There was a long and ringing silence as Naida and Yalenda faced each other. Scaliana put her hand on Yal’s arm.
Naida looked around at the faces of the people who had raised her, said that she was family. Deno wasn’t in his own head yet, if he ever would be. Isocratis, no longer the Younger, but the only one, stared at his bare feet. Doris didn’t look up from rolling up her burned and barely usable rug. The closed and grieving faces, confused and lost in a world where the sea and land conspired to destroy them all. A long, long wail from the crags above the pass made everyone flinch. It sounded like a mourning ululation.
Irilla handed her second baby to Icarus and stood up abruptly. “That’s enough Yalenda. You might be new pregnant but you don’t spew such nonsense to anyone else.”
She marched over to Yal who was still glaring at Naida, seized her by one shoulder and shook her, sending dust flying as her hair came loose from her headcloth. “Enough! You’ve always hated Naida. We all know it, however much you try to butter it over. Now is not the time to scream this nonsense to the sky. The Gods might hear you. You saw the water dry up… the earth-shake closed it up. We need to take what we can and get through the pass before it snows.”
Yal opened her mouth, closed it again, twitched her arm out of Irilla’s grip and flounced over to Deno to start getting him to his feet. Scali looked at Naida, then Irilla, then over to Yal who was whispering to Doris, shook her head and followed after.
“You have the goats following you, girl,” Irilla said. “There’s nothing for you to carry but what you’ve got. And that poisonous tongue of hers is going to make your life miserable no matter what I say. Sorry.”
Naida wanted to just sit down and howl but could just hear Zeno in her head saying “Whatever good would that do? Go on. Keep moving, Nai.” She hitched Asteri up on her shoulders, checked her belt pouch where her bangle had lived since Zeno had given it to her, and began picking her way across the pumice-covered meadow, goats streaming around her.
“I don’t know the way to the pass,” she called to Isocratis. “Did your da tell you?”
He shrugged and picked up a broken stick, pulling rough ends and leaves off it, thumped it on the ground once. “Nope. Not really. Just keep going up. I think the next village is called Kuvat or Kuvatal or something like that.”
“Kuvatala,” Doris snapped picking up her rug. She peered up at the grey sky and Naida could hear her. “I suppose that sometimes we eat them and sometimes they eat us.” She’s talking about gorgons. Grey wings, spreading mantel, tentacles with suckers and hooks, just like calamari, though they are white, not grey.
At first it was hard walking because they all kicked up enough ash to envelope them in a fog that forced them to draw their tunics over their faces, coughing, but the wind kept up and eventually blew it away from them, when they got out of the meadows and onto the bare and rocky ground higher up.
The goats didn’t want to go away from the grass, even as gritty as it was and Naida had to stop and get Icarus to yank on Bruiser’s lead when he wasn’t helping Irilla and Irikraska. Scalia helped Uri with Deno and Yalenda, as new pregnant, carried nothing but her basket.
She muttered under her breath the whole way up the mountain, not loud enough for Naida to hear anything specific but she could feel Yalenda’s plaints oozing down her back like glistening snails dropping off onto the stoney ground.
They found a small divot in the trail that let them all huddle in together in the shadow of the cliff, calling the goats around them for warmth. Doris’s rug barely covered her and Irikraska. Uri called Yal and Scaliana to look after Deno who kept trying to get up and wander off in the dark.
Uri and Icarus had been gathering sticks all the way up, and made everyone else gather up at least two or three sticks of their own and they had enough for a little fire. “I’ll stay up first. Lots of things will be out hunting and we need to scare them off.”
Asteri groaned and squirmed around to cuddle against Naida’s front and she was so tired, so exhausted, that she was asleep before the fire had really caught.