Sem Yar was hurried through the busy camp as fast as he could. The whole tribe was preparing to leave the winter camp and just as every year in the tribe's history, it meant chaos, shouting, children running and lots of work. For Sem Yar work meant bringing a package of medicine to a warrior with an inflamed wound and to give the man instructions on how to use it.
Before his master had allowed him to leave, Sem Yar had had to recite the list of ingredients of the medicine and why they were part of it, which had turned the task from something that could be done in half an hour into a one hour ordeal. Sem Her, the tribe's master of cures, usually called healer, liked to test his few pupils every day.
Becoming a master of cures was not what Sem Yar dreamed of, but it was one of the few professions he was still suited for. He was his master's youngest pupil, him having stopped taking new ones on years ago, feeling too old to finish their training. Five years ago, Sem Yar had started his training as a warrior, together with a host of other young boys from his tribe. They had been trained mercilessly and endlessly. He still had scars from it.
Then, during the summer, a few months after his training had started, the kingdom decided to leave their walls and fortresses in the mountains and venture into the plains. Their attack had taken the tribe by surprise and so the losses had been devastating. When his own camp was attacked as one of the first, the warriors had mounted a defence to allow everyone else to get away. During the rout, desperately running away from the kingdom's cavalry and their deadly mages, an arrow had struck Sem Yar's right leg. He remembered lying on the ground, blood leaking from where the damned arrow had pierced straight through cloth, skin and muscle, feeling nothing but pain and fear of certain death.
Someone had picked him up at some point, or he would have died there, but he couldn't remember who or what happened for the rest of the day. In the end he woke up screaming, when his master removed a big piece of wood from his leg. Somehow during his rescue, the arrow had snapped and torn into the muscle surrounding it.
Ever since then, his leg was stiff and walking was a pain. His family had died that day, most of his friends had as well, and some days Sem Yar wished he had joined them. He never even had the chance to say goodbye to them. One moment he was cleaning his gear, the next a warrior raced his horse through the camp shouting about an attack, and the moment after that the first arrows struck people and horses down.
As he had been unable to stand for a month, the master of cures had taken him under his wings. He had made an exception to his rule and made him his pupil. And so now he was limping through the camp, silently cursing his live.
When he reached his destination, the injured man was sitting atop a wagon, his arm in a bandage and an expression on his face that was half anger, half shame he couldn't help tear down his own tent. A group of people, the man's relatives most likely, were busy gathering his belongings and loading everything on the wagon. A girl about as old as Sem Yar was the first to notice him. She was pretty, Sem Yar found, her features a bit sharper with more edges than most. She wore her hair short and, to his surprise, wore trousers instead of the more customary dress. The family had to be from one of the outer clans, he decided. Proud people, fiercely independent and probably not pleased to be waiting for a main camp healer.
And not at all to his surprise, the girl called him as he approached: "Finally. What took you so long? Did you limp here?" Sem Yar stopped dead, thinking about what to reply. He pulled up his worn out trouser to show his leg and said: "Yes, I did."
Whatever reaction Sem had expected, it wasn't what he got. "How can you live like that? You're just a burden to everyone." While the grumpy greeting he had received at first could have been the result of stress and a bad mood, he now was sure that the family he saw before him was part of one of the Lizard Clans. He figured that it would be best to just finish his business with them as quick as possible and try to not raise too much attention. He approached the man and handed him the medicine and gave him the standard lecture on how to use it. When he turned around to leave, to his relieve the girl had left. Around him the camp was busy and it seemed as if he had managed to avoid all trouble. Bracing himself for the pain of walking back, he walked a few steps. As he cleared the wagon, he saw the girl again. She was standing with a group of youths, most of them boys. They were looking at Sem Yar, and he didn't like what he saw in their faces. He looked around but nobody paid any attention to him or them. People had more important things to do. The journey north was a long one, but it also meant the freedom of the plains and the sweet fruits of the orchards. Everybody was eager to get there. From somewhere he heard a melody, played on a flute. The first families had finished their preparations and had some time to idle or entertain the people around them. Looking over his shoulder every couple of steps, he hurried along what used to be one of the paths leading away from main camp. Now it was barely visible, the once brightly green grass around it had been trampled and now was almost painful to look at.
When he returned, his master and the other apprentices had apparently finished their tasks and were busy caring for their horses. It was a necessary and important task. With the tribe stretching over miles while journeying, injuries were common and getting to the injured was often a matter of time. For Sem Yar, riding was bliss. It was the only way for him to move faster than at his usual snail's pace and he enjoyed that freedom thoroughly. But even this joy had its limits. As with everything, the reason was his leg, of course. So while others had horses selected for their speed and stamina, his was the one with the least of a temperament, the softest one they could find. Another proof for what the Lizards claimed: That he was weak, not fully fit to live with the tribe.
After he had found a waterskin, he checked on his horse. It had been fed and cared for, the worn out harness and saddle had been prepared. His master's work, no doubt. He always was too kind. As he was thinking about the old man, Sem Yar heard steps approach. The dry earth made it hard to hide one's steps. Always there was something crunching or creaking. When he turned around, it was his master. The old man looked tired, something that was to be expected with all the activity associated with the tribe preapring to move north. Yet, it was his master who asked: "Are you alright?" Sem Yar was puzzled for a moment, then he realized something. "You knew they were lizards!", he called out. "Why did you send me to go there?"
"To see how you would do. You returned, but you seem concerned. So what happened?"
"There was a girl. She was in a bad mood, asked if I had limped there because it had taken me too long for her taste."
"And what did you do?"
"I showed her my leg. Didn't shut her up or anything. She told me I was useless."
"And in response to that you did what?"
"I left her, did what I was there to do and left, trying not to get hurt."
"Good. You did well. Not perfect, but you made some good decisions there. As a healer, you will have to deal with people you don't like and of course those who don't like you. There are always those. They will blame you for people you couldn't safe, for a medicine not working or not working well, you will have to live with that."
After a short pause, seemingly lost in thought, he continued with a hint of a smile in his face : "You did well. Now make sure your belongings are on the wagon and make sure you have enough water and food with you. Today will be a long day!"
And it was a long day. Soon after Sem Yar had finished his preparations, the signal was given for the tribe to start moving. As the first clans started moving, in an order as old as the tribe, the healers also left one by one. That way, they would be close to wherever help was needed. Sem Yar would stay close to his master, together with one more healer and an apprentice. They would stay close to the wagon with the medicine supplies and prepare tonics for the sentries, the other healers and all the other people who had the most demanding tasks. Another job of theirs would be to make sure all the common medicines were in steady supply.
As the sentries rotated around the train, they would pass the medicine wagon and get their tonics, water infused with refreshing and invigorating herbs. This wasn't the first time Sem had done this task, but it seemed this year it was more work than it had been the years before. As time dragged on, he spent most of his time not on his horse but on the wagon, working. Every now and then he had time to sit back and look at his surroundings. Behind him, the mountains were getting smaller and before them, the endless plains stretched to the horizon. Or at least they would if a multitude of wagons and horses wasn't in the way. Every man able to ride was on horseback, something that would change over the next days. The first day always was like that. Everyone wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Then, the pace would slow down. Sem would miss the mountains. The summer camp was a beautiful place, next to small river, with trees and a few hills surrounding it, but it was too flat for Sem's taste. While he would never be able to climb the mountains to hunt with the warriors or even just go there to collect herbs as other healers would, he still liked them. Now, they were travelling away from the mointains, through the last hills before they would enter the endless plains. Soon, they would pass the last few trees they would see for weeks. There were rivers and streams of all sizes, crossing the plains on their way from the mountains to the sea, but even around them no trees could be found.