Chapter 06: So it goes.

After his recovery and reworking of his personal image, he cleaned himself up for the town folk, tearing his hair with the cut mirror, shaving with a piece of ground metal, and abrasing his skin with coarse felt to “even his complexion”. One of those things he discovered on himself. His new clothing made him look cleaner than normal, but still there was not much of him to look at. He was tall, well over six feet, and sinewy. His age and harsh life left him weathered, and he was covered in undistinguished scars from reluctant animals and the various nicks of his every day life. He didn’t look worse than most of the traders he encountered, but didnt have much of a notion of his own personal presentation.

Having cleaned up, he once again loaded the trading-quality fabric on his back and lurched further up the hill to the ridge. Carrying a heavy load uphill is never pleasant, but the way to the ridge is especially trecherous, he had worked to keep the path clear, but the new spring weather had caused the underbrush to sprout up and block the path. Being bent forward with a heavy load, broke his center of balance and he lumbered awkwardly, catching his feet on brambles and vines. More than once, he caught his foot and fell forward landing helplessly on his face in the mud, and the inertia of his pack slid forward and ground his face further into the mud. Years ago, he caught the sharp edge of a rock against his eye, and subsequently pulled all the stones out of the ground. While it made the occasional fall more pleasant, he had effectively removed any of the structure and support a large load-bearing animal making the trail muddy, and more difficult to navigate.

The path was slow, but he made it eventually. As he drew closer to the path on the ridge, the underbrush became closer to the thick gnarled brush that plagued the valley, but thin and sturdy enough that he could at last find footing. A smarter man might have been inspired to build steps rather than remove all the rocks, but thats Sartoris for you.

Stepping on to the ridge trail was a breath of air. Being out from the canopy of trees flooded his eyes with light and he sat resting momentarily to take it in. The trail of the ridge was narrow, barely wider than his lumbering footpath. Down to his left, the trail fell back into the woods back towards his shack. To his right, the endless decay of the valley. Where once it had been a path down a fertile hill with a clear stream running through, it had filled and the foreign looking brambles practically filled the basin to just a few feet below him. The ridge, then stood high above the competing pieces of growth. In the distance, he could see the plateu of the south ridge, the tiny encampments barely visible in the distance.

Sartoris pulled himself to his feet, and walked down the path towards the south ridge.