VIOLATING MY OWN RULE HERE ABOUT EMBEDDING THE STORY IN DISCUSSION THREAD Apparently almost no one reads them unless they are. So after the link is the first part of the story. FYI There are footnotes that didn't make it into the embedded story.
UPDATE: 12/04/2015 Version 2.0 Here is the link: http://docdro.id/ngp5
ON MOUNT KAN'JI: PART IA
Sunrise On the Mountain
Eoroal looked up from polishing the mont'nanal–small war blade, and paused to contemplate his last sunrise on the mountain. Sitting still in the pre-dawn darkness he could already smell the pungent fragrance of the desert flowers: orange sage, purple thyme, and the red cactus blossoms. Even before the first photon of morning light had touched their petals the flowers were opening. Eoroal had worked all night by the light of a small oil lamp hanging from the ceiling and now that work was now almost done. He took the knife in one hand, and in one smooth continuous motion, wiped along the edge with an ultra-fine grit stone. Now he washed the blade with water, drying its' mirror-like surface with gentle dabs of a white silken cloth. Next he took a tiny cloth satchel of talc and lightly tapped it across one side of the one side of the blade and then the other. The last step was to take a yet another silken cloth, a blue one this time, and again wipe down the blade. Finally he slid the blade it to its' plain wooden sheath; which it went in with a small 'click'. Eoroal contemplated his actions of the previous night and wondered if his friends would understand why he did what he had done. Would they ever know just what he had intended? Would they ever know just what he had meant by it? And would they ever be able to forgive him? Eoroal–Ghillie or The Little Squire, now placed the mont'nanal next to the one already lying by his side.
It was time to begin his morning meditations. Eoroal placed the cover on the oil lamp to extinguish its' flame, and slid open the rough wooden door with its' coarse paper screen. Next he sat down upon the straw mat at the entrance of his tiny cell. The cell faced east, so as to align its' occupant to the correct direction and energy for meditation and contemplation. And so properly aligned, Eoroal now took out his prayer rope and began the recitation of the Five Sutras of the Tau'va–The Greater Good. As he sat reciting his prayers, Dal'yth's setting moon filled the desert landscape with the last of its’ silver light; while the rising star of Dal'yth Prime turned the jagged outline of the distant horizon a deep red. Above this dragon teeth of black mountains, the sky above was turning from red to purple, then to blue, and then finally to black. Eoroal closed his eyes and letting go of all his thoughts and desires, allowed the prayer to guide his meditation. Half a dec later he opened his eyes, and keeping his body and mind focused, let his spirit to return to the present moment.
Eoroal removed the cover and then relit the oil lamp. Now reaching down he took a small sprig of tiny white flowers from the stone water jar which he kept by the door. And picking up one of the polished knives, he tied the sprig of flowers to its' wooden sheath. ‘Silver-white for T'au,’ he thought to himself. Then he returned it to its' place; and he picked up the other polished knife. This time taking a sprig of fire-red cactus flowers from the same stone jar, he tied them to the knife's wooden sheath. ‘Red for Vior'la,’ he said, the words coming soundlessly from his lips. Eoroal returned the knife to its place alongside the first. Now he placed the talc satchels, silk cloths, and polishing stones in their carrying case, and tying them up, placed them in his bag. Eoroal now looked around his small rock cell for the last time; it having been his home for more than a tau'cyr. Assured that that he had swept and tidied it sufficiently, he then he blew out the small oil lamp for the last and final time. Looking out from the now darkened cell, he sighed his good-bye and stepped outside.
In front of his cell, lying together in a drunken stupor, where his two closest friends: Temu'jin–Forged of Iron and Li'xiu–Wild Pine. In the near darkness of early morning, he could see red coals of the still smouldering brazier, and the steel cook bowl empty and overturned. Several empty stoneware bottles and drinking bowls were strewn about the entrance. His two snoring friends were also strewn about, each of them having somehow lost the blankets Eoroal had so diligently and carefully covered them with the night before. Li'xiu was on her back asleep on top of her blanket; while Temu'jin laid face first on stone, having kicked his off entirely.
“Hard to believe isn’t it, that any of us have just become high ranking members of the Tau fire caste?” said Eoroal softly to no one in particular. The sun was now on the verge of cresting the broken mountain tops, turning the eastern sky a turquoise colour. The upturned hemisphere of the sky then changed colours from the turquoise blue in the east, then then fading into a deep sapphire blue in the west. The western sky was still blazing with white stars though, but it was also filling with clouds; which promised rain and another burst of desert flowers.
Eoroal now dressed himself for the journey, putting on this half-coat over his knee pants and tunic. He looked down on two sleeping companions and said softly, “Here are my final gifts to you Li'xiu'saznai and Temu'jin'saznai.” Kneeling down between friends he placed one blade besides each of them. The white flowered blade next to Li'xiu; and the red flowered blade next to Temu'jin. Satisfied that everything was as is it should be, he stepped out from beneath the reed awning of his cell. Then shouldering his bag and water bottle, he picked up his walking staff and turned to hike down the long, long trail from Mount Kan'ji. “T'eh, I'd better be off then, before they wake up and find out just what I've done to them!”
“And just what did you do to them Eoroal'kan–Mr. Ghille?” came a voice shrouded in the dark shadow of a tall red cactus.
The voice was unmistakeable for it was none other than that of Acaya Qan'tel–Master Puretide. Even in the dimness of the early morning light, Eoroal could make out the unimaginable shape of the once formidable fire caste commander. Acaya Qan'tel was a thin stick whose skin had been sunburnt to a dark blue-grey. He stood perched upon one withered and bony leg; while the hoof of the other leg rested upon the knee of the first. Qan'tel's racked frame was completely naked, except for the large mass of long silver white hair that covered his head and face. He had neither shaved his head or beard since becoming an upt'aun'la–mountain hermit for the Tau'va. Worse yet, he had neither bathed, nor otherwise cleaned any part of his body since that time. Dabs of different coloured paint covered his body, one colour for each of the castes: red, yellow, blue, green, and white. Qan'tel’s only belongings were a long gnarled wooden staff, and a small bag and bottle combination that hung across one shoulder. And although he was a revered figure among the fire caste, in terms of the normative tau cultural experience, Acaya Qan'tel was a demon, a barbarian, and an outcast who lived beyond the pale.
This did not phase Eoroal, a.k.a. Shas'El'Dal'yth'Lynu in the least, as he had spent the greater part of the last tau'cyr atop the Mount Kan'ji under Acaya Qan'tel's tutelage. Otherwise the smell alone of his teacher's body would have bowled him over. Eoroal stopped, shifted his weight, and looking at his teacher and said, “I-I have done something that you would not consider...well, not consider c-c-correct behaviour!”
Eoroal bit his lower lips, rolled his shoulders, and looked back at his fellow students asleep under the cell awning. “Namsai–Teacher, I meant to... t'oh please forgive my impertinence!” He dropped to his knees and bowed so as to touch his forehead to the ground.
“Eoroal'kan, what was not correct behaviour…xhmm? By the way...t'oh, would you please get off the ground. I can't talk to you if your face is in the dirt,” The old firewarrior's voice was weak and gravely, but still powerful in its authority.
“Yes, Namsai,” said Eoroal getting back onto his hooves.
Qan'tel moved slowly from where he stood under the cactus, and proceeded past Eoroal, to the where two other drunken students lay snoring. Getting down onto his haunches, Acaya Qan'tel looked closely at the two sleeping students. “What exactly have you done to their hair? What did you do to them Eoroal'kan? ” he said pointing at the two sleeping students.
Eoroal dropped down onto his knees next to his master. “Namsai I…xhmm…well I…t'eh this is harder than I thought…well, I've tied their queues together,” he said letting out a great sigh of relief.
“You tied their queues together?” The countenance on Acaya Qan'tel’s face was as curious as his question. “I take it this isn't some kind of academy prank is it?” Eoroal nodded his head 'no'. “Nor is it some kind of Trial-By-Fire hazing ritual either, am I correct?” Eoroal again nodded his head 'no'. “Xhmm…xhmm…well, then it must be a…lesson of some sort?” queried Qan'tel softly.
“YES! Yes y-y-you c-c-could, say that. T'ah…xhmm...that's w-w-what I intended anyway at least Namsai,” said Eoroal looking up at his teacher.
Qan'tel meanwhile was tracing one long strand of red hair that came from the top of Li'xiu's head, and followed its' path along the ground, to where it was joined to a strand of Temu'jin's black hair. Then at the top of his head, another separate strand of black hair left to join another red strand of hair from Li'xiu's head. “Looks more like you braided their queues together? But why did first split each of their queues into two different pieces?”
“Namsai, technically speaking, I spliced their hair together. Xhmm…yes…well that would be the correct terminology. To say that I spliced their hair together. You see it was required by the 'decision ritual' to first split each of their queues into two separate strands of hair. That is, before beginning the actual splicing process namsai. However, I wasn't just simply braiding the strands together was I? That is to say one from Li'xiu's queue, with one from Temu'jin's?” Eoroal regained his confidence as spoke about the process of 'splicing hair'; becoming quite animated while explained the procedure.
“Rather I was splicing the strands together; and that required that each of the strands had to be first braided. So after I had gotten each of their queues split into two large strands, I then had to separate each individual strand into four smaller strands, which I then braided all the way to the top of their heads…” Qan'tel listened as he held up one of the spliced pieces hair and counted the number of strands. “...which, makes for a total of sixteen strands in total. T'oh, and it was at this point that I began the actual splicing process.” As Eoroal described the splicing process, he demonstrated by making motions with his hands to simulate the splitting, weaving, and crimping of the hair.
“First I took the right-side strand from Temu'jin, and then the left-side strand from Li'xiu. Then I took one of the four smaller strands of Temu'jin's braid; which I had previously marked with separate coloured bands, and then…and then spliced it with the appropriate coloured strand from Li'xiu's braid. It would be like...take the small 'red' strand from Temu'jin's braid, and weave it together with the small 'red' strand from the Li'xiu braid. Then the small 'blue', 'green', 'white', and so forth. I used a single sharpened quick stick as a splicing tool, weaving each individual strand 'over-under-over' its' corresponding coloured strand. Then I repeated the process…”
Acaya Qan'tel turned and gave Eoroal a hard look at from beneath his shaggy silver hair.
“T'ahhh…so to finish quickly…I repeated the process for splicing the other coloured strands, until I had completely spliced the first two large strands together. Then I crimped the two ends of the splice with the small metal bands from the used food bags, which I had saved for this purpose. Next I trimmed the excess hair from around the crimp, and then repeated the process for the other two large strands of hair. That's it namsai, that's what I did.”
“Must of taken you most of the night to do this... xhmm? But then again, you did have the full desert moon to work by.” Qan'tel's eyes burned with curiosity as he stared at the intertwined hair. “Come again about why you had to first split the queues?”
“It's part of the ritual to split the hair into two strands. It allows each of the participants a freer use of...a freer use of…their knives,” Eoroal looked straight ahead his face as serious as a death mask.
Acaya Qan'tel looked at Eoroal from the corner of his eye, and then carefully reached over the sleeping Li'xiu to pick up the mont'nanal with the white flowers. Lifting up the knife, he drew it from its plain wood sheath; but then lifted it higher, so as to catch the light of the morning sun. Examining the blade closely he said, “Did you polish these blades yourself and if you did, how long did it take you?”
“Yes I polished both of them myself. It took me the better part of the two days to do both of them…as I am not an earth caste sword smith,” Eoroal sighed heavily as he answered, his eyes still fixed forward. “But I did the final polish just within the last hour, for both of the knives.” Eoroal paused and pointing to the knife in Qan'tel's hand added, “They were originally meant to be going away gifts for Li'xiu and Temu'jin, namsai. The knives I mean.”
“Xhmm...two days to polish the war knives. Most of the night to split, braid, and splice the hair…But then you probably had plenty of practice...used your own hair I suppose...Then there there was the end of the fast celebration; which you obviously had planned for...what with the cooking pot and drinking bowls. And I count…one…two…three… four empty bottles of local red rice wine...xhmm.” Qan'tel re-sheathed the blade and then returned it to its’ place next to Li'xiu. But then he picked up an empty bottle and smelled its’ uncorked mouth. He sniffed it two or three times before dropping it to the ground, “I smell a hint of genju berries in the wine...and so you used dried genju berries?...Had to collect those yourself probably...not in season...so you did your collecting, what would that have been…this past fall I suppose?”
Eoroal made a motion as if to speak. “Don't say anything I'm not done yet...genju berries when dried, crushed, and brewed in tea are a great analgesic. I use them myself for my back pain. But when dried genju berries are crushed and used with alcohol, especially red rice wine, they increase the sedative effects of the alcohol…which explains why you had time to splice their hair together. All-in-all this took quite a bit of planning and organization…definitely a Kauyon–Patient Hunter operation. Am I right Eoroal'kan?”
“Yes, namsai…I mean yes, acaya.”
Just then Li'xiu stirred and rolled her naked blue body next to Temu'jin's, mostly naked blue body, and while still asleep, somehow managed to push and wiggle herself up under his sleeping frame. Temu'jin mumbled something and then rolled over onto his side. Li'xiu then reached over and pulled his arm around her like a comforter. The two snored in unison.
“T'oh I see...,” said Qan'tel looking over at Eoroal. He then reached over and took Li'xiu's blanket and quietly draped it over the sleep pair. Turning back to Eoroal he said, “Let's you and I go and sit on top of the rocks behind your cell, they should just be staring to warm up now. Though we may have to scare off a few tchulia lizards and golden viper or two, but I'm sure by now you're on a given name basis with all the poisonous fauna around here?”
“Ha-ha-ha namsai that I am, that I am. Indeed I know each and every one of them personally!” For the first time since meeting his teacher that morning, Shas'El'Lynu or Eoroal felt like himself.
The two walked up the slope above his cell to where the largest rocks where; and of course they found them already occupied. Eoroal had to first remove a sluggish golden viper he called, Xutkal'jun–Miss Little Fang. Then he had to remove a not so sluggish, O'la'kan–Mr Big, the tchulia lizard. Acaya Qan'tel was quite impressed that his student was in fact, on a given name basis with all the poisonous local fauna. Now teacher and student sat down and faced east and the warmth of the morning sun. Both teacher and student took the opportunity to mediate while absorbing the life giving light of the Dal'yth star. They sat and listened to the gentle sound of the south wind beginning to blow across the valley. It was Eoroal who first to break the silence.
“I don't know what the ancient name for this tribal ritual is, only what the scholars call it today. It's certainly not any contemporary custom of our own Dal'yth fire caste. Apparently this particular ritual was just one of a larger set of rituals that were integral to the ancient nomadic way of life. In any case, today this kind of ritual is called a kiv'rai't'xa or decision ritual.” Then Eoroal took in a deep breath and letting it out slowly and said, “This kind ritual would have been performed when the conflict between two individuals became so severe, that it upset the family, tribe, or clan. Whether the conflict was between two friends or two relatives; if their conflict threatened the harmony of the tribe, then this ritual would be performed. However, only after the two participants absolutely refused to be reconciled, and if…now this is the important part, if both of them refused to then leave the tribe! Well then at that point the two would be forced to participate in the decision ritual.”
Eoroal stopped and Acya Qan'tel wagged his head to indicate he was listening, so continuing he said, “The two people in question were seized and bound and then brought together. In other words they were involuntary participants in the ritual. First their queues were split into two strands, and then braided together…something like what I did to Temu'jin and Li'xiu. They would then be untied and each given a knife or an axe by an elder or shaman of the tribe. Each of them would then be offered the following three choices: reconciliation; antagonism; or violence.
If they chose reconciliation, then each would take one strand of the braided hair, and cut it just below where the two queues were intertwined. The remaining short strand of hair was then braided back together with their own queue. So that each participant now carried with them, a portion of their former rival's hair. This was a sign of their newly formed bond between themselves and the rest of the tribe. It would be much like the ta'lissera scar is for us today.
If they chose antagonism, that is to say they still refused to be reconciled; then each of them would cut off their queues. Each participant would then take one of the strand hair and throw it into a fire. The burning of the hair symbolizing their absolute separation from one another and from the tribe. As you know, to be without a queue or scalp lock meant the individual was now an outcast, being forever dead to the tribe. Both participants were then exiled, being sent literally away in opposite directions. Finally they were to never to speak with, or interact with, one another; or with any other member of the tribe, for the rest of their lives.
The third choice was violence...” Eoroal swallowed hard and was silent for a moment. “The two would be left alone to decide the outcome, and if one was unfortunate enough to win…well then, he or she was forced to wear the loser’s queue as a belt. Not as a trophy mind you, but as a mark of shame. It was as if to say: 'See this man or women refused to be reconciled and then murdered their kinsmen!' Sometimes the queue of the vanquished rival still had its' severed head. The conqueror being forced to wear the stinking skull as a further punishment. The conqueror might be temporarily shunned, or could even still be exiled. There you have it namsai…that's the jest of the ritual.”
Acaya Qan'tel was breathing so softly that he seemed made of stone, but then opening his eyes he said, “What peculiar customs and traditions our people have? I never heard of this one at all; but then again there are so many strange and various customs among all of the castes past and present. So many that I’ve never ever heard of before.” Qan'tel leaned sideways to get close to his student and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “Did you know that among the earth caste, women often swap husbands?”
Eoroal glanced side-to-side, blinked twice, and then thought to himself, ‘Did he hear anything I just said?’ Eoroal looked at his teacher and nodded his head 'no'.
“Well, it's like this. A fellow gets up in the morning and before he leaves for the factory, office, or laboratory, the wife hands him a packet with a change of clothes and the habitation address of the woman he's supposed to stay with that night. No words are exchanged, because he's supposed to act just like everything is normal. Then he gets to work, where's finds another fellow with his own packet of clothes and the habitation address of his wife. AWK-WARD! Now an earth caste husband is supposed to have the right to refuse, but the fact is, he had better just go along with the whole arrangement. If for nothing else, than for the sake of marital harmony and also not to get a hoof to the back of the head!” Qan'tel's eyes were wide and he spoke animatedly, his fingers twitching and poking the air as he spoke.
“Yes, there are many peculiar customs…” replied Eoroal wagging his head. “Acaya shall I unwind their hair or just cut off the parts that we're woven together?”
“Why would you do that? It took you hours of work to…xhmm, you know…to splice their hair together like that? By the way where did you learn to splice knots?” said Qan'tel as he swatted at a large yellow sand-fly that was attempting to land in his beard.
“T'ahhh...at the academy? Yes, I suppose that's where I learned it? T'eh, didn't they teach Basic Patherfinder Skills, when you were at the Academy? Stuff like knot tying, rock climbing, repelling down cliffs and underwater demolition? You know all those fun things that made you want to be a firewarrior in the first place?” Eoroal scratched the back of his head, as he watched his teacher's ongoing engagement with the sand-fly.
“T'OH YES! I really loved all that stuff: knot tying, practising hand-to-hoof combat, learning to camouflage yourself and your mates, the confidence courses with all those rope ladders that you had to climb, and doing land navigation—at night. Boy was that a hoot! T'oh, t'oh, t'oh, and I especially liked it when we got to learn how infiltrate an enemy position. The best part was when they taught us how to sneak up and cut a sentry's throat from behind! T'eh those were the days weren't they Eoroal'kan? Heyaaah, damn sand-fly!”
“Namsai? You do know those things bite don't you know?” said Eoroal as he leaned backwards to avoid the attack of the now enraged sand-fly.
“T'eh? YAOW, THE LITTLE *BAD WORD DELETED* JUST BIT ME! Nasty little bugger…T'oh, look now it's dying. Serves you right, t'eh? You just couldn't stand the taste of my dried-tight old blue skin could you? That's what you get for skewing the flesh of a Sword Saint of Dal'yth!”
The two firewarriors watched as the large sand fly, buzzed, twisted, and spun around, as it tried to get off the ground. But just as it managed to finally get airborne again by kicking off with all of its' eight legs; a long neon-green tongue snapped the fly right out of the air. O'la'kan–Mr Big had returned to get himself breakfast With a loud hiss and spray of noxious spittle in their direction, the big red and green tchulia lizard then scurried off as fast as his six legs could carry him.
“As I was saying earlier namsai. Do you want me to undo their hair? Cut it off maybe?” asked Eoroal.
Acaya Qan'tel wiped the poisonous venom from his legs and arms, ignoring the tiny bluish blisters that immediately appeared where the drops of spit had landed on his body. Bending over to examine his legs and hooves, his mass of dirty silver hair shook as he swung his head from one side to the other.
“No, I don't want you to do anything...yet. I still don't know what you intended by doing this decision ritual as you call it. What made you do it Eoroal'kan? T'oh, you didn't get any spittle on you, did you?” asked Qan'tel looking up.
“No, you seem to have gotten the brunt of his attack. O'la'kan knows better than to try that with me.” Eoroal handed his teacher a medi-wipe from his medical kit. “It's a long story namsai. You do know that I've known Temu'jin and Li'xiu, since I was first at the academy on Vior'la? I will try to be brief though and not tell you every tiny grim detail. But to put it simply…I just wanted them to stop!”
“EVERYTHING! Stop the sniping, the bickering, the fighting, and the lovemaking. Their fighting is so much worse when they share a bed; because that's when it becomes down right physical and brutal! I wanted them to stop the constant and endless competition with one another, to stop their obsessing over one another, to stop ignoring each one another, when one of them finally get the other one's attention…I wanted it all to stop!” Eoroal face was stern when he began to speak, but by time he got to the end, his face was in hands and he was crying. Acaya Qan'tel didn't say anything, but reached out and put a hand on the younger tau's shoulder. They sat this way for several raik'or.
“Maybe Younger Brother was just upset that Older Brother and Older Sister were fighting all the time, t'eh? Played a trick on them to show them how much he was upset? Maybe that's your reason why Eoroal'kan?”
“Perhaps namsai, perhaps…”
“Eoroal'kan, just what was your desired outcome for this ritual?”
Eoroal stopped sobbing and turning around to face his teacher, looked him hard in the eye. “Namsai, please believe me when I say I want them to be reconciled. Really that's what I want the most, but if they can't do that; then what I want is for them to do is finally go ahead and get it over with! To go ahead and…” Eoroal stood up and balling up his fists he said, “…FINALLY KILL EACH OTHER!” His face flushed a deep blue as he spoke his words through gritted teeth plates.
Daly'th's early morning sun bathed the top of Mount Kan'ji in heat and light. Various birds now made their morning whistles and calls, several Ur'hui'la–Quick wings, shot in and out of the tumble-thistles, and leapt on to rocks or cactuses, announcing by their trilling calls; that this particular terrain feature was theirs, and theirs alone. A new day had come to the mountain.
Acaya'Qan'tel did not look surprised at Eoroal's answer, but simply shook his head to acknowledge the statement. Eoroal sat down again, his face grim as he faced the morning sun. Master and student now both kept quiet, but it was Qan'tel who broke the silence this time.
“Xhmm, are you hungry Eoroal'kan?”
“Are you hungry?”
“A little, but drinking all that alcohol and eating so much meat after that long fast, it was hard on both of my stomachs.”
“Xhmm, well I'm famished I don't suppose you have any food on you?”
“Let's see what I have in my shoulder bag...red rice balls...a little dried fruit...T'ah, I have fresh cactus bits, seasoned with blue garlic!”
“Here,” said Qan'tel.
“Xhmm?” replied Eoroal as he stopped scrounging around in his bag to look up at the bright pink and white metallic rectangle that Qan'tel was offering him.
“What... smack...do ya... crunch...think it is?... smack, crunch…” said Qan'tel munching down on a similar, but unwrapped rectangle.
“This a protein energy nutritional supplement bar? Where did you get them namsai?”
“The same place you got...smack...the wine. By the way you can just...crunch...say, 'Is that a proenutsup bar?' You don't have to say the whole title…crunch. T'oh, and take it slow will you? Don't down it all at once! You've been fasting and your system is going to have a hard time with so much concentrated protein.”
“Wh-what…I mean…h-h-how were you able to get proenutsup bars out here?” asked Eoroal unwrapping and then taking a small bite of his protein energy nutritional supplement bar. “Wait, weren’t you fasting like the rest of us? Xhmm, this is good!”
“No, why do I have to fast? After all I'm the one living in the desert on top of a mountain? You lot came to me for enlightenment; but I never said anything about fasting myself! When any of you decide... crunch...to go sit on top of mountain...smack...then you can decide if you want to fast or not. But until then... stuff it!” Qan'tel finished his proenutsup bar and said, “T'ahhh that was a direct hit with a fusion blaster! By the way if you don't want all of your proenutsup bar, throw the rest of it my way will you?” said Qan'tel crumbling up the wrapper and stuffing into his bag.
“I believe I'll finish...xhmm...this one namsai.”
“Eoroa'lkan I saw the the special delivery drone drop off your package two days ago. But did you really need four bottles of wine? Drinking that much wine will have them sleeping till mid-rotaa!” asked Qan'tel pointing down the hillside toward the cell.”
“I had only two bottles of wine namsai! Temu'jin brought a bottle of eighteen tau'cyr old Vior'lan single-malt vi’ky’husa. Li'xiu surprised us with a bottle of a fifteen tau'cyr old Tau'n kryn’t’car; which came from her father's estate no less! It seems her father has become quite the vintner in his retirement,” said Eoroal finishing his proenutsup bar. “It appears you just picked up the wrong bottle to smell!”
“Vi’ky’husa and kryn’t’car! In that case they'll be asleep for four or five rotaa at least!” Qan'tel skewed his face one way and then then the other. Then he stroked his beard, looked sideways at Eoroal and asked, “Don't suppose there would be any of that a...single-malt vi’ky’husa left do you?”
“Any left? Not when those two are drinking! You'd have better luck milking a kweegee-beest, than finding a drop in any of those bottles!” Eoroal laughed as he leaned his head in the direction of his cell. Then getting close to Qan'tel he said, “Since I was making sure to keep sober…I only got a single shot of each them myself. T'ah, what a damn shame too. You would have loved both of them namsai!”
“Now, let me guess…you probably filled your drinking bowl with water or mostly water? And you kept pouring wine to keep their bowls filled; so that neither of them noticed you weren't getting drunk, t'eh?” Qan'tel squinted at Eoroal while grinning from beneath his beard.
“Something like that, well actually the two of them are so competitive, that once I brought out the wine; they hardly noticed if I was drinking at all. They were so focused on each other, that most of the time I don't think they even knew I was there!”
Qan'tel turned and looking serious asked, “Eoroal'kan, did you really mean for them to kill one each other? Or was there something else you intended by getting them intoxicated? What is the weapon you're concealing, t'eh? 'Is there a jade dagger hidden under your cloak?'”
Eoroal let go of the smile slide off his face, and scratching the side of cheek, looked back at his teacher. When he replied it was in a quiet, steady tone. “You guessed right there is something else. Something else I intended. I was wondering…hoping actually, that I might be wrong. I thought maybe that they'd finally chucked it all out the airlock door! So I had to be sure that they were still going at it. You know…that they were still obsessed with each other; enough so as to be a danger to themselves and others,” said Eoroal looking earnestly at his teacher.
“However as much as I want them to stop their never ending competition, they never will. But they won't kill each other either! Well, then again I shouldn't speak for Li'xiu; she just might go ahead and gut Temu'jin anyway? Temu'jin however, is much too much the gentlemen to slit the throat of a former lover. He'll be a gentlemen to the end, and will probably go ahead and let himself be gutted. You know just to, 'go ahead just give her what she wants'.”
“Xhmm, since their hair is now spliced together and you've left them the sharpened mont'nanal. I can therefore safely assume that you weren't wrong after all, and that they failed the test?”
Acaya Qan'tel now wrapped up his legs to take up the correct sitting posture for meditation, “But Eororal'kan since you were intending to leave early this morning, did you also fail the test?”
“Yes, namsai,” said Eoroal his face turning a pale grey.
“Go on you may continue.”
“I failed. We all failed.”
Eoroal shifted and rolled his shoulders, as he watched his teacher close his eyes and begin his rhythmic meditative breathing. The student paused for contemplation of the moment, as the far western horizon began to fill with clouds, and the smell of rain was carried by the gentle southern breeze. Nocturnal animals like the vi'maral–pygmy red deer, began to move off to find shade; while others like the doe'guxtal–yellow hedgehog, also sought the coolness of the large rocks and thick tumble-thistles to avoid heat of the coming day.
“At the Academy Temu'jin and Li'xiu were a tau'cyr ahead of me and so naturally I looked up to the both of them,” said Eoroal breaking the silence. “As matter of fact we all did, any of us who were junior to the two of them, I mean. That made them Saznai–Mentor/Senior and me the Xohnai, the Junior or Protégé. Temu'jin'saznai and Li'xiu'saznai were always looking out for me Eoroal'xohnai. Each of them took time out of their own studies to help me with mine. They were both that way with their protégée. I think...no, I know, that each of them had special relationships with all their xohnai, and my relationship just happened to be one of them.
For instance it was Temu'jin who really taught me how to play t'xa–tau chess. I knew of course the rudimentary aspects of the game; but playing him at t'xa, and having him coach me for competitions, is how I truly learned to play the game. Which is why I have in my cell the t'xa board I made from the old cactus stump, and why Temu'jin has the other t'xa board I made.
Li'xiu was my teacher for the r'nan'riika–art of the long sword. She wasn't the chief instructor of course, but only a senior student.” Eoroal sighed and looked down the hill toward his cell. “And she was absolutely, positively, the most brutal teacher I ever had! She could make you feel ashamed for even daring to show up to class, and it was worse when you didn't get the lessons right. Yet, she loved all her students, and outside of the training hall she was always gentle and supportive. Li'xiu worked tirelessly with myself and others as we practised our art.”
“And the two of them were supportive even in the littlest things. I remember once during a r'nan'ike bout being hit with a split cane sword so hard, that my mask flew off and my head was cut open. There was this big hullabaloo and everyone was rushing about to see if I was alright. Well, there was Li'xiu cradling me in her arms, sopping up all the blood with a big bandage…” Eoroal began to laugh.
“Excuse me namsai, it seems funny now; but as a kid I thought I was dying. Ha-ha-ha! Anyway, there is Li'xiu comforting me while holding the bandage to my forehead; while telling me, ha-ha-ha, that the other kid wasn't trying to kill me. That in fact that she really fancied me. Ha-ha-ha! Like that's a real conciliation to a ten tau'cyr old boy, telling him that the girl who just sliced his head open, is in love with him. I think I said, ‘Saznai I don't care if likes me! She tried to kill me!'” Eoroal stopped to laugh out loud and nod his head.
“She did fancy you, didn't she? The other student I mean?” asked Qan'tel opening his eyes.
“T'oh that she did! Fancied me quite a bit actually.”
“What was her name again…Xux'yi wasn't it?”
“Yes Xux'yi–Blue Flower (Blood Flower). In fact, in our senior tau'cyr, she asked me to be her consort for Honuxla'o–First Night. Quite a big deal that was too! The presentation with us all in our antique dress uniforms, with all those brass fixings, silk cords and such. She was from Sac'ea, so her cadet uniform was a brilliant fiery orange; which went surprisingly well with the dark purple of my Dal'yth cadet uniform. I remember her hair was all done up with curls, bangles, and orange ribbons. Her hair was so lovely with all those ribbons, it's a shame that we have to shave our heads. T'oh, and the food and wine were incredible! And then there was the dancing…and…the three rotaa alone…with her…in The Bower…” He voice trailed off until he finally stopped talking.
“You married Xux'yi right?”
“T'eh, what's that namsai? T'oh, yes, yes I did…well she married me is more like it. I had to stop running sometime, so of course she eventually caught me!”
“Two, or was it three children?”
“Three, two girls and a boy.”
“Not hard to guess, but your boy's name is Temu'jin and one of the girls is named Li'xiu? Correct?”
“Yes, you guessed correct namsai; but my other daughter is named for my wife's best friend Bork'erri–Snow Mane.” Eoroal suddenly turned and bowing to Acaya Qan'tel said, “I apologize namsai, I was reminiscing and wandered off topic.”
Eoroal now stood up and pointing down the trail said, “Before I wandered off topic, here is what I was trying to say… Namsai you see that cell southwards down the trail is Temu'jin's cell. And now if you look to your left, higher up on the cliff side to the north is Li'xiu's cell. And it's the same distance from my cell to each one of theirs, taking approximately the same amount of time to walk to either of them.”
Qan'tel opened his eyes and looked at Eoroal who was pointing along the hillside to his left. “That's intentional. All the cells are equidistant from each of the adjacent cells on the trail.”
“T'oh? W-w-well, I-I-I d-didn't know that…my, my, my point being that I arrived before either of them. So I had got my cell first, however when Temu'jin arrived he chose that one,” said Eoroal pointing down the hill to the right.
“And when Li'xiu arrived she chose that one,” he said pointing up the hill to the left. “And you see that's puts me in the middle again! Here again we still have the two mentors looking out for their protégée; that is to say the two senior students are still looking out for the junior student, who is me.” Eoroal pointed with his little finger at himself. “And just like the way the two of them are still seeking to outdo one another, for accolades and recognition. Here I am, still seeking their approval, still seeking their guidance, and trying to keep...to keep them…to keep from tearing each other apart. I-I-I apologize namsai. I’m getting emotional again.” Eoroal stopped, and dropping his head, once more began to sob.
Acaya Qan'tel waited a raik'or and then stood up, and with all the power and authority a former Shas'O yelled, “Tch, tch, tch, crying like a child of divorced parents! Upset are you that 'mum and dad' won't be sleeping in the same bed are we?” Acaya Qan'tel's voice grew stronger and louder as he spoke. “I agree you have failed! You have failed not just your ta'lissera–covenantbrother and sister, but yourself as well. Now Shas'El'Lynu, focus your ni–life energy on your centre point; bring mind back to the present; and accept your destiny. As Sha'El you are not allowed the indulgence of breaking down. This cannot ever happen while you are in command. Whether you are at the front, or at headquarters in the rear. You cannot ever be seen being emotional. And you know this already!” Qan'tel's his eyes now blazed with blue fire.
Then standing on one leg with his arms out stretched he shouted, “The three of you have all failed. All of you have kept some part of yourselves in adolescenc, but now Shas'El'Lynu, tell me how your brother and sister have failed. And then tell me how you have failed them!”
Eoroal straightened his back and sat down on his knees in the traditional manner. He turned first to his teacher and bowing low enough to touch his forehead to the rock said, “Please forgive me Acaya Qan'tel. Please forgive my emotional outbursts and my loss of control.”
Now turning in the direction where his sleeping companions lay, he bowed low again saying, “My anda’talissera Temu'jin and my anda’talissera Li'xiu, please forgive my transgressions and failure to...”
“Admonish and correct,” said Qan'tel dropping slowly down into a seating position opposite his student.
“Admonish and correct both of you my ta'lissera brother and sister. And for failing to be your equal and brother to both of you.” Eoroal's face showed no emotion as he turned back around to his teacher.
The Daly'th sun now bore down upon the rock on which they sat, so that Eoroal paused and had to cover his head with the hood of his half-coat. However there was some small relief from the tall red cactuses that cast long wide shadows over where student and teacher both sat. Perched atop one red cactus was a xux'alag'anuk'la–blue hawk; it sat there as still as death itself. Then the raptor spread wide its' dusty blue wings, and with a single thrust, lifted off to soar down the mountain towards the valley.
“When I arrived at the Mont'yr Upper Academy: Sidorqu'auxa'retha–Righteous Strength Academy, Temu'jin was already one of the top five students of his class. He was tall with broad shoulders, and when you combined those dark sapphire eyes of his, with his sable black hair, and his rough Vior'lan looks; he was uncompromisingly handsome. Temu'jin moved with the smoothness of wrestler and had the grace of a dancer; carrying himself at all times like an ancient T'au equestrian. He was an academic high achiever, athletically gifted, and known for his supremacy at t'xa. But most of all he known for his unwavering self-confidence. And the girls at the academy all adored him, whether they were from Vior'la or from off world. Now that I think about it, a third to a half of the students at Righteous Strength Academy were from off world: Sa'cea, D'yanoi, Bork'an, Dal'yth, Fal'shia, Vash'ya and T'au. Anyway Temu'jin would just give a girl one of his signature half-smiles, and a mere word or two in his Viorlan brogue, and she would melt like ice dropped on hot steel. He was definitely the lead stallion at the academy, that’s for sure.”
“As I mentioned his greatest skill was at t'xa, where he played at three levels above his peer group. Temu'jin was known for his mastery of the technique Kauyon–Patient Hunter. So deeply did he understand his opponents that he seemed to know what moves they were going to make, before they did themselves! It was as if he were able to see inside of their heads. Sometimes before a match, Temu'jin would describe to a friend what strategy an opponent would most likely take. Then he would describe what moves the opponent would be; and then how many turns it would take himself to defeat his opponent. Temu'jin was rarely ever wrong, and with such a reputation he earned the academy name of Esav'oh–Foresight.”
“Now that's how things were up until the arrival at the academy of this extraordinary girl from T'au. This young cadet had eyes like orange flame, and she went by the name Li'xiu–Wild Pine Tree. What a strange and wonderful young woman she was too? It's not like there weren’t any red haired females with orange eyes around either, still Li'xiu was extraordinary. Her looks just seemed to reach out and seize you by the throat! First off Li'xiu was tall for female from Tau'n and her complexion was a deeper blue than most. But when you add that ‘Y’ forehead bone of hers, to her flame red hair and those piercing orange eyes…well she seemed downright exotic. But also there was the way she moved, Li'xiu had this powerful yet graceful stride, which always seemed packed full of energy. Like she was an athlete at the' starting block; or a yolwas–tiger poised to strike its’ prey. I remember a senior student referring to it as her yolwas’a’yebegeli, her tiger stride. Then there was the manner of her behaviour. In public she was quiet, unassuming, and ever differential to others; but in private, she was talkative, opinionated, and a force to be reckoned with.”
“Eoroal'kan, I know this already, or did you forget I was a professor at Righteous Strength Academy?”
“T'oh, a momentary slip namsai, my apologies!” Eoroal once again bowed to his teacher.
“As I said earlier Li'xiu was a student of the traditional martial arts; and her speciality was the r'nan'riika–art of the long sword, but she also excelled at the sport version of the art, r'nan'ike. Her signature technique was the Mont'ka–The Killing Blow. She knew exactly when and where to strike, and when she did, it all over. It seemed her competition bouts never lasted the full regulation five raik'or…xhmm, seems they never lasted more than two or three raik'or at the most? Anyway it was like they were over before they even began, and if you blinked twice, well you’d miss the whole thing for sure. I can recall seeing her win a bout in a mere thirty raik'an after the Aun'Ui dropped the fan. It was like: ‘Begin’ and then it was ‘Wham’, and ‘Point for Shas'Saal Li'xiu!’…‘Begin’ and again ‘Wham’ and ‘Point, for Shas'Saal Li'xiu!’...‘Begin’ and once more, ‘Wham’, and ‘Final point and match to Shas'Saal Li'xiu!’ It got so that only half of the girls, and none of boys would step into the combat circle with her. Of course it didn’t help that she had knocked unconscious three of her opponents and injured several others.”
“So whether it was in the heat of a r'nan'ike tournament, or on the athletic field playing vel'u–tau rugby, or in the class room in an academic contest. Li'xiu knew when and where to strike, and once she decided to strike, she struck hard. So aggressive was Li'xiu that the local Vior'lan girls, for a little while anyway, gave her an honorary membership in the Vior'lan sept. In a very short order she had climbed to the top of her class in academics, military science, athletics, but especially at vel'you r'nan'ike. In almost every endeavour at the academy she dominated. Then the unthinkable happened! Just as Li'xiu had done everywhere else at the academy, she now stormed the t'xa tournaments. Li'xiu entry into the academy’s competitive t'xa circuit took Temu'jin completely off guard. In only a couple of weeks Temu'jin's standings at t'xa quickly plummeted from third place to 45th in the ratings.”