Although this piece is based in the world of SAGE, my fantasy trilogy, there’s nothing supernatural in the excerpt I’m posting today. Maybe. Nothing obvious, anyway.
Brother Reticence has left the monastery, leaving behind his name when he went. The people of his country are pathologically xenophobic, and he’s suspect just because the monks guard the borders and have to deal with people from other countries! This story is made up of two of my 2016 Story A Day May stories, with additions and changes thanks to Southern Indiana Writers.
excerpt from “A New Name For Reticence”
by Marian Allen
It amused him to accompany a blue-tailed lizard away from the stream. Since he had no destination of his own, he followed the flicker of bright blue against the greens of the sun-dappled grasses.
The sky was cloudless, so the rush of black shadow startled him. It seemed to startle the lizard, too, because it froze in place. The shadow passed, circled, and returned, and now memory identified the pinions of the wings and the fan shape of the tail as belonging to a small raptor. Dragonbane, the folk around his homestead had called the birds, because they ate lizards and small snakes.
He eased closer to the lizard, hoping it wouldn’t run into death, fleeing his protection. It remained motionless as he placed one foot on either side of it, shielding it from the predator with his inedible human shape.
The raptor wheeled away to look for better hunting. The lizard, as if wakened from a spell, scuttled into a crack in a pile of rocks.
And that was familiar, too. He had forgotten the rock piles long-ago people had stacked up as boundary markers. Meaningless now, but useful as homes for small defenseless creatures.
A meadow spread out beyond the marker. A figure rose from the wild millet and purple vetch and took an uncertain step. The white hair stringing out from its topknot and the white beard braided with glittering crystals signaled an old man who would be more in place at the fireside than wandering alone in an untilled field. He wore nothing but a loinwrap, woven in black, white, and burnt orange.
The old man fell, rose, staggered in another direction, and fell again.
The former Brother Reticence picked up his pace – running, as the bloody scrapes on the old man’s legs and hands became visible.
“Father Not My Father,” he said when he reached the fallen figure, “may I help you?”
The old man raised puzzled, despairing, frightened eyes.
“I’ve …. I’ve lost her,” the old man said, in a voice oddly strong for being so hesitant. “My One goat is lost. Have you seen her? She’s white, with black around her eyes and one black dot on the tip of her tail. She flicks it like this.” He flapped his hand.
“I haven’t seen a goat, Father Not My Father, but I’ll help you look.”
“Will you? Thank you! Thank you! The others won’t help. They tell me to stay home and forget about her. But she’s my One goat! Without her, the herd will scatter!”
Oh, the words, the terms, the ways of the lowland! He felt as his feet had felt the night before, plunged into refreshment and renewal! He was suddenly ravenous.
The former brother surmised he had come upon a cherished elder who had, after some attempt at dissuasion, been allowed to follow where his mind led him: into a productive past. His loss would be mourned, and his safe – though, no doubt, temporary – return would be celebrated. If the old man could be induced to lead them both to the family who had so lovingly combed and braided that silky beard, even a border keeper would be welcomed.
“We’ll find her, Father Not My Father. Give me food and drink, and I’ll search with you.”
“Of course. Of course. This way.”
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: How would your main character deal with the dementia of a cherished elder? Not YOU, your main character? Your villain?