Chapter 5: Chapter Five

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

Reads: 62

Chapter Five

Sekar’iti was striding across the open space of the village on his way to beat a slave for breaking a sickle when he spotted Portan’iti who owed him two iron bars for some ploughing Sekar’iti’s slaves had recently done.

‘Where is my iron, you thief?’ Several villagers turned to hear the raised voice.

Portan’iti turned a bright red as he held up his hands hurrying to silence Sekar’iti.

‘My dear friend, I would have brought it sooner if I’d thought you needed it.’

‘I am not your friend and I don’t need it. I just want you to pay me what I am owed.’

‘Of course. I will come to you later with the bars. Do not fear. Where are you going?’

‘I am going to beat a slave for damaging my property.’

‘Really Sekar’iti? No one beats their slaves these days, do they?’

‘I do and if I didn’t, they would take me for a fool and murder me in my sleep.’

‘Ah well, you must do what you must do. I have just been to a meeting of the elders.’

‘And what have that bunch of old windbags been discussing?’

‘Well, the task Sothoo and Raru’iti are on…’ He stopped suddenly and grimaced. “Sekar’iti is not to know.” was one of the things he had been told. He closed his eyes and beat his fists upon his head.

‘What task? I know of no task. What is Sothoo and Raru’iti up to?’

Portan’iti was struggling to think and his fear of Sekar’iti was making him stammer. His muddled mind went blank and the only thing he could think of was the truth.

‘Sothoo and Raru’iti are taking a magikal item to a village in the north.’ he stuttered.

‘What item? Where did this item come from? Why do I not know about it?’ Sekar’iti hissed.

Portan’iti’s mind was a whirlwind of confusion. No matter what, he could not hide the truth from Sekar’iti.

‘The item is a gold circlet, imbued with magikal power and was being carried by the stranger that died recently. Deran’iti told us all that you, particularly you, were not to be told about the circlet as you would try to claim it as your own.’

Sekar’iti face was a fit of growling anger. He took hold of Portan’iti and shook him.

‘This precious item is most certainly mine. If it was on the body of the stranger, then it certainly belongs to me and I do not know why it was hidden from me.’

‘Gather the elders. I wish to speak to them.’

Portan’iti was sick with fear. Fear of Sekar’iti and fear of Deran’iti. Fear of what the elders might do to him for letting this information out. His head swam and his stomach lurched as he fell on to his knees retching. He got back up onto his feet and thought that he had better do as Sekar’iti bid and gather the elders together. This was not going to be pleasant.

w

They gathered in the hut of the chief which for once was not a place of quiet discussion. Portan’iti was surrounded by furious elders shouting their anger at him and determined to be heard over each other. The result was a loud, angry babble that Deran’iti fought to control. He stood in the middle of it all, waving his arms and trying to quieten everyone down to enable one person to speak at a time but he was having no effect. In the end, Sekar’iti’s entry into the hut finally silenced them all.

He stopped at the hut door and scanned the assembled elders, hatred spread across his face. A sneer curled at the corner of his mouth as he spoke.

‘It seems you have robbed my clan of an item of great value and you had no right to do so. How do you propose to right this wrong?’

They looked at one another searching for an answer.

‘Just as I thought, you spineless crowd of idiots. It was foolish of me to think you might be the solution to my problem. I will have to take things into my own hands, I think’

Deran’iti walked over to Sekar’iti and took hold of his arm.

‘You are wrong. Very wrong indeed. The item you are trying to lay claim to is bound up in a quest involving the king of the gods himself. This sacred duty was passed on to our tribe and forced us to take the item you are laying claim to and bring the quest to its sacred conclusion. Our hand was forced by the gods and the reputation of our people was at stake.’

Sekar’iti was known for his vindictive stares but today, at this moment, his glaring look was one of outright malevolence.

‘Can you deny the item found on the body was mine by right?’ he hissed.

‘We cannot, but because, as I have already stated, this is a special case…’ Deran’iti seemed uneasy and looked around at his fellows for support.

‘That is all I wish to know.’ Sekar’iti interrupted. He turned to the others.

‘You heard from Deran’iti’s mouth, my claim to the item is based solely on the fact that it was found on the body discovered by my son and therefore, as with all the other items on the body, belonging to me.’

‘Yes, but as Deran’iti has stated, this is a special case. The item had a sacred status that placed it above the ordinary items found on the body.’ said one of the other elders.

‘Bah, a mere play of words. The first fact to consider remains. The item was found on the body discovered by Serant'i, my son and therefore belonging to my family.’

‘Ahem… If I might interrupt? You are all wrong. The item was not found on the body. It was given by the stranger to the children who brought it to our chief. We can therefor deduce from that fact that the item was a gift from the stranger to our chief.’ said another elder

‘That is one interpretation of the facts. It could also be argued that the stranger was passing the item to our chief for safekeeping.’ said Sekar’iti.

‘No, the item had a sacred status before it ever reached our village. It had a status that placed it above the ordinary items carried by the stranger.

At this, the room erupted as everyone fought for their opinions to be heard.

Deran’iti raised his hands to quieten them down again and when there was silence he spoke.

‘It seems that we are getting nowhere here so it falls to me to make a formal judgement, as is my prerogative, to close this discussion once and for all. Therefore I formally rule, firstly that the item found on the stranger has a sacred status above the other items found on the body of the stranger, and secondly, it is, therefore, the property of the tribe and people of the Children of the Stars and not of Sekar’iti. As we have nothing else to discuss, we are finished here.’

Sekar’iti was furious. His narrowed eyes stared at every elder as if marking them for some possible future punishment.

‘You think that is the last word on the matter but I assure you it is not. I will take what is mine, by force if necessary. I will have that item.’

He turned and stormed through the hut door, the atmosphere changing with his departure. The elders as one breathed a sigh of relief but it was short-lived as soon as they realised the gravity of Sekar’iti’s words.

‘What do you think he will do, Deran’iti?’ someone asked.

I do not know, Sekar’iti and his family are capable of anything. We must be watchful.’

Deran’iti’s hoped beyond hope that Sekar’iti’s temper would cool and would see the rashness of any action to reclaim the item.

w

‘I’m not going to explain it again, Baran’iti, you must accept there is an item that belongs to our family and it has been taken from us. We need to get it back. There is nothing more to know.’

‘Yes, but where did it come from?’ Baran’iti scratched his beard, confusion written across his broad face.

‘Arggggggghhhhh! Stop. Accept the facts for what they are and there’s an end to it. All we need to do now is to plan to retrieve the item.

Sekar’iti’s clan hut was filled with his family and the clan retainers, Baran’iti and his sons, Torban’iti and Toret’iti. Toral’iti and his son Torgal’iti and the retainers of the clan Raven; Mansol’iti, Staret’iti, Colta’iti and Boldet’iti.

Baran’iti was the eldest of Sekar’iti’s brothers and by far the slowest. He was tall, well built with massive fists. Tiny eyes peered out of a large flat face with a small mouth buried in a massive bushy beard. He looked like he would need help to pin his cloak and his grasp of this situation was non-existent. He simply could not understand the concept of the item’s ownership and Sekar’iti was not going to explain it again.

‘I must decide, with your help, what we are going to do to retrieve the item as it will soon be delivered up to the people it was made for and If we are going to take it back, we must act soon.’

Sekar’iti looked around the hut at his family and retainers and found no help, Then through the hut door came a man who was not associated with clan Raven. He stood for a while, then spoke.

‘I am Sogol’iti, a hunter and tracker. I have heard that you have a problem that I might help with. I have come to help you recover what is yours by right.

Sekar’iti took hold of Sogol’iti’s hand and shook it. He had a wry smile on his thin lips.

‘I know you Sogol’iti. Tell me, how do you propose to do that?’

He combed his hand through his scraggly beard and smiled. He squeezed between Sekar’iti’s brothers and stood in the centre of the hut to tell them his plan. He held out his hand for a horn of korek and drained it all wiping his mouth with his cuff. He belched loudly, a huge smile on his face. Sekar’iti was twitching with impatience.

‘Sothoo and Raru’iti have an item they are attempting to take to the people of the Broken Axe, an item your family claims as its own. Raru’iti’s first goal is to find the village of the tribe of the Broken Axe. But Raru’iti does not know where their village is or at least he only thinks he knows where it is. So, he is forced to go by a route that he mainly knows and then hope that he can find information on the way that will guide him there. However, I know exactly where the village of the Broken Axe people is and will guide you to a place near to it where we will ambush Sothoo and Raru’iti and recover the item. That is my plan, Sekar’iti. How do you like it?’

Sekar’iti looked hard into the eyes of the young guide and placed his hands firmly onto his shoulders firmly shaking him.

‘You are sure of this Sogol’iti? Sure, of your information?’ Sekar’iti’s eyes were pleading.

‘I have been to their village many times. I could find it in my sleep. You have as good as recovered your item.’

The hut erupted in cheers. Sekar’iti held up his hand asking for silence.

‘When can we leave, Sogol’iti?’

‘Tomorrow will be as good a time as any.’

‘Then tonight we must celebrate. Torban’iti, Toret’iti fetch korek. Fetch lots of korek. Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we leave to make our clans fortune!’

w

Sothoo couldn’t decide if she had slipped back or Raru’iti had moved ahead but he was nowhere to be seen and Raru’iti had told her if they were ever to become separated in the forest she was not to call for him by name under any circumstances. He had told her to whistle or make bird or animal calls but Sothoo couldn’t whistle properly or make bird or animal calls so he had taught her to do both and she was trying to remember one of them when, in a bend of the path, she caught sight of him but only briefly, so she relaxed a little in the knowledge he was somewhere ahead.

Sothoo had been distracted by the path they were on because of the profusion of newly blooming spring flowers and she had been quietly picking a bunch from the edge of the path and arranging them when in the distance she saw the war-band. At first, she didn’t know what to do. Should she walk up the path and play the part of Belaloo, Sartu’iti’s sister? Should she hold where she was, hoping the war-band wouldn’t harm Raru’iti? She decided if they were to have any hope, she must go and stand with him, hoping the men would pass on and let them go on their way. Sothoo took a few deep breaths hoping to still her wildly beating heart then skipped briskly up the path and, though she did not feel happy, she put a smile on her face and lightened her step. She arrived at the crowd of fifteen menacing warriors and Raru’iti who, though tall and well built, looked small amongst them.

‘Brother, who are your friends? You must introduce me.’

Sothoo looked around, her knees felt weak and about to give way.

‘Sister, these men are the warriors of the tribe of the Black Swan. Friends, my sister, Belaloo.’

The men all looked at Sothoo as if devouring her and made little nodding motions of their heads. Sothoo shivered, a deep fear ran through her.

‘And this fine fellow is their mighty leader, Garit’iti.’ Raru’iti slapped him on his massive shoulder a few times as one would a childhood friend.

Garit’iti was a head taller than Raru’iti and twice the build. He was covered in tattoos and scars and was hung with an assortment of deadly iron weapons. His men were all, almost his equal and any one of them could have gutted Raru’iti with one hand tied behind his back.

Garit’iti, what have you been keeping my brother talking about?’ Sothoo tried desperately to keep the fear from her voice.

When Garit’iti spoke, it sounded like a boat being dragged across a gravel beach which only added to her fear of him.

‘Your brother was questioning me about the village of the Red Hand people whose village is the next along this path. I have told him the people there are dangerous and should be avoided. My advice is that you should go on to the next village, the village of the Silver Fox people where you will receive a much warmer reception.’ he jerked a thumb along the path and inclined his head in the direction of where the village lay.

‘Thank you Garit’iti, you have saved us a great deal of trouble. I’m sure my brother agrees.’

Sothoo looked across to Raru’iti with wide, pleading eyes, she had looked at the shields of the war-band and could see the danger there that she hoped Raru’iti had spotted. Her whole body was screaming danger.

‘Yes, a great deal of trouble. I will be sure to mention Garit’iti’s name when we arrive at the village.’

Garit’iti looked from Sothoo to Raru’iti and back again. He stared long and hard into Sothoo’s eyes then suddenly moved off making Sothoo jump out of her skin.

‘Well, we must not hold you up and we must be on our way too. We wish you a safe journey, Sartu’iti. And you too, Belaloo.’

The war-band gathered itself together each one of the men casting wolfish looks at Sothoo then in a sullen, menacing way they slunk away.

It was only when they were out of sight that Sothoo realised she had been holding her breath. She gulped in air in a panic, turning to Raru’iti for help.

‘Raru’iti, did you see the silver fox painted on the shield?’ she burbled.

‘Good, I’m glad you saw that too. I only saw it briefly, but it had me wondering who those fine fellows were.’

Sothoo was trembling The posy of flowers she was holding shook as if in a late summer storm. Raru’iti sensed her distress and took hold of her, walking her off into a bright, sunny clearing. He sat her down and gathered wood for a fire then walked Borek to a patch of good grass and attached the hobble then went back to Sothoo. He found a small stream and brought water then boiled some. Going through Sothoo’s bags he found the leaves she used to make her favourite tea then placed his hand gently on her shoulder.

‘Which one of these would you prefer?’

Sothoo looked up as if just awakened, her wide eyes staring in terror.

‘They were so frightening, Raru’iti. I was so afraid.’

‘You have nothing to reproach yourself for, Sothoo. I was just as afraid and was praying to all the Gods that they couldn’t see how afraid I was. Now, how about that tea?’

Sothoo coughed a sudden laugh, tears welling in her eyes. She pointed to a tied bunch of leaves and laughed again.

‘Who will ever believe the great Raru’iti made tea for Sothoo?’

She laughed again this time Raru’iti joined in and between the laughter and the tears they rid themselves of their fear of the war-band.

‘One thing I am decided on, Sothoo. I will go to the village of the Red Hand people and investigate the situation further before you and I put ourselves in any danger.’

Sothoo nodded She thought that a very good idea indeed.

 

w

 

Perat’iti held his wife by the waist as he squeezed her tight to himself.

‘I am as in love with you now as I was when I chose you as my first wife, dear woman.’

Hethaloo took her husband’s face in her hands and kissed him. She laughed; her mind thinking back into the past.

‘I stood there on that morning with all those other silly girls praying to all the Gods saying in my head “Let him pick me, Let him pick me”’ she giggled.

‘It was such a long time ago, wife.’

‘It was, husband.’

A mischievous smile crept across her face and she grabbed him again.

‘Tell Terek to leave us and I will make you a happy man again.’ she giggled again.

‘As much as I am tempted by the sweetness of your body, Terek and I have official duties to carry out before we can celebrate your birthday tonight. So, if you don’t mind, dear wife, I will be on my way.’

He wriggled free from her but suddenly grimaced as he held his fist up to his chest.

‘I have had a most excruciating pain in my chest for most of this morning, my dear.’

‘It is no wonder the way you bolt your food. Go across to Rarantu’i’s hut and ask him for some mint tea, that will cure the problem.’

‘I will try to make time, my dear.’

‘Take care of him, Terek. If any harm should come to him, I will have you flayed, and a pretty bag made of your skin.’

‘I will protect our chief with my life, mistress.’

‘Come, Terek, your mistress is only joking.’

‘I am not.’ she shouted at the rapidly departing Terek.

w

‘So, who owned the land before Ored’iti, Terek? enquired Perat’iti.

‘The village, master. It was owned by the community. Ored’iti bought it from the village. said, Terek.

‘Then on the death of the owner of land previously owned by the community, the land naturally reverts to the ownership of the community. Am I right?’

‘Correct, master. The village now owns this land.’

‘Then I am sorry, Arand’iti, your claim to this land, despite part working it, must be dismissed. You have a right, as does anyone else to buy it from the community. You must communicate this through Terek here and it will be arranged through the elders. Now if there is no more business?

There was quiet in the hall and Terek shrugged. People began to pour out of the hut quietly discussing the business of the day as they went.

‘Fetch me some water, Terek. I’m feeling hot.’

Terek put the back of his hand to his master's brow and realised he was cold and clammy his skin looked the colour of the offcuts of dough that mothers gave to their children to play with.

‘Put this around you, master.’

Terek placed his master’s wolf-skin cloak around his shoulders.  Perat’iti brushed it aside.

‘Gods, Terek are you mad? I’m burning up, fetch me water!’

‘As you wish, master.’

‘What is next, Terek? I have a hunger and a raging thirst.’

Terek realised that his master was not well and despite there being much to do he curtailed the days’ work to arrange for Rarantu’i to see him.

‘That is it for the day, master. The only thing now that needs your attention is tonight’s feast in honour of your first wife’s birthday. But we can leave that for now.’

‘Ahh, that is woman’s work. I will leave it to them. Let us go off and find food and drink, Terek.’

‘You cannot do that, master. I think it would be a good idea if we went and spoke to Rarantu’i about your illness. You can see too the main events of tonight’s feast later, master. I will see to the small details. Then we will be finished for the day and you can go back to your hut and get some rest’

‘Gods, if you say so, Terek. But I need to drink first, then food, I will not last without something to drink.’

‘We will find something to drink first, master. Then food, I promise.’ he conceded.

‘Sometimes I wonder who, exactly, is in charge here, Terek.’

‘It is you, master, you are always.’

w

Despite everything Terek had said, Perat’iti had insisted they got the details of the night's feast out of the way before they stopped for their midday meal. Then he had become tired of dealing with it and insisted on stopping.

‘Thetant’iti’s frozen hell, not another thing more. Enough!’

Perat’iti was now fully finished with the night's feast. It seemed to him he had planned every detail of the event and was now fully past caring about jellied eels or whitebait or whole chicken or chicken pieces.

‘I will finish the rest of the items, master.’ said a resigned Terek. He was amazed he had got this far.

Perat’iti raised himself from the chair and waved a hand at Terek but as he did so another of the sharp pains he’d been having all morning caught him in the centre of his chest, it spread out to his shoulder blades and down his left arm. He was doubled over with the sharpness of it. Perat’iti clutched at his chest with his left hand as Terek moved forward and took hold of his master’s right hand to support him.

‘Get the healer!’ was all he could grunt.

Terek yelled for help as his guard came in and people quickly came running.

‘Fetch Rarantu’i the healer and be quick about it. Our chief is ill!’

Gently, Terek eased Perat’iti back into his chair and let go of his hand. He ran to the hut door and looked outside seeing the panic of the people running about trying to get help but could not see Rarantu’i.

‘Terek, Terek.’ Perat’iti’s voice was demanding but was also weak and feeble sounding.

Terek ran back to his master.

‘How can I help you, master?’

Perat’iti’s eyes were screwed up tight he raised a hand and waved it.’

‘Nothing…to…do.’ he said. The brief words coming between bouts of pain.

Terek looked at his master in panic with tears streaming in his eyes. He ran back to the hut door and arrived just as Rarantu’i came through.

‘Tell me what has happened.’

Terek explained and looked at the healer in desperation.

‘You must help him’ Terek implored.

‘I have an idea what is wrong. We must get him back to his bed. Find the Faren and tell them to come with their carrying hide.’

Terek ran from the hut and was only gone for a few moments when Lolontoo arrived.

‘Is there anything I can do to help you, Rarantu’i?’

He took her by the arm and led her away from everyone and out of earshot.

‘I have a feeling I know what is wrong with our chief and it is very serious. I believe the Numa is prematurely trying to depart the physical body. We must get him back to his bed, then you can help me try to save him.’

‘Sothoo has told me of this condition but I have never seen it.’

‘Nor have I.’ said a worried Rarantu’i. ‘Between you and me I hold out little hope for our chief, Lolontoo.’

The men arrived with their carrying hide and they soon had Perat’iti comfortably carried out of the ceremonial hut and back to his own. They placed him carefully in his bed and covered him, first in woven wool blankets and then in a large wolf pelt.

Rarantu’i returned to his hut to fetch the things that he was going to need in the healing process and Lolontoo too had gone back to Sothoo’s hut, at Rarantu’i’s request to fetch certain herbs and mixtures that he did not have. They met back at Perat’iti’s hut.

‘The heart is the centre of the physical being and it is where the Numa is normally attached if we are to have any hope of saving our chief we must reattach it. If we fail and the Numa detaches fully from the heart, the physical body will die. Let us make a start. It will be a long night.’

Rarantu’i cleared the hut of everyone except Perat’iti’s wife, Hethaloo, his eldest daughter, Mormaloo, the chief’s guards, and the head of the elders, Conra’iti.

‘So now we begin in earnest to try to save our chief. Conra’iti, would you be so kind as to build up the fire and please keep it burning high?’ Conra’iti nodded and fed the fire bringing it up to a good blaze.

‘Let us begin.’


Submitted: April 17, 2021

© Copyright 2022 agarthan. All rights reserved.

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