Journey to the South: Fourteen of Thirty

Posted: February 15, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     There was a smattering of applause as I took my seat once again next to Viro and our children, but, surprisingly, one of the villagers brought over a ewer of mead and ladled more into my cup. The woman smiled, thanked me for a wonderful story, and then moved on. The rest of the night passed in such a way: the villagers of Kallanha becoming more sociable, seeming to accept us more.

    In the morning, after Decurio Atam and I had gazed out the doors of the hatlac at the wall of white that continued to swirl chaotically beyond, Cael came and sat next to me as I broke my fast upon a bowl of porridge.

    “That was a good story last night,” he said. “I have heard better tellings of the Lay of Culain, but that was passable.”

    I remember smiling at the comment. “Well, I surmised that it would go over well. Besides, I am more of a conversationalist than a storyteller.”

    The bearded chief chuckled. “You are correct on both counts there. May I ask: why that particular story?”

    “Ever since we arrived, even though your people have been good hosts and been nothing but polite to us, I have felt that they were keeping us at a distance for some reason. I reasoned that if we were going to be sharing this space until the blizzard passes, it would be best to integrate ourselves better with the village. And what better way to show that we are not so different as to tell a famous story involving a Tijhorekyiv being the catalyst for the fall of a Kravri government?”

    Cael gave a sly smile at that. “Aye, there are few better choices in that regard,” he said, standing and slapping me lightly on the back. “Welcome to the village, Ambassador.”

    The days of the blizzard passed quickly after that. My children played more frequently with the village children, the villagers themselves included us much more in the games and performances during the evening hours, listening with rapt attention when Cuahuatec told a common Gromothim story of their creation as slaves and playthings for hideous spirits deep within the earth. They even taught us a traditional Tijhori dance that delighted Viro to know end when she mastered the steps.

    And then, on a morning a fortnight after it had began, the blizzard ended. Atam and I went to check on the horses and found the world beyond our hatlac an eerie, white wasteland. The ground was covered in at least two feet of snow, the trees around the village were encased in ice, and the sound of our crunching footsteps resounded and echoed almost preternaturally loudly in the deep silence. We stayed three more nights after that in order to let the snow and ice melt some, which the villagers did not begrudge. In the end, we parted ways with tears and smiles, having become dear friends with the people of Kallanha. Our journey to Yantih was slow going due to the Imperial Road being covered in several feet of snow, but eventually we came to the city and spent several nights there resting before striking out eastward toward Akhem.

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