It had taken nearly two hours for the quiet to settle, for sentries to set out and the livestock to be rounded up, for the menfolk, the pregnant and nursing mothers, and the girls under fourteen years of age to climb to the caves. When they were finally away, Judith and the others looked at one another, and went off to their tasks. Judith’s job in theory was to be available when someone needed instructions, but in practice what it had meant was waiting and chewing her lip, sitting on the front steps of her house while her fingers worked their way through a heaping basket of dried beans.
Now she could hear Dian’s voice from behind the head-high corn, speaking words of praise and encouragement to dogs and horse. As Judith walked past the remnants of the farmhouse’s picket fence, they rounded the final corner, the horse at an easy trot, barely sweating. The dripping dogs, tongues lolling, spotted Judith; the brindle broke into a run to greet her, while big Culum satisfied himself with a wag of the tail from his place at the horse’s side. Dian quickly whistled the young one off and gave them both the signal for “home.” The dogs obediently circled around Judith, looking somewhat apologetic at their muddiness, to lope on up the hill toward the cool and shady pond behind the old barn.
Dian dropped off next to Judith, and the two women started up the road to the barn, leading the horse.
“They’re coming, then?” Judith asked, although it was not really a question.