“There is no way around the town?” he asked looking at her when he did.
“We can try the lake if it’s possible to obtain a boat large enough to be safe for Minerva. That may be possible but we will need substantial credits to pay for it.”
Stanton had some given to him by Druids he’d worked for while fixing the gristmill. Not much but maybe enough. “I’ve some,” he informed her.
She grew quiet and traced a trail, or road with a forefinger, tapping spots along it. “This one is treacherous since it runs through part of the forest known for carnivorous animals, snakes, bears, some big cats.”
Not having seen any wildlife except squirrels and birds since arriving on the ring world, Stanton could only nod. “Then we must find a different route.”
“This one then,” she said a traced a wider path that looked like a true road that could be driven using normal traffic from his world and time.
“Good,” he said and yawned. “Tired still,” he said.
“Sleep then. I will stay awake for another hour and then sleep too.”
Stanton stood, and returned to his bunk, dropping into an exhausted sleep.
Having a small child with him proved daunting. Minerva was like a little adult in some ways likely due to how she was raised by the healers. In other perhaps more important ways, she was a helpless child.
Stanton spent more time than he’d considered necessary getting her fed, and then helping her wash and change clothing. The entire time he did, he felt rather clumsy and self-conscious.
Taisie did nothing to assist but did occasionally chuckled, which Stanton found annoying. He said nothing because he knew that no matter what happened he was now responsible for his child’s life and welfare.
Finally, they were ready to mount up and travel. The idea of riding her horse again made Minerva smile. She waved one hand at the horse, and then waved goodbye to the cabin as their horses took them away from it.
Stanton hide the grin she caused, and admitted to himself that having a child might prove to be as much a pleasure as a challenge.
Keeping Minerva in the middle, him at the end at the warrior’s insistence, they made good time slowing only when they reached the cross roads where they had chosen with the map to head west in the direction of the lake.
The ultimate plan was to find a boat like the one he and Margaret rode and lived on before ending at the dock to the elevator.
They remained surrounded by old growth forest filled with wildlife but not one human yet. The road surface that had been hard packed dirt, was now wide thick planks mounted, he assumed on half-logs that crossed the planks at ninety degrees. The ride was much more stable than he would’ve believed if he had know ahead of time how the roadway was built.
Not seeing other people began to trouble him. The roadway was obviously well used, worn into groves in places.
So where are they?He wondered.
They were about to plan to stop for lunch since Minerva started asking to eat they discovered a large hill where the road would be if it went straight. The road builders curved it around the mound instead of cutting a path through it.
The warrior dismounted, assisted Minerva while Stanton cleared an area to build a small fire for cooking. The routine felt comforting to Stanton, and he found himself relaxing some.
He successfully started a fire, which he thought surprised Taisie.
She had removed food and eating utensils.
An odd semi-metallic clang from a gong froze Stanton as its ring hovered over him. He stood and looked around for Minerva.
“Where’s Minerva?” He asked the warrior.
She jerked upright, concern slicing a frown, narrowing her eyes.
“Minerva!” They said together.