“Ever after lost in dreams,
the Mother bleeds and we conceive.”
“Wick berries,” muttered Emasu, “Why would someone stomp on a whole pile of wick berries?”
“The twiggy has blue hair,” Korin replied, “Maybe an attempt to blend in?”
“With wick berries? He would have to use the pulp then, Korin, the juice is too watery to bind to anything.”
Korin understood his friend’s confusion. He would never want to disguise his appearance either, but it made sense for the twiggy to.
“I don’t think there’s anything here, Korin,” Emasu said. “He probably kept going after he realized the dye wouldn’t take.”
“Right. At the very least we should take a position farther up the river. He will want water eventually, he seemed almost…in tune with it.” Korin was troubled. How fast could the twiggy travel? If he was scared enough to attempt disguise, was he scared enough to walk through the night? They could take a position on the river, and he could be in Duelan by nightfall. Korin’s hut was only three leagues from the border.
“Korin? Did he really claim to be a Monk of Diamond Eye?”
“Yes, he did, Emasu. He also claimed being in the Diamond Eye was the last thing he remembered. I think he is a runaway twiggy that bumped his head swimming across the border. He did not have the markings of a raider.”
“How do those fools expect to hide with a star on their face?”
“Whatever and whoever he is, we are required to bring the runaway twiggies to Queen Kitanela.” This is all Emasu’s fault, Korin thought, if he had not repeated my own thoughts back to me earlier I would be testing depth in peace right now.
“I’ll be honored to stand in the presence of the Queen, Korin, but what if he won’t admit it.”
“If he will not admit he is a twiggy, that is his choice, and no concern of ours. He is not Khazad and must go to PrimaSolari. That’s what you said, Emasu, and that is what we are going to do.” Korin was tired of the whole discussion. The twiggy would do what he would do. If he failed to see sense, that was no one’s fault but his own.
“We could just let him go. He has obviously figured out enough to know he should hide. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone’s death, Korin,”
“We will do our duty to the Queen, Emasu, not find him and help him wherever he wants to go. You should have let it be.” Korin thought of his life of solitude, his priorities clear. Protect the river, serve the Queen. There was nothing else. Well, besides fishing.
Korin turned away from the river and stared back at the plain. Emasu looked up from the fire.
“No, Emasu, it must have been a flying fish, or maybe one of those magic pigeons.”
“Really, a magic pigeon? Did you see anything in the sky? I heard they change colors as they fly, and-”
Korin smiled. It was always fun to play this way with Emasu. Korin wondered how he survived in the midst of politics. The many tribes he brought to the River Artari had conflicting opinions on fair water distribution. Emasu’s job was to keep them from killing each other over it.
I guess that is how, thought Korinm, as he saw Emasu’s eyes go hard. “That isn’t funny, Korin. You know I’ve been looking for a magic pigeon ever since the nomads told me of one flying over the Gate of Artari.”
“Just illustrating that not even your close friends tell you the truth all the time, Emasu. You have to admit I had you there for a minute. I cannot believe you actually think those things exist,” Korin laughed and tore off a chunk of charred grouper.
“You think he’ll turn up in the daylight, Korin?”
“We will keep looking tomorrow, Emasu. I plan to go all the way to the border, and then turn back. If he manages to evade my woodcraft, and your people sense, then he will do as well as anyone trying to sneak into Duelan.”
“Tomorrow, then, Korin. All this searching and talk of magic pigeons has tired me.” Emasu curled in on himself and put his head on his folded arms. Korin could see the wrinkles around his eyes deepening.
Wow, Emasu is duly offended, thought Korin. Stretching out on the ground by the fire to escape the chill of the wind, Korin drifted off, to misty dreams of blue haired Twiggies and Technicolor pigeons.
4-What a boy is made of
“Stalks and silt may bring me hurt
but I go on again.
Words and barbs may threaten fun
but boyish I remain-
running through the tunnels clear
longing for white light
all a boy has ever known;
the darkness of the caves and bones.”
– Khari nursery rhyme
Mateo was at a loss for words. Father would be amazed, he thought, starting into the strange blue eyes of his visitor. Its hair was ash colored, its face round, body built to be low to the ground. The ears looked like the levers on one of his father’s machines, sticking out from that fat face. What manner of creature was this, with skin as dark as the soot of a moss fire? The tapestries and histories always showed the enemy with masks, embroidered with five-pointed shapes the Governesses called fruit. Its dress was odd as well, a pale blue robe, belt and cloak, and some sort of slippers on its feet. Much to contrast with Mateo’s own garments; tightly fitted hat, gloves, pants, shirt, vest and jacket, all woven from the fine fibers of lake dwelling worms. Boots of serpent skin encased his feet, tops flipped over and tucked into the laces, which climbed from his toe to just below the knee.
Mateo wondered at its balance. They’d stared at each other for half an hour and not even a wobble. Mateo’s legs were starting to cramp, but he was determined to stay upright for as long as possible. He tried flexing his calf muscles, bouncing; up, down, up, down. The exercise seemed to help as much as it did when he’d been forced to crouch in his father’s study for twelve hours-another vain attempt from Morati to get him to pay attention to some obscure lecture. Said lecture was so packed full of odd formulas, calculations, ministrations and permutations for expected results that Mateo could not make heads or tails of it, or any of the others. He was far more interested in how to get his timri to harmonize with the echoes of the caves.
The creature barely moved. Mateo thought he caught the boy’s mouth trying to twitch into a smile when he pumped his legs, but he could not even be sure of that. Mateo wanted to break the silence himself. Curiosity was threatening to kill him. What did the creature boy mean, he is family? The word famata was one of the least used words in Eken. Loyalty was extended to clan and gender, not family. The men kept their small strongholds around the shores of the lake. All breedings were arranged by the priestesses. Every thing remained neat and orderly this way, or at least that’s what he’d been told.
Mateo felt losing his mother had nothing to do with keeping things orderly and every thing to do with enjoying cruelty.
Mateo’s mind flitted back to the matter at hand. What was this creature in front of him? Nothing he’d ever seen before. Morati warned him countless times-these tunnels led to Dwensical’s charou farms, and then on to Pishtar. Yet the thing squatting in front of him did not look like any ctharu Mateo read of in his history books. The picture blocks in those always showed large, squat beings riding stompar or the same soldiers fighting with Quansi in the tunnels with sword and ax. Not a face to be seen, nor an inch of skin, only glittering armor. They could not even postulate what the raw material of the armor was. Maybe the Family was the Ctharu.
It stared at Mateo. Mateo stared back. Would not do to give in after putting up with it this long. Since the creature isn’t trying to flee, I can keep staring as long as he can. Or until one of us falls asleep where we squat, he thought, my legs are numb now anyway. What kind of family would subject their young to the ritual of the stone? The particulars were a much kept secret of the governesses, but anything involving sticking a stone into someone’s neck had to hurt. Mateo didn’t think he could handle it, unless he was given one of those calming herbs his father inhaled before bed in the evenings.
He remembered a favored poem of father’s, believed to be prophecy by some Elders. The verse was by a man named Reymondo, written long ago when men were first oppressed in Dwensical. Morati had some crazy ideas, but he was nothing compared to his idol.
and no one cares
the charou molds
and the air turns stale
when darkness lightens
and eyes turn pale
all men will brighten
and women stare.”
June Faramore is a poet, songwriter, and novelist from Baltimore. Her 365 Days of Poetry blog can be found at http://junefaramore.com