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Hum, Ibis, and Da looked at me proudly. Our conversation strayed to topics of the upcoming rebellion, then turned once again. This turn composed of Da’s explanation to us regarding the cause of the village.
He sighed with a happy weariness, watched the fountain’s gurgling for a moment, then began, “This will be rather a long story, I assume, but since you all have just eaten, we have some time to discuss this.”
A villager woman sat down on the rim of the fountain to listen. She was a smiling middle aged girl with the “barbarian” looks of the Huns. However, I thought, The Huns probably call our Clan’s people “barbarians” too.
As I observed our visiting villager, Da continued his explanation.
He said, “This village was created to help those in dire danger, those in such danger that they would leap from the heights of a waterfall to escape their malicious pursuers. Those escaping from the other Clans, or even the wickeder societies of those heathen Huns, could stumble upon us if they had the courage to run from their known trials into the unknown tortures of these woods.”
“The only thing that allowed me to find out about this place were my visions. Back when I would receive them in the village, I would try to act on them. I began receiving them when I first married your Mema. For a long time, I put them off, demanding myself to say that they weren’t true. But they became more intense. Instead of only having them at night when I was asleep, they began to plague me during the day. The worst one I had came over me when I first got into Eldritch. It led me straight to the village, which I almost knew it would do. So that’s how I found myself here.” Da looked over at Hum and beckoned him to tell the rest of his story.
Hum quickly accounted his story, which was nearly the same as my experience; after fighting the Hun, he had driven the beastly man back, only for the Hun to retaliate by making a running leap! The Hun then hurridly dragged Hum down the length of the creek, then threw the boy into the rapids. Hum had then tumbled down the down the waterfall. There, Da and Ibis had discovered him.
Everyone hurried off to get some more food, but I didn’t go immediately. Ibis didn’t either. She looked exhausted, but also confused.
“You okay?” I asked carefully, hoping that I wouldn’t offend her in any way.
“Yeah, I’m just confused.”
“Everything in all my life has been horrible until Hum. And then you. And then this village and your Da. I can’t help thinking that things might get better.” Ibis glanced at me, ashamed.
“What are you confused about?” I asked again.
“Why is everyone all of the sudden acting nice to me?”
I looked at her solemnly, and I was a bit hurt. Hadn’t she been the one persecuting me before all of this had happened? “Well-” I began, but I was interrupted.
“I’m just shocked that all of the sudden everyone treats me like a, like a- princess.” She smacked away a tear. “When I was born, my Mama was banished from the clan, so naturally, no one knew that I was a clan princess. Da – no. He isn’t worthy to be called a father to anyone. Chief Fal used to beat me because I didn’t want the power and responsibility that came with being who I am; he would hire me out to work as a slave in his fields because I refused to be who he expected a princess to be; someone who is only a doll that stands in front of a village. I wanted to be a Warrior. He hated that.” She looked down at her lap and was absentmindedly twiddling her thumbs. I knew the look.
“I’m one of the only people you’ve told about this, correct?” I asked gently.
She sniffled and shoved her hand to wipe away another tear. “Yes. You and Hum. I trust you guys.” I got a small sensation down deep inside my gut, as I knew just how hard it was to earn someone’s trust.
“Thanks Ibis.” I said, smiling quietly.
“I figured because Hum went through some tough stuff being an orphan and all, and you lost your dad kind of, you guys would understand how broken I am.” I looked at Ibis’ face for a moment and I saw her eyes darken. She had experienced horrors under the thumbs of the elders that I could never even fathom. But she trusted me with her brokenness. And that made all the difference.
“When did you and Hum become so close?” I asked innocently. I saw a look in her face and immediately said, “I don’t mean to pry, I’m just asking.”
She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. He accidentally walked in on Chief Fal beating me one time. I was nine. He ran in front of me, kind of like when you saved your Ma. Chief told me all about the outrage.” She smiled. “That was dreadfully brave by the way. Anyway, he protected me from Chief Fal. Later, he came back and we got to know one another. He’s one of the most loyal people you will ever know, Swallow Frond. He swore that day that he would always protect me. No matter what. Chief Fal hasn’t beaten me since then.” After she told me, all I could say was,