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[Spring 1519]Author's Notes
When the river flooded,
Avorel was swept away before
she even realized anything was wrong.
The next thing she knew,
she was waking up on a pebbled beach
with no idea where she was
or how to get anywhere she recognized.
Avorel was not a woman grown,
just a girl of eleven summers --
twelve if you counted this one at the gather.
She was not even planning to be a ranger,
but thought to become a domestic instead.
She did not know what to do,
but there was nobody else to do anything,
so she would have to make do on her own.
Avorel bandaged the cut in her scalp
and chewed willow twigs to soothe the headache.
She gathered mussels to eat from the river
and collected edible plants to finish her meal.
She had a flint chip and found pyrite to spark a fire,
driftwood to burn, a hollow under a fallen tree
to adapt into a warm shelter.
She slept, and hoped it was all a dream.
She woke, and remembered it was all real.
Now Avorel would have to make a plan.
First she thought about trying to get home,
but Itrelir lay south and uphill,
and beyond that she wasn't sure.
North lay the summer gather
and the sound and various landmarks;
if she hit the coast, she could turn
west to Itadesh or east to Itakith.
So she headed north with the river.
She had only her clothes and a few tools,
no mount, no stored food, no other people.
She had that, and her wits,
and even though she wasn't an adult
she was old enough to study for the tests,
so at least she had her survival skills.
Avorel traveled north along the bank,
twisting and turning as the river wound.
She tickled fish out of the water with her hands,
killed mudfrogs with a sharpened stick.
She made a sling from one legwarmer
and hunted for small animals.
She unraveled yarn and set snares at night.
Baskets she wove from the willows
to hold the plants she gathered by day.
She walked and walked,
wearing her boots thin,
getting blisters on her feet.
She lost track of the time.
Then one morning she saw smoke ahead!
It was not along her river, but beyond a ridge,
so she left the beach she had been following
and ran toward it, but it was far away.
She took all day to get there.
Then it turned out to be
not smoke but Smokewater Valley.
Avorel stumbled down the slope
into the little cluster of houses
that the three villages shared
in the fragile valley.
She was not supposed to be there --
it was only for adults, not children --
but here she was, early and unlooked for
and presumed to be lost and dead.
The adults guesting in the valley
made a tremendous fuss over Avorel.
They gave her a few days to recover
from her lengthy adventure, but then
bundled her onto a snow-unicorn
and headed for the summer gather.
Avorel was delighted to reunite
with her raisers and her age-mates,
especially Jimoq whom she rather fancied
and who looked at her with admiration now.
The Elders gave her a bead shaped like a boot
to commemorate her survival, and quietly said
that she had showed the fortitude of an adult
even though she had yet to pass the tests.
Avorel thought about that,
about the adulthood tests yet to come,
and realized that something in her had changed
during that long hard journey.
The wilderness wanted her so much
that it had yanked her right out of her village.
She wasn't going to argue with that
by trying to stay a domestic, no,
it was the life of a ranger for her now.
This poem came out of the March 2013 Muse Fusion. It was made public as a participation reward for the April 2014 Muse Fusion!