As promised, a little snippet from the beginning. This is not in fact enough to show you the central problem, but I think it’ll give you an idea about Tano himself — what he’s like, the problems he’s facing.
Let me know what you think! I hope you want to turn the page!
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Ryo came to his father’s tent alone, which for one breath frightened me very much.
Koro inKarano had declared that the gods favored the Lau and he would not put Aras to death, but I thought something else might have happened; I thought perhaps our king had found some reason to change his mind. Indeed, after Aras had set sorcery upon Koro, no matter how briefly, it seemed to me that king might very well have found any number of reasons to change his mind and put him to death even though he had said he would not do it.
Or perhaps Aras had done some other thing with sorcery, even a very small thing, and the king had put him to death for that. Koro had sworn to set aside only the forbidden acts Aras had already committed, not anything further he might do, and plainly Aras now found it much more difficult not to commit those acts than had been so before.
All those thoughts went through my mind very fast.
But almost at once I saw nothing like that could have happened. Ryo was not upset. A warrior should have more pride than to carelessly show anger or dismay or grief or any such feeling, but if Aras had been killed, Ryo would not look like this: quietly calm in his mind and his heart. He had not looked as quiet as this for many days. I thought he might not have looked as quiet as this since we had all returned to the land of the living from the land of the shades.
Obviously nothing else terrible had happened. Obviously Ryo had come to a better accord with Aras. That was one good thing that had come from everything that had happened. That was probably the only good thing that had come from all those events.
That, and the destruction of the inTasiyo, and the death of my father.
I caught that thought almost at once and made it into a different thought: the destruction of the people who had once called themselves inTasiyo, and the death of their warleader, Yaro inTasiyo, who was not my father. I had made that mistake more than once. No one had corrected me for it yet. But it was very important that I stop making that kind of mistake before someone took offence.
He would not yet be dead. They would not even have cut out his tongue and cut off his hands, not yet. Koro had told Royova inVotaro to take him a whole day’s ride from this place and do it there. Perhaps that was the custom; I did not know. But I wished Koro had ordered it done at once, here, in front of everyone. I knew Royova was a very great warrior; I knew the inVotaro were all great warriors; but I could not help but fear that the inTasiyo warleader might escape. I was very certain he would try to escape, or fight, or else he would try to bring Royova himself or some others of the inVotaro warriors under his will. Perhaps even now he might have done one or another of those things. Perhaps he had done all those things. They might be very great warriors, but they did not know him. They had never faced the burning forcefulness he owned, the forcefulness that made people give way to him and want to do as he commanded.
Even if nothing I feared had happened, even if Royova carried out the king’s commands, my fath—the inTasiyo warleader – would not die quickly. He was too strong to die quickly. He would probably live until he died of thirst. Even with the loss of blood, that would take more than one day. It might take more than two. If he came upon someone willing to help him, if his own people found him before he died, he might not die at all.
He would not be able to speak to anyone. Royova would have cut out his tongue. Unless Yaro had persuaded him not to do it.
I knew very well that was not at all likely. Yet I could not imagine my – the inTasiyo warleader voiceless. That was impossible to imagine. It was much, much easier to imagine that he might persuade Royova not to do it, not to carry out any of Koro’s commands.
I pressed all these thoughts aside, as I had done again and again since the king had spoken that sentence. I knew these thoughts were very foolish, entirely foolish. Also, I did not want to think of anything having to do with Yaro inTasiyo or with all the people who had been the inTasiyo. I tried instead to think of the people who had left the inTasiyo before the king had spoken his sentence. Especially Vayu.
I was very glad Vayu had left the inTasiyo and gone to the inKera. I was very glad he had taken his little brother Darayo into the inKera with him. Vayu had not been my friend – I had not had friends among the inTasiyo; the very word friend sounded strange when I thought of the word in any way that involved me. But Vayu had been kind to me when I had desperately needed that kindness. Later, he had extended to me an act of generosity more important than simple kindness.
I had sworn to remember nothing of any people before I had come into the inGara, but that kind of oath is kept with the tongue and the teeth, not in the heart. Or for me that was how it was. Perhaps other people might forget when they swore they would forget, perhaps it was a flaw in me that I remembered everything.
I would much rather have forgotten almost everything. Nearly all those memories were bitter; more bitter now that I understood better what my father had done to me, to the inTasiyo.
But a few memories were not like that. I was glad Vayu and his brother had not become nameless people. They would do so much better with the inKera. I knew the inKera warleader would treat Vayu justly and kindly. I did not know the lord of the inKera at all, but he was Hokino’s brother and Ryo spoke well of him. Also, he had been very generous to take in so many of the people who had been inTasiyo. Not only Vayu and his brother, but also others. Lisig and her baby. Lisig had been brave to walk away from the inTasiyo. Her courage had grown from her bitterness, I understood that very well, but it had still been a brave act.
So those were good things that had happened. But it was hard not to think of the many bad things that had happened because of the acts of the inTasiyo warleader.
I had come to Sinowa inGara’s tent partly because I had no real place within the inGara camp and did not know where else to go; and partly because I wanted to know what the lord of the inGara might do and say regarding all that had happened and hoped he might let me stay near him and listen if I stayed very quiet; but mostly because I knew that after everything was finished, Ryo would almost certainly come to his father’s tent. I had come there with Garoyo, settled to one side of the entry, and waited quietly. Garoyo had gone out again later, but I had stayed where I was. Other people had come to speak to Sinowa and then gone out again. The lord of the inGara paid no attention to me, so everyone else pretended not to notice me either.
When Ryo came in, he did not bother with that kind of pretense. He nodded to me. Then he knelt and waited for his father to acknowledge him. He was not afraid. That still struck me, even after all this time. He knew he had displeased Sinowa; he expected his father to be angry with him; but he was not afraid. I knew it was different between them than it had been between my—between Yaro inTasiyo and me, but every time I saw the difference, it still struck me.
After a little time, not long, Sinowa looked at Ryo. “My son.”
Ryo stood up, came forward the small distance, and knelt again. “Lord,” he said. “I apologize for my disgraceful behavior. I was insolent to you, to your warleader, and to our king. I deserve your punishment for it, lord.”
“You do. I will consider that in a moment,” his father answered. “Tell me how it happened between Aras and Koro.”
“I was not there when they spoke to each other. I do not know how it happened. I know that Aras will take another oath at dawn. He will swear again not to use forbidden arts against any Ugaro. He will swear this beneath the light of the rising Sun. I am certain he will keep this oath.”
He could not possibly be certain. No one could be certain of Aras now. But his father only nodded and waited for him to go on.
Ryo continued. “I know our king commanded him to go back to the summer country and forbade him to return to the winter country unless Koro himself gives him leave to do so.”
Sinowa nodded again. “All this, I knew would happen, unless something else happened.”
“Yes,” said Ryo. “Nothing else happened, or nothing else I know. Aras will go back to the summer country soon. I do not know how soon. Perhaps my father discussed this with our king.”
“A handful of days, perhaps two handfuls. Probably not longer than that, no matter that the cold will linger for many more days than that. He will stay with the inGara until he leaves on this journey. He will stay near my wife for those days. When he departs, you will go with him, my son. You will go with him into the summer country. If he can find a way to do so, he will remove his leash from your mind and free you from every manner of his sorcery.”
Nothing in this surprised Ryo at all. “Yes, lord. I think he will try to do everything you say, though some of that may not be possible. Darra inKarano and Elaro inPorakario will accompany us as far as the river and then return. Perhaps my father knows that as well.”
“Ah.” Sinowa lifted a bowl of warm berry cordial, turned the bowl in his hands, and set it down again without drinking. “I had not heard this, Ryo, but I heard some things that make this news a little less surprising than it might have been. Though nothing could make this decision less than remarkable.”
I did not understand why this was remarkable. I could think of several reasons the daughter of Koro inKarano might wish to make that journey, and other reasons the poet from the east might wish to do so, but none of those reasons seemed remarkable to me. I turned Sinowa’s comment over in my mind, but still I did not understand, so I set the puzzle aside to consider later. The lord was going on. “Or have you made a firm decision? Perhaps you intend to consider this decision for all the days you ride south. Perhaps everyone intends to consider this important decision that long.”
“This may be so,” Ryo answered. “But I think I have almost decided, Father. I think we have all almost decided. I hope this does not displease you.”
“I have not discussed the matter with your mother. But I think she will probably not disapprove, as long as your decision in the matter is firm when you make it. If your mother does not disapprove, then I will not disapprove either.”
Ryo bowed his head. “I will discuss this with her before we leave.”
“That might be wise,” Sinowa agreed. He picked up the bowl again. This time he sipped the cordial. For a little while there was quiet, as both of them waited to see if either wished to say something else on that subject.
I certainly wondered very much what problem had arisen that they both thought should be set before Ryo’s mother. I wondered whether they wanted Marag inGara’s opinion as a woman or her opinion as a singer. Of course I could not ask. I breathed evenly and slowly, keeping my eyes lowered, making myself as unobtrusive as possible.
After some time, Sinowa said, “Now, let us consider the other problem. My son, you are old enough to understand you should not give way to temper. You were angry and upset. That does not excuse your behavior, which was indeed disgraceful. I would be ashamed for the inGara even if you had spoken insolently only to me. That you spoke so sharply to our king was worse. That you spoke to defend Aras was well enough. You should have requested Koro’s permission to speak. He would have granted it. But it was not your place to put yourself forward in that way. I am embarrassed that I failed to teach you to do better when you were much younger than this.”
Ryo bowed in acknowledgment. He was genuinely ashamed, I knew, although I did not fully understand why. Except that I knew Ryo always thought he should behave perfectly and was deeply ashamed when he failed in any way. It had taken me a long time to understand that.
I had no idea whether I had ever been ashamed of my behavior that way until Ryo made me understand that some actions were shameful. I had only ever been afraid of punishment, if my father decided I had behaved in a way that displeased him. I had never thought of shame. I still had only a very imperfect understanding of what actions were shameful and what actions were honorable. This was something I knew I must learn to understand much, much better. For now, I watched Ryo and his father, trying to guess what each would do and say so that I could test my understanding against their actions and their speech.
“Our king was generous to declare himself unoffended,” Sinowa said. “But your behavior was still disgraceful. What punishment would be just for your insolence today?”
I had not expected that. My father would never have asked a question like that.
Obviously Ryo was not at all surprised. He answered, “I understood I was wrong, yet I still spoke intemperately to you and to my eldest brother and to our king. That is a worse fault than temper alone. Twice twenty.”
His father nodded thoughtfully. “As you say, you understood your temper was too high and too hard for that moment. In some ways, that is indeed a worse fault, but in other ways, it is not as bad. I prefer that my sons understand at once when they fail in some way, without requiring anyone to explain the fault to them.”
That thought seemed important. I knew this was a problem I had, that I did not understand anything until someone explained it to me. I felt a rush of heat to my face and bowed my head so that neither Ryo nor his father would see I had flushed – though of course they were not looking at me.
Ryo’s father continued. “You apologized to Koro and you apologized to your brother. You tried hard to control your temper, and you almost succeeded. Twice twenty is too severe.” He paused. Then he added, “Still, I agree you should have done better, my son. Twenty. Stand up and take off your shirt.”
My father – Yaro inTasiyo – would never have stated the punishment before picking up the whip. He would never say first what might be enough. He would beat someone until he chose to stop. But I had already guessed Sinowa might handle the matter differently. When Ryo had beaten me, both times he had beaten me, he had given the count first. That had made even the terrible beating he had given me first easier to bear. Several things had made that easier to bear.
Ryo bowed, accepting his father’s decision. He stood up as his father had ordered and took off his shirt. The bandage across his chest showed where the inTasiyo warleader had cut him. The cut had not been bad. It had taken only ten stitches to close the wound. If the knife had struck a handsbreadth lower, the cut might have been much more serious. He had taken a cut across one arm as well, but that was nothing. Older scars showed the many wounds he had taken that had been more serious than these. Those were healed now, but some of those wounds had been so recent that the scars were still obvious. Some of those scars would fade, but some he would surely carry all his life no matter how long he lived. I was pleased, for no clear reason, that the wounds Yaro inTasiyo had dealt were not serious enough to leave scars like that.
Despite the whip that lay near his father’s hand, Ryo showed no sign of fear or dismay or even reluctance. But once he had tossed his shirt aside, he suddenly faced his father again, knelt, and said, “Lord, may I ask someone to help me stand? I would prefer to ask Tano to help me.”
His father looked at him in surprise. Then he looked at me. I was staring, entirely astonished. Many times, Ryo inGara had surprised me very much, but perhaps never more than in that moment. I knew – anyone would know – that he did not need help to stand. Least of all did he need my help. I would have thought I had imagined that request, except that his father had also plainly heard him make it. When Sinowa looked at me, I realized I was staring and lowered my eyes at once.
Sinowa turned his gaze away from me, back toward his son. He said, “I know you find the whip hard to bear. Have I chosen too harsh a punishment, my son?”
That astonished me almost as much as Ryo’s request. I had lived among inGara and inGeiro for many days, but still, I had not realized a man might ask his son a question like that – or for such a reason. Certainly I had not imagined Ryo might be afraid of a beating. He was not afraid of anything, as far as I had ever seen – certainly not of his father, nor his father’s anger, nor his father’s punishment. I was staring once more. I had to learn to do much better, to hide my reactions much better. I dropped my gaze again, but watched Ryo through my lashes, trying to understand this.
“No, lord,” Ryo answered at once. “Your punishment is not as severe as I deserve. But even so, I would prefer to ask Tano to help me, if you will permit this.”
Sinowa inclined his head. “You may ask someone for help if you wish. As Tano is here, if you find it convenient to ask him, that will do, though he is young for it.”
“He knows how it is done.” Rising again, Ryo turned to me, beckoning to me to stand. He saw how surprised I still was – obviously they both knew that – but he did not laugh at me, only held out his hands for me to put my own up against them. Getting to my feet, I did as he wanted, though hesitantly. He set his palms against mine, a light pressure, not gripping my fingers.
He said, in the quiet way he usually spoke to me, “After a man takes a very severe beating, so severe his pride breaks, he will be much more afraid of the whip. That fear will linger for a long time, even if the whip is not held by an enemy. It will remain even if he knows that this time a beating will not be that bad. Perhaps you already understand all this. You may not know that I once took that kind of beating. It happened more than two winters ago. The fear is less than it was. It is an echo of the fear I felt at first. But I think that echo may never pass away completely.”
I had had no idea. This had never occurred to me at all. Of course I had heard tales of the Lau sorcerer who had made trouble for inGara and many other tribes, who had been an enemy of Aras Eren Samaura. I knew this sorcerer was probably the enemy whom Ryo meant. I would have liked to hear that tale. But none of that concerned me as much as other things I suddenly understood. I had never known why Ryo let Rakasa inGeiro help me when he beat me. I had never known why Rakasa had chosen to help me, or why they had both said afterward that I had done well enough when I knew I had not done well at all. I had been surprised and puzzled when Ryo permitted the Lau to give me their salve afterward. Now I thought I might understand all those things.
I also understood why he had asked me to help him. He did not need help. Of course he did not. He wanted to show me that this kind of fear, the cold dread of the whip, was nothing. For him, perhaps it was nothing. He might fear the whip – perhaps that was true – but I doubted very much he feared it as I did. I did not believe he could fear anything that much.