.
"Father carved about a hundred and fifty for this week." Captain Radli nodded, surveying the workmanship.
"Good. Very good." The man took a bag from his pocket. "Here is your father's payment for the shafts, and here is your payment for the trip." Beni nodded, then motioned back to his horse.
"I also brought some rice. I'll leave it here." Captain Radli agreed, so Beni handed him the sack which he had covered during the rain.
"Thank ye lad. Your next list will probably come around in a week or so."
Beni left, walking Light quietly through the forest, back towards their small farm. It was a beautiful thing to walk through the peaceful forest, not ravaged by war. Being a blockade runner meant you knew all about war. Beni had come across several skirmishes on his trips, and several narrow escapes. Because of his dangerous job, besides the sum he was paid for each trip, Beni was allowed to keep any extra money that wasn't needed for supplies. He had used said extra money to purchase the gifts for his family. The boy continued home.