Thursday, 27 August 2009

Mist- page 2

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‘Uksmar wants to see you.’ The feather warrior was expressionless under the angry, intricate face paint.

Kihlanni stopped weaving. What could Uksmar want? She had just left him, after breaking fast in his home with tapioca bread and a warm chocolate drink with vanilla and cinnamon. She shared most nights with the leader, and the first waking moments, but they rarely spent time together during the day.

She stood up. ‘Take me to him.’ She remained outwardly calm, but her heart was beating fast in her chest.

She followed the warrior through the rainforest path that led to the settlement. The leaves above were wet and a the few branches fallen from the canopy were covered in bromeliads and orchids.

‘You wanted to see me?’ She asked as she stepped into the tent of the man who was her leader and her lover. He looked up at her. There was a map on a table in the middle of the room and around it stood the four head warriors. Mekh, his second in command, was standing next to him, hands clasped in front of his broad body, his back straight and his dark surly gaze fixed on her. She smiled disarmingly at Uksmar, and then nodded at Mekh. Had they found it?

‘Yes.’ His voice was soft and guarded. ‘Do you recognise this?’ He held out one of her markers, a short dart with green and gold feathers. She tried to think quickly. Where could they have found it? If they had found it by the secret entrance, there would be no doubt that a traitor put it there. Or could they have found the ones she hid in her tent? That would explain how they traced it back to her, but it hardly warranted a solemn meeting like his one. But why had they called her? Had someone seen her placing the dart?

She studied it carefully. ‘I don't believe I do. I'm confused, my chief. What's the importance of this?’ She used a sweet voice and ignored the cold sweat running down her back. She fixed her eyes on the leader, getting strength from the love she knew he felt for her, and avoided Mekh's eyes altogether.

‘She's lying’ His voice boomed. Uksmar shot an angry look at his captain. ‘Let her speak.’ And to her, ‘Mekh believes that you placed this dart as a signpost. One of his warriors claims he saw you.’

‘A signpost?’ she said, her eyes open wide. ‘Signpost to what?’

‘The secret path.’ The one that would lead general Diego to us. You do know his army is stationed north of the rock hill?’

She nodded. Everyone knew this. The invading general had been looking for them for many moons. Theirs was the only tribe that remained unconquered, largely due to their ability to remain unseen. Hidden in a small recess of the rainforest, next to the canyon cliff, a long fall at one end, and a small path through the rocky face of the mountain as the only entrance on the other end. A path that had been protected with magic, the one weapon that the enemy neither possessed nor expected.

‘The dart is showing exactly where to walk into the heart of the rock. We don't know for how long it's been there, or whether Diego's army has seen it. And we don't know who...’

‘It was her, Uksmar. Mo' Nab' saw him.’ Mekh interrupted, his voice a low growl.

Kihlanni felt sick. So they had seen her. It was over. She would now die the painful death of the traitors, it didn't matter that she was the chief's lover. Uksmar didn't say anything, waiting for her response. The silence in the room was thick as brume, and all the men were looking at her. Her mind raced looking for a way out.

‘My chief,’she said, allowing some of the fear to slip into her voice. ‘I have never seen this object. I understand the grave accusation made against me, and I beg you not to believe it. I don't know why anyone would accuse me of such treason, but whatever their motives, I believe you're being betrayed twice over., by placing the blame on me.’ She kept her voice steady and her eyes locked with her lover's. In his eyes he saw a desperate hope growing as she spoke. She knew him well.

Uksmar gestured a man forward. ‘Mo' Nab', tell us what you saw.’

The young warrior cleared his throat. ‘I, I saw her, my chief.’ He took a small step forward. ‘She, um, she was walking into the path through the rock. I saw her because the moon gave some light. There was a shining object in her hand. I was out checking my rabbit traps. She didn't see me. I thought it was odd, but none of my business, so I didn't say anything.’ The soldier looked down.

‘When did this happen?’

‘Two nights ago. I only remembered today when I heard the men talking about the marker by the false rock and about how the invaders will now find us and kill us.’ the young man looked embarrassed. ‘I mean, that's what the others are saying, my chief.’

‘I want to believe you,’ he said to her, and his voice was heavy with sadness. ‘But I don't see what this warrior would gain by lying. If you did place that dart signalling the entrance to our settlement, I ask you to admit it now. If you have betrayed this tribe that welcomed you and accepted you as one of us,’ he said and his eyes hardened, as if he no longer addressed her but a stranger ‘say so now. You will find us merciful. You will have a quick and painless death, and will be given a decent burial.’

‘But, my chief,’ Mekh started. Uksmar silenced him with a raised hand but didn't stop looking at Kihlanni.

‘Accept what you've done.’ His words were stern but she saw in his eyes one last desperate question. He still clinged to the hope that she was innocent.

She let tears run down her cheeks. ‘I didn't do this, my love. I don't know why I'm being accused like this. I would never do such a thing. But do with me as you wish.’ She fell on her knees before him. If she got out of this alive she would run to the hills and to the general's tent.

For a few moments, the room fell silent again. Mekh broke the silence by banging his fist on the table. His eyes were dark and furious, but he spoke respectfully. ‘My chief,’ he said. ‘If you'll allow me, I'll conduct a search of her quarters. And yours.’ At this last words Uksmar looked up, surprised. After a few moments, he nodded.

‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I will go with you. Everyone else waits here.’

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