Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Council

by Travis Perry

Markas’ hard eyes shifted away from Ross toward the western horizon, toward the buzbugs still charging that direction. “A day’s ride and I can bring them back. I’ll need two other men with me. Useful men who can ride.” After addressing the tribe, his angry glare returned to Ross, who found himself flushing red.

“Oh, no, child,” interjected Shoo. “You must not go! They are harem.” Ross would have thought from his knowledge of the tribe that an old woman would not be allowed to publicly speak to an unrelated adult male as she just had done. But apparently Shoo played by her own rules…the word she used, “harem,” Ross of course knew, but she had used it in a foreign way, totally unlike the meaning he was familiar with. He wondered what she had meant…

His chain of thought ended when a young man shouted, “Keep yourself quiet, grandmother! Your open mouth shames us!” Shoo’s face set in anger and the shocked reactions of both men and women told him that her grandson had just violated a rule weightier than a woman addressing a man.

“Calmness and peace,” snapped Markas as his aspbug mount shifted and grunted. “We need to meet in conference over this matter—strangers not included.” The last phrase he uttered while staring directly at Ross.


Ross sat at the edge of camp during the conference, on an outcropping of flat rock. Next to him sat Shoo’s grandson, unspeaking, his elbows on his knees and his chin resting in the palms of his upward-reaching hands. They did not speak to one another.

At one point, one of the herd boys passed Ross, his face still pale and sweaty, like the time several months ago when the same boy had thought he’d seen a ghost. “What happened to the herd?” he asked, guessing this to be the cause of the boy’s anxiety.

“Bugs just started running, the same ones who are still running I think. They scared the rest of the herd before we could do anything. Bugs jump sometimes, but a dozen, all at once? I’ve never seen that. There was nothing I could do.”

“I’m sure you did your best,” said Ross. “The tribe won’t blame you.” These words brought a small smile of relief to the boy’s face.

After a bit more conversation, the herder returned to his beasts. Not long afterward, Markas approached Ross. “All is well with Shoo, I trust?”

Markas paused before answering. “She was never in any danger of reprimand—but you have charmed her, it seems. For she defended you and gave her reasons as to what happened to the herd. She says it is not your fault.”

“Praise Lallah. I’m glad to hear that.”

“I would not praise yet. You are to come with me and we shall see if her words are true. If they are not, you will not be returning to the tribe.” As he spoke, perhaps unconsciously, Markas moved his right hand to rest on the pommel of the dagger in his belt.

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