Chapter 3: A Journey of a Thousand Miles…
The remainder of that day sat in quiet. The sun continued to turn the snow to slush and the clouds continued to flee from its face. The miller’s house was quiet. Only this quiet was busy. It was the quiet in which no one spoke but the huffing and heaving of the miller clearing wet snow was muted amongst the trees. It was the quiet in which no conversation filled the kitchen or reverberated over the supper table but the miller’s wife hurried about with her scrubbing and sweeping, always looking over her shoulder at the bedroom door of her brother-in-law then anxiously returning to her chores. It was the quiet in which no tears, no laughter, no muttering to one’s self beyond the door found the ears of the miller’s wife listening because there was none. Only the rustle of cloth on cloth and the hiss of metal on fabric as the brother-in-law packed, unpacked, and repacked his belongings. Jacob’s mind was as turbulent as the snow storm the night before, only now he felt fear. The sun was setting in the west. The day had moved swiftly, although the day seemed to have no end several hours before. He had only left his room once for a biscuit, salted fish, and some well water, avoiding eye-contact with Maggie as best he could. When heard her inhale in preparation for what might have been words for him, Jacob scurried only faster. He finished loading his pack for what felt like the hundredth time and sat on his bed.
On his bed next to his uncle’s letter.
He had read the letter a dozen times between his dazed packing and unpacking. He reread it always making sure he understood it correctly. He had spent the day rereading notes since he came home. Or came to what was once his home. He picked up the letter once again.
To my favorite nephew, Jacob Matthias Travlers. There. I have written it as good and final as if I had engraved it in granite. You are my favorite nephew, in so far as an uncle can have favorites. Certainly the scale has been tipped by the impending eviction you are facing. If I spoiled the surprise, then fold this letter up and speak with your brother. If you are aware, then your life is just beginning! Esau, and I suspect his wife as well, has decided it is time for you to leave the home of your childhood.
Good for you, my boy! I have dreamed of the day when you may join me on my merchant vessel. I have dreamed of the day when you and I would walk into the harbor of Nor’Haven and sale out on the seas on The Georgiana. But, alas, you have to make it to the harbor and make your way to me on your own. I cannot be there. Too much to do. Too many treasures to sell, too many royals to impress. And too many ladies to love. Have no fear, Jakey. On the back of this letter, I have left the name of a ship that should be leaving Nor’Haven for the south in a week’s time from when you should receive it. It will journey to the port of Edenweave. The Georgiana will be moored there when you arrive. If the weather holds out up your way, the walk from Norshire to Nor’Haven should take two days at a brisk pace with one four hour nap. Bring your gifts from your Uncle Malachi. You’ll need them.
Lastly, do not hate your brother and Margaret. They are giving you a gift, even if they do not know it. Let them live their quiet lives in their quiet village. You are made of sturdier stuff than that.
See you at Edenweave. Look for me at the Salty Lassie.
Malachi Travlers, Captain
Jacob turned the letter over:
Captain Reginald La Fayette
The Queen’s Splendor
The departure date was as Malachi had written. Only then did Jacob realize that the storm had delayed the letter. He had two days from the coming morning to be in Nor’Haven. His chest grew tight. His breath quickened. A two days’ walk with four hours of sleep his uncle had written. Where would he sleep? The thaw may have started but the nights would still be frigid and bearing frostbite. And even if he could manage a place to sleep along the way, Jacob wasn’t that fast of a marcher. He wasn’t conditioned for such a pace at that distance. Could he make it there in time? He would need a horse. Actually, Jacob had never ridden a horse, at least not as a grown man. And the family horse had frozen to death two winters ago and Esau hadn’t had the money to replace her. He’d need to go into town. Tonight. And find something for the following morning.
Jacob stopped. What was all this? Where did these machinations come from? Never had he planned such a journey. He had read stories of how others had traveled, but never sought out his own. But then, he had had a home.
This was it.
Jacob took a deep breath. He tied and buckled tight his pack, tightened his boot laces, and stood. His pulse quickened again, his chest tightened again. He closed his eyes and took another breath. Then another. Another.
In spurt of frustration Jacob slapped himself in the face, shook it off, and took one more deep breath. The deepest breath that, in that moment, Jacob believed he had ever inhaled. He threw open the door to the kitchen and as it banged and Margaret jumped, Jacob realized what he had hoped would be an act of confident resolution had turned to panic.
“Maggie,” the words stumbled out of his mouth. “Whatever you have prepared for supper, save it for you and my brother!” The words came hurried and panting. Was he afraid of speaking, leaving, or at staying? “I am leaving tonight!”