Zethar meets the Jealatian tribe
The entire tribe stood outside the hut in solemn silence. The sun rose that morning, and with the sun rose a cry. Everyone paused and bowed their heads. They knew what that cry meant, and out of respect, they came to stand before the hut, waiting for the wife of their chieftain to finally emerge and confirm what they already knew.
The elder members stood closer to the front while the younger members corralled their children, who ran around, not understanding the gravity of the situation. Finally their parents grabbed them and forced them to stand still, pressing their finger against their lips for them to hush.
At last, one father of several children crouched beside them and explained. “One of our own has passed beyond the mist, just as I will next year and your mother will the following year. None of us lives beyond twenty summers. Make the most of what you can in this life, for our time here is short, and we must show respect to all those who have passed before us. Now quiet.” With that, the father rose once more to his full height.
In the back of the crowd stood a man, whose skin looked stark white when compared to the dark skin of all the members of the tribe. His rags differed from the loins that the tribal men wore, and his weathered features and graying hair indicated to his older age—older than anyone else in the tribe. That was a perplexing thought, He stepped closer to one of the men in the back of the crowd and lowered his voice as he asked, “Why do none of you live past twenty summers?”
The dark-skinned man, Simulo, shrugged. “That is the curse of our people. Some races are blessed with longevity or immortality, but this is the way of our people.”
Zethar Kalban looked at the man he had befriended a little over a year ago. The Jealatian tribe was unique in that they possessed the ability to understand any language when it was spoken to them. It made them excellent interpreters on a global scale, but they never ventured far from their roots because of their short lifespan. Their main objective was to find a mate and have as many children as possible, so their kind would not go extinct.
This whole mindset bewildered Zethar because everywhere else in the world, everyone lived so much longer—eighty, ninety, and even a hundred years old. He couldn’t imagine having twenty years as the oldest anyone would ever live. How would they get anything accomplished?
Finally, a woman emerged from the tent, and she said something in a language Zethar didn’t understand. The entire tribe lifted up their voices and wept. The older members of the tribe surrounded the new widow to offer her their condolences, and she nodded as she heard their words. The others of the tribe dispersed and returned to their duties. They didn’t have much time, and there was still a lot to do.
Simulo grabbed Zither’s arm, surprising him. “Come. Now we must ask.” He dragged the outsider toward the circle of the elders o the tribe—all of whom were decades younger than Zethar himself. When they came to stand before them, Simulo bowed low to them and spoke in the unfamiliar tongue, but he made a few gestures toward Zethar, and Zethar heard his name mentioned, so he knew he was the topic of the conversation.
Finally, the new widow lifted her gaze to lock eyes with Zethar, and she wiped away her tears to face him bravely. “My son informs me you need one of us to accompany you into the Land of Darkness, so that you may converse more easily with the Creatures there. Is this so?”
Zethar showed his respect for her by bowing but then straightened once more and nodded. “That is true. You are the only ones who can speak the language of the Anicocinas, and I must speak with them.”
“Why must you speak with them?” She asked as she stood before him regally. “They have no dealings with humans.”
“They are the only ones who I trust to safeguard something of great importance. That is all I can say.”
The woman sighed but nodded. “Simulo must see off the spirit of our father, but then he may go with you.”
“You have my gratitude.” Zethar bowed low to her and stepped aside to let her pass him by as she went to see to the arrangements of the funeral.
Once she was gone, Zethar straightened and shot Simulo a look. “That was your mother?”
Simulo looked at Zethar, surprised, and then he laughed. “No! We are all sons and daughters, and we call the chieftain and his wife our father and mother. My parents died many summers ago.”
Zethan nodded. This made more sense because the chieftain’s widow looked to be close to Simulo’s age. Now that he understood, he was able to focus on the real matter at hand. “So, she has given her permission for you to accompany me. When do we leave?”
“Tomorrow,” Simulo answered. “We shall see the chieftain’s spirit off this evening, and then we shall leave at first light. Come, let us make the proper preparations.”
Without saying a word, Zethar followed Simulo through the Jealian camp. He glimpsed around at the activity. While a somber mood hung over them and people stopped to give respects to the chieftain’s widow when she passed them, life continued as usual. Men prepared for a hunt. Women, with the aid of their children, tended to the chores of cooking, washing their clothes, and tending to their community gardens.
Zethar mused how he had gotten here and how out of touch the tribe seemed to be. They had no idea that his family was the one responsible for the rain on this world, or that governments had overstepped their boundaries by capturing all members of the Kalban clan in hopes that they would surrender them even a single rain seed.
They had not, and they perished for it.
Only Zethar remained free, but he knew it was only a matter of time before they captured him as well. Before they did that, he wanted to secure the rain seeds for good, and he needed to go to Anicoce for that.
For once, he was grateful for his relatives insistence on befriending the Jealatian tribe. This made everything so much easier.
© 2019 Kelly Blanchard