Chapter 3: Chapter Three

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 42

Chapter Three

It hadn’t taken long for the men to bring back the body and no sooner had Sothoo reached her hut than they had arrived.

‘Wait one moment, I need you to set the body down upon these stone slabs. Now place the body, complete with the pelt, with the head at this end. There, that’s it. Thank you. You may go now.’

The six men said nothing to Sothoo or Lolontoo but ducked through the hut door and were gone. Sothoo took hold of the pelt and pulled it aside revealing the body.

‘We must start to ready the body for the cremation tomorrow. You have done this many times now, Lolontoo, what are we to do first?’

‘I must boil water then wash the body to prepare it for the anointing, mistress.’

‘What will you use for the anointing, Lolontoo?’

‘I will use the  distilled oil of the lavender plant and rub it all over the body, mistress.’

‘Why must we do this?’

‘Because the oil will help the body to burn, mistress.’

‘Good, boil some water then fetch the jar with this oil and make a start. I must speak with Rarantu’i to check on the preparations for the ceremony tomorrow. Remember to rub the oil deeply into the skin. I will return soon. And do not for...’

‘Forget to combe his hair. No mistress I will not forget this time.’

Sothoo smiled as she remembered a few straggly-haired corpses that were sent to the otherworld recently.

Sothoo headed out across the gathering space, created by the vast oval of village buildings, used in tribal celebrations. To one side, close to the chief’s hut stood the giant totem carved from a single tree, adorned with the carved wooden birds and animals of the tribe’s clans.

At the top were the two discs depicting Berant’iti chasing Petatoo across the sky. Below it, a carved circle with three figures, their arms held high, above them, a field of stars. This is the symbol of the tribe; The Children of the Stars. Down the centre of the totem are carved hundreds of figures from top to bottom telling the story of how the tribe came into being and how it got its name.

Sothoo arrived at the priest's hut, ducking down slightly as she walked inside. Rarantu’i’s hut was an assault on the senses. Everywhere there were pots and jars of every conceivable size and shape as well as leather and felted wool bags and pouches filled with herbs, leaves, flowers, and bark from every tree that Sothoo knew. The smell varied from wood smoke to lemon balm to lavender to things you could not name. Up in the eaves and rafters of the roof were many kinds of bones, skulls, and skins, including humans, that Rarantu’i used in his craft. The floor was strewn with pots and dishes and buckets full of gods know what and sat in the middle to one side of a large, central fire were his two apprentices, Rathu’i who had been with Rarantu’i since he was six and another, a dirty-faced child with no name who had only recently come to him. They were grinding herbs together and mixing them into a thick paste that they were putting into small jars which they then covered with leaves, tying them up with nettle twine.

‘What can I do for you Sothoo?’ said the priest.

‘I have come to discover the state of preparations for the pyre?’

‘The Faren are stacking a pyre in the usual place ready for a cremation tomorrow as Berant’iti breaks the horizon.’

The men that formed the Faren collected the dead for Sothoo as well as cutting and storing sufficient wood for the many cremations that regularly occurred. They always maintained a sufficient store at the site where the cremations took place and rarely ran out except for one exceptionally hard winter when there were so many deaths they had to go out to the forest daily to cut wood.

‘Thank you. I know I always come over here to enquire and I know that it’s always being taken care of but…well, now I know the pyre is being built, I can forget it and concentrate on the vigil.’

Rarantu’i came over to Sothoo and placed both hands on her shoulders. He spoke in his usual calming way.

‘Do not worry, Sothoo. Everything will be ready to send this man’s Numa to the otherworld. Go to your hut and get some rest. I will see you tomorrow,  just before the sun rises. Take care.’

She thanked him and left happy in the knowledge that the Faren were getting on with the creation of the pyre and that all she had to worry about was that night's vigil and the cremation itself the following morning.

As she crossed the open space she could see a small group of people standing outside her hut which looked, as she got closer, to be a delegation of elders. As she had no desire to talk to them she wondered if she might go off and find something else to do but in the end, she crossed the gathering space and greeted her guests.

‘I was not expecting visitors, I hope I have not kept you waiting too long?’

‘We have only just arrived. How are the arrangements going?’

‘The pyre is being built as we speak and my assistant and I will carry on our sacred duties through the night until the cremation. All is going according to plan; do you wish to see the body?’

‘No, it is you we have come to see. Can we interrupt you from your duties for a while?’

Sothoo nodded and motioned the Elders away from the door of her hut.

‘Are you happy to talk here or do you wish to discuss things more secretively?’

‘Here suits our needs well enough. You remember earlier we discussed the secret and sacred task that our, now dead friend was carrying out?’

‘I remember all too well the stranger’s task; it was the mission that I was trying to forget.’

‘Sothoo, we are here to discuss the serious situation we find ourselves in. We cannot simply do nothing about the stranger’s task as we will find ourselves in direct opposition to the will of the Gods. However, if we carry out the task and take the strangers bones back to his people we will be bringing a great blessing on our village and our people. It could be a great thing for our people to have the love of Berant’iti himself. On the contrary, doing nothing could leave us with nothing but the spite of the gods and might mark the destruction of our tribe. We have had Rarantu’i cast the crow bones to guide us and it does not auger well. The bones say a journey is to be undertaken but the outcome is on a knife-edge. On one side is a great success on the other failure and death. We are asking you again, for the sake of your people, please undertake the task and return the bones of this man to his people?’

Sothoo’s mind was spinning, Her stomach a churning mass, She turned away from the elders and walked a few paces away from them hoping to clear her mind. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes and faced them again but paused not knowing what to say. Walking back a pace she dropped her head as if in deep thought.

‘This matter goes far beyond the petty differences we have between ourselves. We must, all of us, make sacrifices for the greater good of the tribe,’

He paused again. They all looked at Sothoo expectantly. She stared back at them, anger boiling deep inside, her balled fists thrust upon her hips saying nothing.

‘We can come to an arrangement. A way to ease your path on the journey, would this help?’

Sothoo narrowed her eyes and wagged her finger at the Elders.

‘I see what you are doing here, flattering me with your words, threatening our tribe with black doom and blaming me and expecting me to fall for it. I do not know what kind of fool you think I am, but I am no fool for your devious plan.’ Sothoo had raised her voice to such an extent that passing folk stopped what they were doing to watch.

Deran’iti looked hurt. He held out his hands as if to prove he had nothing to hide.

‘Sothoo, dear child. You have us all wrong. It is not our intention to deceive you or to try to make you do something against your will. We are only thinking of the good of the tribe, you must believe me when I say we only come to you now to beg you to reconsider your decision and to please undertake this task for the good of your people. Please Sothoo, do what is best for all of us.’

Sothoo stood in front of the elders pondering everything that had been said. She would give her life for her people but the thought of having to spend time with that arrogant oaf Raru’iti made her mad. On the other hand, it seemed like a selfish thing for her to place her feelings ahead of the tribes just because she did not get along with someone; after all, even if she did go along on this journey, she didn’t have to have anything to do with Raru’iti. She didn’t even have to talk to him except for the most basic commands of what she wished him to do. No, she could no longer justify denying her people the love of the Gods just because she did not wish to be with Raru’iti; she must accept the task but only if certain conditions were met.

‘You place me in an impossible situation but I feel I must act for the benefit of my people. I will go on this journey with Raru’iti, but I must insist on certain conditions. Conditions that he must abide by. Do I have your agreement?’

‘Thank you, Sothoo. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved we are that you have accepted. Tell us your conditions, we will put them to Raru’iti. If he agrees, when do you think you will be able to start on your journey?’

‘I could start as soon as two days. Two days will allow me time to finish the rituals for the internment of the bones of the stranger, organise suitable care for Lolontoo, and ready myself for the journey. Yes, two days will be adequate.’

‘All we need to know now are the conditions you wish us to put to Raru’iti.’

‘Firstly, Raru’iti must not talk to me unless it is a matter regarding our journey. I do not wish to make pleasantries with him along the way. Secondly, I will be the leader of the expedition and all decisions regarding our travel will be made by me. Raru’iti may advise me but I will make the final decision. Finally, he is to make two camps each night. One for me and one for himself. He is not to come near me at night. I do not wish to have to spend any time with him. That is all.’

‘We will go immediately and speak to Raru’iti. We will return with his decision. Thank you for your selfless thoughts for your tribe, Sothoo. We will leave you in peace to carry on with your work.

Sothoo disappeared into her hut and the elders chattered amongst themselves regarding Sothoo’s conditions. Most were convinced that Raru’iti would agree to all but the condition that Sothoo would be the leader of the journey.

‘Raru’iti will never accept that Sothoo should be able to order him. He is a proud and wilful man and would never accept the dominance of any woman but particularly not that of Sothoo. No, he will never accept this condition, we are back where we started.’

‘All is not lost. We may contrive things in such a way as to convince Sothoo that she is the leader of the mission. We may tell her that, but Raru’iti will be in charge. He will then be able to arrange a situation so that the advice he gives to her is given in such a way that whatever she chooses will be what Raru’iti has already decided is the best thing to do anyway. Does that make sense?’

Slowly beaming smiles crept onto the faces of the assembled elders. This was a plan worthy of the trickster god, Iklo’iti himself and if they could convince Raru’iti to accept the two of them could start their journey in two days. They gathered themselves together, making off for the men’s huts where they believed Raru’iti was hoping they could bring him into their deception.

 

Raru’iti stood a full head above everyone assembled in the larger of the men’s huts. His face was red and flustered, his voice loud and angry.

‘Never! Sothoo is a woman. I would be a laughingstock if I allowed myself to be ruled by a woman. I have other things to be getting on with, find another fool for your task. Good day. ’

Raru’iti picked up a leather bag at his feet and slung it over his shoulder and made for the hut doors but was stopped before he could leave. Deran’iti took hold of his arm and bid him wait.

‘Hold for a while, Raru’iti. There is more to this story than we are telling. The Spirit Guide may indeed wish to see herself as the leader of this important expedition but we do not see it that way. Come, let us explain.’

Raru’iti walked back and sat down on a large barrel and folded his arms across his chest.

‘If you have anything else to add you had better get on with it. I have many more important things I could be doing rather than talking to you…’ He wanted to say, ‘old fools’ but settled for ‘respected elders.’

Sothoo was correct in her appraisal of Raru’iti thought Deran’iti. He was headstrong and arrogant and he would have to use all his skills to explain the deception they were going play on Sothoo if they were to bring him along with them.

‘Raru’iti, you are a skilled and experienced hunter and tracker, are you not?’

‘I am by far the best hunter and tracker amongst our people, it is known throughout the tribe.’

Raru’iti puffed out his chest and shook his spear by way of emphasis.

‘Then why would I make a woman, a child no less, with no experience of hunting or tracking, the leader of an expedition of such importance? You remember the details I told you about the expedition?’

‘I must admit I cannot think of a reason why you would do such a thing, however, that is exactly what you plan to do, explain that.’

‘Yes, yes, of course, we are going to say that Sothoo is in charge but saying something does not always make it so. Do you follow my meaning?’

‘You mean to say that Sothoo and everyone else will think that she is to lead the expedition but that I will be in charge. Is that correct?’

‘There, you are a clever fellow, you have it all!’ said Deran’iti, his arms spread wide.

At this Raru’iti’s hitherto glum face cracked a smile which slowly changed into a massive grin and finally, a full-throated laugh appeared. He bowed to Deran’iti.

‘I will consider it an honour to join this mission under Sothoo’s leadership, Deran’iti. When do you expect us to leave?

‘Sothoo believes she will be ready in two days. Will that suit you?’

‘It will. The thing that will take the most time will be bringing my horse down from my pasture but I will have everything prepared for our departure. My fee for this work will be two iron bars and four bronze bars are we agreed?

‘Yes, the tribe will pay the fee which will be payable on completion and your safe return of both Sothoo and yourself to the village. Are you sure you can find these two villages?’

‘I am.’

‘Then there is nothing else we need talk about. May all the Gods smile on you and your task, Raru’iti.’

 

Sothoo could see the dawn was coming from the way the light was changing through the open doors of her hut. She rose from her kneeled position by the body and quickly blew out the beeswax candles at the head and feet then she bent over, lightly touching Lolontoo’s shoulder. The sleeping child slowly awoke, rousing herself up into a sitting position and rubbing her eyes with both hands she yawned and scratched lazily at her unkempt hair. Lolontoo had been determined to stay at her vigil with her mistress, but tiredness overtook her, as usual, and Sothoo had laid her down almost as soon as they had started.

Sothoo giggled at the snoring child laid out near the silent corpse, then got on with the beginning of chanting and singing the Numa into the otherworld.

Sothoo could see the dawn was rapidly approaching and the two of them still had a great deal to do before the Faren came to take the body to the pyre in the specially created area at the far end of the village.

Normally the whole village would attend a cremation which was one of the most important rituals in a person’s life; the sending of the Numa to the spirit village. But it was unlikely the stranger’s cremation would be well attended as he had no kin in the village and he was of indeterminant rank. There would be a delegation of elders, priests in support of Sothoo would attend, Sothoo as part of her work as a Spirit Guide, and Lolontoo as her assistant but village folk would get on with their lives giving him as little attention as he leaves the village as when he arrived.

‘Have you packed the bags, Lolontoo?’

She silently nodded a sleepy yes and pointed to two felted wool bags close by the central hearth.

‘Then I want you to go to Rarantu’i’s hut and find the Faren. They should have arrived to move the body to the pyre by now. If they are there and are waiting for instruction, tell them the body is ready to be collected. If we do not make haste, we will miss the rising sun. Go now, Lolontoo, hurry!’

Lolontoo lifted the hides that covered the hut door at night and scurried through. Sothoo took hold of two felted wool bags and passed through the door taking them with her. She placed them outside and went back in to gather the rest of the things she would need. She took down a brown bear cloak from a peg near the door and placed it around her shoulders tying with a large leather lace. She reached into her tunic pocket and pulled out a silver cloak pin and fixed the cloak securely. She reached up and took a head-dress with a headband of soft doeskin and Swan and Owl feathers fixed to it. She opened it up and placed it on her head and pulled it down snugly on her brow.  Next, she brought out two small goatskin drums with their wooden beaters and a small flute made from the leg bones of a Swan and she had everything necessary for passing the strangers Numa on to the otherworld. As she finished taking out the rest of the things they would need, Lolontoo returned.

‘Mistress, the men are nowhere to be seen. Rarantu’i has sent his apprentices to find them, he says that as soon as they are found he will send them to collect the body.’

‘Thetant’iti’s frozen hell, where could they be? If they are not here very soon the sun will rise and the stranger’s body will never reach the Numa’dul. What are we to do?’

Lolontoo shrugged he shoulders, her eyes like two boiled eggs as she stood amongst the things that Sothoo had placed outside ready to be taken to the cremation site.

‘Do you want me to take these things to the pyre, mistress?’

‘You may as well. There is nothing else to do. Take what you can and come back for the rest.’

Lolontoo draped herself with bags and took armfuls of things and headed for the pyre. It seemed like she was only gone for a short while when she returned breathless, gabbling incoherently.

‘Calm down, Lolontoo. Gather your breath, speak slowly.’

Lolontoo took several deep breaths and then spoke.

‘It’s the men, mistress. They were asleep by the pyre. No one came to wake them. I have told them to hurry here. They are coming, mistress. They will be here soon.’

‘Gods above. This is becoming a disaster. Lolontoo, go to Rarantu’i and give him this news. Tell him we will meet at the pyre. Quickly now!’

Sothoo gathered up the rest of the things, waiting until the men arrived. She told them to take the body as quickly as possible to the pyre. The new day’s sun was only moments away.

Finally, everyone was at the pyre. The men placed the body on top of the large stack of wood. Sothoo, Lolontoo, Rarantu’i, and his assistants were ready for the ceremony to start just as the sun poked its head above the horizon.

The Faren doused the body and the wood below in six huge jars of rendered fat and they stepped back a little way off to where they had pushed blazing firebrands into the earth. Sothoo waved her hand furiously at one of the men who pulled up one of the firebrands and came forward towards the pyre. Sothoo scanned the horizon searching for the first slither of the sun’s disc, and with another urgent wave of her hand, the firebrand was touched to the fat-soaked pile. It instantly lit. The flames bringing yellow-orange light to the faces of the assembled people. Sothoo waved again and the rest of the men picked up their brands and pushed them deep into the bottom of the pyre causing it to quickly blaze.

Sothoo looked across to Rarantu’i and pointed her finger. He picked up a large conch shell he had down by his feet and raised it to his lips, blowing a haunting note ripping through the silence of the early dawn. He blew it, again and again, each time the melancholy sound blasted a greeting to the new day's sun and a start to the journey of the spirit of the stranger. He finished with the shell and replaced it on the floor then took up a small tambourine ready to start the next phase of the ritual.

Sothoo in her bearskin cloak and feather head-dress began to play the swan-bone flute with Lolontoo beating the two goatskin drums in time to the haunting music she was making. Lolontoo added to the eerie atmosphere by chanting spells that Sothoo had taught her and  

Rarantu’i and his apprentices, on the other side of the pyre and were contributing to the mood in a wholly different way by singing spells and dancing together clapping their hands and whooping; quietly at first but then louder as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky.

The Faren stood back as the flames grew higher engulfing the body, sending out a massive plume of grey smoke that curled on the wind, up and away from the village.

The Sun was rising quickly in the dawn sky and soon the full disk was above the horizon at which point Sothoo and Lolontoo stopped their playing but carried on chanting spells and charms. Rarantu’i and the other priests stopped their clapping and dancing but continued to chant until the Sun had risen high in the sky, the fire fully engulfing the body soon to leave only a pile of cold ash and the stranger’s bones for Sothoo to return to his tribe.

Afterwards, Sothoo and Rarantu’i were supervising their assistants in returning everything to their huts while they both watched the fire die down. It was traditional to leave a guard on the pyre until the next day as people sometimes tried to steal bones for evil magik purposes. The children were also accused of stealing finger bones for a game known as ‘knucklebones.’

‘It was a close-run thing, but I think we have seen the strangers Numa off to the otherworld, Sothoo.’ said Rarantu’i.

‘Yes. And for myself, it is only the beginning of the long and arduous task of returning this man’s bones to his tribe. Come, Lolontoo we still have a great deal to do before our day is finished.’

 

Menet’iti the potter stood amongst his wares scratching his head with a perplexed look on his face. His apprentice, Senda’iti stood alongside him looking into his brother's puzzled face as if he might find answers there.

‘So, this man is not of our tribe? and we do not know the symbols of the tribe that he belongs to?’

‘That is correct.’ said Sothoo.

‘And we do not know this man’s clan?’

‘Also correct.’

And you wish to take a medium-sized grain jar for transporting the bones to the man’s village?’

‘You have it.’

‘Is it correct to place a man’s bones in a grain jar without the markings or his clan or tribe?’

‘I do not know but I do know but I cannot use a funerary jar as they are too big to transport by horse. I must use a small grain jar because it will be big enough for the bones of a man but small enough to fit into a horse panier. This has been told to me by Raru’iti.’

‘Senda’iti, help Sothoo find a grain jar that suits her needs and take it over to her hut, please. The cost will be a one-quarter bar of copper. If that is all, Sothoo?’

‘It is.  Thank you for your help, Menet’iti. I will send my apprentice with the copper.’

Sothoo and Senda’iti searched through Menet’iti’s wares until they found a grain jar that was large enough and well fired with no cracks. Senda’iti placed the jar under his arm and walked with Sothoo to her hut.

‘Place it there by the entrance please, Senda’iti. That will be all. Please thank Menet’iti for me please.’

Senda’iti did an about-face and headed back to the pottery field scratching his head no doubt still puzzled by the morning's business.

 

 

‘Have you found all the bones of the hand and foot, Lolontoo? and gathered all the rib bones together? and all the bones of the back and neck?’

Sothoo was counting off the bones of the body on her hands as she questioned Lolontoo about the accuracy of her collection. Lolontoo had spent all the morning, after her dawn meal, gathering the bones of the stranger, sifting them from the ashes of the pyre, brushing them clean, and placing each in woven baskets ready for Sothoo to examine.Now she had arrived and was going through the baskets ready to pack the bones into the grain jar she had chosen.

‘Place all the small bones in first and the back and neck bones. Good. Now the ribs and breast bone and the hip bones you will have to break that in two to get it in, Lolontoo, the jar we are using is not as large as the funerary jars we are used to using. Yes, that’s it. Now the long bones…and finally the skull. That’s it, we are finished. All we need to do now is fill the jar with herbs and flowers, seal it with clay and harden it by fire.’

Lolontoo stood with her back bent over, the jar stood up between her legs. She picked it up a few times in a gentle way to feel the weight.

‘It will be a great burden to carry this to the stranger’s village, mistress. Are you strong enough to carry it for the whole journey?’

‘It is kind of you to consider me, Lolontoo but you do not need to worry. The man who will be accompanying me on the journey has bought a working horse especially for this journey and it is the horse that will carry all of our baggage.’

Lolontoo’s eyes were the size of gull’s eggs and her mouth gaped open like a recently killed fish.

‘A horse, mistress?’

‘Yes, have you never seen one?’

Lolontoo’s boggle-eyed head wagged furiously, her wide smile split her head in two.

‘I have eaten horse, mistress. Most people have. I have seen dead horse but that is not the same, is it? May I come and see the horse, mistress? Please, may I. I have never seen a real horse in my entire life.’

Sothoo was laughing inside but on the outside, she showed Lolontoo a stern face.

‘Yes, you may see the horse but only if you have finished all of your chores and if you go out a bring in enough wood and kindling for a week and if you prepare for me the eggs with mushrooms that is your mother’s recipe that I love so much.’

‘Oh yes, mistress, yes anything, anything.’

Lolontoo was in tears thinking about the horse. Sothoo finally gave in and let herself laugh out loud. She took Lolontoo and wrapped her arms around her and kissed her on her head. And Lolontoo cried and Sothoo laughed. ‘Dear me, all this for the sake of a horse.’

Let us take this jar back to the Hut and you can make us both some nettle and raspberry leaf tea, how does that sound?’

Lolontoo’s ash-covered face was tear-streaked but she was smiling.

‘Wonderful, mistress’

 

Two days had passed quickly and barred a few people needing healing Sothoo had been busy preparing for her trip. She had also arranged for Lolontoo to be looked after by Rarantu’i who would also make sure she knew what to do if people came for healing.

‘Tell me again. What would you give for a child with a high fever?’

‘A poultice made from Feverfew placed on the child’s head, mistress.’

‘And a headache?’

‘A few pieces of the bark of the red willow made into a tea, mistress. Do not worry, mistress, my herb lore is good. I will not make a mistake. If I am unsure, I will speak with Rarantu’i as you have told me. Now can I please go a see the horse?’

‘Yes, Lolontoo, you may go and see the horse, but take care it does not mistake that unruly hair of yours for a summer meadow and try to eat it!’

‘Oh dear, should I comb my hair for the horse, mistress?’

‘No, Lolontoo. Go now before I change my mind and cast a spell that turns you into a horse!’

Lolontoo turned and ran out of the hut and as fast as she could towards the village entrance where the horse had been stood for the morning. Sothoo laughed out loud and bent down to pick up the final few things she was taking with her. She pulled the hides across her hut door and turned to look around. There were people everywhere going about their usual business, gathering wood, collecting eggs, fetching water. The Faren, no longer needed for cremation work, were standing up timbers to support the roof of a new hut. Sothoo suddenly wondered what it might be like never to see her village again. Tears welled up in her eyes.

‘Is there anything I can carry for you, Sothoo?’

It was Rarantu’i the priest. He placed his slender hand, gently on her shoulder. Then he noticed her tears.

‘Whatever is wrong, child?’

Sothoo was miserable her tears tracking down both cheeks.

‘I am afraid that I will leave and will never see my home again, Rarantu’i.’

Rarantu’i tutted. He placed two fingers under her chin and raised her head so she was looking into his eyes.

‘Of course, you will, girl. You are an able person, are you not? The elders have given you Raru’iti to guide you to your destinations, have they not? You are wise and ably advised, Sothoo. You will complete your task, return home and bring great glory to your people, I am sure of it.’

‘But you cast the bones Rarantu’i. Our journey’s success is on a knife-edge. This is what you saw, isn’t it?

‘No, no, Sothoo. The bones only say what might be. I cast the bones and interpret the signs the gods send me. It is not the will of the gods themselves. You must remember the sun god himself has invested himself in this journey. There can be no greater sign of future success.’

You are right, Rarantu’i, I am being foolish. I will not be gone long, and I will return to my beloved people, I am sure of it. Let us go. I am worried that Lolontoo may have been eaten by the horse!’

 

 

 

Sothoo could only see the horse’s head standing proud of a sea of village people that were

standing around trying to see Raru’iti’s horse.  And there, Sothoo was amazed to see, on the horses back, was Lolontoo. She saw Sothoo and waved at her.

‘I’m on the horses back, mistress!’

Sothoo waved back laughing as she did so.

‘I can see you are but why are you?’

‘Well, I was talking to the horse, but the horse would not talk back to me. Why was that mistress? Anyway, as I stood there a man came up to me and grabbed hold of me and said, “Here sit on her” so that’s why I’m sitting on the horse.’

‘Lolontoo, horses are like all other animals. They are not able to speak to humans. Anyway, please get down I do not wish you to fall.’

‘I do not know how to get down, mistress. Perhaps you could help me?’

‘I cannot but I know who can. Wait a while.’

Sothoo looked around, she quickly spotted the tall figure of Raru’iti and she marched across to him.

‘I see you are still an arrogant oaf, Raru’iti. Take my assistant down from your horse before she falls and breaks her neck.’

‘And a good morning to you too, Sothoo. I see that you are still a mirthless Crow. Your assistant is safe, my sweet mare is calm and placid. But if you insist, I will take her down.’

‘I do insist. Take her down now, please.’

Raru’iti walked across to his horse and grabbed Lolontoo by the waist pulling her from the horse in one movement.

‘Did you enjoy that, Lolontoo?’

‘Yes, master. Does your horse have a name, master?’

‘My horse is called Borek.’

‘Oh, the same as the wind that brings the snow.’

‘Just so.’

‘Why?’

‘You ask too many questions!’

Lolontoo sighed. ‘That makes me very sad because my mistress says the same thing.’

She walked up to the front of the horse and patted her on the side of her head.

‘Goodbye, Borek.’

Borek lifted her head and shook it vigorously then neighed loudly.

‘See, mistress, they do talk!’


Submitted: April 15, 2021

© Copyright 2022 agarthan. All rights reserved.

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