Storytime with Rhetaskew (5)

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Welcome back to our weekly serial story posts. This week we begin a wonderful adventure, from our very own Andrew Regin. This short tale, is about one of the characters from his upcoming fantasy series, the Guardians. Enjoy the journey, and as always, please let us know what you think.

Shoshawna’s Tale – Andrew Regin
(Part 1 of 3)

Tormented by grief and sorrow, the girl’s spirit will become evident, and only when her task is complete may the Golden Dragon make his choice . . . “
– excerpt from the Book of Prophetic Visions

Shoshawna found it difficult to focus. Memories kept intruding into her thoughts as she moved through the forest on silent feet . . .

. . . She sat at her brother’s side until the end. She watched the rise and fall of his chest as he drew his last breath. The sickness had taken him quickly. She was glad he hadn’t suffered, but she wasn’t sure if he understood when she told him how much she loved him. She hoped he knew.

No one else would ever know how much he meant to her. He had raised her from an early age. Shoshawna had no memory of her mother, but that hadn’t mattered while Keasi was alive. Now he was gone. Now he would join Mother in Heaven.

Tears streamed down her face and she wiped them away, angry at her own weakness. Keasi had taught her to be brave. Her grief was hers to bear. She had seen eleven years and shouldn’t be such a baby. Keasi wouldn’t have cried.

“Honor, Keasi,” she said, the tears building in her eyes once more.

Shoshawna’s father sat on Keasi’s other side. He was the village chief and his face remained a stony mask as he laid Keasi’s hand down before standing. He left the hut to inform the rest of the tribe that it was over. It had always been this way. She knew her father loved her, but his honor and duty to his people came first.

“I will be your honor now, Keasi. I swear it on my life.” . . . 

 . . . Shoshawna shook herself from the memories of that awful day the year before. She had to concentrate on what she was doing now. She had to make Keasi proud; she knew he was looking down from heaven. Failure would mean joining him, and she couldn’t stand the thought of facing him in disgrace. Someday she would join him, but with any luck that would be many years away.

“I’m not afraid,” she told herself, for the hundredth time. She had come too far to give up now. She wasn’t sure returning empty-handed was even an option for her. Convincing her father had been a feat of its own, one that had put his honor on the line. To convince her father, she had had to gain support from the village shaman . . .

 . . . Shoshawna could see Awkeatu sitting outside the old shaman’s hut as she approached. When the young apprentice saw her, he tried to rise, but lost his balance and fell. His face turned red as he stood up.

“It’s not a good time,” he said, brushing the dust from his deer hide pants. “He’s not well.”

“I know,” Shoshawna said, “but I must speak with him.”

“I know why you’re here, and you’re too young,” Awkeatu said.

Shoshawna felt her anger rising and she clenched her fists. She was tired of hearing that from everyone, and Awkeatu was only a year older.

“I mean . . .  I don’t think you’re too young,” he stammered, “but they do, that’s all.”

Her anger receded a bit. They had grown up in the same village and had been friends for as long as she could remember. Recently however, he had become awkward in her presence. She wasn’t stupid, and his discomfort would have been cute—even flattering—under different circumstances, but she had no time for childishness.

“I’m twelve, and it is my right,” she said. Most people waited until thirteen or fourteen to attempt the trial, but twelve was the required age. She had to do it . . .  for Keasi.

“You could die,” he said, but Shoshawna just stared at him until his shoulders slumped. “Very well.”

He pulled back the deerskin that covered the entrance of the shaman’s hut. He said something to the man inside and then held the flap open so she could enter.

The old man sat on his pallet. His face, covered in the wrinkles of many seasons, conveyed wisdom. There were no feathers in his hair; as a holy man, he wasn’t allowed to accept honor. Respect was another matter however, and Shoshawna bowed her head. Her eyes were then drawn to the contraption he was propped up against, which consisted of a hide stretched across a wooden frame.

“Do you like it,” the shaman asked. “Awkeatu made it for me. He’s a smart one. He won’t bring honor, but he will make a good husband some day.”

She felt the heat rise in her cheeks. “I did not come to talk about Awkeatu,” she said. She was a little worried about offending the old shaman, but this was important. Fortunately, he chuckled at the blush on her face.

His laughter turned into a coughing fit, and she dropped to his side, placing her hand behind his back and helping him sit up a bit. As his racking cough subsided, he motioned to a bucket of water. She grabbed a birch-bark cup and filled it before handing it to him. He took a long drink and then sat back once again.

“I know why you are here,” he said.

“I’m of age.”

“That remains to be seen.”

“I don’t understand. I’m twelve, now.”

“There is more than one way to measure age.”

“Please, I have to. Without the trial, my life means nothing—not to me, and not to Keasi.”

“I know what Keasi wanted for you, but I doubt he would have pushed you to make the attempt so soon.”

“He was my age when he faced the beast.”

“True,” the old man mused, as if considering the matter. Then he looked at her once more. “But he is only one of a handful of boys—your age—to have faced the trial and lived to tell the tale. The youngest girl to even try was fourteen.”

“I know.”

“Then you know what happened to her.”

“I do, but she wasn’t taught by Keasi.”

He looked hard at her for a long time, and she met his gaze with determination. “You know that he won’t be easy to convince.”

“He’ll listen to you,” she said with a smile. Now that she had won the old man over, it was time to convince her father . . . 

 . . . Shoshawna looked down at the tracks in front of her. The creature that had made them was big. Its paw was larger than her own hand. She knelt down to have a closer look. Yes, the tracks were fresh. She could almost hear her brother’s voice . . .

 . . . “See how the edges of this one are rounded and worn?” Keasi said. “This is an old track. The bear that made it is long gone.”

“He was big, wasn’t he?” she asked.

“Very good,” he said, ruffling her hair.

Shoshawna beamed at his praise. At eight she could identify a dozen different types of animal tracks, but those of the bear were most important.

She looked at the flint knife at her brother’s side. He had killed a bear with nothing but that knife. It was because of this single act of bravery that he was now a warrior and was able to carry the blade. She was determined to follow in his footsteps.

“Now this one,” he said, pointing to another track, “is much fresher. See how the edges are sharp and much better defined?”

Shoshawna nodded, trying to burn the knowledge into her brain . . .

… more next week

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