Jed is slogging down the road from the pass, rifle slung on his back.
Jed abandoned the wagon quite a few kilometers back after they finally reached a washout they just couldn't get around. There must have been some violent storms this side of the pass - the road is in worse shape than Jed has ever seen it before.
Jed had already lost a lot of time easing the wagon over rock slides and around washouts, especially after the axle cracked. He wishes this friggin township spent more of their friggin tax dollars maintaining this stretch of the road.
Jed sent Layna on ahead, riding bareback holding onto the semi-conscious Ukoh. He tried to get her to take the rifle, but she didn't want it. He desperately hopes he hasn't caused two deaths, trying to prevent one. It's been over five hours since they left Gumgeeville.
Layna is lying in a pile of leaves at the side of the road, where she managed (barely) to crawl, after leaving her light sweater over Ukoh. Her head was throbbing way too hard for her to be able to determine whether he was alive or dead.
Jed spots the horse grazing on the roadside vegetation and is filled with horror. He unslings his rifle and expects the worst.
Layna wishes the shenned blue jay in the tree above her would shut up. And that squirrel family seems to be making more noise than a frat on Saturday night.
Jed cautiously approaches the horse, trying to feel confident, since on the one hand, he donated recently, and on the other, if Ukoh killed Layna, he's full and not ready to kill again.
Jed: Layna? Are you here? Layna?
Layna groans at the renewed aural onslaught.
Jed tracks the groan to a pile of leaves and sees Layna curled up there. He runs over to her.
Layna forces open one eye.
Jed almost said something like "What happened" or "Are you all right" but figured it was obvious.
Layna: Do you have to yell so loud? My head feels like it's about to split into seven pieces.
Layna is almost whispering, herself.
Jed is extremely relieved that Layna is well enough to complain. He lowers his voice to a whisper.
Layna: Is the kid still alive? I tried not to shen him until he had enough selyn to survive it.
Jed: I'll see. Can I do anything for you?
Jed looks around and finally spots Ukoh farther from the road, under some saplings.
Layna: Not unless you've got some fosebine on you. Go see about the kid, please?
Jed carefully approaches Ukoh's motionless body. He sees that Layna has draped her sweater over him. He debates what to do about the rifle, and decides not to point it at the Sime.
Layna was expecting to feel very bad after this experiment, but if the kid died anyway, it was all for nothing.
Jed: It's okay, Ukoh. You didn't kill her. She's got a headache but she's awake and talking.
Layna gives a whimper of relief at Jed's words.
Ukoh has been lying there confused, terrified, guilty and in considerable pain since he woke up. He's frozen in place, afraid that he'll be shot.
Ukoh: Mr. Mullins? Please don't shoot me. I didn't mean to do it.
Jed: It's okay, Ukoh. We'll go ahead to the Ford once we get things sorted out here. Just keep your tentacles hid and nobody will know.
Ukoh has his tentacles tightly drawn up, and has no interest in doing otherwise.
Jed goes back to Layna.
Jed: I think he's okay, Layna, just confused and scared.
Layna: I shenned him. I didn't want to, but I couldn't hold it, and it started to hurt so much. I didn't dare wait any longer.
Layna sighs through her ~~ guilt ~~
Jed: Well, you're both alive, and that's something.
Layna: At least he's not junct.
Jed: That too.
Layna struggles to sit up, white-faced with the additional pain and shock.
Jed squats next to her and helps.
Jed: Do you think you can sit the horse? I think we should get you to Hajene Bibi as soon as possible.
Layna: Yeah. The sooner transfer burn is treated, the better. We both need a strong dose of fosebine, before we go into shock. I thought we'd get to the Ford in time, but the horse threw a shoe, and we had to walk.
Jed: Yeah, I didn't expect to catch up to you.
Jed thinks that risking her life to keep his horse from going lame wasn't a very logical decision.
Layna: When he started coming around from the drugs, he turned out to be further along than I thought.
Layna isn't tracking too well. She has been accused of not tracking reality well quite frequently, but this is worse than that.
Jed: Uh huh.
Ukoh sits up, shivering, and tries to overhear the whispered conversation. He feels terrible, not just the guilt and fear and confusion, but injury from being shenned. He's already discovered how to suppress his disorienting new senses.
Layna: I couldn't reach town, so I stopped before he got disoriented.
Layna starts to shiver as shock catches up with her.
Jed: I'll get your sweater back.
Jed goes over to Ukoh.
Jed: Do you think you can get up? We've got to get Layna to the Ford, where Hajene Bibi can look after her.
Ukoh: I think so, Mr. Mullins.
Ukoh gets to his feet with considerable effort, his face screwed up with pain.
Layna is glad to hear that Ukoh is apparently in at least somewhat better shape than she is.
Jed: I think you need some looking after too. Come along.
Jed walks toward his horse, making suggestive motions in his pocket.
Jed: Come on, Dobbin, come on. I'm fooling you, I don't have anything in my pocket, but you don't know that.
Dobbin raises his head to look at Jed in disbelief, then goes back to cropping the grass. He's too old to run away, especially after five hours of hauling a wagon along bad roads. He isn't going to leave his clump of grass before he has to, though.
Jed grabs the horse's bridle and pats his shoulder.
Jed: C'mon, boy, a bit more work for you and you'll get some oats.
Dobbin shakes his head in resigned protest, then moves slowly after Jed.
Jed: Ukoh, you're a grown man now, so even though you're not feeling so good, you got to do what's needed. I want you to help me get Layna on that horse, and I want you to get up behind her and make sure she stays on. All right?
Ukoh: Yes, Mr. Mullins.
Ukoh hasn't enjoyed his adulthood so far, but shoulders his duty like a man.
Dobbin, having been gelded in foalhood, is less inclined to respond to the Argument From Testosterone.
Jed: Layna, Ukoh and me are gonna get you on that horse. Here let me help you up.
Ukoh reluctantly approaches Layna. The closer he gets the worse he feels. He realizes he's letting that.. that... Sime stuff happen and makes it stop. He's in enough pain himself without zlinning Layna's.
Layna struggles to her feet on the third try, with help from the other two.
Layna: Shen! I didn't hurt this bad even after that special session with the Armsmaster.
Ukoh feels even guiltier.
Ukoh: I'm sorry, Miz Layna.
Ukoh thinks it would be dishonest to say he didn't mean to hurt her. He wasn't even aware of her as a human being when he attacked her.
Layna: Kid, I could have stopped you sooner. You couldn't have stopped yourself at all. It's my fault I'm hurting, not yours.
Jed: Let's get you up on the horse, now.
Layna looks at Dobbin's back, which seems impossibly high, just now.
Jed and Ukoh lift Layna onto Dobbin's uncomfortably broad back.
Ukoh doesn't understand what happened, so doesn't know what to think about what Layna said. At least she doesn't seem to be mad at him.
Layna is hurting much too badly to be mad at anyone, just now. She suspects that Bibi, and Professor Nattin, will be mad enough at her to make up for it. She's pretty sure even her Sectuib would agree it was a mad idea from the start.
Jed: Up you go now, Ukoh.
Jed assists Ukoh to mount.
Dobbin grunts in protest at having to carry double, after all the work he's already done today.
Jed: Now you hang on to her, and let me know if you're having any trouble.
Dobbin stretches his neck longingly towards his clump of grass.
Ukoh tentatively puts his arms around Layna as he grips the horse with his shins. Dobbin is so wide that his knees won't reach the sides.
Jed pats Dobbin on the shoulder again and tugs him back onto the road and onwards to the Ford.
Dobbin sighs, and plods after his owner.