Raging Alone 10: Hauling
Desòchu staggered down the narrow path leading from the smaller caves by the entrance. His head swam with the buzz of alcohol, he and the others had enjoyed a long evening of cards and drinking with a trio of teenagers from the nearby valleys. He burped and then had to grab the cliff for balance as the world spun violently around.
As soon as it settled, he continued to shuffle down the path. If he cut through the bottom of the valley, he could be in his bed in twenty minutes.
“Had a fun night?” asked Somiryòki from a lower path.
His twenty minutes became an hour.
Desòchu’s muscles tightened. “Y-Yeah. I’m a little tired though.”
“You are also drunk.”
He started to smile and then realized the older warrior wouldn’t appreciate any humor. Forcing it from his face, he leaned against the cliff to avoid falling over. “Maybe.”
Somiryòki lifted one foot and then the world exploded around him. A cloud of dust shot out in all directions.
Desòchu almost fell as he tried to clap his hands to his ears but missed.
The warrior caught him with a powerful grip that dug into the joint between Desòchu’s shoulder and neck. “Maybe?” he said in his low voice.
Up close Somiryòki’s graying hair looked almost ghostly. He had a short, close-cut beard and mustache that made his face look like it was painted with night. The few gray hairs appeared to be floating in Desòchu’s fermented imagination.
“What about the others? The Ryayusúki boy and the two Nikogāmi?”
“I… they are back in the cave.” Desòchu tried to straighten himself. He could get in a lot of trouble being drunk. He could already imagine what torture Yutsupazéso had in mind for him.
“Headed back home. So did Ríshi.”
Images of dark-skinned limbs intertwined among the blankets rose up. The four teenagers fell asleep in the middle of fucking and Desòchu had no intent to join them. “T-They… he’s back at the cave.”
Somiryòki scowled. “I’ll have to do something about that.”
Desòchu nodded and then grabbed Somiryòki’s arm for balance. Underneath his grip, the older man felt as hard as the rock he was clutching earlier. Cords of muscles flexed underneath his grip.
Somiryòki pulled Desòchu firmly back on the trail. “Come on, I’m expecting a delivery.”
Desòchu frowned and looked up. It was night though a crescent moon peeked up over the edge of the outer edges of the valley. “Now?”
The warrior nodded. “Come on. If you aren’t at the entrance by the time I count to a hundred, you won’t be sleeping for a long time.”
Fear surged into Desòchu’s veins. He dredged his thoughts from the drunken haze.
Wind blasted past him as Somiryòki disappeared.
Even bleary-eyed, Desòchu could see a plume of dust that marked the warriors passage down to the floor of the valley and then doubled back to head toward the valley entrance. It was almost a quarter mile walk if Desòchu followed.
He peered down the paths. Crisscrossing the sides of the valley, it looked like there was only a dozen of them before he got to the valley. If he slid down, he could make it.
As Desòchu pondered, a wave of dizziness slammed into him. With a sickening lurch, he tried to pull back but managed to slip. His ass slammed into the rock and then he was sliding down before he was ready.
“Shit!” he cried as he hit the next trail down. Bouncing, he fell off and continued to fall. Sharp rocks slashed at his skin, tearing open gashes as he bounced from one trail to the other.
He tried to grab something, anything, but his fingers were clumsy. By the time he managed to clamp down on a root or bar, it had already slipped past him.
Desòchu hit the ground with a smack and an explosion of white stars in the back of his vision. He groaned and pushed himself up. Blood welled up along his lip and he sucked at it before pulling a face.
“Asshole,” he muttered. Wiping the blood with the back of his arm, he staggered toward the entrance.
He found Somiryòki leaning against the door, watching out into the night. It was impossible to see anything beyond a few rods of the torches that marked the valley entrance. A cold wind blew across Desòchu and tugged at Somiryòki’s beard.
With a groan, Desòchu limped over. “What is it, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.”
Somiryòki smiled. “Cut a few corners heading out here?”
Desòchu glared at him. When his arm twinged, he winched. Grabbing it, there was a flash of pain and he had to pull back from the abrasion that tore open the flesh near his elbow.
The older man leaned slightly and smiled at him. “Shouldn’t go wandering the valley at night.”
“You should put rails on the paths.”
“Only the paths near those caves don’t have trails.”
“Tomorrow you can start putting them in.”
Desòchu’s muscles tensed again. “Thanks, old man.”
“I’m not the one wandering around drunk.” Somiryòki focused a hard stare toward Desòchu. “Boy,” he finished with a warning tone.
Flushed, Desòchu bowed. “Sorry for my disrespect, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.”
“You’re young, stupid, and drunk. It isn’t safe, but I’m not Zéso doling out punishments left and right. Tomorrow, consider putting in railing or at least stop drinking where you can fall and break your legs. Without the ability to run, the Shimusògo are nothing.”
Unsure of how to respond, Desòchu eased himself to the wall and leaned on it.
“They’ll be here soon.”
“Fijimòsu? I don’t know that clan.”
“They’re delivering firewood and supplies. They come once a month.”
With a start, Desòchu realized that he had never questioned how the clan could burn fires almost every night. There was a large pile of cut wood near the shrine, it would shrink and grow but he had never seen anyone rebuilding the piles. Something felt monuments and he had to clutch the stone for balance. “D-Delivery? At night?”
Somiryòki shrugged. “Safer and easier to travel at night for the Fijimòsu.”
“Because they follow Chobìre.”
Chobìre, the spirit of the moon and sworn enemy of Tachìra, the spirit of the day and the source of Shimusògo’s power.
Desòchu inhaled sharply. He looked around for something to use as a weapon. “A night clan? Are we fighting them? Is it an attack?”
“They are a moon clan.”
“They are delivering firewood.”
Somiryòki looked at him. “Do you think being a warrior is just fighting endlessly against the moon? Is that how you see me? Fighting until my last breath to save you and the others?”
Desòchu almost said yes but didn’t. Instead he blushed. “N-No, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.”
A pat on the shoulder. “Good, because realize we all need allies. While the Shimusògo can travel quickly during the day, the Fijimòsu travel slowly at night.”
“Why is that better?”
Somiryòki chuckled. “Because when a Shimusògo runs, we carry letters and small packages. We are couriers for legal documents, letters to loved ones, and bringer of news to the isolated clans. When the Fijimòsu bring their bulls, they bring tons of supplies: food, water, wood, and trade goods.”
As if to emphasize the point, a creak and a grunt filled the air. Desòchu looked around sharply but he couldn’t see through the night.
“Calm down and don’t do anything stupid.”
Trembling, Desòchu forced himself back against the wall. “Don’t warriors fight?”
“Oh yes,” came a sad response. “Just because we are allies with one clan of the night doesn’t mean all call us friend. The same with the sun clans. We have enemies out there from both sides of the skies. You just can’t determine if someone is friend or foe by the powers they have.”
Thinking, Desòchu worried his lip for a moment. He glanced at Somiryòki and then back to the sands. “Do couriers meet up with the Fijimòsu?”
“As the clan leader, Yutsupazéso does, but otherwise it is normally warriors.”
Another smile. “Because even the staunchest ally turn on you when you least expect it. Our stories are filled with betrayals.”
In the distance, he could hear the heavy thuds of something massive coming toward him. It was followed by the whisper of sand and fabric. Something creaked followed by a whisper of a noise.
“Does Tejíko know about this?”
At Desòchu’s grandmother’s name, Somiryòki’s face seemed to soften. “No, she doesn’t. It isn’t important to her.”
“More things to keep secret?”
“Like when my mo—?”
Desòchu snapped his head back toward the noise. Fear surged into his veins as he looked for an attack. When none came, he took a deep breath to calm down. “What?”
Somiryòki shook his head. “We don’t talk about that.”
“Because out here, outside of the valley, you are asking the desert to come. No one speak to or for the sands.”
It was the same thing his grandmother said. Desòchu crossed his arms over his chest. It took all of his will to remain against the cliff as unknown clan members approached. He let his mind drift.
“Ready for your passage?”
Desòchu jumped at the interruption. “When I become a man?”
“Yes. You are sixteen soon, it should be soon.”
“My birthday was a few days ago. But, yes. I can’t wait.”
Desòchu tightened his grip on his chest.
It took strength to speak again. “I can’t wait until I have my own place. Some place and quiet.”
“It must be louder now that he is speaking.”
Desòchu groaned. Rutejìmo had started speaking only a week or so ago. When he was just saying nonsense words, it was easier to ignore but now there was just enough that he found himself distracted by his younger brother’s incomprehensible speech.
The old man grunted and smirked. He looked out into the darkness. “And your father?”
Desòchu inhaled through his teeth. “I wouldn’t be opposed to leaving that either.”
“Is it bad?”
Reflexively, Desòchu rubbed his wrist where his father had grabbed it the night before. It still felt bruised though there was no sign on his dark skin.
“How often does he drink himself into darkness?”
The question was uncomfortably precise. Desòchu knew he couldn’t lie. “Every night.”
“Does he take care of your brother?”
With the second question, the tone seemed less casual and more of a probing. He knew he should just lie and tell the warrior that everything was fine. The words were coming out of his fuzzy head before he realized it. “No, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.”
“Did he bring anything home for either of you went he got back two days ago?”
“No, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.”
The warrior sighed. Slowly he turned to Desòchu. “Do you miss him when he’s gone?”
Before Desòchu could answer, a massive horned ox came over a ridge and into the light. It had a black leather harness that tied it to a large, six-wheeled wagon that rolled after it. Even from the short distance, Desòchu could see the wagon was filled with tons of firewood. With a gasp, he turned as dark-cloaked people spread out on either side of the bull and wagon.
One of the Fijimòsu stepped forward. It was a woman with a black robe made of a stiff material. There was darker green and brown trim along the fabric with the name of the clan embroidered along the hem in white threads. Most of her body was covered by the material but he could tell that she had a weapon half-drawn from a sheath.
Somiryòki patted Desòchu on the shoulder. “Don’t say anything. No reason to start a fight tonight.”
He stepped out and held up his hand. “I am Somiryòki and I speak for Shimusògo,” he said in a loud voice.
The lead newcomer bowed. “I am Ochisári and I speak for Fijimòsu. Well met, Shimusògo. I bring what we agreed upon as we have for years past.”
Another bull came trudging into view. It also had a large wagon but the second had boxes piled high on it with leather straps keeping everything in place.
Desòchu stared in shock. He had never seen a member of a night clan before, but they all looked evil with their dark outfits and sharp movements just outside the circle of light near the valley entrance. His clan wore light colors and slept at night, not traveled in darkness.
Ochisári looked at him, her green eyes a startling pale color. She had a close-fitting hook over her head but he thought he saw a hint of a black tattoo on her cheek. “I’m not familiar with this one. Your newest warrior?”
Somiryòki waved his hand toward Desòchu. “Boy, head home. I’ll deal with you later.”
“Thank you, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki.” Nervous, Desòchu bowed deeply.
“Think about your answer, please?”
Desòchu only hestiated for a second. He continued toward the entrance but spoke louder for the warrior to hear him. “I don’t have to, Great Shimusogo Somiryòki. I wouldn’t miss him at all.”