Here’s a segment of a fantasy novel I am working on. It’s entitled Who Shall Lead? I hope you enjoy it. Either way, I look forward to your feedback.
Who Shall Lead
Copyright by Jonathan Scott Griffin
A very light breeze blowing a couple grains of sand past the tent made it to the ears of Arinthia, an obnoxious brushing sound, causing her to wake up. The scratching of a tiny volmont spider grated against the grains of wood on one of the tent’s poles. Five feet away from her tent, she could hear a plains hopper, a small insect, chomping away on the grass.
Like all Xibians, Arinthia was blind, but with keen ears that more than made up for it. She could hear a blossom fall from a flower, or the first drop of rain splash from almost a quarter of a mile away. If sounds grew too intense, she was able to shut them out; a light gift that came with the curse. Blindness was not a deterrent or handicap to her people. For thousands of generations the Xibians had lived without sight, the very concept of it being foreign and incomprehensible to them.
Arinthia arose yawning and put on her robe, the dandel hide feeling good against her skin on such a cold morning. Winter was coming, that much was certain. She could even hear the change of seasons crackling in the air.
Crawling out of her tent, she was greeted by the noise of a pair of footsteps walking in a wide gape, carrying a quick stride. Everyone in the village recognized it to be that of Keyro, one of their top hunters.
“Good day, Arinthia,” he said, too loudly which almost hurt everyone’s hearing. “How are you this fine day?”
“I don’t know,” said Arinthia, “seeing as the day has only just begun. What do you want, Keyro?”
“For you to join me on the hunt.” The air whistled as he extended an arm.
“And by hunt,” she formed the sentence slowly, “do you mean that I’ll be able to carry a bow and take down animals as well?”
“That’s silly!” he made no effort to disguise his disgust. “You’re a woman. Your job is to clean the carcasses and to cook.”
“Can’t do it,” said Arinthia. “I’d probably burn it, or season the meat with the wrong herbs.”
“It’s not that hard!” protested Keyro.
“Then if it’s not that hard, then I’m sure that you can manage.”
“But it’s not a man’s job.”
“Nor is it my job either,” said Arinthia, hoping to cut the conversation short.
“You really need to be put in your place!” he chided.
Arinthia sighed inwardly. No such luck.
“You were made by Father above to be subservient” continued Keyro, his finger noisily cutting through the air. “What do you think he’ll say when your spirit passes through the gates of the dead, up the bridge to the island above? Can you imagine how disappointed he’ll be in his disobedient daughter, always mouthing off? He’ll teach you a lesson, you can be sure. Father will punish you by having you clean the pots and pans of the Eternal Kitchen forever.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then I’ll have an ally in Mother above,” huffed Arinthia. “She’ll chastise him as only a woman can, and she’ll make him sleep alone while she takes all the royal bedding. Then she’ll threaten him with an annulment of their marriage.”
“How dare you speak lightly of Father above,” roared Keyro.
“How dare you,” she raised her voice even louder, hoping to cause his ears to bleed, “to even think I’d want to be sealed as your companion when you’re not a man, but a mere boy who failed his rite of initiation.”
Now she could her Keyro’s blood flush in his face and the grinding of his teeth. In a sense, she could hear his anger, and it was palpable. Her sharp tongue had cut through a nerve.
“If you weren’t a woman, I’d slap you across the face,” he hissed.
“What difference does it make it I’m a woman or not,” she retorted. “You shouldn’t be hitting anyone, be it male or female.”
A heavy staff thudded upon the dirt, reverberating like an earthquake.
“Lay a hand on her and I’ll lay my staff on you,” came the raspy voice of Jorgek.
“You don’t scare me, old man,” boasted Keyro.
Stupid, Arinthia thought to herself. If you wanted to lie, you had to lie well. Keyro couldn’t lie to save his own life. He couldn’t even control the thumping of his own heart. The perspiring sweat streaming off of him, like a roaring river, didn’t do him any favors either.
“Shall I knock you on your backside,” ventured Jorgek, the air rushing across his staff as he raised it up in intimidation.
Keyro backed off.
“That impudent brush hopper!” exclaimed Jorgek. “My dear, did he” – The old Xibian paused, completely puzzled. Arinthia was laughing. “I fail to see what’s so funny,” he said.
“You don’t?” she asked.
Arinthia always loved Jorgek. The oldest of the Xibians in the tribe came across as grumpy and bitter to a lot of the others, but that was only because they never made time to get to know him. Those who did found a kindly old man under the rough exterior, quick to right wrongs. In that sense, he was much like Arinthia.
She had known him for years. When she was a child, she had originally feared him. But unlike all the other children who had feared him, she alone had approached him, having possessed the courage that many her age had lacked. It was the courage to listen to listen to each and every one of his footsteps. To hear the way he gritted his teeth in frustration, or the sound his eyelids made when they opened and closed. She let her ears swallow and digest each of the old Xibian’s sounds until she grew to learn what kind of a person he was. She grew to hear his inside appearance, not his outside. His heart was the most useful in helping her come to a conclusion regarding his personality. Certainly he yelled at young children to keep their distance, and he didn’t, generally speaking, have much patience with just about anyone else, even those his age. But when people were frustrated or in pain he was the first to lend a listening ear if they would let him.
It wasn’t to say that she became friends with the old Xibian overnight. Jorgek had many social barriers he had put into place to guard himself with. But in time, just by listening, she began to be able to relate to him. This slowly opened up communication, and eventually a mutual understanding. Then, as the years passed, a friendship blossomed like a flower in the spring after a long winter. From her later childhood to the present it was common for her to hunt with him in the fields, to help him make leather from the wild shargits, and to sometimes to just philosophize about life. He had taken upon himself the mantle of a grandfather she had never had.
There were only a couple of topics that were points of contention among the two of them. One such was regarding the Vun. Jorgek believed peace should and could be made between them and the Xibians, whereas Arinthia knew better. Those that could see were enemies, having killed her parents and many others. They had robbed her people of their birthright years ago. Some things could never be forgiven. But she could forgive Jorgek for holding at that faulty viewpoint.
Regardless, she wasn’t thinking of any of her qualms of his at the moment, being far more grateful that he had come to her aid. Hence her laughter. She was laughing because she knew that he would be there, for at least a little while longer, to protect her.
“You should have heard the way he ran off, the way his heart was about to burst through his chest, and the noise of his sweat flying off him,” laughed Arinthia.
“My dear girl, I heard it all,” said Jorgek. “I’m not deaf, yet. But when I am, you know what to do.”
Indeed she did. If a Xibian ever lost his or her hearing it was considered an act of mercy to take them upon the altar to offer them up as a blood sacrifice. When one had outlived their purpose, their blood could potentially heal the land if the gods were well pleased with how they lived their lives.
“I do,” said Arinthia. “But let’s not think of that now. Did you not tell me yesterday that you wished for the two of us to go hunting this morning?”
“Yes. I’m so glad you remembered,” his teeth clacked and his lips smacked into a smile. He sighed. “But I digress. I’m getting old. You know this. What hope does an old Xib like me have against the freshness of youth?”
“You mean to tell me that you just lied about being able to give Keyro a beating? Don’t doubt yourself, old man. You’ll grow senile before you lose the strength of your legs.”
“Why, you’re just as impudent as he!”
Arinthia shrugged. “Did this just now dawn on your mind? Don’t tell me it took you over fifteen years to finally come to this conclusion. I want to think that your mind is as quick as your legs.”
“Ha!” laughed the old Xibian. “My fists are the quickest, and if you insist on being treated like a man rather than a woman, I’ll knock you on the ground so fast that you won’t hear the wind rushing past my fists.”
“No, I give up,” she laughed. “You really could give me bruises.”
“You’re absolutely right on that account. When I was a young man, I was the envy of the tribe, able to take on the Chief himself. I could have any woman I wanted. I was the pinnacle of” –
“Now you’re just making stuff up,” interjected Arinthia. “Are you going to keep babbling on? At this rate the herds will have moved out of our territory.”
“My dear, you know perfectly well that my hearing is superb and that I would have been the first to hear them. Not you. But I do grow weary of your biting tongue. Maybe some good old hunting will shut you up.”
“I think you’re right,” she nodded. “I’m growing impatient.”
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