Journey knew caution, but she didn’t know fear. She wore two amulets around her neck: One had been carved for her from a piece of oak struck by lightning; the other was carved from a green stone by ancient hands long passed, and so Journey felt watched over when she roamed the mountain night and day at will. The knife at her side, traded for at a rendezvous north on the Green River when she was old enough, had never been drawn to do much more than whittle traps and whistles and cages for little animals, though she’d skinned with it, too, and made arrows. Her father, for that’s how she knew him, taught her how, and helped her make a bow. Her first hunting season he called in a wild turkey for her, though it was her shot that took the bird at the juncture of his neck and his chest. She was calm; her arrow went true. She took game from an early age and hardly missed.
She’d been there on the mountain as evening came on, when the owls began to call each other. Usually, when the sun was nearly down, one heard scurrying and rustling under the dry leaves; a stick might snap, a rock slip. Creatures moving. Warm air rising from the valley often brought with it the scent of winter pelts, but a late rainfall had scrubbed the sky clean. Everything had stopped to look. The clouds moved on, and now only the blind could ignore the barrage above. Oh, to fly like that! To straddle one of those balls of fire! To be the heat and not get burnt; to ride it faster than a thousand horses; to hear its roar! She was lost in that swarm of fire. The edges of her soul had melted. Time didn’t exist.