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  1.  

     

     

    1
     
    “Nighttime comes with shadows trailing;
    Baby's eyes are open wide,
    Watching what the twilight pale
    Hides behind her purple veil.
    Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
    Momma knows that sleep is best.”
     
    A lilting voice, soft as the downy fleece that covered me, sifted through my dreams. The voice of the one person I allowed myself to love. I felt the butterfly like softness of her hands slip into my own calloused ones. And her kiss on my troubled forehead was softer than silk.   She must have noticed my eyelids twitch, for she continued her timeless song,


    “Sleep shall take you where the lilies
    Star the quiet pool with light,
    Where the winds are whistling mild,
    Glad to greet a weary child.
    Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
    Momma knows that sleep is best.”
               
    The voice died away, and the sound of the deep night took its place. She had gone to bed, taking her place at my father’s side, leaving me all alone, in the corner of our colorful tent, asleep on my sheepskin pallet. It was then that my ceaseless dreams found me again…
     
     
     
     
     
    A young girl of raven black hair and deep eyes the color of fresh honey, stood in the middle of the desert. Her mouth was open in a silent scream. A desert cat, one of the Pockii, was crouched low before her. As its eyes stared into her own, the girl turned and ran. She ran, and ran, and ran, unceasingly. The dream shifted, then, as it always did. Now the girl was hiding. But she didn’t know why; and so she hid,always hid. People came and went, and they never saw her – they looked straight into her eyes, but they didn’t find her out. She was afraid, so afraid, but she hid it lest the desert cat find her, and look into her soul…
  2.  

     

    2
     
    I am not the baby my mother used to sing to. Besides having grown to 15 summers old, I have a firm jaw, raven black hair that is cut close to my ears, with two longer locks of hair hanging down to my chin on either side of my face – in the Jzunni tradition. My honey colored eyes no longer look about me in innocent fascination, instead, I have learned to keep them hard and emotionless – it is the way my father taught me, it is the way of Jzunni men. Though my height is rather below the average boy of my tribe, I am thin and wiry; two assets to winning the wrestling competitions that start the minute our chores our done. But while I seem to fit in with the throng of boys our tribe has proudly produced, I am different from them, because I have a secret…
                   
    The night of my birth was marked by a thunderstorm, which is a bad omen to our tribe. It meant that I would either cause many problems, or have many problems in my lifetime – maybe both. And so I entered the world, a charming, squealing, pinkish tan baby girl. And that was the first of my problems. Our tribe exalted boys and men; they were our pride and joy. Women and girls were good only for making more men and boys, and housekeeping. And so my father, Shaun, was outraged that his only child was a girl. It was a disgrace. My father was known for his strength and courage, but he was also cunning. He was number one plan maker in our tribe. And he made a plan for me. No one knew that I had been born a girl, save for my mother and father. So he gave me a boy’s name, Ryelo, and swore my mother to secrecy. Of course she would keep it a secret, my shame was her shame, and she feared my father greatly. And so from the moment I drew my first breath, though I had been born a girl, I became a boy. A tradition was also started that night, that of my mother singing me to sleep. And through the tone of her voice, she told me she loved me. Once I reached the age of five summers, my mother was only allowed to speak to me after sunset when I entered the tent for sleep. Boys weren’t allowed to have relationships with their mother, only their father and other boys. Love was a sign of weakness, but I loved my mother, Adeala.
                   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    At a young age father told me that our tribe and all other peoples of this region had a king. I, in ignorance of the ways of kings, had looked around our small desolate camp and had asked why this king didn’t take better care of his people. I was sure a little more food and clothing wouldn’t be a bad thing. I knew of several other tribes that had had an even worse year, having had their wells dry up, and many sheep die from the extreme heat. My father had rolled his eyes and enlightened me that kings had little to do with the outlying tribes and small villages that merely existed. He was more concerned with his riches, parties, and politics.  Which left us to ourselves, and that suited my father fine. I still didn’t understand why we weren’t important. I told my father that if I could pick a king, I would choose one who cared for even the smallest of people. Laughing my father had told me to put it out of my mind, we had been stuck with a selfish line of kings for many years, and it wouldn’t change while I lived. So, like a good son, I did as my father told me, and let the leaders of the village take care of the politics, while I spent my time growing.
     
    I reached my final growth spurts as I entered my fifteenth summer. I had the care of my father’s flocks of sheep, and my own wild pup which I had named Jaffa. And as the customs of my tribe required, I chose a skill for myself – the longbow. After intense training from my father, and the other tribe leaders, I achieved a level of high excellence. I could shoot a hare in the eye from about 35-40 yards. Though this was helpful in watching over the flocks and gaining food for the family, it only gave me minimal status among my comrades. I had been the only one to choose that particular skill, because it was deemed the least important. I chose the bow, because among the other skills were such things as, unarmed combat, wrestling, and the use of spears, none of which would I ever gain much excellence, and all of which were used in war and hunting. For one thing, I lacked the natural strength and courage of a man, and for another, I didn’t like war. This irked my father, who naturally decided the best way to make me overcome this, was to put me amongst the rowdiest groups of boys. And let me tell you, I got more than my share of scrapes and bruises.
  3.  
    Ha! We have finally succeeded in coercing you to start your own story! Yay for us! Keep it up, I shall be devouring it eagerly and then thoughtfully chewing on it as soon as you can manage to continue recounting the story. So make it tasty. I don't like chewing on things that are bland.

    ~JUGGERNAUT, THE DYNAMIC
  4.  

    My story is bland? gee thanks!   :D

  5.  

    well, i usually tend to be too wordy, or not enough detail.  lol

  6.  
    lol No, it's not bland! I am extremely interested to see what is going to happen ... I think DJ merely wanted to spur you on to continue your best. :-D Spuracious Anemone
  7.  

     

    3
     
    “Just jump, and roll when you reached the ground!” This came from Koegan, my closest friend. He sat comfortably on the ground, and looked up at me, as I perched on a tiny cliff nook about 15 feet from the desert floor. I gulped, and then glanced above me at the cliff ridge which stood another 30 feet above me. I had rashly boasted to Koegan earlier that I could climb down it. It had gone well until now. Below me there was nothing but smooth red rock. Again I eyed the distance to the ground. 15 feet wasn’t far when you were diving into a pool of deep water; but landing on hard ground... I shuddered as I thought of jumping off my safe little nook. And yet, I HAD boasted that I could make it down. Better to die from a broken neck, than to be the laughing stock of my comrades.
     
    I sucked in a deep breath, and scowled at Koegan – he was acting way too smug about this. I squeezed my eyes shut for a brief moment, envisioning my fall and the splat at the end. Then I jumped. Okay, actually I fell; because at that moment, my ‘safe’ little nook broke. Forgetting about my pride, I let out a shriek as I dropped.
     
    It is funny how time slows when you’re about to die. Not funny as in laughable, but weird funny. I watched the ground come up almost in slow motion. I saw the shocked look on Koegan’s face; he no doubt also thought I would die. Then time resumed its rapid pace, and I crashed into the ground. Or rather, I crashed into Koegan. Obviously time had NOT slowed for him, and he hadn’t had time to move out from underneath me. And come to think of it, his shocked look might have been more of a “oh no he’s going to land on me” type of look, rather than the, “oh no my best friend is going to die” look that I had supposed.
     
    After about a minute of stunned stillness, Koegan groaned and shoved me off of him, then rolled onto his stomach. I lay still, the shock of falling 15 feet and landing on my best friend was still wearing off. Koegan sat up and glared at me, his eye had turned a dark shade of black. My elbow had used his face as a cushion. I gave him a weak smile and slowly sat up as well. That’s when my left leg exploded. I couldn’t describe the pain if I thought about it for a million years. As tears pricked my eyes I stared at the source of my pain. My leg had not landed on Koegan.  Both of us had landed on it. And now it lay at such a weird angle I would have laughed had it not been for two reasons: one was the pain, and the other reason was that I could see my ankle bone poking out of the split skin.
  8.  

    Oh, ouch ... hate that kind of pain.  >.<

  9.  

    As a side note,  You pronounce the names as follows:

    Ryelo: ( Rye - low) silent 'e'

    Shaun: ( Show, with an 'n' on the end. )

    Adeala: ( Ah - day - la )

    Koegan: ( Ko - gan) silent 'e'

  10.  
    A is totally right I did NOT say that it was bland!
    *adopts an air of being always misunderstood, then gets bored and continues reading the VERY FLAVORFUL story*
  11.  
    that doesn't sound very happy
  12.  

    okay okay I was joking.. i knew what you meant :D  you are NOT as misunderstood as you think!

  13.  

     

     

    4
     
    It was dark as I sat in the tent of our village shaman, though I could see the soft grey light of coming dusk seeping through the door flap. After my spill, Koegan had run for help. My father had staunched the blood from the wound and bound it, then carried me to where I sat now. Chills crept across my body as the silence threatened to suffocate me. As I struggled to stay conscious from the pain, the shaman stood before my twisted foot and stared at it. Then he took his staff and a few of his talismans and began shaking them over my body, shifting his feet in a slow dance as he did so. He was talking to the spirits. My eyes widened and I glanced at my father, who stood impassively in the corner. Was he just going to stand there? Why didn’t the shaman fix my foot? A small stab of anger knifed through me. Now wasn’t the time to stand emotionless in the corner. Nor did I think the spirits would help. More like they would curse me for being so stupid at the cliff. 
    I shivered in fear as I waited for the shaman to finish. I tried to keep my face stony like my father’s, but unsuccessfully. Pain and fear were obvious in my eyes, and my father frowned slightly when he glanced at me. He had high respect for the village spirits. And if he knew how little faith I had in them, he would be angry. Though I was afraid of the spirits, I was more afraid of my father. And so I forced my emotions away.
     
    The shaman fell silent and looked at my father, who then followed him out of the tent. A moment later my father reentered, picked me up, and carried me through the village to the north side, where our own tent stood. He set me down on a rock outside and entered the tent. I bit back a sigh; it seemed that even now the tribe custom would be upheld, and my mother wouldn’t be allowed to help me. After a moment my father came back, holding a piece of cloth and a white fleece bandage. Without a word he knelt by my crippled foot, and handed me the cloth. One look at his stony face and I knew what he would do. I shoved the cloth between my teeth and bit down.  He was going to set the bone. I saw his hands move and I heard a pop, then the agonizing pain hit me. I’m afraid that the girlish nature inside of me took over in that moment, for I fainted dead away.
     
    It was dark when I awoke, and I felt something on my brow. I shifted with a groan and forced my eyes to open. An immediate sense of relief flushed through my body, as I saw my mother’s face bending over me anxiously as she held a damp cloth on my head. One look around the tent told me my father wasn’t present, so I sat up, moving an inch at a time, and allowed mother to prop a woven pillow behind my back. She had put a poultice on my foot, and it sucked some of the pain away. I glanced at her face again, and suddenly felt dangerously close to tears. I bit my lip hard. I did not want to cry – especially not in front of her. She knew how hard I tried to be the boy my father wanted. And I did not want her to see how frustrated I was. How it hurt me every time he stated that above all else, courage, bravery, and leadership were to be admired, and foolish emotional displays and love were to be spurned. So that every time I conquered one feat or another, I would get no word from father, just a stony nod. Every time I wanted to laugh, clap, cry (and I wanted to cry a lot), or show fear, I would swallow the emotion and nod. Every time my mother prepared a delicious dinner and my stomach was grateful, I would not thank her. I would accept it as my due, and nod.
     
    But my heart cried out for change, I needed love. My mother needed love. And as I looked at her caring face I couldn’t keep the tears from streaking my cheeks. Her arms were immediately enfolded around me. But as she began her nighttime song, I saw pride in her eyes. There was sympathy and sorrow there too. I knew those emotions were for me - all but the pride. What did she have to be proud about? Before I could wonder for very long, my eyelids drifted shut, and I allowed myself to forget about the day, the pain, the sorrow, and the fear as I listened to her song.
     
    “Nighttime comes with shadows trailing;
    Baby's eyes are open wide,
    Watching what the twilight pale
    Hides behind her purple veil.
    Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
    Momma knows that sleep is best.”
     
    “Sleep shall take you where the lilies
    Star the quiet pool with light,
    Where the winds are whistling mild,
    Glad to greet a weary child.
    Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
    Momma knows that sleep is best.”
    Thankful People: Dynamic Juggernaut
  14.  

    Wow, very nice!  Can't wait to see where this is headed.  :-)

    Impressed Anemone

  15.  
    *is speechless with wonderment*
  16.  

    LOL. :D Thanks.. i'm excited to see where it's headed too!  O.o

  17.  

     

    5
     
    A moon shift after the night I had fallen asleep in my mother’s arms, I woke myself with a shriek. In the center of our tent my mother glanced quickly up from her loom. She studied me for several long moments, then sighed and let her gaze return to her work, deft fingers spinning father a new tunic. I watched her, allowing my heart to return to its normal beat, and the visions of Pockii leave my troubled mind. Standing, I shrugged my ragged wool tunic over my head and pulled on my favorite lion-hide breeches. My father had killed the lion that clothed me, I reflected proudly. He was a famous warrior. Once, when he was in his twentieth turn, he had killed one of the desert legends – a Pockii.  He had somehow escaped its terrible power long enough to slay it. It was said these spirits, which roamed in the form of a leopard, could see into one’s soul; and if it chose, could take that soul right out of your body, leaving you a living corpse. These were the tales that we children excitedly told while keeping watch over our flocks of sheep. It kept a thrilling flutter in our chests as we jumped at each shadow, and boasted to each other that we’d actually seen one. I had joined in these boasts, boosting my own budding ego, until my thirteenth year when I had begun dreaming. The Pockii roamed my dreams, all too real for me to continue my foolish boasting. My tribe lived in fear of these spirits, our shamans prayed to them for protection – but I had little trust in their prayers. I had little trust in their spirits. When I was younger, the Pockii had held me in thrall just like my tribe. But now, each night as they looked into my eyes, I would scream myself awake and wonder how something so terrifying could actually keep me safe? Surely there was something kinder and more loving that was watching over our tribe.
     
    These thoughts circulated in my mind, as I took my longbow and arrow quiver from my bedside, slung them on my back, and then grabbed a crutch leaning against the tent wall. Putting it under my left armpit, I exited the tent. After my accident, and after my father set my foot, I’d had to use a crutch that the village carver had made for me. It slowed me down at first, but I could now hop along at normal walking pace. I was hopeful that soon my foot would be well and I could again join the games.  But for now I was well enough to return to work. An injured foot wouldn’t keep a man from protecting his flocks.
     
    As I hobbled along, I avoided the stares of the men and boys I passed, keeping my own gaze on my bare feet as they padded up the dusty hillside. I had been the object of scrutiny ever since my accident; it was a bad omen to injure a foot. I felt sure I was the sole object for the bad omen target practice that the spirits seemed to enjoy. I shrugged aside these morose thoughts and took a deep breath of the cool morning air. It was still dark outside, but only a few stars could be seen as the glow from the upcoming sun chased them away. Dawn was my favorite time of day, and I always rose before the sun came up just so that I could watch it rise. Dawn was also the coolest time of day, and I relished each second of fresh cool air on my rough tanned skin.
     
    I walked for only a few minutes before I came to the clay cave that housed our sheep. Untying a rawhide rope I shoved aside the fence that kept the flocks inside. After entering the dim cave I exchanged my crutch for the staff that rested against its cool wall – my tribe believed in allowing the staff to rest with the sheep, they thought it added to the flock’s protection. I turned to begin herding the sheep out into the coming dawn, but as I neared the back of the enclosure, I saw a new lamb lying on the ground in the farthest corner. Obviously the ewe hadn’t felt like waiting any longer to deliver the little one. I glanced around trying to locate the mother, and as I did I noticed a grey spot flash from beside the lamb into another dark corner of the cave. It was a rat. I hurried forward then and stooped by the lamb. Caressing it gently I examined each leg, and found what I was looking for – gnaw wounds in one of the lambs rear legs. It hadn’t even had a chance to get on its feet. I cleaned the wound with water from my water skin, and then bound it with a strip of hide. Picking up the bleating lamb and holding it in one arm, I turned and ushered the sheep out of the cave with the familiar call “Ly Ly Ly lyYYY!” As they ambled out of the cave I noticed that one of the ewes hung back close to me, and I smiled. It was the mother sheep, keeping a careful eye on her lamb. I turned and my own careful eye scanned the dark corners of the sheepfold – Koegan and I would be having a rat hunt tonight.
  18.  
    cool! can I come?

    Seriously Breanna, this is an awesome story. I have one question though. Did you write chapter 3 before or after your own knee was injured? Just wondered...
    Thankful People: Juggernaut's Dream
  19.  

    Thanks! i finally wrote more..

    Haha, Well, i wrote chapter 3 before my injury. .but i did think about it as i wrote this latest installment.

  20.  

    I am enjoying your story immensly as well.

    Thankful People: Dynamic Juggernaut
  21.  

    I'm finding it hard to emphasize how very much I'm enjoying this story - great job!

    Emphasistory Anemone

  22.  

    6

     
                Later that evening I stood outside of Koegan’s tent, waiting for him to dress so we could begin our rat hunt. My father had agreed to watch the sheep for a small time so that we could rid the sheepfold of the annoying pests. It was best to hunt them when the sheep were out to graze. In my hand I held a slingshot, and at my side hung a small pouch holding several round stones I collected earlier that morning as I watched the sheep.
               
    With a groan, I squatted down in the normal resting position, with my knees close to my chest and my bottom not quite brushing the ground. Koegan had always been fond of his appearance, and I grinned as I thought of him inside the hut making sure all the new hairs of his goatee were in place. He had begun to notice the girls in our tribe, and he enjoyed showing off to them. To say the truth, I was a little jealous. I told myself that it was because I enjoyed spending time with him and didn’t want girls getting in the way. But the real reason was that I knew, girl though I was, I would never have a chance of catching Koegan’s eye. I envied the girls who could live as they were born to live.
     
    As I sat, I noticed that a few feet away from me, Koegan’s young brother Paili, stood pouting. He had wanted to join our rat hunt but he was to watch the sheep, in Koegan’s stead. I gave him a friendly grin and stood, going over to ruffle his hair. “Don’t worry that you can’t go with us this time. You help us with so many things nowadays that I’m beginning to think that you will become more experienced than I! And you are only six turns. It would be better for you to go and watch the sheep this time, and let Koegan and I practice hunting rats. Then, when we come back, we can teach you!”  Paili gave a halfhearted smile, and nodded. Then he left to take up his duty with the sheep. It was then that I heard the tent flap open behind me and I turned raising an eyebrow at Koegan as he came out.
                        
    “What?” he asked, trying to look innocent. He strapped his own rock pouch to his side, and brushed past me, his sling shot in hand.
               
    “Oh nothing.” I said with a grin. “By the way, you missed a spot” – I tugged on his goatee, and then walked off as quickly as my injured foot would allow.  Koegan laughed good naturedly and caught up. We walked in companionable silence until we reached the sheepfold. Koegan gave me a grin, then opened the gate and crept into the cave, gripping his sling shot in readiness. 
     
    It was always best to hunt rats in pairs, one to flush them out, and one to kill them. I stayed just outside of the cave, watching Koegan reach the back and find the rat hole. He made sure that no rats were hiding in the cave corners, and then stood back and gave me the thumbs up. I headed around to the back of the sheepfold, where the cave went into the ground, there, I had found earlier, was the rat’s secondary hole. I took my staff, knelt down, and shoved it in as far as I could, my arm entering the hole as well. I tried not to think of poisonous spiders, as I wiggled and jabbed my stick around inside the hole, making as much noise as possible.
     
    Suddenly I heard a yell from inside the cave. I jerked my arm and staff out of the hole, and shoved a rock into it, so the rats couldn’t escape that way. I hobbled quickly inside the cave, a stone in my sling. Koegan released a stone from his sling, and hit a large rat that had emerged quickly from the hole; having been aroused by my banging.   The rat keeled over, and Koegan ran towards it.   I didn’t have time to watch him wring its neck, because another rat somewhat smaller, raced out of the hole. My hand snapped up and I pulled back and released, watching the rock shoot from the sling, hitting the rat’s body. It fell stunned and I lunged, forgetting my injured foot and grabbed the rat, twisting its neck to kill it quickly. I stood and grinned at Koegan, who had finished with his rat and stood keeping an eye on the hole. I walked over and held my rat next to his then shook my head and groaned.   He laughed – his rat dwarfed mine.
               
    “I had a smaller target!” I said in self defense. 
               
    “Okay okay!” He said, still laughing. “We both know you are the better shot. But my rat is still bigger.” He added.
     
    I rolled my eyes, and looked towards the hole. “You think there are more?” I asked Koegan, “They may have had babies.”
               
    “Nah,” he shrugged, “but let’s plug the hole just in case.” He walked outside and found a rock about the size of the hole, and wedged it inside so that any baby rats would be trapped. Then he picked up his rat and clapped me on the back. “What fun eh? Too bad yours is so puny.”   He shoved my shoulder, grinning, “It’s not likely to impress the females.” Then he winked at me and walked out of the cave, towards our camp.
     
     
    I retrieved my staff, and then trailed behind Koegan, grumbling to myself.  As we neared the camp, my ears picked out the sound of moaning voices. Then a wail rose and the voices began chanting. As recognition washed over me my heart fell and I turned to look at Koegan. But he was no longer there; instead he was running towards the camp, and his family’s tent. I stood motionless, stunned. The voices were mourning a death.
  23.  

    By the way, if anyone has any comments or ideas about a more precise or better way to write something in my story, let me know.

  24.  
    Oh no!!! Who died??
  25.  

     

    7
     
                It was dark inside the tent. All openings had been shut, all candles snuffed. The sense of sight was useless, only the sound mattered. Words softly chanted, and tenderly uttered, circulated throughout the darkness. One lone drum beat a steady tempo. In the center of the tent lay a body covered in a soft sheepskin blanket; a man; my father.      
     
    As I listened in the blackness to the muted sounds around me, a tear slid unnoticed down my cheek. My mother hunkered next to me, unmoving, the soft chant sliding from her lips. Her eyes were closed. She was praying to the spirits to pave the way for her dead husband - my father.  The father I had always thought of as impregnable and untouchable. My father… father… father. My thoughts wandered in an endless circle, until mother squeezed my leg. She had noticed that I was not adding my pleas to the spirits to provide a safe journey for my father.
     
    A twinge of guilt ran through me.  And I too began the chant, though halfheartedly. I realized that I no longer believed in my tribe’s gods.  I chanted merely to appease my mother. Koegan, his family, and all others who knew my father, were also gathered around the body, all chanting in the dark. For the remainder of the day, and for most of the night, we stayed by the body, pleading for a happy afterlife. Eventually people got up, and returned to their own tents. But my mother and I sat by father still, mourning him.
     
    As the sun’s rays peeked up over the hills, the other village leaders, and the shaman returned to our home, and picked up my father on his pallet. As my father’s firstborn, I took my place at his head. My mother walked by our side and we carried my father to the place he died. As we reached our sheep’s grazing land, we stopped. The red dirt, with its few shrubs, trees, and tufts of scraggly grass, seemed barren and empty. After digging a hole beneath a lone tree and listening to the shaman’s last pleas to the spirit’s, we lowered my father into it, and covered him with the soil and placed large rocks over his grave, so that no beast could dig there.  
     
    It was customary to bury a deceased person, in the place that he died, so that his spirit could reunite with his body. But as I placed the final stone on the mound, I shook my head. My father was no more. I knew that his spirit would not return to his body. I wondered, vaguely, if there was a God, who collected people’s spirits; who cared when they died, and did not leave them wandering, alone.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I sat for many hours in the quiet of the sheepfold, until the sun was straight overhead. Then Koegan found me.

    “Come, I will not let you mope about all day by yourself. Let us go and gather kindling for your mother’s fire, and help her pack all of your belongings. You cannot let her do all the work, when you are leaving in only five mornings.” He held out a hand to help me up, and I gratefully took it.  He was right, we were leaving.   Because all of our sheep were dead, we had no way to make a living this barren land. So my mother and I had decided to move to the city. She could weave and sew clothing there for people who would pay, and I was sure that I could find odd jobs. It hurt me to think about leaving Koegan, but I knew that no one in our tribe was well enough off to share their own food and clothing supply. It had been too harsh of a season.  
     
    We walked quietly side by side for a long moment, gathering dry dead sticks. I was just thinking of how I would miss Koegan, and mourning again the life I could never had with him, when suddenly Koegan nudged my shoulder and grinned at me. 
                “I have been waiting for you to share your thoughts, but since it seems you are bent on keeping your secret, I must tell you – I know. I know that you are not what you have seemed to everyone else these fifteen turns.” Koegan laughed softly, “your father was a smart man, Ryelo, but how he thought he would hide you forever I’ll never know.”
               
    My jaw had been resting on my chest during this speech, and now I snapped it shut. I eyed Koegan for a moment, wondering if he had been reading my thoughts all these years.   He knew my secret? I thought about what he had said for a moment, and then blinked at him. “You mean that you’ve always know that I am a … a”-
    -“A girl?” Koegan broke in; he laughed and nodded, “of course I have. I have spent almost every day with you, how could I not know? The fact that you had to go behind a bush every time you needed to relieve yourself, that you wouldn’t skinny dip in the cool lake, that you never took your shirt off in the blistering sun while watching your father’s sheep, and then recently the fact that while I have been growing what you call fuzz, your face is still as smooth as a babes.”  Koegan laughed softly and grabbed my hand, giving it a tight squeeze. “I never told anyone else, because I thought you would be happier in the life your father chose for you, and because I did not want to expose him to the tribe’s scorn. But spending my days with you by my side in every adventure has made me realize that girls can do many amazing things. I don’t think they should be limited to weaving rugs and clothing out of sheep wool.” Koegan released my hand and continued picking up kindling.
     
                I just stood there looking like a dumb chicken, watching him. I don’t think I spoke another word to him that day, except to thank him for his help, and bid him goodnight. My thoughts were on overload, and I had become suddenly shy around him. I berated myself for this, because I knew I only had five more days with him. But he knew my secret! I grinned to myself as I prepared for bed that evening; the knowledge that someone knew my secret, other than my mother, had lifted a large weight off of my chest. I told myself that the fact that it was Koegan that knew who I was did not change anything.
    However when I finally slipped into bed that night, I did not dream of Pockii. They could not steal my soul; they could not reveal my secret. I did dream of Koegan.
  26.  

    My sister made me write this chapter quickly so that she could read who died.. I may do some tweaking later.

  27.  
    EXCEPTIONAL
  28.  
    This line cracks me up every time I read it. "I just stood there looking like a dumb chicken" ROTFL
  29.  

    Hahaha!

  30.  

    Wow, that's pretty dumb ... not just a chicken, but a dumb one!!  :-D

    Terrific work as always, Bree - I didn't expect you to break the secret so soon, even if it is only the one friend who knows!  Bravo, you are succeeding beautifully in your story.

    Terrificatory Anemone

  31.  

    Ya I didn't think I was going to break the secret either.. but it just kinda fits right there.. plus, this IS in the short story section.

  32.  

    Changes to Chap. 2 - i added the third paragraph.

  33.  

     

    8
    My eyes watered. At the rate I was inhaling the stirred up dust from the road I would certainly need nothing else to eat for the rest of the day. There seemed an endless line of people on this endless road. I had never been on a journey before, and my tribe had never really needed to wander, so I hadn’t known what to expect. But I had always assumed that roads took you places. This one seemed to go on forever.
     
    I glanced up at my mother who rode on our only horse beside me. It was almost mid-day and she already looked worn out. We had been on the road for four days, heading east, towards BinAhdin which my tribe remembered as being a small town in which we could make a living. However as more and more people joined us on the road, I gathered tidbits of information. The town that, now supposedly only two days ahead, was not a small town. While it once had been the town my tribe remembered, it had since grown into a thriving city, and one that attracted all sorts of people – hence the endless line heading towards it; the line that was stirring up the dust I was currently eating for lunch.
     
    Keeping a wary eye on the milling people I guided our horse to the edge of the road. A sparse tree offered only slight shade, but under the hot sun anything helped. I helped my mother off the horse, and then tethered it to the tree – next to another traveler’s horse.  I sighed; there was just no getting away from the people. We had been surrounded by them from day two of our journey. Untying my sandals from the saddle bag I slipped them on my feet, which needed a rest from the hot dust. I didn’t wear them as we walked because I had only one pare, and it wouldn’t do to wear them out.  I would need them in the city, especially as I’d heard that the streets there weren’t made of soft dirt, but hard stone. I pulled the water skin off the saddle bag next, and offered it to my mother who drank gratefully.
     
    “Thank you Ryelo” she handed the bag back and ran a hand along my dusty cheek. “You are indeed the child your father and I raised you to be.
     
    My eyes went to the traveler who also rested under the tree. Of course he wouldn’t know my secret, but I scrutinized him just the same. He wouldn’t know because I was dressed just like any other boy I had seen on the road today – a baggy white wool shirt, and light wool pants. Soft strips of leather were wound over top of the pants from my ankles up to just below the knee, giving extra support to my legs.  Around my head was cloth that I could use as protection from the sun.
     
    The man that I had been scrutinizing was dressed in a similar manner. He was clean shaven, and seemed to be in about his 30th turn. His head was leaned against the tree and he didn’t seem to be paying any attention to his horse. I snorted, people like that were the easiest to rob. I knew I could take his water skin (of which he had a plentiful amount), and probably anything else of value from his horse, or even his person, without him noticing – I had nimble fingers. But fortunately for him, I was the child my parents had raised. I didn’t steal. I turned towards our horse after taking a long drink from the water skin, and let the horse drink a small amount. Then I tied the skin tight, and put it back on the saddle.
     
    Sitting next to my mother I put my back to hers, letting her rest against me. Her back was bothering her after such a long journey, and I decided that as soon as we reached the city and found a home; I would rub the aches away for her. My father was not here to look after her, or to tell me it wasn’t proper to associate with my mother, a woman. Tears pricked my eyes as images of my father rose in my mind. I hadn’t had much time to think about him lately. Though he was a hard man, it had made me proud when my mother had told me quietly as we started on the journey that I had the same deft assurance that he’d had. I knew Father had been much wiser than me, but he had taught me much – and I felt sure I could take care of my mother as well as he had.
     
    Blinking away the glare of the sun I was again aware of the man under the tree, this time his eyes were open; and they were trained on me. A thin smile curled the corners of his mouth, and he made a gesture at me that I assumed was a wave. I nodded at him, and then turned and began helping my mother back onto our horse. We had rested long enough – and being stared at made me edgy.
     
    “Are you going to BinAhdin then?”
     
    I jumped and turned around. It was the stranger. He had approached silently. I looked at him through narrowed eyes, letting my suspicion of him be fully evident. He had a strange accent, a slight silkiness to his speech that my ears were unused to.
               
    “I don’t tell strangers of our travel plans.” My voice was prickly. I knew my mother and I were vulnerable, and I was taking no chances. The stranger just shrugged, stretched, and moved towards his own horse; giving it a handful of grain.
               
    “I’m sorry to pry. You are a very wise boy. Never give out information. I will tell you the reason for my curiosity. If indeed you go BinAhdin, then you should know that it is still two days journey.” The man gestured at our depleted water skin, “and that will not last.”
     
    I shrugged. This was not news to me. But I figured that there would be watering holes along the way. There had to be; this many people would not be making such a journey if it were so treacherous.
               
    “There are no watering holes.” The man finished, his eyes on me.
     
    My heart sped up for a couple beats at the news. How would I care for mother and our horse, without adequate water. From the time I could walk, it had been instilled in me never to head into a situation without enough water. The sun was vigilant in its blaze, it did not rest from duty just because we lacked water.
     
                “I thank you for the warning, sir. However we cannot go back. We shall be going on now.” I took the horse’s lead and had taken a few steps forward when the stranger called out again.
     
                “I will give you water. I would not have such a young boy and his mother die for lack of water, when I had plenty to spare.”
     
    I stopped, squared my shoulders and turned. “Sir if you thought that we stopped for rest here, merely for the sake of taking your water – then you dishonor me.” I hated false shows of generosity, “if I had wanted your water, I could have taken it while you were sleeping and your horse was unguarded.”
     
    I returned to my mother and led them away. I glanced up at her and saw a small quirk of anxiety cross her face, “Are you sure you do right to turn down his generosity Ryelo?” I looked down and didn’t answer. She went on as if talking to herself, “it takes humility to admit you were unprepared.”
     
    Even as we joined the throng of people again to continue our trek, which now had an added threat, I could feel the stranger’s eyes gazing after us. As I restrained myself from looking back at him, I would have sworn that I heard him chuckle.
  34.  
    Dust for lunch? That is entirely unacceptable! Maybe as an hors d'Ĺ“uvre, I've done that before, but really, lunch?
  35.  
    Awesome narrative. Keep it up!
  36.  

    I still don't think it was interesting enough... i'll have to add more excitement to the next chapter to make up for this one's lack. ... whenever i get around to writing it.

  37.  
    What do you mean? It was interesting. I am very interested to know the "stranger's" part in this story.
  38.  

    It was definitely interesting!

    Interestinged Anemone

    •  
      CommentAuthorCurly Que
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2010
     
    *like*