It was bright and clear with a crisp wind coming in from the north. Cool enough now to put on their robes and enjoy the invigoration of a new season. They had just come out of the forest and had entered a broad savanna of grasslands. Now the small river had grown larger, but still comparatively shallow and slow moving. Vance could see that it meandered into reed country. Thua had stopped to put them down to take off her harness when she said. “This is far as I can take you, Margo. The mating season starts soon and the bulls will soon enter into the breeding fever. It would be dangerous for you to stay with us.” She pointed with her trunk. “Just stay by the river and it will lead you out to the desert. Try to avoid the natives.” Vance looked up at her.
“Yes. Margo knows of them.” She turned and started ambling off. “Like I say, try to avoid them if you can.” She waved with her trunk. “It would be good to see you again.”
And she was gone into the tall grass.
Vance realized that Margo hadn’t given him much information about her situation. Maybe she didn’t want to scare him off.
So, my dear. Tell me about these natives.”
She bent down to pick up one of the supply packs. “When I was running away, my husband and his men were not far behind and my horse was starting to fade. I was fortunate enough to find a native encampment and I was able to convince them to sell me another horse.” She hefted the pack onto her back and started walking toward the small river. Vance did the same and asked. “Well, they don’t sound unfriendly. What was Thua worried about?” She looked back at him.
“They helped me because I gave them every bit of gold I had. They were more concerned about the men following me and were glad to take my gold and get me out of the way.”
Vance nodded. It seemed reasonable.
Walking along the meandering path beside the river, Vance quickly realized the reeds surrounding them would make a good boat. Wouldn’t take too long and floating’s better than walking, so he said. “Hold on Margo. The start cutting some reeds. Make sure they are at least 10 feet high.”
“We’ll make a boat”.”” Out of reeds? I don’t think it’ll be a boat. It’ll probably be more like a raft.”
“No, no. You’ll see.” And he was right. About five hours later they had constructed an 18 foot round sided craft with two up curving ends all lashed together with ground vine. When they put themselves and their two packs on board in the it only drafted 2 inches
He cut two bamboo poles to size and gave Margo one. Pushing out, they found the craft to be quite light to handle and very manoeuvrable. She looked back at him. “This is fun.”
“Yes. Don’t try to pole any faster than the current and just let the river do all the work. Use the poles to keep us away from any big rocks.”
So as the day waned into a cool evening, Vance estimated that they could probably cover about 20 miles a day. He felt good. He liked the rhythm of the river and the sight of the creatures beside it and in it. Many deer and some antelope. Even a stalking cougar who watched them drift by with cool indifference.
Margo was also enjoying the experience. The tranquility of the river calming her foreboding of future events.
It went like that for two days.
And then things changed. As they came around a bend in the river they saw to their right the body of a man impaled on a bamboo stump. Vance sighed. Shit! There’s always something. “Looks like a warning against trespassing.”
Looking at the sight as they passed by, Margo said. ” Let’s get down the river as far as we can before dark and then find a quiet place to bed down for the night.” She looked at him. “And no talking.”
Now they started poling the boat to actually gain on the current and after another hour she saw what she was looking for. A small island in the centre of the river. “We’ll beach the boat here and have our meal.” Vance agreed. “No fire, though. And we can sleep on the boat for a quick getaway if needed.”
Margo allowed her self a rye smile. Escaping on their boat could not actually be called a quick getaway.