Late the next day we came to a ravine. There was easy access cut into both sides of the ravine for traffic to cross, but as we approached it, we were all uneasy since there was clearly a storm off in the mountains to our left. Approaching the edge of the ravine, the gypsy caravan pulled off to the side and then gathered to discuss the situation, but the merchants would have continued on their way but for the sudden appearance of a mercat atop a large boulder near the crossing.
At the appearance of the large spotted cat so close, there were yells and a rush for weapons, but I ran forward to put myself between the cat and the people. “That’s not an aggressive growl,” I said, raising my arms to the people, before turning to the cat, “What is it you’re trying to tell us?”
Images flashing through my mind and a rumble sounded in my ears.
Looking back at Mother Hella and Bardon, I said, “He says heavy water, dark water is coming and will be here soon. We need to wait to cross or we won’t make it.”
“Bah,” snorted the leader of the merchant’s caravan. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, listening to this crazy woman, but I have deadlines to meet.” With that, he slapped the reins and his team started out, the second and third wagons following behind.
“Mother Hella,” I said, concern sounding in my voice, “I don’t think they have time to make it. Please, can’t you do something?”
“It’s not possible to control other people’s fates, Annie,” she stated, frowning as she watched the teams head down into the ravine.
“But they’ll drown.”
“Such is the path they chose.”
“He might have chosen that, but the other two didn’t,” I protested.
“Hush, Annie,” she said, trying to sooth me. “They chose to follow him. Their fate is not yours to decide, nor can you accept any blame for it. You warned us, and he chose not to listen.”
“Where’d the mercat go?” Magda asked, looking around.
“He gave his warning,” Mother Hella said. “His job was done.”
“We’ve never had a wild animal give us warning before,” Bardon stated. “Why now?”
“We never had Annie with us before,” Mother Hella stated.
Just then we could all hear the rumbling, grumbling sound of approaching water rushing towards us. The merchant wagons were down on the flat headed towards the opposite side but showed no signs of hearing the oncoming water. Some of the gypsies tried shouting out to them, warning them of their danger, but they either didn’t hear or didn’t choose to respond until the rushing water raced around a bend and headed straight towards them. We all watched helplessly as the water struck them, pushing the horses off their feet and sweeping wagons and their riders away. They vanished quickly beneath the water and if they surfaced, it was far around the next bend, where we didn’t see.
I said a quick prayer to the creator and beings of light to gather in their souls and watch over them, then turned to find everyone staring at me.
“How did you know that cat had a message for us?” Bardon asked.
“I could hear in its growl that it was trying to give warning, not threatening us.”
“Have you ever spoken to animals before?” Mother Hella asked.
Shaking my head, I said, “My sister’s dog always obeyed me, even when he was young, but I never thought I was talking to him.”
“Well,” Mother Hella said, looking out over the churning water, “we won’t be moving on for awhile. Even when the water’s gone, we’ll have to repair the roadbed before moving over it. I suppose we’re having an early camp and not moving until morning. Let everyone know,” she added, looking at Bardon, “and send someone to retrieve the bodies if they can be found. It would be nice to tell their loved ones where to find them.”
“At once,” Bardon said before turning away.