The brightly coloured balloon shifted slightly as the wind rushed past it. Ymara checked that the mooring was secure and turned to smile at a worried looking Raneld. “It will be alright Raneld; the balloon is sturdy if a little cramped for three, but I don't think that will matter on such a short journey.” Ymara paused as a thought struck her “Are we facing the island or did we have to turn the balloon around because of the wind?” “We're facing it and the wind is directly behind us. I know you've done this before but please be careful”.
Ymara smiled and was about to utter something reassuring by way of a reply, but was distracted by a shout coming from behind her. She grinned as she saw a small group of villagers led by Cleatha and Marit who were carrying a ladder. Behind them came Tor'm and Tockre who were pulling a cart of sandbags. “Did we find everything you need Ymara?” Ymara examined the sandbags, picking them up one by one to check the weight and condition of them. Satisfied she nodded “Yes these are fine Cleatha, let's put these into the balloon and tie the others to the outside. Tor'm, Tockre, would you please take charge of the mooring ropes?” As the two men nodded and went to stand one each on the left and right side of the balloon's baskets, Cleatha and Marit leant the ladder against the front of the basket and with Ymara's assistance they managed to put all of the sandbags into their assigned place. That done they climbed down the ladder grabbed a hold of it and dragged it away leaving Ymara alone in the balloon's basket.
“Alright I am going to do the countdown down, when I reach One you must cast off the ropes.”
Tor'm and Tockre nodded and took hold of a rope each. “10, 9, 8, Raneld glanced over at Cleatha muttered 'oh please let this work' 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” The men swiftly cast off the ropes they has been grasping and ran around the balloon casting off the other ropes as the balloon soared up into the air. “Come on Marit we need to get into the tower and check her direction, Cleatha are you going to return to the infirmary?” Cleatha nodded “I promised Radqua I would keep an eye on things whilst she joins you at the tower to wait for Ymara's return”. Raneld nodded and waved goodbye as Cleatha hurried off.
Meanwhile up in her balloon, Ymara pulled down on the rope she was gripping, causing the balloon to lose altitude slightly. “Don't want to go too high or a proper descent might be difficult. Better check the compass, no it looks like I am going the right way, that's good.” As she performed all the usual tasks and checks Ymara thought back to the previous evening's events. It was by her calculations roughly eighteen hours since Radqua had returned from the town hall meeting; a meeting called on account of the unusually thick fog and two boys who were missing, lost somewhere in it. On hearing the news Ymara offered to search for them by balloon provided of course that the balloon's envelope , or canopy could be repaired. Upon hearing this all of the village women had arrived at the hall with materials and with Ymara assisting and overseeing, a new envelope was made. It had taken all of that evening, well into the night and the best part of the morning for it to be completed. Tockre had informed her that the boys' favourite fishing spot was on the south side of small island. At low tide it was possible to walk across to it but at high tide it was impassible because of the current. “There is one tree on it Ymara, they will be safe enough from drowning even if they are only half way up, but the tree has very few leaves and there is no other shelter. They might not be at risk of drowning whilst sitting in it's branches but they will be exposed to the wind and rain and with no way of getting food, unless they have caught some fish, and they are prepared to eat it raw. Even then they won't have any drinking water” Jolted out of her reverie by the sound of crying, Ymara grabbed her telescope and peered at the land below. Smiling she pulled on the ropes quickly and brought the balloon into a descent.
Raneld stared out of the tower window waving madly at the sight of an out of breath Radqua as she ran to the tower's base her medi kit in her hand. “Have you seen them yet, what is that red mark for and why are Tor'm and Tockre still on the ground? “Slow down Radqua, one question at a time. We saw Ymara take off but no sign of her return yet; the red mark is her landing point and Tor'm and Tockre are still out there to guide the balloon in.” Radqua smiled as she looked around the tower room. “I'm sorry I'm just nervous. How is it possible that someone who has been here for about a day and half can feel like someone I have known much longer?” Raneld smiled “She is like you Radqua, she cares about people.” “And I suspect that like you, the phrase 'give up' is just two words strung together, rather than something she believes in.” Marit added. The three women burst out laughing, all tension completely forgotten. A shout came from below and the three of them scrambled down the ladder quickly, as the balloon came into view hovering just about the trees. “Grab the ropes.. My boys are they there Raneld?.. They're alright Marit ...Look out below..
The next few moments were a confused jumble of sound as the five of them ran around grabbing the balloon's trailing ropes and making them fast whilst dodging the occasional falling sandbag. Raneld and Radqua snatched up the ladder and carried quickly over to the balloon as Marit stood there biting her lower lip. After a night which would have been sleepless even had she not been sewing a new envelope for the balloon, she suddenly felt very weary. A moment later the children climbed down the ladder and ran to their mother. “My boys.. Thank You Ymara”.
“Well there is only one thing left to do now,” Raneld murmured.
“I agree Raneld. Ymara your service to the tribe is such that we would invite you to join us.
Raneld turned around on hearing the voice of the High Elder, and smiled as she realised he had the whole council with him. “What say you Ymara, do you wish to join us?
“Thank you I accept your invitation. Ymara beamed happily as tribe began the welcoming ceremony, and Raneld murmured “Welcome Home Ymara”