Home > Pathfinder's Way

Pathfinder's Way
Author: T.A. White

Chapter One



“For God’s sake, woman, the village will still be there if we take an hour’s break.”

Shea rolled her eyes at the soaring mountains before her. This was the third rest stop the man had called for since setting out this morning.

“We must be half way there by now,” he continued.

Maybe if they hadn’t stopped several times already or if they had moved with a purpose, but as it stood the group had probably traveled less than two miles. Half of that nearly vertical. At this pace, it would take an extra half day to get back to Birdon Leaf.

And who would they blame for the delayed arrival?

Shea. Even though it wasn’t her needing to stop on every other hill when they felt a muscle cramp or experienced shortness of breath. Since she was the pathfinder, it was obviously her fault.

She could hear it now.

The pathfinder sets the pace. The pathfinder chooses when to take breaks. Yada. Yada. Yada.

She hated running missions with villagers. They thought that since they’d gone on day trips outside their village barriers as children, they knew a thing or two about trail signs and the Highlands in general.

It was always, ‘We should take this route. I think this route is faster. Why is it taking so long? These mountain passes are sooo steep.’

Never mind it was her that had walked these damn routes since the time she could toddle after the adults or that the paths they suggested would take them right through a beast’s nest.

Nope. She was just a pathfinder. A female pathfinder. A female pathfinder who hadn’t grown up in the same village as them. Obviously, she knew nothing of her craft.

The man yammered on about how they couldn’t take another step. Any reasonable person could see how worn out they were. She wasn’t the one carrying the gear or the trade goods.

Whine. Whine. Whine.

That’s all she heard. Over the last several months, she’d perfected the art of tuning them out without missing pertinent information.

It was all in the pitch. Their voices tended to approach a higher frequency when they regressed to bitching about what couldn’t be changed. As if she could make the switchbacks approaching the Garylow Mountain pass any less steep or treacherous.

“We’ll take a rest once we reach the pass,” she said for what seemed like the hundredth time.

They had begged for another break since about five minutes after the last one.

She had a deadline to meet. Sleep to catch. Most importantly, she didn’t think she could last another half day with this lot.

“We’re nowhere near that pass,” the man raged.

The rest break obviously meant a lot to him.

“It’s just over that ridge,” Shea pointed above her.

Well, over that ridge and then another slight incline or two. It was just a small lie, really. If the man knew the truth, he’d probably sit down and refuse to take another step.

“That’s nearly a half mile away.” The man’s face flushed red.

Really if he had enough energy to be angry, he had enough energy to walk.

“Quarter mile at most.”

“We’re tired. We’ve been walking for days. First to the trading outpost and then back. What does an hour’s difference make?”

Shea sighed. Looked up at the blue, blue sky and the soaring pinnacles of rock then down at the loose shale and half trampled path they’d already traveled.

“You’re right, an hour’s rest won’t make much difference.” His face lit up. “However, you’ve already wasted two hours today on the last two breaks. You also wasted several hours yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. We should have been back already.”

She held up her hand when he opened his mouth.

“Now, we are getting up that pass. We need to be over it and down the mountain by nightfall. Otherwise you’re going to have to fend off nightfliers. Do you want to fend off nightfliers when you could be sleeping? Or would you rather suck it up and get over that damn ridge?”

The man paled at the mention of nightfliers, a beast about three times the size of a bat that had a disturbing tendency of picking up its food and dropping it from a high altitude. It made it easier to get to the good parts on the inside.

“We’ll wait to take the break.” He turned and headed down to the last switchback where the rest of their party waited.

“Oh, and Kent.” Shea’s voice rose just loud enough for him to hear. “Please let them know that if anybody refuses to walk, I’ll leave them here to fend for themselves. Nightfliers aren’t the only things that roam this pass come nightfall.”

He gave her a look full of loathing before heading down to his friends. Shea kept her snicker to herself. Good things never happened when they thought she was laughing at them.

Idiot. As if pathfinders would abandon their charges. If that was the case, she would have left this lot behind days ago. There were oaths preventing that kind of behavior.

What she wouldn’t give to enjoy a little quiet time relaxing on the roof of her small home right about now.



They didn’t make it back to the village until early the next morning. Shea brought up the rear as their group straggled past the wooden wall encircling the small village of Birdon Leaf.

The village was a place that time had forgotten. It looked the same as it had the day it was founded, and in fifty years or a hundred, it’d probably still be the same. Same families living in the same homes, built of wood and mud by their father’s, father’s, father. Most of the buildings in the village were single story and one room. The really well off might have a second room or a loft. Nothing changed here, and they liked it that way. Propose a new idea or way of doing something and they’d run you out of town.

They didn’t like strangers, which was fine because most times strangers didn’t like them.

They tolerated Shea because they needed the skills her guild taught to survive. Shea tolerated them because she had to.

Well, some days she didn’t.

A small group of women and children waited to welcome the men.

A large boned woman with a hefty bosom and ash blond hair just beginning to gray flung her arms around a tall man with thinning hair.

“Where have you been? We expected you back yesterday morning.” She smothered his face with kisses.

“You know we had to keep to the pathfinder’s pace. The men didn’t feel it would be right leaving her behind just because she couldn’t keep up.”

There it was. Her fault.

Anytime something went wrong it was due to the fact she was a woman. Even looking less feminine didn’t help her. A taller than average girl with a thin layer of muscles stretching over her lean frame, Shea had hazel eyes framed by round cheeks, a stubborn mouth and a strong jaw-line she’d inherited from her father. Much to her consternation.

“What the guild was thinking assigning a woman to our village, I’ll never know,” the woman said in exasperation. “And such useless trail bait. They must have sent the laziest one they had.”

Trail bait. Dirt pounder. Roamer. Hot footed. Shea had heard it all. So many words to describe one thing. Outsider.

Shea turned towards home. At least she would have a little peace and quiet for the next few days. She planned to hide out and not see or talk to anyone.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)