I began the second book of Vokhtah back in 2013, but then Innerscape captured my imagination and ‘Kaati’ disappeared into a digital drawer for five years. I finally restarted the project today by writing an 800 word Prologue. In it, I refresh my memory a little and set the stage for the story of Kaati, the young Trader who helped The Blue survive the crossing of the Spine of the World.
The words aren’t set in stone, but this part of the plot is. I hope you like it. 🙂
It was close to deep-dark when the Master was ushered into the Quartermaster’s presence, yet the leader of the Traders was neither asleep, nor alone. Five young Traders, all from the Runner clan, sat or sprawled drunkenly around a table littered with spilled pippa juice and half-empty bowls of dreamweed.
“Sit, sit!” the Quartermaster cried as it waved the Master to a vacant cushion. “Juice?”
The cushion was sticky, as was the goblet offered by one of the younglings, but the Master kept the distaste from its face as it sat and folded its wings to either side.
“May Takhti being gentle!” the Quartermaster said, raising its goblet in a toast.
“And Pah Hakh being short,” the Master replied as it raised its own goblet. Unlike the Quartermaster, however, it swallowed very little of the fermented pippa juice.
“S’so,” the Quartermaster said once the demands of hospitality had been met. “What bringing Master Teller here so late?”
That was not a question the Master wished to answer in front of so many witnesses, drunk or not.
“Just a few details concerning trade with Five Rocks. Nothing serious.”
“Details, details. Always details,” the Quartermaster sighed. Despite its long suffering tone, however, its eyes were sharp as it sent its guests off to bed. They went, but not without a good deal of grumbling so it was some time before the two older Traders were finally alone.
“Now,” the Quartermaster began. What-”
Rising from its cushion, the Master tiptoed to the wooden door that separated the Quartermaster’s area from the rest of the clans, and threw it open. The light spilling from the cavern confirmed that all the revelers were gone, and the passage was empty. Nothing moved except for the same, slack-jawed drudge it had seen sweeping on the way in.
Satisfied they would not be overheard, the Master closed the door and returned to the table.
“What being wrong?” the Quartermaster asked, its tone more annoyed than concerned.
“Hoping nothing,” the Master said as it chose a clean cushion and sat down, “but receiving disturbing report from Five Rocks gather.”
“Caravan still being there?”
“S’so. Departing at first light, but-”
“Hoping not being more deaths!”
The hint of righteous indignation in the Quartermaster’s tone caused the Master’s cilia to flare with anger. The Quartermaster might not have ordered the deaths of the two young Flyers on the Spine, but it had certainly benefited from them!
…yet perhaps still failing…
That thought cooled the Master’s rage, and its voice betrayed no emotion as it said, “Ki, no more deaths, but…perhaps being a…ghost.”
“Ghost?” the Quartermaster said with a laugh. “Ghosts being tales to frighten iVokhti!”
“S’so. But if true, this one could causing great trouble.”
“Teller overhearing Traders talking about na-Quartermaster. About seeing na-Quartermaster at gather.”
Pippa juice sloshed from the Quartermaster’s goblet as he banged it on the table. “na-Quartermaster being dead! Messenger witnessing.”
The Master wiped juice from its chest before saying, “but no one seeing na-Quartermaster’s body so how being sure truly dead?”
“Ridiculous. Messengers not lying, especially to protect Traders!”
“S’so. But what if Messenger being tricked-”
“Not knowing, but Messenger being ignorant of Wild. Perhaps not seeing to’pakh at all. Perhaps only hearing to’pakh, then hearing screams-”
“Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps! Or perhaps na-Quartermaster truly being dead, and Traders only seeing what wanting to see!”
That thought had occurred to the Master as well, but it could see no reason for the Traders of the caravan to start a rumour about the na-Quartermaster if it really was dead. What would they gain? No, the one explanation that made sense was that the young Trader was still alive and getting ready to challenge for the leadership of the clans.
The Runners would support the Quartermaster because it was one of their own, but the Flyers and Plodders were still angry over the deaths on The Spine. If the na-Quartermaster were allowed to return, they would greet it as a hero, the only Trader to ever survive the Wild on its own.
“If being wrong and na-Quartermaster still being alive, clans could tearing Quarter apart.”
“Not being wrong.”
Taken aback by the Quartermaster’s self-assurance, the Master decided to take a more conciliatory tack.
“Perhaps being right, but what harm being in posting guards at entrance?”
“And looking like fool? Or coward? Ki. Not posting guards.”
Faced with the Quartermaster’s stubborn refusal to take precautions, the Master could do little but concede defeat.
“Hearing and obeying.”
Then it walked from the cavern, steps heavy with disappointment. Once out in the passage, however, its step lightened considerably. Just because the Quartermaster refused to post guards at the entrance did not mean the Tellers could not. They would have to stay out of sight, of course, but that was probably a good thing anyway. If the na-Quartermaster did try to return, they could catch it and dispose of it without the clans being any the wiser. Sometimes opportunity really did spring from adversity.
Right, time to go watch The Drum and cook dinner.