"Wake Up Asahel." Asahel slowly opened one eye, made a face, and rolled over.
"Wake up!" Exclaimed Ara. Asahel jumped. He lifted one eyebrow at his grandmother.
"Is it already six?" He moaned unhappily.
"Yes," Ara croaked, "and you better get started." You don't want the sun constantly on your back before you reach Everlasting Mountains." Asahel reluctantly crawled out of his bed, leaving all the sheets twisted in every direction. He headed out to the barn to feed his mare, Phantom, before returning back to the cot to eat the small loaf of bread left from yesterday's dinner. Looking around the simple mud hut, Asahel wondered if delivering their baked goods all the way up to Lenarya, the capital of Azaria, was truly worth it for them. Yes, he was glad for his mare, but keeping her healthy was more expensive than keeping his younger sister, Elle, alive. He glanced over at Elle, still peacefully sleeping on the cot she shared with his grandma.
"Hurry up." Ara urged as she saw Asahel's eyes wander around the room. Nodding, Asahel changed, mounted Phantom, and headed to their bakery. Although Asahel was poor, he knew that he was richer than the other 15 year olds he knew. As he galloped by, people swarmed around him, begging him for just a few crumbs of his father's famous Capriconian bread. Sad and frustrated, Asahel shook his head and continued towards the bakery. When Asahel reached the bakery, the lovely smell of bread wrapped him in a shroud. After putting Phantom in the barn, he headed towards the back of the bakery. Carpon, Asahel's father, brought out the loaves of bread.
"For your journey." Carpon said softly to his son as he handed Asahel the freshly baked loaf. Mya, Asahel's mother, walked out from the side of the bakery and greeted him good morning.
"Hello mother!" Asahel called over cheerfully.
"Have a safe journey." Mya replied, "And don't let those Rostein boys tease you. Your doing your duty, and I am proud of you." Asahel blushed.
"Thank you mother." He whispered softly.
"And off you go!" Exclamed Carpon as Asahel mounted Phantom. Asahel began his daily routine. He packed the bread in his bag and rode off swiftly. Although the trip from Saelec Forest to the Everlasting Mountains was the shortest distance, Asahel thought it was the most dreary. For between Saelec Forest and Everlasting Mountains, the desert seemed to stretch out forever. He rode first to the Eles River, where he filled his leather bottle with water. The water seemed chilly this morning and Asahel was more reluctant than usual to jump into it. However, he did. The icy waters made his nerves send messages of pain up to his brain, but Asahel stayed in the water until he had finished his bath. The ride over to Everlasting Mountain was, as he predicted, hotter than he remembered. He welcomes the plunge into the Everlasting Brook that ran in the valley between the mountain range. Now as Asahel made is way up the river, he dreaded the teasing he would receive from the Rostein boys. The rich mountain men always enjoyed teasing the poorer forest dwellers.
"And here comes the baker's kid!" Asahel heard an exclamation behind him. Phantom was tired, and Asahel was sorely distressed that he had not let her rest before he entered Rostein. A stick flew by his head. He urged Phantom on, but the mare refused to go any faster than her current pace.
"Let's see if we can knock him off his horse!" Came another exclamation. "Maybe we can get some more of that delicious Capriconian bread!" Asahel groaned as he remembered how the boys had robbed him of half of his bread. His parents weren't mad, but he could tell they were disappointed. He shook himself off his daydreams to his current situation which looked pretty bad. A jagged rock whizzed past his head. Asahel picked up a rock and threw it back where he thought the other boys were. A yelp from the other side of the mountain told Asahel that he found their hiding place, but he didn't mean to hit one of the boys. Asahel gasped. After about half a minute, a shower of sticks and stones came flying in his direction. One stone hit Phantom on the neck. She screamed and took off at an incredibly fast speed. Asahel turned around to see the boys trying to chase him. He swerved around a bend and disappeared out of the town. Two more hours at a swift trotting pace brought Asahel to Lenarya. The small bakery that sat in the middle of the enormous bazaar was difficult to access. He dropped his bag of bread down on the ground at his uncle Azika's feet.
"Here you are!" Asahel exclaimed wearily. "I'm off back to the old house again!" Azika smiled. "Did you get harassed by those boys again?"
"Yeah," Asahel replied dejectedly, "but they didn't rob us. How's business?"
"It's beginning to flourish again!" The Ilirians are taking a fancy on our bread. Hopefully, we'll have the resources to bake more bread."
"Yeah." Asahel grinned. His pack already weighed ten pounds. He wasn't thrilled to carry more, but he was happy that the family business was flourishing.
"Well, off I go!" Asahel leaped onto Phantom's back and rode to the harbor. He greeted his father's friend, Froland, who was generous enough to offer Asahel free boat rides across the entrance of Warren Bay. From Tanson, Asahel enjoyed a ride straight down to Capricona. He didn't want to risk going past Rostein more than once a day. He enjoyed his dinner at the beautiful Saelles beach. When he arrived home, his family greeted him, and asked how he fared. But as usual, he was too tired to answer. He collapsed on his bed and fell asleep as he heard Elle say, "Asahel, grandma is dead."