Chapter 8   

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Despite the fact that the sun had just barely begun to rise in the village, Hrafin was soon summoned by a hoarse shout to help repair the tents damaged by the storm, and dashed like a young boy down the mountainside without a word of parting. She could not help but smile at that. How on earth had this youth been able to drag her all the way up a mountainside unaided? He clearly had great strength in those limbs, but as he ran away it looked as if a single streak of unexpected wind would send him tumbling from the stone pathway off the steep cliffs to his right. He barely seemed to feel it, though, and his diminishing speck only gained in speed as he entered the village.

Turning away from him after another long moment, Seraph noticed another cluster of huts, mainly made from hides stretched over long wooden frames, partially buried in a snowdrift some ways down the valley. A nomadic tribe, finally. This close to the great city, they would definitely have brought some horses to sell or trade. Returning to the stone dwelling, she retrieved a small lambskin sack, stamped with ancient preserving glyphs, and dumped its contents gently across the floor. She laughed in spite of herself: whomever had gone through her bags had little knowledge of herb lore: many of her carefully arranged stacks had been rifled through, but not one was diminished, not even the copious amounts of saffron, more precious than gold. She began to return stacks and packets to the sack, but filled an earthen jar with saffron and dried cayenne peppers, which eased the pain of frostbitten skin, but could not be grown this high into the mountains. Even if she could not get more than a mediocre bargain from them, knowing full well what little nomads often had for trade, their horses would carry her down whichever paths they came up from well enough. Perhaps, if the winter's storms were miraculously light, she could be gone from the villagers' lives in a matter of months.  Smiling at the thought, she began her painful, halting march down the mountainside.