Journey to the South: Ten of Thirty

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     A week out from Jitra we came to standstill in a village named Kallanha. A blizzard blew in from the Serranian, forcing us to seek the hospitality and shelter of the village. When we had first come to Kallanha, it had been one more stop on the Imperial Road before we reached the city of Yantih, where we would turn east toward Yevij province and the port-city of Akhem. It should be noted that Kallanha was one of the first truly Tijhori settlements we had passed through, every other town or village had been much like Jitra: mostly Kravri in its appearance and influences, with perhaps a touch of Tijhori artistry displayed here and there.

    Kallanha was different, though.

    When we first approached the hamlet, I had initially thought that we were approaching some kind of old barrow-complex. Such things were not unheard of, even in the lands of Kravam province. Some scholar speculate that perhaps the lands of Namshivah were once inhabited before the peoples of the Kravri, the Tijhori, the Yevijiri, and all others first arose and settled here. But, my initial guess was wrong. What I had taken for grass-covered barrow-mounds were in fact dwellings. Decurio Atam informed us that the traditional Tijhori method of building was to build the walls of dwellings and public structures with locally available stone, then construct a roof of thick tree limbs in a lattice-work. Finally, sod would placed atop the lattice work. The buildings themselves were usually long and somewhat ovoid in shape, which is exactly I witnessed as we approached Kallanha.

    Considering we were stranded in the Tijhori village for near on a fortnight, looking back I find it ironically humorous that the forested Tijhori lands around Kallanha were not only free of snow, but so warm that we had done away with wearing our heavy winter cloaks the day before we came to the village. Atam, who by his admission had seen a tour in Tijhor province many years ago – prior to the border war with the Sirraşi – informed us that it was not unusual for the forests to grow warmer closer to the Tijhor River, and that even farther north it was sometimes possible to feel temperatures akin to spring in the dead of winter.

    So it was when we came to Kallanha: warm and dry, with only the occasional flare of a northerly wind to raise goose-flesh. The villagers were friendly enough, of course, but seemingly wary of us. Perhaps “wary” is not the best word to describe them. They were not afraid of us, this much is true, but they kept an emotional distance from us that was different from some of the previous villages. I would surmise that they were taking their time to judge us before showing us anything more than the polite and hospitable faces that custom dictates hosts show guests and travelers.

    The first to greet us was a bearded man by the name of Cael who could not have seen more than thirty summers, and introduced himself as the chief of the village.

     “In some of the villages of the Tijhorekyi, they keep to the old names, customs, and hierarchies,” Atam said to me as must have appeared befuddled by the bearded man’s title. “Generally, it is simply a way of honoring the ancestors and traditional ways. Akin to observing the old festivals and rites of the People of the River.”

    “Aye,” agreed Cael, nodding slowly. “No sedition is meant by it, good sir.”

    “Why would we suspect sedition?” I asked the bearded Tijhori man.

    “Oh, some of the Kravri who come from up north sometimes react badly when they hear one of us refer to ourselves as ‘chief’ or ‘chieftain’. They think we resent the Moy and seek rebellion. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

    Atam grunted in agreement. “He speaks truly, Ambassador. The last time I was in Tijhor province, some functionary of the Bureau of Public Works almost had a chief executed in his own village, simply because neither man would set aside their pride long enough to try and understand the situation,” the Decurio said. “That is, until my Tribunus intervened and kindly explained to the esteemed gentleman from the Bureau the customs and traditions of the Tijhorekyi.”

    I chuckled at that. “‘Esteemed’,” I repeated. “There is no need for such euphemisms, Lilu. I have known many such men at work in the Bureaus. None of them deserve the designation of ‘esteemed’.”

    At that, Cael cracked something of a smile. “It is a good thing to see that we will not have to worry about such headaches from a man such as yourself…Ambassador, was it?”

    “Aye,” I said, nodding, and introduced myself fully to the chief of Kallanha.

    Cael nodded his head. “It is a pleasure, Ambassador. How long will you be gracing our humble village, might I ask?”

    The Decurio and I both looked westward, to where Tulaar was beginning to make his descent toward the horizon for the evening. “The night, at least,” I replied. “It will likely not be much longer than that. We are headed south toward Yantih and must keep to our schedule as best we can.”

    “Well, then,” Cael said. “Let me show you where you can lodge for the evening, then I will let the rest of my people know that there will be festivities this night.”

    As we followed behind Cael, a chill breeze swept in from the west, and had we possessed foresight, we would have recognized the first herald of the storm to come.

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