Mountain Shadows
« on: September 12, 2019, 10:55:20 AM »
A silver morning cut through a light cover of clouds. Spring was not yet in the crisp air. The blooming of wheat and grass in the central plains told a different story, however. That was where the promise of warmer temperatures and fruitful crops was whispered. Between grass shoots. In the hollows between tree roots. It made the young men restless, and the young women even more so. When? When would they meet with the other tribes? Their blood was ready for celebration, heat, and an excuse to be themselves to excess.

Smiling to himself Syral helped his people bind up their houses for carrying on wagons instead of sleds. Then lead them west and south to the cradle of the mountains where the twelve tribes came to sing ancient songs. And dance timeless dances of every kind. Winter had been kind to his tribe despite their enemies soiling the waters. They were strong bodied, and impressive in number. The least city touched of the Nukti as a whole. Tradition nearly forgotten by others preserved in their crafters hands. It made Syral proud to see his old women passing skill down to their granddaughters. Just as proud as bringing in the largest hunt of the first night.

They painted their bodies in the colors of sunset and the feathers of fierce birds. Thousands of voices rose up in song. A hundred fires were danced around. Matches were made. And babies too, he was sure. Syral was too busy minding his sisters to delve over much in the wildness of the first night. For a little while the packs joined up to run as one, and howling at the full moon before they feasted. His eyes searched every pocket of shadow, though. Scanned the faces in the crowd with mild expectation.

On the second day she was there. She might have been all along, his attention too torn to be entirely accurate. Late or early, he didn’t care. It amused him too much to find her there at all. Hovering between tribes. As if she were not sure where to mingle. Syral sat outside of his tent with a few old women of the tribe. They gossiped about skills and good genetics as the keystones to marriage while he played the role of romantic. Every year was different. Sometimes he argued for preserving their culture while they safeguarded the right to happiness. This year he defended love matches while they argued for choosing with the head instead of the heart. The conversation dropped as he spotted the face he had hoped to see. ”Valeska,” He called to her with a short raise of his hand. Voice strong over the soft conversations around them but not quite a yell.

”We’ll think more on it,” He said to the old woman, who were quiet in that smirking way of old women that saw more into an instant than they should. ”let them enjoy the flirting for now.” Leaving them to their sideways glances and snickering he waded around clusters of families and friends. Mind turning from one task to the next. They had survived bad marriage pacts before. Why worry before the vows were made? Besides, the tribe meet was good for more than spouse finding. Many came to trade, or learn. Things he assumed a woman with several dependents would be interested in. More interested than she would be in marriage proposals, anyway. As a chief he knew the rites and tricks to getting the best deals. And if he was careful in offering her that advice, he might convince her to stay long enough to accept a different sort of proposal too. ”Enjoying yourself yet?” He asked as their paths finally converged.