The Storyteller (part one)

“Has he come back yet?”

Moth Ara’s silver hair glinted orange as she looked up from the fire at Sis Eres.  “No, not yet.  I expect him soon.”

Eres sat down across from her.  She was younger than Ara, but she recognized concern quickly enough.  “Do you think he got into some trouble?”

Ara shook her head.  “No.  I cannot think that.  Not yet.  We will hold out some hope.  Did you see the younger ones off to bed?”

“Yes.  Mora and Pru helped me corral them.  We gave them some soup to quiet their bellies, but we’ve stretched what ingredients we had about as far as they will go.”

“Good.  For now that will have to be enough.”

“Tomorrow I could take a couple of the other women out foraging.  Or we could send Bern and Simot out to try and catch some meat.  The children are doing okay so far, but the adults are quite hungry.”

Ara shook her head once more.  “No.  Until we know what happened to Jonon, we cannot afford to send more people out.  It is too dangerous.”

“But how will we find out what happened to him if no one is allowed to leave?”

“He will come back.  Trust me.”

“But…”

Ara held up her hand to stop her.  “Sis Eres, when you become Moth, you will be free to do things your way.  For now, my job is to make sure you get to see that time.  Go get some rest, and leave me with my thoughts and the fire.”

“Yes, Moth.  I apologize.  Goodnight.”

Ara nodded as the younger woman walked away toward her small dwelling.  She did not intend to be so harsh with her, but Jonon’s lengthy absence had made her unease grow with each day that went by.  She knew Eres was right; they needed more food.  But Ara was unwilling to give up just yet.

*     *     *

The next morning, she woke to Eres’ voice outside of her own dwelling.  “Ara!  He’s back!”

She did not know what time she had gone to bed, but she was very much awake now.  In her chest, relief mixed with the desire to yell at Jonon.  Hurriedly, she went outside.  “Where?”

“The central firepit, but…”

She did not wait for Eres to plead for kindness on his behalf, instead striding quickly to the center of the village.  She found Jonon standing there.

“Where have you been?”

“Moth, I’m…”

“We have been worried.  And the food situation has become quite difficult.”

“I’m sorry, Moth.”

“Tell me you managed to bring something back.”

“I did.  I found a cache of supplies that had been abandoned.  We may even be able to go back for more.  I also managed to bring down a couple of deer.”

“Good.”  More relief.  “But it still shouldn’t have taken you…”

“What else did you bring back?”  Eres had come up behind her.  Ara shot her a questioning look, but Eres shrugged it off.  “Let him tell you.”

Ara turned back to Jonon.  “What is she talking about?”

Jonon had fixed his eyes on the ground in front of him.  “I found someone, Moth.”

“Who?  Where did you find this person?”

“He helped with the deer.  In the woods.  Managed to get them into the wagon.”

“And…?”

“I brought him back with me.”

“What?!  Why did you do that?”

“Moth, he’s a storyteller.  I thought…”

“I don’t care what he is.  We can barely feed the mouths we have.  And how do you know he won’t bring back some of his own people here to raid us?”

“He doesn’t have any people.”

“So he says.”

“And he helped me.”

“Part of the ruse.”

“Moth,” Jonon pleaded, “I know I should have asked you, but there wasn’t a chance.  And we need a storyteller.”

“We need no such thing.”

“The children…”

“Have been doing fine without.  We need food, not more people.”

“Well, he’s here.  We can’t just turn him out.”

“We most certainly…”

Eres put a hand on her forearm.  “Ara.  I know this was foolish.  I gave him a good talking to before I even woke you.  But if you’re right, we don’t want him running back to his people knowing where we are.  And if Jonon’s right, well, it would do us some good to have a storyteller.  Maybe we should give him a chance?”

“Sis Eres, that is…”  Ara stopped herself when she saw the look on Eres’ face.  Jonon had been foolish, but maybe she was being rash as well.

“Very well, Eres.  But I will hold both you and Jonon responsible for him.  Any harm that he brings to us will be upon your heads.  Clear?”

Eres nodded, smiling.  “Yes, Moth.”

“Alright, Jonon.  Let’s see this storyteller of yours.”

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