The Clan Meeting
Gregori and Darvin fell into step on the rocky climb to the Great Cavern where all clan meetings were held. Darvin stepped three times for every one of Gregori’s long legs. Yoli remained behind to care for Wizen, unwilling to leave him in case the antibiotic did not help. The silence between the foster brothers was the consistency of clotted cream: thick, opaque, but oddly sweet.
“I was a goner.” Gregori said into the silence. He carried a lantern to light his way, not having dwarvish eyes, canny with night sight.
“Nah,” Darvin said. “You’d have farted, and they all would have run away.”
“Oh, Darvin!” Gregori groaned, although he couldn’t help laughing at the same time. “That hail hurt.” Gregori rubbed his head, his long legs taking him easily up winding path. Most clan longhouses were down the mountain, only the Great Cavern entrance was higher than the shaman’s longhouse.
“Lucky you have a hard head,” Darvin joked, giving Gregori a shove on his waist. He wasn’t sure that Gregori even felt it. He was happy to have such a big, strong ally in the upcoming meeting, but sometimes Gregori made him feel small, which he didn’t like.
Sillette would be at the meeting. His breath quickened. He didn’t know if it was because of the climb or because he was thinking of Sillette.
“Forst hates me and wants me to leave.” Gregori had never spoken of Forst’s dislike before tonight.
“Perhaps the blow on his head knocked his tongue loose,” Darvin thought to himself, smirking. Then he sobered, remembering the welfare of the clan depended on him. His father wouldn’t joke around and waste their last few moments alone.
“He doesn’t hate you,” Darvin said, hoping it was true. “He just needs someone to blame for his wife being murdered.”
“I had nothing to do with that!” Gregori protested.
“I know.” Darvin was hasty to say. “It doesn’t make any sense. At all. He’s wrong. But how do we get him to stop?”
“I wish I knew.” Gregori said. “Do you think I should move away?”
“No!” Darvin stopped on the path, shocked now. “Of course not, you’re my brother. Don’t be stupid.”
“Well, okay then,” sighed Gregori. “I don’t really want to go. Where would I go?”
“Nowhere!” Darvin could see the entrance now. “We need you. You have more respect in the clan than Uncle Forst. He’s been such a cranky old sourpuss for so long.”
They passed into the Great Cavern. Inside the ring of torches, most of the chairs were already taken. Granite was standing in front of the Laird’s chair, and all the elders were assembled and listening to him.
“The satellites are a myth. Eyes in the sky watching us! Please! We produce more metalwork smelting during the day. It’s hindering production having to adhere to an outdated schedule. We need to set aside the old fears.”
The elders murmured. Darvin approached the Laird’s chair, but Granite blocked his way.
“You are not an elder,” Granite told him.
“I am here in the Laird’s place, with his authority,” Darvin said coolly. “Let me take the Laird’s chair.”
“We already know what the Laird would say. You and Gregori are children and should go home.” Darvin knew that if he backed down, he would have failed himself and his father. He felt all his doubts and fears warming him. What should he say?
Gregori laid a supportive hand on Darvin’s shoulder from his great height. In here, a giant could stand upright under the high domed ceiling. “Stand aside, my foster brother wants to take the Laird’s chair.”
“I’ve already said we don’t need your input here, boy.” Calling Gregori boy was not just rude, it was too close to what Uncle Forst called him. Darvin felt himself bristle, but losing his temper would never do. He reminded himself to be gentle, this was Sillette’s father. He tried to picture the sunrise, that gorgeous cooling sunrise of that very morning.
“Let my nephew take the Laird’s chair, Granite. Let Gregori sit as well. If my brother has sent them, then they should be heard.” Uncle Forst had risen from his chair, frowning mightily.
“We already know what they will say. And the giant has no place here.” Granite repeated.
“Gregori is not a flatlander giant, he’s Mountain Clan. He’s one of the best of us. His size has done nothing but benefit all of us.” Forst sat back down next to Imelia, looking a bit surprised at what had come out of his mouth, but nodding at its truth. Imelia patted his thigh and nodded approvingly at him. Gregori stared at Forst.
“Father,” Sillette raised her voice, too.
“Sit down, Sillette, you are not an elder either.”
“Granite, I will speak.” Darvin said, the setdown to Sillette was the last straw. “I will be heard, and if you don’t care to listen, you may leave. There’s the door.” He pointed at the entrance of the cavern.
Granite stuck out his chest, took a breath, but was interrupted by the quiet voice of Madda, Doctor Rumald’s heart mother.
“Sit down, Granite, we all know what you will say, too.” Madda said quietly, her voice respectful but firm, and a few snickers were heard from other elders. “You were young once, Granite, but you always expected others to listen to you.”
Granite sat, glowering at Darvin. “I want to talk about the smelting, but first I have a story to tell you.” Darvin told the story of his scrying adventure and the defeat of the robbers with lightning and hail. Then he sat and gave Gregori the floor.
Gregori rubbed his head, and confirmed what Darvin had said. “I had sold all the metalwork, and I was carrying a lot of clan gold, including yours, Granite. I had traveled a long way the night before, and I was exhausted. The robbers outnumbered me five to one. They knocked me cold, thinking I was the wizard calling down the lightning. Darvin’s magic scared away the robbers and saved my life. Despite this big lump, I brought home the giant medicine and our gold, only because Darvin is a great shaman just like his father. I think we should listen to him. If it weren’t for him, our gold would be gone and Laird Wizen would lay dying still.”
Gregori glared around at them, defying them to disagree, and when they did not, his expression gentled. “Doctor Rumald sends his love, Madda, Farch.” Madda blinked many times, and Farch reached out to hold her hand. “Doctor Rumald also sent worrying news: newspapers printed photographs of smoke on Clan Mountain. The giants believe the smoke is a forest fire. Firefighters will be sent if airplanes confirm more smoke. He urges the clan to stop daylight smelting. Secrecy is our most important defense.”
Darvin stood, again taking control of the meeting. “My father will be better in a few days if my mother gets her way. And you know she likes to get her way.” The elders chuckled, nodding. At one time or another, Yoli had healed most of the elders or one of their family. “Meanwhile, let’s not take any chances on a war. If we stop daylight smelting, the smoke will be gone. The planes will go away again, and the giants will leave us be. This is my father’s wish and mine.” He sat.
“Let’s adhere to the schedule that has kept us safe for hundreds of years.” Sillette would be silent no more. “The histories have terrible stories of torture, murders and pointless deaths resulting from giant-dwarf wars.”
Granite stood up again, this time waiting politely for his daughter to sit down. “Let’s stop daylight smelting until Doctor Rumald returns. If he confirms these things, we should respect the schedule.”
Darvin started clapping. Gregori joined it, his large hands very loud, and all the elders joined in. Granite nodded at Darvin and sat again. Conversations broke out all around the torch-lit circle. The others agreed to stop daylight smelting.
Darvin quickly ended the meeting, but many elders had questions about his scrying adventure. When all the questions were answered, Sillette and Gregori had left. Darvin walked slowly down the path, pausing to lift his nose to the stars. The cool air seeped into his bones, releasing the last lingering warmth of his fears. For the first time, his destiny seemed sweet rather than frightening. The song of the stars filled his senses, and they sang to him of Sillette.
“I know you’re there.” He said to the night sky. Sillette stood up from where she had been hiding, blending in the rocks.
“How did you know?”
“I always know,” Darvin admitted. He put an arm around her waist and drew her close. He stole his first kiss, and it wasn’t his last.
Yogurt with Mashed Bananas
I cup Low-Fat Greek Yogurt, plain
1 ripe banana
1/3 cup granola
1 teaspoon honey
optional: fresh blueberries or strawberries (hulled and picked through)
In a mixing bowl, mash the banana into the yogurt with a fork. Stir in the honey. Sprinkle granola on top. Can also add fresh blueberries or strawberries for color and taste.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham