The Totem-Maker: Crafter Becomes Maker (part fourteen)
Crafter Becomes Maker
“There,” Liben’s wife said. “Now perhaps Liben, for the sum he is willing to lend, would prefer some assurance. Life, for fighting men, has its perils. Your brother has no house of his own, and the house a son builds ought to stand against the father’s. As to do justice.”
She lifted her shoulders, apologized if she spoke badly in this difficult language, but surely Samatho saw her meaning. She offered him tea, and he gulped it down this time, rather than dare think. The house a son builds ought to stand against the father’s.
No, there could not be…
“But he may become husband to the daughter of King Tubalt, and die that very day.” She drew a roll of bark, tossed it in the flames. “God send the young man health and joy.”
When Samatho returned to his father, he reported the Hach’kale so impressed that Dars Gesvar should honor his house with such unlooked for, most humbling, patronage, as to insist on a greater sum than asked. Samatho with the care of all his heart, unpacked the clay tablet he could not read, nor any of his father’s household.
“Father, Liben would marry me to his daughter. Her name is Karabitha…”
A faint smile had for a moment encouraged Samatho. The King might jest. He had never been seen to do so, but the jar sparkling its gold coins, the second jar, and the third, laid at the King’s feet by a ceremonious train of servants, had put a flush in his cheeks. Tubalt, there for the concluding of the bargain, and Samatho’s brother Dobran, leant to bask in the heft and music of wealth.
Tubalt nodded to Samatho, a frozen figure on knees, proffered hands clutching the tablet; this, and its bearer, unaccepted. “A contract, Dars! A contract, set down in terms. What does it say, boy?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you married the girl already? What have you bound your father to?”
A rough way King Tubalt had about him, nothing intended ill…
But Dars, hard-handed and vain, woke to suspicion. “Contract? In Kale hen scratchings on mud! What do you mean, Tubalt, bound? He has not my authority to make agreements. Never with the Kale-Kale! Begone, you will not marry this girl! I will make a marriage for him.”
Samatho was dispatched to a different exile, made lieutenant to one of Dars’s captains, to our own Emperor subjugated…as mercenary, for a first campaign of ten years. A first sea voyage. The wife the king had chosen was sent to him.
“She dwells even today in the Emperor’s household. She pleases him.”
I did not ask the Prince if he doubted the parentage of the boy and girl. Noakale stood, decisive, and her husband went to her side.
“That, my Princess, is not all the story.”
“No,” she said to me. “But enough. And what you cannot divine, I will tell. Tubalt, having gained a son-in-law and a fortune in gold, rid himself of the son-in-law and kept the gold.”
I knew the answer I would receive. I knew the scouts would return, report the way passable, that I would sleep my first night in a third country. We could not hope, though with a dawn beginning, to make more than seven leagues. Yet visible from where I stood were the sentinel stones marking the border.
To my eyes visible, while the sky remained clouded and moonless, the hour of sunrise unheralded by birdsong. I had my strong totem in my right hand, one of the lesser in my left. Mine had declared itself for wisdom…my good counsellor, my annoyance. It warned me of things, augured for me I should never again set foot on the Balbaecan plain, never see Moth, which grieved me. Never Lord Ei, Jute…I had known this already…nor never merry Pravor Tnoch. Never the forbearing Lady Darsale.
I would not return to Monsecchers, true, and known, also.
I sensed no parting complete from the Prince and his wife. But the totem spoke of a troubling fate, of a power to undo a world, even a world of one heart, which I doubted could be. Yes, the second. The power I believed in; I did not want to face it, and discover its nature.
At this thought my totem said, and yet. I said, to remind it of duty, “Courage. But, Totem, courage can’t be the name for this virtue I seek. Say resolve. Resolve with…”
My vision was a legend, how the great flood came to overrun the earth.
The gods had invited their enemy Iokka to feast with them, to accept their gifts and to offer his. For Ami, despairing of his bickering children, would endure no more.
Each had a province and a people, who prayed and burnt the entrails; the six daughters and the six sons equal in wealth and honor. But Iokka, seventh and last son, had no province, as none remained. He sought endlessly to harm his elders.
“Is it a horse you’ve brought? A fine animal…how do you propose, little brother, to divide it in twelfths?” This from the firstborn, Amira.
“But Brother, you know my poverty. You would not care for such trinkets from my house as I could spare. You must, therefore, be wise, and make trade among yourselves. I have sacrificed the best thing I have, which is more than the least of you can say.”
And Iokka, in his troublemaking way, saying least, looked at his youngest sister Zaza. He saw her bridle and blush, cast eyes at the little purses she had woven from dews and sun-sparkle. Amira had given each a magical egg, each to hatch a wish.
Crafter Becomes Maker
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Crafter Becomes Maker (part fifteen)
(2020, Stephanie Foster)