|A very incomplete sketch of Ari and Zan - |
don't want to give too much away yet.
As usual, this is a rough outline of a story. I am in the process of developing it further for a project that I am working on, which I am sure you will hear more about soon.
Please don't steal anything.
Once upon a time, in a far away land there lived a girl named Ari. She grew up with her mother among the Suomi people: a group of semi-nomadic people who followed the migrations of the jakatta herds.
Ari's father was not of the Suomi, he came from a land far to the south of the Unen Mountains. He died when Ari was very young and her people could never fully accept her into the clan. They made her tend the lesser herd-beasts - a job normally given to children too young to ride the morin (huge dog-like animals the Suomi ride). She was never allowed to participate with the young people her own age.
She would not have even been allowed to have one of the morin, which are sacred to the Suomi, but she found and cared for a runt pup which was not expected to live. She named it Zan, and he ended up gaining health and thriving with Ari and her mother's care.
One day, after tending the herd-beasts for several weeks, one of the younger boys came to take Ari's place. He treated her with indifference, as many of the children followed their parent's example. It bothered Ari more than she would ever let on, but it didn't stop her from trying to help the boy lock up the herd-beasts before a storm which was moving down the mountains hit them. But he spurned her help so Ari turned and went back to her mother's home with Zan.
The storm raged on for two whole days, and no one could leave their home until the blizzard subsided. When the storm finally died down, the clan came out and found that the lesser herd-beasts had escaped their enclosure. The elders turned on Ari, blaming her for the loss which she protested, but the boy who had relieved her watch did not come forward to corroborate her. Everyone feared that the beasts had been lost and died in the storm, the uproar becoming so great that the elders cast Ari out of the clan.
Ari's mother wept bitterly and pleaded with the elders to change their minds, but nothing she could say moved them. She tried to go with Ari, but she had been lamed in a battle many years before and had no morin of her own. Zan could not carry two people for many miles, Ari knew this, and she told her mother that she could not take her also into banishment.
So Ari and her mother parted. She and Zan wandered far into the mountains looking for shelter, but it wasn't long before they came across the trail of the lost herd-beasts. In a moment of blind hope and desperation, Ari decided to track them down by herself and bring the herd back to her clan. They would forgive her and take her back, she thought. But herd-beasts are difficult to round up and heard by yourself. Two days had passed before Ari and Zan had managed to track all of them down and push them back down the mountain. The task was made doubly difficult by a pack of snow-cats that picked up her trail and stalked the herd for many days, scattering the herd time and time again before Ari and Zan could drive them off. Slowly, Ari and Zan's strength was sapped and their progress became slower and slower before the snow-cats came in for a last attack. A Suomi hunting party came across them as Ari and Zan were making a last attempt to defend themselves. The hunters drove the cats away, but they accused Ari of trying to steal the herd-beasts. They did not take any notice of Ari's protests or pleas.
That final meeting broke any desire to be accepted by her clan that Ari had left. She spent the next few months learning how to live on her own. She had no contact with anyone from her clan, not even her mother and she grew very adept at avoiding people entirely.
One day she came across a trail that she had never seen before. Following it, she and Zan came suddenly upon a strange group of creatures. Both groups were startled; the strangers quickly turned on Ari and Zan, but were eventually overcome. Greatly disturbed by the fightand the discovery of such strange creatures, Ari backtracked them to find out where the strangers had come from. The trail went back into the mountains, and the creatures’ wanton destruction of any life that crossed their trail disturbed Ari even further. The trail eventually led Ari to a huge encampment of the creatures who were stealthily making their way down into the valley where Ari’s people lived.
For a moment Ari was tempted to leave them to their fate, but she remembered her mother and some small kindnesses that some of the clan had shown her on occasion and she ran off to try and find help.
Her first instinct was to warn the village, but would they listen to her? Fortunately as she was making her way down the mountain, she comes across another trail - a hunting party of Suomi. She followed this trail, and found one of the younger members of the party separated from the rest. It was the young boy from her clan - the one who’s inattention had led to the herd-beasts breaking free. Ari tried to convince him that these strange creatures were on their way down into the valley, but the boy was sullen and refused to believe her. The boy ran off, leaving Ari more desperate than ever. She knew there was very little she could do on her own - or even her clan could do on their own against such an army.
As she and Zan were making their way further into the valley, Ari spotted a herd of the jakatta, hundreds of beasts, and the beginnings of a plan started to form in her mind. First she made her way back to the scouting party and while they were sleeping, crept into the camp, found the boy again and told him what she was planning to do, telling him to warn the village in case her plan fell through.
Then Ari and Zan moved out and began working to round up the herd of jakattas. Ari had learned a few tricks in her time alone in the mountains and she and Zan eventually got the jakattas moving.
The boy meanwhile stayed silent. But the scouting party comes across the creatures that Ari and Zan killed, and the boy reluctantly tells the others what Ari said.
Ari moved the jakattas down the valley and caused them to stampede over the unsuspecting army of creatures. But she’s not able to turn the herd out of the path of the village. The hunting party had made it back, not in time to help turn the herd, but soon enough to get most of the clan out of the path of destruction.
When the dust settled, there wasn’t as much damage as was originally feared, but there is enough that the elders still do not accept Ari back into the clan. But she found that it didn’t hurt as much as it had, she content with her life in the mountains, she’s not helpless - and there’s still the chance that something could change down the line.
To be continued . . .