Journey to the South: Thirteen of Thirty

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     The young woman finished her story with a low murmur of appreciation from the audience. She gave a small, quick curtsy and took her seat. There was more playing of music, along with some singing of traditional Tijhori songs, and more storytelling.

    I can honestly say that I had had several cups of mead by that point of the night, as the drink was flowing quite easily those first few nights as the villagers attempted to cope with the blizzard. As I had listened to the entertainment of the Tijhori villagers, my mind kept flashing to the continuing feeling of being politely tolerated by them, and I decided that I wanted to attempt to change that. When the singing and the music that was being played quieted momentarily, I stood and stepped into the space between the hearth-fires that storytellers had been using all night.

    A hush came across the gathered villagers as they watched what I can only assume they saw as some titled and self-important Kravri bureaucrat get up to address them. I cleared my throat and turned to seek Cael’s face among the crowd.

    “I am sure that most of you have heard of who I am these past two days, but for those who have not: my name is Tamojahneeli Gharan Kii, Chief Ambassador to the Tainir Kingdom of the Sirraşi. I must salute Cael, your chief,” I said, raising my mead-cup to the bearded man, “along with all of the rest of you, for the hospitality that you have shown myself and my people – both the first night before the storm and this night, as well. We could not ask for better hosts.”

    I noticed one or two nodding heads among the crowd and a mild amount of clapping issued forth. “But,” I continued, “we would not be good guests if we did not contribute back in our own way. And since this night has thus far been a night of song and story, I would like tell a story. If you all will indulge me, that is.” Again, more nodding and some murmurs of assent from the villagers.

    “More than three hundred years ago, there was a man named Culain,” even as I spoke the name there were a few – somewhat drunken – hoots and hollers of appreciation. I had assumed correctly that this story would likely get a favorable reaction from the villagers. Though I noticed Cael giving me a quizzical look, I continued on unabated. “Born of simple, but honest and honorable folk, Culain grew to be a young man of great mind and great heart.

    “This is the story of how he came to topple a kingdom.”

    There was more hooting and clapping at that, and I was sure that I had the audience on my side, at least for the moment. “When Culain was a young man of sixteen summers he fell in love with a young woman named Naya. Now, Naya’s folk were traders and merchants, and there was many a time – especially when she was older – that the young woman would accompany her father when he would travel, since he felt that a woman could just as easily strike a good bargain as a man.”

    There were several feminine cheers at that point and I chuckled softly at the enthusiasm. “Before one of these trips, Culain asked Naya’s father for her hand and the merchant told Culain that if were able to raise the bride-price that he asked for by the time that he and Naya returned to their village, that he would consent to the marriage that both young man and woman wanted. And so Culain worked and saved and was able to scrape together the coin that Naya’s father asked for. But when the merchant returned, he returned alone.

    “‘Where is Naya?’ Culain asked. ‘I have the bride-price you asked for her. Where is she?’

    “With fallen face, Naya’s father told the young man that his daughter had been taken by a Kravri lord, and that neither he nor Naya had had any choice in the matter. Incensed, Culain asked where this Kravri lord was, so that he might go and rescue Naya.

    “‘To the north,’ Naya’s father told him. ‘In the city of Noharnu.’

    “So Culain took his war-club and struck off to the north. Now, the young man had many encounters on his way to Noharnu, but those are stories for another time,” I said, and received one or two isolated voices of displeasure. But, the statement was true enough: the various adventures that Culain is supposed to have embarked upon while traveling to Noharnu have no bearing upon the larger narrative. “When he came to Noharnu, Culain had been in the Kravri lands at least long enough to grasp the tongue and track down which lord of the Kravri had taken Naya for his own.

    “It was Manir Krari’u Jayit, a cousin of the U’garichii Jantiru Krari’u Met. This did not deter Culain, though, as he did not care if Olorun himself had stolen Naya, he was determined to get his bride back.
“Now, at that time, the Kravri lands were at the height of a five year famine and there was already much unrest, especially in Noharnu, the Kravri capital at the time. There were protests and riots in the streets as the common folk clamored for adequate rations and efforts by the U’garichii and the Priesthoods of the Kritanoi to end the famine. But, to no avail. It seemed that even the Kritanoi had turned their backs upon the Kravri.

    “Culain walked the streets of Noharnu for many days trying to formulate a plan to retrieve the woman that he loved, when he finally heard that the U’garichii and several of his lords, including Manir Krari’u Jayit, would be appearing before the public to address the growing unrest and assure the Kravri people that all would be well. Seeing this as the best opportunity he had had his entire time in Noharnu to at least see the Lord Manir, Culain went with the crowds to the Harbor Forum where the U’garichii and the lords would address the crowds from the steps of the Temple of Krinai.

    “As he stood with the masses, Culain saw the crowned U’garichii and his lords emerge from the Temple, and the young man felt his heart clench with both apprehension and exultation as he saw Naya among the retinue, dressed in the garb befitting a Kravri lord’s wife. As Culain stood there listening to the U’garichii speak from behind a wall of legionaries that stood between the lords and the angrily murmuring crowd, the young man saw a desperate and costly plan form in his mind.

    “But, what choice did he have? There was Naya. If he did not act then, he might not have a better chance.

    “So, the young man made his way to the fore of the crowd and began stirring up the crowd as unobtrusively as he could. The Kravri common folk became more and more angry, beginning to shout slurs at their monarch and accuse him of lying, of incompetence, of treachery against the Kravri clans. When he felt the crowd was incensed enough, Culain swallowed his misgivings – thinking only of Naya – and shoved the crowd into a surge forward.

    “The people all the way at the fore slammed against the tower shields of the legionaries, rocked backward, and were slammed into the shields again by those behind them moving forward. Chaos erupted. Though many fell beneath the blades and spears of the legionaries, the common folk broke through the shield wall and descended upon the lords, Culain with them. He fought his way to Naya and through an enraged commoner off the girl, the young man’s heart breaking as he saw the bruises and cuts upon his love’s face from the fists of her assailant. He grabbed Naya by the hand – the young woman too shocked by the riot and the assault to even realize who had saved her – and led her away from the forum as the common folk tore the U’garichii limb from limb.

    “Culain and Naya slipped from the city as quickly as their feet would take them, especially as Noharnu erupted in unrest and violence. But, they did finally return to the lands of the Tijhorekyi, safe and sound.

    “And that is how Culain of the Strong Arm won back his love and toppled a kingdom.”

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