All about camp people were hammering, chopping and repairing the damage from the night’s storm. Relief that our tribe’s folk had made it through unscathed manifested in bawdy laughter and endless chatter. Their frivolity seeped between the door skins of our hut, making me yearn for fun.
I ripped up fresh mallow leaves, balanced them on the flat stone and began smashing them with a smooth rock.
“No, Meliora.” My mother chided. “Cut, don’t grind.”
She was like that. Nothing I ever did seemed to please her. If I collected moss, it was too wet or too dry. Willow bark I’d cut for her was too thick or from the wrong side of the tree. Not that it made a difference to the potency which side of the kyjyan trunk it came from. She was born to complain.
The more I peered out through the doorway at the tribe working together, the more I wanted to escape. I was so tired of being told what I could and couldn’t do. With a noisy sigh, I picked up the best knife we had and slammed it down on the heap of leaves. It earned me a scowl from mother and a sharp click of her tongue.
Before I could finish my task, Cador charged in clutching his middle with both hands. “Mother, my guts ache.”
She let a bunch of herbs to fall to the table, rushed over to him and laid her palm against his forehead. “You don’t have a fever.” Her thumb yanked down his left eyelid. “But you do look a bit pale.”
He batted her arm away. “Don’t fuss, woman. Just give me the tonic.”
“I can’t do that until I know what’s causing the stomach ache.”
“He’s probably got worms.” I tittered. “He’s one big worm.”
Cador turned on me, narrowed his eyes and shoved me backwards with such force, I almost knocked over the table. Winded, I straightened up and suppressed the urge to cough. Pain radiated through my spine but I was determined not to let it show. My brother’s spite was legendary. Angering him further was folly.
“Keep out of this, Mel. No one asked you and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your kyjyan mouth shut.” There was a vessel bulging in his temple and I knew it had gone way beyond a simple sibling tease.
My mother looked affronted at his use of bad language, but said nothing. She too was fully aware of the consequences of speaking out against our beloved chief, whether we were kin or not. While he simmered down from his tantrum, I was aware of a change in the noises coming from outside. The hammering was replaced by the repetitive thud of a horse’s hooves pounding through the mud.
Cador walked to the doorway and looked out. “It’s one of the scouts.”
I followed my brother outside and hovered close by, listening to their conversation.
“Chief Cador, there’s a foreign ship wrecked in the bay. Cargo everywhere, slaves too.” The scout gasped, jumping down from his pony.
“Our side of the River Sid, or is it in the Durotridges territory?”