"... and run between the fires on 
a warm midsummer night."
"... and run between the fires on 
a warm midsummer night."
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  by   David Nunes da Silva..

2435 B.C.E.    The Julian Alps.
We sometimes think the past was a time of slow, imperceptible change.  But here are a few of the things that were new in 2435.   The wheel.    Writing.   Metal.   Ships.  I could go on - a dozen changes each greater than any of our own day.  So forget the unchanging past, and imaging living in a time when, from one generation to the next, the old way of living, and thinking, was cast aside.   Imagine upheaval and violence, compared to which our own times are boring, routine, and safe.    It is in this era that I have set my tale.

This is the first story of a trilogy.     Click on yellow notes for the tunes. Dance of the Firewood Gatherers
 Home Page  

  1.  "... and run between the fires on a warm midsummer night."    

  2. Brothers of the Ox-Yoke  

  3. The Song of Kala Khoam 

NOTE: This story contains what is sometimes called "adult content."   The recent (200 years) practice of trying to keep children ignorant of sex has not proven to be a good idea.   Nevertheless, if you are a child, and you are reading stories about sex on the internet, you should talk about it with your parents. Until you do, you may not read this story.
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Arkwan slowly lifted his head above the mud of the pit.   There was no one in sight.  Moving so slowly that it took heartbeats to travel a hand's width, he crawled toward the courtyard, where he could still hear a few of the nomads, drunkenly singing.    He reached the burnt remains of the house wall, and slowly lifted his head to see into the courtyard.   By the starlight, and the embers of their dying fires, he could see that most of the nomads were asleep.   The ones still carousing were drunk; no one was on watch.    If he was to escape the village, he should go now.  I will have to crawl within a spear's length of them, in full view, he thought, but there is no other way.   Tomorrow night, they might sleep somewhere else, but there is no way I can hide through the day.   They will search this house for any gold or bronze that could have survived the fire.   They will even search the pit.  And it is too cold to go back in, anyway.

Arkwan found the jar he had buried near the pit; with his clothes in it.   He rubbed the mud off his body with them, so they would be black as he crawled across the courtyard, then he put them on.   After half the night spent naked in the freezing cold, part of it in the mud of the pit, he at last began to get warm again.    It no longer seemed impossible to escape the village alive.   He looked over the wall again to plan his route; he could go part of the way behind the pile of the dead bodies of the villagers.

He could not recognize the bodies in the dim light, but he knew Sujasa was one of them.   He had heard her scream as they raped and tortured her.  But her screams had not lasted long,  and he had heard a nomad scream as well.   "Get her," the nomad shouted.  Then something about a knife.   The nomad speech was different, but some words were the same.   After that there were no more screams from Sujasa; she must have forced them to kill her.

Arkwan had left the battle early; he could see there was no hope, and he had run back to his father's house, and completed his plans.    He scooped all the mead into the cesspit in the stable, and all the beer.  He added all the ox dung, and mixed it into a soup.  He placed burning lamps near piles of dried rushes, and broke jars of tallow nearby.  Then he had put his clothes, and his bronze dagger, into a jar and buried it, and then he had climbed up to the rafters, with his bow and all of the arrows in the house.   Pulling out some thatch, he could look down on most of the village.  His father's house had one room top of the other.  It was the only house in the village with a room on top of another.  The only one on the green Earth, Arkwan thought.

Arkwan waited until sunset.   The village was crowded with nomads celebrating their victory; he began to shoot.  The nomads panicked, they pushed and tripped, and Arkwan shot very fast.  Arrow after arrow into one perfect target after another.   Only one nomad realized that the safest place was in the house from which the arrows came, but Arkwan felled him before he could reach it.  The sheep got loose, and the nomads tripped over them in their hurry, and any nomad who tripped, was easy to kill.   Finally the nomads rallied, and charged the house.  Arkwan had time to kill only one of them.   Then he dropped from the rafters to the floor of the upper room, kicked over the lamp, dropped through the hole to the ground level, kicked over the other lamp, and dived into the pit.   By the time the charging nomads broke through the barred door of the house, they found no one.  Just bellowing oxen.  The house was engulfed in flames.

There was a ditch to drain the pit, and Arkwan's father had put flat rocks across it.   The heat and smoke of the fire had been intense, but with his body under the mud, mud heaped over his head, and his face pressed to the mouth of the ditch, Arkwan had lived.  After the fire the nomads searched the blackened remains.  Once again the covered ditch had saved him; without it, his face would have been above the mud to breathe, and the nomads would have seen him.

In the cold of winter the mud in the cesspit was too cold for Arkwan to stay in for long.   So he had spent most of the night by the side of the pit, ready to slip into the mud if a nomad came back to poke through the ruins.   He spent the night listening to the screams of the villagers as the nomads raped and tortured them.  Arkwan wondered if they always did this, torturing to death valuable slaves, or if they were especially angry because of the men, women, and children Arkwan had shot.   He had been able to shoot some fat well-dressed nomads, who must have been the leaders.  And he had shot some well-dressed women and children.  Most of the nomads were just skin and bones, wearing tattered rags.   So this long night of torture of everyone Arkwan knew, was revenge for some leader Arkwan had killed, or some leader's woman or child.   Perhaps that girl in the embroidered cloak, with her little bow and arrows - Arkwan's arrow had skewered her to the ground.  Arkwan's mother had screamed the longest.   "Fuck the rikssco," Arkwan had heard a nomad command.   He supposed Fuck was the same in any speech.   Maybe rikssco meant priestess or village headwoman in the nomad tongue.  Mother's screams had lasted until moonset, then they stopped.   His father's second wife had only screamed a short time.

"Don't fuck my shit-eye, you'll kill me," his friend Patkha had pleaded; then he had howled. And then, Arkwan thought, they had killed him.  A slave who won't take rape and whipping quietly, is usually considered to be too much trouble.  "I could be a valuable slave, I'm strong," Arkwan's uncle Bohina had begged for his life.   But Bohina had been wounded in the battle; the nomads wanted slaves they could march away.  So they tortured Bohina to death.  The screams of the girls had been the worst.  The nomads raped little girls to death, or when they couldn't rape any more, burnt them alive.   The sound of whipstrokes landing on flesh had gone on all night.  One boy had sobbed; they killed him.  The others hadn't made a sound.   The boys were learning what it is to be slaves.   Only the older boys had been raped, Arkwan thought.  The nomads were killing little girls but not the less valuable little boys, so it had to be revenge for Arkwan's arrows.

Arkwan knew he had only a slim chance to escape the village without being seen, and when he was captured the nomads would guess he was the archer who had rained death from above.   Then the leader who had ordered a whole village of girls tortured to death, to revenge his little girl, would have the killer himself.  Arkwan had his dagger, he could kill himself now.   But he had always been lucky; he would risk capture and torture, and try to stay alive.   He would have to cross the courtyard, in full view of the nomads in the starlight, but he would just hope they didn't see him.

He first crossed the smaller gap, to reach the pile of villagers' corpses.  He crawled silently and slowly, but not too slowly.   Not so fast that movement would be seen out of the corner of some nomad's eye, but not too slowly either; his only hope was that no nomad happened to look in his direction while he was in full view.    Some of the girls in the pile of corpses were still alive, burnt all over.    There was nothing Arkwan could do for them.   He reached the furthest point where he was screened from the drunken, singing nomads.   The naked body of a woman provided a bit of cover, made a bit of shadow.   The body was still warm.    Now he had the large gap to cross.   He realized the body next to him was still breathing.  It was his mother.

She was facing him, but did not seem aware of him.   Arkwan had little enough chance of escaping as it was, almost none of rescuing her.   There were nomads all around, close.  They had only to look.   He would have to try.   He took out his dagger; there would be time to kill himself, if he was quick.   He touched her shoulder, but there was no response.   He pricked her arm with his dagger.   If she made a noise, they would die, but if he could not bring her to some awareness, he could not save her.   There seemed to be some flicker of recognition.   He had done what he could.    He began to crawl across the courtyard, in full view of nomads on either side of him.   He could hear her crawling after him.   She was making too much noise.   He nerved himself to drop onto his dagger, and kept crawling.  He passed between two sleeping nomads so close he could have reached out and touched them.   He kept crawling.   He reached the shadow of a house; then crawled behind it.   His mother was still behind him.   Now they had only to slip between the houses and escape the village.

There were heaps of looted clothing outside the houses, probably dropped by the nomads when he had started shooting.  There were bodies of nomads he had shot from above, and a village woman.   Arkwan heard a noise and went to look.   There might be other villagers still alive.   But the woman was cold and dead, it was the widow Karipas, Tanyata's mother, with a nomad arrow through her throat; the noise was a baby boy.   Arkwan found a cloak for his mother among the looted clothing, and handed her the baby.  They made their way out of the village.   Only when they had reached the safety of the trees did he speak for the first time.

"We can use the food we hid in the hills," he said.   "I want to go to the King, and tell him the nomads have come.   You can be safe with the King, and I want to become one of his warriors, and fight the nomads."     But his mother did not speak.

Arkwan tried to make a plan.   His mother might recover, given time, food, sleep, and warmth.   He had only his dagger and his clothes; he had not brought any flint or tinder.   He decided to go to the high sheep pasture, where there was a little hut.   There would be flint and tinder.   But first, they would go to the place his father had hidden food.   They set out through the forest, climbing the trail.  Arkwan had climbed it many times before, and often at night.   But that was in the summer, and he had Lumpkha and Niri with him.  His arrows and the two big dogs were a match for any wolves.   But now he had no bow, and Lumpkha and Niri were dead, or captured by the nomads, along with every person Arkwan had ever known, except his mother.   They followed the trail to the little hut among the sheepfolds.   There were no wolves that night.

.    TOP    .

Arkwan lit a fire in the little hut, and his mother slept.   And the baby slept also.    Arkwan thought of all the relatives and friends he had heard scream and die.   He couldn't see them as being all dead.   His wife Sujasa couldn't be dead, dead and cold like Karipas.    He couldn't think of Sujasa as dead, especially not here, in the high pasture.    It was here, while he watched his father's sheep, that Sujasa had come to lie with him last summer.   He had begged and pleaded for so long, and then one day she was standing naked in front of him.   Without a word she removed his loincloth.  He was awkward, as it was his first time, not counting the ewes; but she seemed to know what to do, which made him a little suspicious.   Nothing can be hidden in a village, and all the children liked to spy, although they got their bottoms blistered when they were caught.  So Arkwan and Sujasa had seen men couple with women often enough.  But watching was one thing, doing another.

Afterwards, he had talked of his plans.   "When we are married, in a pair of winters, or a trio at most, I think I will be made headman," he had said.    "Father will become Elder.   Elder Kranas will die this winter, or next, and Father will be chosen Elder for certain.   People like to have the headman the son of the elder, so with your family's support, I think we have a good chance.  We may have the support of Prince Taslan, and your father is very respected in the outlying hamlets.   Won't you like to be headwoman of the village?"

"I haven't said I will marry you, Arkwan," she had said.

"Who will you marry? Sindjas?  Patkha?" Arkwan had shouted at her.  "Have you been lying with every boy in the village?"

"Sindjas is in my clan, fool.   Patkha is like a little boy.   I want a real hero for a husband.   Someone like your uncle Bohina, only younger.  Some day one of the King's warriors will come to the village, a hero.  He will take me and enter my body.  We will be married and I will go with him."

Arkwan had run away.   He didn't want her to see him crying.   But Sujasa had found him, and given him a kiss, and dried his tears.    "Of course I will marry you, Arkwan.   You will be a hero some day.   It was only that you did not ask me."

They were still naked, and Arkwan was ready to enter Sujasa's body again.   He did not feel awkward any more.   But Sujasa had said, "Wait.  I have been disobedient.  You must punish me, now I am your woman."   And she had taken Arkwan's bronze dagger and cut a switch from a tree.    "If I am your woman," Sujasa said, "you must hit me when I am disobedient."

"But I don't want to hit you," Arkwan had said.

"Don't you care?  I talked about a King's warrior entering my body.  You must punish me for saying thay, if you want me for yours alone?"

Arkwan had said: "I do care.  You shouldn't have said that."   Sujasa lay on the ground, but after two or three of his light strokes across her bottom, she jumped up, grabbed the switch, and gave him a vicious blow across the face.   She ran away toward the trees.   He had chased her, but she was quicker at dodging among the trees than he was.   She managed to hit him several more times with the switch.   But then she had run across the pasture, and he was faster in a straight chase, and had caught her.   He was stronger, too, and he took the switch from her and wrestled her into a position where he could apply the switch to her bottom, although she scratched and bit and hit him.   He applied the switch with all his strength.

After a hand of blows she stopped struggling, and Arkwan stopped hitting.   His spear had risen, and his need to enter her body again was so strong his body was not his own.  He had watched many men couple with woman, and seen their pleasure, but he had not known about this need.   But while he moved to do what his need made him do, she hit him with the switch in a very painful place.   Well, he would whip her long and hard.      But then he thought about Rohigga.  He did want to marry Sujasa, some day, but Rohigga was nice to kiss, too, and she had promised to fuck someday soon.   But he could never keep Sujasa, if he was also fucking Rohigga; he knew Sujasa too well to hope for that.   He had to choose.  "Sujasa," he said, "you are mine alone.  Lie on the ground.   I'm going to whip you for saying you would marry a king's hero.   You will marry me.    And you will be whipped if you kiss anyone else."   And she had obeyed.   He said nothing about not kissing Rohigga any more.    He didn't need to.   It would take a braver hero than he was ever going to be, to try to get away with that.    He was hers alone - he had no doubt of that, with Sujasa.   She would see to it.    And she wanted him to want her enough to keep her.

Standing above her, he could strike hard, and he whipped her all over.  Very hard too, but she laughed at the pain, as a warrior laughs at wounds in battle.  She wriggled her body and panted and moaned as he whipped her.   Arkwan could only take so much.  He took her by strength and it need all his strength, to fight her and lift her hips and thrust into her from behind, slamming his body into hers, rough and hard.   The wave of pleasure that engulfed him was staggering.  It was much stronger than the first time.  Some time later, when he had regained his wits, he wondered: is that what it is like?   Have all the men I've watched fuck women, felt that?

Arkwan was drained, worse than a day in the fields, but Sujasa tried to continue the game.  She bit his penis.  But when she could not provoke him to anger by biting and scratching him, she lay down too, and they cuddled together on the grass, in the warm sun.   Niri came and squeezed between them, and licked his penis clean, and licked his juiced from where they had spilled on both bodies, and then the dogs, without any need for orders, brought the sheep.   The lovers lay half dozing as the summer breeze licked their naked skin, and the smells of grass, and sheep, and dog, and sex swirled around them.   They slept.   Sujasa woke first, and poked Arkwan in the chest.

"Maybe I will lie with your uncle Bohina," she said   "He's a real hero.  And he's not too old."

Arkwan was irritated.  She's insatiable, he thought.   He refused to be provoked.   She hit him with the switch.  She landed hard strokes on his arms, his side, and his legs before he got the switch away from her.   "Sujasa," he said, "on your belly."

That time, for talking about Uncle Bohina, Arkwan gave her a real whipping, as hard and long as the whippings he got from his father.   Not something anyone could laugh at.  Arkwan was always cranky when he was woken up.   The whipping changed her, for a little while, from the hard warrior maiden he loved to a clinging, obedient, kissy girl, like a little sister.   But somehow the girl fit much better than the warrior into the space between his side and his arm.  He began to think of her - to feel about her - differently.    He liked it - he liked having a girl he could whip for just talking about fucking another man.   But when he entered her,  no wave of pleasure came.  After a long time of thrusting, his penis softened, and he had to stop.   The clinging girl was nice to kiss, but for fucking, he decided he liked the warrior maiden best.   He liked the biting, scratching, fighting, shouting Sujasa better for that.

Then they talked.    Arkwan had plans for the village.  His father would not listen to him.   Sujasa had never thought about such things before, but she had good ideas.  Arkwan knew he didn't have a clever tongue, not like hers.  They talked past sunset, talked as they brought the sheep into the fold for the night.   Although he often spent the night, Arkwan wanted to return to the village.   The sheep would be safe in the fold with the dogs to guard them.   But still Sujasa was not satisfied.   She hit him with the switch again, across his face, and danced away in the moonlight, not even running.   Arkwan did not want to whip her any more.

"Sujasa," he shouted after her.   "I am your man.   If you want a whipping before we couple, here I am."

He took off his cloak and his loincloth.  "On my belly, Sujasa," he shouted into the trees.   "I shouldn't have accused you of lying with Sindjas and Patkha.  If I am your man, whip me for that."

He lay on his belly for a while, and eventually Sujasa came out of the trees.    Arkwan didn't have that sick feeling he got while waiting for a whipping from his father.   This is going to hurt, he thought.  Why am I so excited?

Afterwards, when he entered her body, he felt a pleasure that seemed to last as long as he wanted.   Sujasa seemed to be feeling it as well.   The final peak was only the end.   Not so violent as before, but more satisfying.  He felt very happy and very, very tired.   It was quite late indeed when they got into the village.

.    TOP    .

Arkwan never found out how, but by morning Sujasa's bottom had been seen by half the village.   And everyone knew he had whipped her for saying she would fuck another man.  The weals on Arkwan's own body could not be hidden either.   Patkha and a few boys came to see him - "We are going to bathe in the stream," they said, "would you like to come?"   Arkwan knew they just wanted to see him naked, to see the condition of his bottom.   He was ashamed.   He wouldn't be the only man in the village to be whipped by his woman, even Uncle Bohina was.   But he was ashamed all the same.   But he couldn't keep his bottom covered all summer.   He walked with his friends to the stream, and he took off his cloak and loincloth with a show of unconcern.   It was fun, actually, watching them gape.

When he got back to his father's house, Sujasa was there, with a tanned sheepskin and a bag of clothing, which she put next to his things in the corner of the upper room.   If they spent the night together, under the roof, they would be married.    Arkwan had no idea of their getting married so soon.   His family was important; so was hers.  Their marriage feast should have been the biggest ever seen in the village - the King and Queen would have come.    It just wasn't done to marry like this - not in important families like theirs.   Arkwan's father was so angry he was biting his lip.   The last time that had happened, Arkwan had slept on his belly for a month.   But the whip was not in his father's hand - it was still hanging on its peg on the wall.

No one could object to their marriage - it was an excellent match for both families.   But they would not have married for years.  And perhaps not to each other, if some other, more valuable, family alliance had became available in the meantime, since his family was so important that a royal alliance was not out of the question.  Of course, if they kept laying together they would have a baby.   But then Sujasa would have to stand naked outside the door and shout, "Let me in, I have in my belly a child of this house," and then she might not be the chief wife.   So Sujasa had been rather clever.   She had gotten him to claim her as his own, since he had whipped her for saying she would fuck another man, and the village knew that.  If, after that, they drove her out, she would be marked as a cast-off - claimed by a man, but then rejected.   She would find it hard to marry anyone.   And if that happened, the village would blame Arkwan for it, and he would lose honor.    Arkwan's father was too proud to allow that to happen - it would stain the honor of his doorposts.  Also, there was Sujasa's father to consider - an influential man on the council.   So Arkwan's father could not drive her out with his whip, as much his hand itched.   But there was nothing to stop him from using the whip.   On Arkwan too, of course, but Arkwan was used to it.    They would be whipped tomorrow, but the marriage would stand tonight.   Sujasa had gambled and won.

Arkwan asked Sindjas to look after the sheep until the next day, and he spent the day with her by his side, making visits to each family in the village.  Sujasa spoke of him as Husband, and they were given hospitality in every house - as Husband and Wife. Then he spent the night with her, under his father's roof. And so, without a feast, without embroidery in red and gold, of penises and cunts, on her bridal dress, without gifts, without any of the usual sacred dances or trappings of a marriage, but nonetheless beyond any question, by the law of the bards they were married.  And Arkwan was, on the whole, glad.

But that night, he had not entered her body.   For one thing, they had been given mead or beer at every house in the village, and were even drunker than a bride and groom usually are. For another, Arkwan's young half-brothers were spying on them.  Early in the morning, Arkwan and Sujasa slipped out of his father's house, climbed up to the high pasture, sang with Lumpkha and Niri, and thanked Sindjas.   They were alone.  But not perhaps, away from the spies.  When they were little, Arkwan and Sujasa had been the most active of spies, so they knew that a newly married couple would be a tempting target.     Arkwan set out the dogs, and kept his ears and his eyes open, while Sujasa licked his balls.   How did she know so much about pleasure?

Lumpkha caught the scent, and sang.   Arkwan and Sujasa came running, naked.  They soon caught the spies, but it was not Arkwan's young brothers as he had expected.  It was Tanyata, daughter of the widow Karipas, and the orphan boy Huwh.  Frightened, and shivering, the two children were holding hands.  Arkwan was reminded of Sujasa and himself when they went spying together, of what it felt like to be caught.   "Did you come to spy on us?" he asked them.   "We came to spy on you, Arkwan" Huwh said.   "Tanyata wanted to watch you get a whipping."

"What did you think would happen if you were caught?" Arkwan asked.  

"We'd get a whipping instead," Tanyata said.

"That's right," Arkwan said.   "Did you know that Sujasa and I used to go spying when we were your age?  We went spying together, and now we are married."

"Were you ever caught?" Huwh asked.

"A few times," Sujasa said, "and then we were whipped.  I hated that part."

"But the spying was fun," Arkwan said, "because of the danger.   So when we were caught we didn't really mind.   And it is good practice for raids."

"I don't really mind either," Huwh said, "it will not be so bad.  I am ready.  I want to take Tanyata's strokes."  

Tanyata scowled at that, but her eyes glowed with pleasure.   Arkwan wished he'd thought of taking her strokes the times he was whipped with Sujasa.   But life for the orphan Huwh would not be so easy as it had been for Arkwan, the headman's son. 

"It was fun, we liked watching you fuck," Tanyata said, "it made me tingle inside.  But you caught us.   Will it be a long whipping?"

"Long enough," Arkwan answered.

Tanyata said, "Well, I am ready.   I will take Huwh's strokes.   He can't take mine.  I'm older."

"Well then, you shall each have the other's strokes."

"But that will be the same as if we each got our own," the boy protested.

Arkwan laughed, and the boy grinned sheepishly.    Arkwan had never been this brave about a whipping.

Arkwan whipped Tanyata and Huwh, as he and Sujasa had once been whipped, side by side, with a long switch across both bottoms.   They held hands and looked into each other's faces.  Each tried to be brave for the other.  This was something Arkwan understood; taking a risk together, being whipped together, showing courage for each other. Such courage deserves to be tested, and he gave them a long hard whipping.  He liked to remember the whippings for spying he had shared with Sujasa.   So why did he feel so bad when his father whipped him?

Sujasa brought the children into the hut to recover after the whipping, and gave them some food.  They ate kneeling.

"Huwh, would you like to be our foster son?" Arkwan asked.

Huwh was confused.  "He would," Tanyata said.  "Wouldn't you, Huwh."

"Yes," Huwh said.

But he hadn't really believed it.   Not until that night, as he lay down to sleep beside his new parents in the little hut by the sheepfolds.

And so began that wonderful summer.  Honey mead and sheep cheese.  Coupling in the sunshine, on the grass.   Huwh and Tanyata playing.   Dancing all night around the fires at midsummer.   Teaching Huwh to be a shepherd boy.   Training Niri's puppies.   Dining with the King and Queen when they came to eat and drink their tribute.  Hunting with Prince Taslan.  Feeling the new life grow in Sujasa's belly.

Tanyata came every day, and joined Huwh for his training.  Arkwan taught them fighting with dagger and shield, as well as sheep-tending.  Sujasa, who was the better archer, set out targets for each of them.

"Move my target back," Tanyata demanded, "and if I miss I want a whipping, the same as the boys."

"There is no need for that," Arkwan had said.  "I am not the village arrow master."

Tanyata was furious.  "I am as good as any of the boys!   And I am NOT afraid!"

Arkwan still didn't want to, but Sujasa had said, "The boys used to pick on me, too.   They didn't like it that I was best at shooting.    And you're not as good as you should be, Husband.    Archery is not a joke."

"I will try harder, Wife."

"You will not, Husband, unless you are made to.  You never do, at anything.  I want you two to have a contest, every morning.  Tanyata needs to get better than any of the boys, because they pick on her, and you, Husband, need to shoot much better than you do.   And when you lose, Husband, I will whip you myself.   And you needn't smirk - I will whip hard enough to make you take it seriously."    Arkwan had agreed, but he moved his target back, and moved Tanyata's forward.   He thought his wife was too hard on the girl.

Every morning, when Arkwan woke, Tanyata was waiting.  She knew better than to wake him up.  "Don't bother with your loincloth," she would say, "I shall win today, and you'll only have to take it off again, when Sujasa whips you."  At first, day after day, it was Tanyata who got the whipping.  But however much she was whipped, whether for archery or any other training, she always wanted a harder challenge, a further target, a heavier spear.  And she wanted a whipping when she failed.  She was never unhappy after a whipping.  As the summer wore on, she grew in skill, and at last she won.  She danced, and she sang, "I am the best, I am the best, Arkwan's bottom will be red."   So Arkwan said: "whip me as hard as you can, Wife."   And Tanyata shrieked in triumph to see Arkwan whipped long and hard.   For a few days Arkwan lost every day, and the whippings really hurt.   But then Tanyata said, "winning is too easy.  I want to move my target back."   Then as the autumn moons waxed and waned again, she was whipped every day; she could barely hit the target - she had moved it much to far.   But she never wanted it to be easy.   Even when she had little chance of winning, she still cut a long, knobby switch every morning - claiming, of course, that it would be Arkwan who would feel it. 

When Arkwan missed, he knew the arrow would miss even before it left his bow.  His eyes felt twisted, his shoulders tight, and he felt a sort of anger - and the whipping didn't hurt enough.    He didn't think Sujasa liked to whip him so hard, but he liked it to hurt, and Tanyata surely liked to watch.   And when Tanyata missed, she would shout in frustration and fury, and come running over for her whipping.  He knew what that frustration felt like, so he liked making her bottom hurt.  "Whip hard, Arkwan" she would say "it'll be you tomorrow!"   When it was over she would say "That didn't hurt!" and she would run across the pasture, jumping in the air and rubbing her red bottom, the puppies yapping at her heels.  The dew sparkled, and the sheep baa'd in deep, echoing tones, on those bright summer mornings in the high pasture, when he and Tanyata drew their bowstrings together.   One of them would shout in triumph, and watch a bottom turn red, while the other felt the sting of defeat and the brisk clean smack of the wood.   Every day, she got a little more skilled.   Arkwan made her challenge the village boys who had bullied her, and one by one she surpassed them all.

But Arkwan hated whipping Huwh.   Sujasa told Huwh to shoot a hand of arrows every morning.    For every miss, Huwh insisted that he should be whipped, just as Tanyata was.  He was not a good archer.    He didn't cry, but after a whipping he would just sit, wrapped up in the cloak his new parents had given him, and Tanyata couldn't get him to play.   And he wasn't getting better.  Arkwan remembered the misery of his own training, remembered how he hated being punished by his father, and he told the children that Huwh would not be whipped any more.  "You must try your best without whipping," he said.

"I don't mind being whipped when I miss," Huwh said, "I just don't like it when Tanyata is whipped.  I want to take her strokes as well as my own."

"It is not fair to him," Sujasa said.  "And you are not fair to me, either.  I want to be whipped when I miss, too."

"But you never miss," Arkwan said.

"For archery, and foot races, it shall be as I have said," Arkwan decided, "Huwh will not be whipped."   "But from today," he said to the children, "as part of your training, you must spy on Sujasa and me when we couple together.   If we catch you, Huwh may take Tanyata's strokes."

"You will never catch us," Tanyata said, "we have been spying on you all along.  Yesterday, your penis got soft when you were inside, and Sujasa had to suck on it to make it hard again."

"You were above us, and the grass is short there.   Be more careful, unless you want to watch Huwh get a whipping.  He doesn't like it the way you and I do.  You should also watch that no other children come to spy."

Two moons after the marriage, a bard ruled that by offering to foster an orphan boy, Arkwan had in fact adopted him.  The orphan boy Huwh was now heir to the house of Annuas, and Sujasa's baby would not be the eldest heir.   Huwh was sorry, but he could do nothing - he could not unadopt himself, the bard said, by wishing.  Arkwan's father was too angry to eat, as well as too angry to speak, for three days.  

Since Arkwan and Sujasa now had a legally adopted son who could draw a bow, they sat on the council of wisdom, rather than the council of youth.  And of course it was the older council that made the real decisions.   In the council, Arkwan's word was often different than his father's, and a faction formed around him.   He spoke well, he was Prince Taslan's sworn friend; and some even whispered he was the next Elder, instead of his father.   He soon had more followers than his father did.   His faction supported Huwh as heir; his father's followers said the law could be ignored, and Sujasa's baby would be heir, if it was a boy.   The fights with his father in the council tore out his guts, and Arkwan became so miserable he couldn't get out of bed.  His father did not whip him for what he said in council, as he had expected - they didn't speak at all any more, except in the council.  One secret thought, a secret hope, he relied on like a center-post - one good thing that would come from all this: Huwh and Tanyata would marry. and so, since Huwh was the Annuas heir, Tanyata would come as a bride to the house of Annuas; as his daughter-in-law.  In Arkwan's eyes, he was already dancing at Tanyata's wedding.

With Arkwan sick, his faction and his father's broke into open fighting.   Huwh tried to patch the quarrel.   He swore to serve and obey Sujasa's child, boy or girl.

Tanyata stayed with Arkwan in his illness, and talked with him, and challenged him to a foot-race.   His legs felt heavy, and he felt tired.  He lost, and Tanyata whipped him.   "It is not just that I lost to you, Tanyata," he said.  "I feel like I do when I lose, but much worse; and right now I want it to hurt.  I want it to hurt and hurt and hurt."  Her stinging strokes, and her shouts of joy and triumph with every stroke, lifted the pain of his father's words from him.   He raced her again, winning easily - his feet were as light as his heart, and his tingling bottom and thighs felt no pain from hard running..  "I won't whip you," he told Tanyata, when she walked up, panting and defeated, to the goal tree.   The tears trembled on her eyelashes. "It hurts less to be whipped than to lose," she said.

But now Tanyata was dead.   Raped by some nomad till she was split open, then tossed on a bonfire.  Arkwan could still hear her screams.

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In the morning, Arkwan's mother still stared vacantly, and would not speak.  The baby shrieked from hunger.  Arkwan tried to think.  They would have to reach a friendly village, although it would be hard to travel in winter.   If the weather held, they would make it.   At least they had enough food.   Arkwan filled bags with dried meat, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and hard bread.   It was fortunate that his father believed in hiding food in the hills rather than keeping it in the village.   If only they had had more warning, the whole village could have deserted their houses to the nomads, and hidden in the forest.   But in the deep winter they had not posted look-outs.

Laden with food, with his mother carrying the baby, they started to walk through the forest, heading south.   The nearest village was to the north, but it must have been overrun by the nomads.    And that village was as far from home as Arkwan had ever been.   He knew that south, somewhere, was the King.   Arkwan mixed sheep's cheese, water, and his own blood, and smeared it on his paps to let the baby suck it off.  He had no idea they bit so when they suckled.

The weather did not hold.   Arkwan found an overhanging rock, and was able to light a fire.   They survived the storm huddled together, keeping warm with rocks heated on the fire.   After the storm walking was harder, because of the snow, but not impossible.   They walked for many days.  In places they had to scramble up or down cliffs.  There were no villages.  The food would not last much longer.  The baby was sick.  Arkwan's mother never spoke.  Arkwan had no idea what to do, and perhaps this made him careless.   He was not straining his ears for every sound, but just plodding along, when they found themselves surrounded by archers.

They were marched to a large village.   Arkwan did not understand their tongue, but he recognized it.   It was his mother's tongue, and the people were dark haired, like his mother, not red haired like the nomads and the people of his own village.   Arkwan's mother had sung him the songs of her own people, and he recognized that tongue now, soft and hissing.   When they reached the village, a few men were naked, striped with welts, and most of the villagers had whips, with bits of goat hair still on them.  So it was the day of the purging.  Arkwan, who had so many dead to remember, had let the Day of the Skulls pass by without a sacrifice to the Lord of the Dead.  Without Huwh to help him, Arkwan lacked the skill to keep calendar tally-sticks.  The villagers were gathered around a pit, where a huge tree-trunk was balanced, ready to slide in.   The baby was pulled from Arkwan's mother's arms, and tossed into the pit.   Men began to lift the back of the log, bringing it closer to the point of tipping over.

Arkwan's mother pulled herself from the men holding her, and jumped into the pit.   The log began to slide forward.  Just as it came crashing into the pit the baby was tossed out; he landed some distance away, hurt but still alive.   The villagers gasped.  The log completed its journey and came to rest, and as it bounced forward, carried forward by its own motion, men pulled quickly on the ropes tied to the top.   Others pushed with poles. Between the great log's own bounce, and the strong quick pull, and the push, the log was pulled upright.  Boys brought stones to wedge it into place, before it could fall back.   It looked like the center post of a house, but a bigger house than any on the green Earth.  The villagers began to murmur in their soft hissing tongue, "kohiyossa, kohiyossa."   A woman with the headgear of a priestess, picked up the howling baby.

The villagers had put up their huge post during the purging, so it was for the Lord of the Dead.  Now they started again.   A man stripped and ran between houses, carrying his whip.   He ran into houses, out of windows, through sheep-pens, trying to make the circle of the village, as every man and woman he passed, whipped him.  But he went only part way before he stopped, his back, bottom, and legs covered with stripes.   Another took up the run, then another, but no one made the full circle.   Then the touch of the God could be felt, and in a sudden wild frenzy, every man was naked and running.   The runners were whipped by those they passed, and they used their own whips on those who stood by the path, with their backs to the passing runners.    Woman  stripped to feel  the lashes on their bodies, singing and laughing in God-drenched frenzy.  Children stood in the runners' path, turning their backs to the whips.  Dogs ran barking with the runners, then howled and scampered away when they were whipped.  But even the dogs felt the Frenzy - they could not stay away.  They ran with the running men, yelping when they were lashed, and scampering, but then coming back, pulled by the lure of  the run.  Sheep and pigs, tethered by the path of the runners, were whipped, and the air was rent by their horrible squeals.  The men guarding Arkwan felt the excitement.   They stripped Arkwan and let him go - he ran, whipped anywhere he went, whipped on every part of his body.  He didn't feel any frenzy; the whips hurt.  But he could feel the growing excitement of his tormentors, and he expected to be killed, like a whipped dog.  He ran into a hole in the side of the hill.   The hole was deep, and Arkwan was whipped along until it was completely dark.   Then he was hit from all sides with lashes.  He tried to fight back, but he couldn't find anyone to fight with.   Eventually he sank to the ground, curled up, and just endured the whipstrokes that rained down on him.   Then he was fucked in his shit-eye, by many men, in the dark.  His life as a slave had begun.

He was dragged out, and stretched across an altar.   A priest drove a dagger into Arkwan's thigh, while at the same moment anotherdrove a spear into a dog.   The first priest reached into the dog, and smeared blood and organs on Arkwans's neck.   This was a pretend castration and sacrifice, so Arkwan played along, and pretended to be dead.   But he didn't understand - these villagers were cheating the God of the Dead - better, Arkwan thought, to sacrifice the dog in the first place, than to pretend that a human life was given, but not give it.   This village must be consumed by greed, to cheat the Gods in order to save the value of a slave.   The frenzy drained from the crowd - the pretend sacrifice of a man had been enough, and he was led away by two spearmen, to a large house in the center of the village.   Outside, there was a very large fire, with leather bags of some kind near it.    An old man showed Arkwan how to push up and down on these bags.  

And push up and down on those bags he did, day after day, as the moon swelled and died and winter slowly gave way to spring.  That was his life as a slave.

The work was easy, and he could watch the old man melt bronze and mold it into axes, chisels, and knives.  The old man hammered them after they came out of the molds, and then Arkwan had to sharpen them on whetstones.  The old man was called Wvaksa; he had a son and daughter, and an apprentice.   The son, a young man called Kafassios, did no work at all.   The daughter, Szhasthar, did some cooking and spinning, very badly.  Her housekeeping was dreadful - the house was filthy.  It stank.  One day Arkwan scoured her pots, as they were filthy and he had nothing else to do, and was rewarded with a kiss and some food that she seemed to think a delicacy, but Arkwan thought was disgusting, like all the food here.   But he was given enough to eat.     Wvaksa fucked him a few times, but usually the old man coupled with his apprentice boy, who was called Iossos.  Arkwan himself, they called Kahnikos.   He had no one to talk to.

Szhasthar cuffed him when she gave an order, as if hitting him would make him understand their speech, and Wvaksa kicked him to wake him up in the morning.  When the old man was not making bronze, Arkwan was given other tasks, but these were also easy, and he was not punished if he did them sloppily.   They seemed to expect it.   Even when he didn't do the work at all, the coiled whip was rarely taken down from its peg. Arkwan tried to keep the house clean, but he found it hard to do the work, day in and day out, when no one was making him do it.   Living with his father, if a pot was dirty, or if the floor had a speck of dust, it was: "Bend across the altar!"    Kafassios whipped him, from time to time, but not to drive him to work - Kafassios  did it for pleasure.

He wished he had work that would make his body ache - and someone to drive him to do it.   Pushing up and down on the leather bags was too easy - he had time to think, and he didn't want that.  When he had traveled through the snow, trying to get his mother and the baby to safety, he had slept well without dreams, but now his nights were full of the screams of the tortured villagers.  Night after night he watched Sujasa, a captive of the nomads, raped by many men.  One nomad was the leader, a headman of nomads, and he had a huge penis.   And then in the dream somehow it was he, Arkwan, who was that nomad, raping Sujasa, and his huge penis ripped her open.  She hit him with her fists, and then the blows were Kros's kicks, waking him up.    Another day as a slave.  The early morning was the best time; he went to the stream for water, could meet other slaves.  One day he saw a slave with red hair like the people of his own land, or like a nomad.   "I greet you, friend," Arkwan said, "can you understand my speech?"

"I go slave bronze kraeghuen zu, many years, but not drupped my tongue," the red-haired slave answered, in the speech of the nomads.  "You speak bad.   My name go Pataka, slave Tlossos zu."

"I greet you, Pataka.  My name is Arkwan, but here I am called Kahnikos.  I am the slave of a man named Wvaksa."

"You no name here, Arkwan child, and you go slave Kros bronze kraeghan.  You hear Kros zu, so might be so.  That Kahnikos that go be dog, all slave go dog here.  That Wvaksa that go be lord."

"Yes, we had heard of Lord Kros, bronze maker, in our village.  I owned a dagger said to be his work."

"Bronze dagg 'said to be his work' all they," Pataka said, "only best do Kros kraegh for fact.   You go have bronze dagg Wvaksa Kros kraegh, you be rich.  Ha, you fall far.  For now you go slave, Arkwan.   Slave zo Pataka ba, Ha.   Speak, ka you be rich, so might be so you Nute peddler go know.  Nute zu ga.   He go skin water zu fill they.   You he go know?"

The man Pataka pointed out was a short, coarse-featured old man, wearing a very fine cloak, which was however quite dirty and tattered.    Arkwan did not know him.   He'd heard the names of some rich merchants and peddlers, and perhaps Nute was one of them; he couldn't really remember.   The peddler Nute was extraordinarily clumsy, and had managed to drench himself, simply in filling his water skins at the stream.

"I greet you, Nute merchant.  I am Arkwan son of Eos."

"I greet you, Arkwan, though I am no merchant, but a humble peddler.  I know your speech - did you live in the lands of King Taslan, before you became a slave?"

"I was the man of King Kahul.  Prince Taslan is his son."

"Kahul is killed, fighting for his kingdom.  Taslan is king."

"Tell King Taslan, if you travel to his kingdom, that Arkwan of the house of Annuas greets him, and hopes the dogs Kaia and Fura have been worthy.  If he should wish more pups of their dam, tell him that may not be, for dam and sire are dead or are captured by the nomads.   Also killed or captured is Sujasa, who showed him her skill with the bow, and Huwh, and every other person of the village where Eos was headman.    Tell him that Arkwan wishes he could fight by his side, but he is at present the slave of Lord Kros bronze maker, and can send only his good wishes for the King's honor, health, and safety."

"I will not be in Taslan's kingdom this summer, nor next winter, friend Arkwan, but I may be able to send your message by another.  But the king is busy with fighting the nomads, and may not be able to buy your freedom, even if he wishes."

"If he fights well, I am content.   Be in health, honored Nute peddler.  May you fare safely until you reach your home."

"My home is nowhere, or everywhere; I am a peddler.   Be in health, Arkwan of Annuas.   Go health zu, Pataka child."   They helped him carry his water skins to his cart.   Arkwan had never seen a cart before.  He'd heard of them in stories.  When the oxen pulled, he grew dizzy, watching the strange twisting motion of the turning shields that the cart used for legs.  It was a very frightening thing.

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Pataka helped Arkwanlearn the speech of the bronze makers, and as the moons of spring waxed and died Arkwan came to understand most of what was said.  He could talk to other slaves, but his masters still only talked to him as a man talks to an ox - .   It was not as dull watching Kros and Iossos work, now he could understand what they said to each other.   It made Arkwan shudder that Kros coupled with a naked boy, who had no tattoos, but it also made him lonely to listen to their loving words in the night, now that he could understand them.    And it was painful to talk with Szhasthar.  He had known already that she was a simpleton; now she talked with him, hour after hour and day after day, saying nothing.   Sometimes she thought she was the Queen.   Sometimes she thought Arkwan was her husband.    So far, she had not tried to lie with him, in his sooty corner by the fire.   Arkwan was not going to crawl under her bearskin.   But some cold nights he thought about doing it.

One summer morning, before daybreak, Arkwan was wakened by Kafassios.  "Follow me, but do not speak," Kafassios said, and they went out of the village and climbed the hills to a small grove of trees near the top of a ridge.   Here there were other young men of the village, who were naked, and some boys.  Kafassios stripped as well.    Arkwan thought that this must be something to do with the midsummer fires; perhaps tonight is midsummer night.   Except for Kafassios, all the men were beautiful and strong, such as might be chosen to lead the dancing.   Kafassios was neither beautiful nor strong, but Arkwan supposed that the son of Wvaksa Kros was too important not to be given this honor.   There were more than a hand of men, and they all had tattoos on their penises, but not on their chests.    The men began to work cutting down trees with bronze axes, and Arkwan worked too.   No one spoke.  Kafassios sat on a log and watched them.   Arkwan took off his cloak, since it was hot, but he did not go naked, since he was only a slave: there to work, not one of the chosen dancers, naked and beautiful for the God.

After a while a trio of priestesses in long gray robes and yellow hoods climbed to the grove, carrying sheep's bladders on their shoulders.   The youngest priestess stripped, and knelt before the men.  She had tattoos around her cunt.   The men, one after another, knelt and suckled from her breasts.   Looking closely, Arkwan realized that the bladder's piss-tube was still attached, and the men, as well as sucking on her teats, were sucking and swallowing from the end of the tube.   When all the men had drunk, Arkwan decided to try and drink as well.  He knelt before the priestess, and she did not pull away, so he reached with his mouth for the tube, but she turned to put her teat in his mouth instead.   Only when he had suckled on both teats, which gave no milk, did she allow him to suck milk from the tube.  Arkwan felt his penis beginning to swell.  The milk had a bitter taste, but it was drink, and the day would be hot.   Arkwan drank deeply.

They spent the morning felling trees, and stacking the logs.  After a sleep, they drank more milk from the middle priestess, who was older.  Then they carried some other logs, seasoned logs which Arkwan supposed had been cut the year before, to a pass at the top of the ridge, and made two piles, ready to be lit.   This must be where the dancing would be.   Arkwan hid his cloak under a rock.   The men embraced the boys, and kissed them, and the mens' penises swelled and they played a game, trying to handle each others' penises while keeping their own out of reach.  The game ended when the first man spilled his seed.  Arkwan turned away, as he supposed they wouldn't want a slave watching, and didn't want them to notice his bulging cloth. Then the oldest priestess, an old woman, stripped and knelt before them.   In the bladder on her shoulders, there was not milk but strong honey mead.   Arkwan's head began to feel quite light.

Men and women came from the village in a procession, dressed in their finest.   The Gods who dance on human feet were there, whom Arkwan had heard about but never seen.  These were ancient wooden heads, where the Gods dwelt.   The heads were mounted on wicker frames, carried on a man's shoulders.   Long hooded robes reached to near the ground, covering the frames, so it did indeed seem as if the Gods walked among them.   During the dance, each God would come; and the God's own face would be seen instead of the carved wood.  They would speak, and if you were very brave you could look into their eyes.    And the God would use the legs of the man, and make the man walk where the God wanted to go.

Arkwan's village had Gods, of course, but they did not dance, and their faces remained wood.  Arkwan had never seen a God's real face, and he was very frightened.  Everyone knew the stories of the God whose name was not spoken, whom people called the Young God.  The Young God enjoyed village dances, and wherever he went his followers, the Smashers, came with him.   The Smashers were men, not Gods: naked, filthy, long-haired, smeared with shit and ashes, with huge penises.   All women offered themselves to the God, but the Smashers took what they wanted; tore clothing, shattered pots, lit fires, and beat men who tried to protect their wives.   It was the Young God who had stolen all the clothing in a village, so on midsummer night all the woman as well as the men had to dance naked.   The God came and danced, and every woman, even the oldest crone, had felt the God's penis inside of her before the night was over.  Only one woman, the headwoman of the village, hid her nakedness in her house, and she was found raped to death in the morning, her body smeared with shit and ash, and everything in the house had been smashed and broken.

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Two priests, wearing tall pointed hats, lit the fires, and a red bard began to play on the harp, slow and stately. firewood   The naked men, who had worked hard all day, except Kafassios, began to dance, slowly, the sweet notes plucking on their weary calves and punished ankles.   Arkwan rested.  A procession of cows was led between the fires, followed by a few bulls, then mares, then stallions.   One of the stallions was as fine as Kapi, Prince Taslan's black mare.  King Taslan's, he meant.  The fires grew so hot that anyone who walked slowly between them would be roasted.   The woman danced in a large circle around both fires, the naked men danced inside their circle.  Now the bravest boys ran, as fast as they could, between the fires.   They came out red all over from the heat, and then they danced with the men.  Soon it was too hot for anyone to pass between the fires, even running.   The boys who had not yet passed between the fires, remained outside the woman's circle, and watched; they did not join the dance.  Arkwan had run between the fires when he was a boy - the path between the fires was always toward the setting sun; it was blinding, so boys had to run without seeing their way through.   To the boy Arkwan, it had seemed as if he came out onto a different Earth, and was a different boy.   And then he was not a boy - he had gotten his man's tattoos that midsummer night, although his father had forbidden it.  He was glad his man's tattoos had not been on his penis.  The woman sang a song of praise to the Gods   The Gods on human feet danced this way and that.

Arkwan watched the dance.  The feeling that his head was floating above his body became stronger.  The woman danced around one way.  The naked men, inside their circle, danced around the other way.  Only one woman was naked.   The women drew their circle in, and the men were pushed close to the fire.   The men turned as they danced so that first their breasts and then their backs faced the roasting heat, and with an intricate step they dodged the women pushing them inwards.   One man tried to embrace the naked woman, got out of step, and a shove from a woman's hip tripped him into the coals.  He jumped up, his hair on fire, but he beat it out and continued to dance.   The sun of the longest day set behind the distant hills.   Midsummer night had begun.  The woman started a new song, to the Queen of the Wombs.   For this midsummer night was also the night of the dark of the moon.   A priestess gelded a dog, and then slit his howling throat, and tossed him into the flames.

Arkwan felt a touch on his shoulder, but there was no one there.   Then he was pushed, again by no one.  Then he was kicked.   He was being pushed in the direction of the fires.  Then his legs began to run, although he did not want to go.    His legs took him through the circle of women, and he joined the men.      Arkwan's legs knew the dance, they twirled and jumped and dodged as he circled around.  His legs would not do what Arkwan wanted.  He was looking out of his own eyes, and feeling the pain of his roasting skin, but some one else owned his body.  He came to the passage between the fires, and began to run between them.   Flames licked at his skin.  His loincloth caught fire.  And then one pile shifted, and burning logs crashed down, and the fire fell on top of him.

Arkwan could see a chance of escape, by climbing a flaming log.   He could move his body, but slowly.  Heartbeats passed after deciding to jump onto the burning log, before his legs made the jump.  He ran up the slanting log, and it collapsed under him.  But instead of falling into the fire he was struck from behind, across the bottom, by something, and he fell forward to a clear patch of ground.   He hit hard, and rolled.  There was no longer fire all around him, he could see a passage to safety, but the fire roasted his skin.  The pain was terrible.  He wanted to stand up and run, but his body did not move.  After a bit, his body stood and moved by itself, coming out from between the fires, and joining the dance.   The men nearby were startled to see anyone come out of the fire, but when they looked at him, they sank to their knees.  Some lay on their bellies, faces pressed into the ground.  Other men looked at Arkwan's face, shielding their eyes with their hands as a man does when he looks into the sun.

Arkwan danced around the circle.   Where he came, men sank to the ground.  The song for the Lady of the Wombs, stopped.   The women began a new song, a song of praise to the Young God.   A woman stripped and lay down with her knees spread, and Arkwan dropped on top of her.   She flinched at the touch of his body, and he entered her.  She screamed.

His body was not his own, but there was some pleasure, as his penis slid in and out.  It was strange.  His penis was painfully hard.   There was no peak of pleasure, and after a while his body got up and began to dance again, his penis still stiff and sore.   Other women pulled off their clothes, shouting rather than singing the song for the Young God.   Another naked woman lay on the ground, legs apart, but he passed her by, picking and choosing only the plumpest of the many who offered their flesh to him.  Many naked women were dancing now, but most of the men lay with their faces pressed to the ground.  Some of the chosen dancers, their penises swollen to enormous size, began to follow Arkwan as he danced around the fires.

Arkwan began to feel as if he was floating above his body.   He watched from above as his body coupled with a woman as they danced.  Graceful motions as he slid in and out to the rhythm of the song.   His followers ripped the clothing off a woman who resisted them.   All around the circle, ash-streaked men were coupling with women as they danced, penises sliding in and out.   The Gods on human feet danced by, their faces still wood.   Arkwan felt raised to a great height, and he looked down on the fires and the circling dancers as if he were a bird.  The bird flew higher and higher into the sky.

.    TOP    .

Arkwan woke up.  It was morning, he was cold and naked, and a rock was pressing into his back.    He was thirsty.  A man who had been watching him gave a shout, and sank to his knees.   But then the man called out, "It is only the slave.  The God has left us."   After that, no one paid Arkwan any mind.  There was a burning pain across his bottom, but except for that, he didn't feel or see any burns.   From what he could remember of the fires, he should have burns all over.  He should be dead, really.   He remembered terrible pain.  His loincloth had caught fire; his penis should be burned off.   But it was unharmed; not a hair of his piss-beard singed.   The pain was yesterday, and today he was alive, and not in much pain.   He would try to stay alive if he could.   He wanted something to drink.  He went to look for his cloak where he had hidden it, but it was gone.

The three priestesses had baskets of good bread, and some bland cheese, and the villagers ate.   Arkwan was the only one who was naked.  The bread made him even more thirsty, and he knelt down, as a slave should, before he asked a man if there was any water.   The man did not hit him or call him a dog, but went with him, politely, to a nearby spring.

Then Arkwan went back to the house of Kros.  There was no one there.   He swept the floor, scrubbed the pots.   Kros would work today, he thought, and for many moons Arkwan would push the leather bags up and down, day after day.  He would work naked, he decided, until Kros decided to give him a new cloak and a new loincloth.  Slaves didn't ask for things.  He would be punished for losing his cloak.   Perhaps Kros might not care whether his slave was naked or not, but there were no naked slaves in the village, except children, so Arkwan thought Kros would get him a cloth of some kind.  Arkwan took a jar to the stream for water.   When he climbed back through the village he was grabbed by two priests; he dropped the jar and it shattered.   The priests held him while a boy was sent for Kros.   A few villagers gathered.

Kros came and sat on a stone.  The older priest pointed at Arkwan.  "This slave raped a woman at the dance.  He must die in the pit."

Kros asked, "Rape?  At midsummer?   Was she naked?"

"I don't know, I mean, yes she was.  This dog of a slave took her," the priest said.

Kros said: "You know the Law of midsummer:

If he and she dance naked on midsummer night, there is no rape,
and neither can she be punished or reproved for fucking with anyone."
Kros said: "Women, and men too, dance naked to feel the Frenzy, the strong desire, and to be fucked roughly by others who feel it.  Women dance naked because they hope the Goddess of Desire will give them the man they want - perhaps a man who has refused them.     She has no complaint if the wrong man was maddened by the Frenzy.  Is the woman here?  Does she claim she was forced to dance?  Does she claim she was stripped naked by force?"

"Many saw the rape," the priest said, "it was Frah the wife of Tlossos."

"I am Frah," a woman said.  "There was no rape.  It was the God, and not this dog, who entered my body.  I saw his face; it was not the face of this slave.  It was the God.  Many saw him."

"It cannot have been the God," the priest shouted.

"It was I who entered this woman," Arkwan said.  "I and no other."

"It was the God," the woman insisted.  "But God or not there was no rape.   I took the penis eagerly into my body, although it burned me.   No slave dog has a penis that burns like fire.   Other woman, clothed women, were raped, by men of this village, but I make no cry of rape against God nor slave."

"If it was no God who entered this woman, did no God come to our dance this year?" Kros asked the priest.

"The Gods came," the priest insisted.  "I saw them.   Many saw them."

"That is not what I hear," Kros said.  "I hear that in spite of all your chants, in spite of all the smoke you make us breathe and the Hema you make us drink, the Gods you serve are made of wood."

"Look!" the woman said, pointing to Arkwan, "the mark of the God!"

"Come here dog," Kros commanded.  "Show me your back."   Kros examined him carefully.  "This slave has a burn," Kros announced, "as many men do today.   His burn is across his bottom, in the shape of a giant hand."

The entire village had by now come to watch, and villagers began to talk among themselves.   Arkwan heard the word "kohiyossa."   He wished he knew what it meant.

"He must die in the pit!" the priest screamed.   "He raped many woman."

"Perhaps I can help," came a voice from the edge of the crowd.  It was the Nute peddler.

"I will buy this slave, for a fair price.  Then he will be gone from the village, and you will not have to kill a man for rape when no woman cries rape against him."

"What gift can you give us, Nute peddler?" Kros asked.

"All I brought I have already traded for your good bronze, so I can only return bronze that is in my cart.   Here it is."

Nute began to toss daggers, chisels, and axes to the ground behind him, not looking how they fell.   Then, without looking at the pile of bronze, he walked over and took Arkwan by the wrist.

"Stop!" Kros commanded.   "It is not enough."

Arkwan gasped.   Nute had made a pile of bronze.    How could Kros reject such a kingly gift?  

"I will give more," Nute said.   And he took a single dagger out of his cart and knelt to place it carefully on the ground.   Kros said "enough!"

Then Nute handed Arkwan the ox goad, and climbed into the cart.  Arkwan prodded the oxen and the cart began to move.  Arkwan was the slave of a new master.

A slave has no friends, makes no farewells.   Arkwan looked for Pataka as he left the village, but he saw no face he knew, except the man who had shown him the spring that morning.   This man walked beside the oxen, limping a little.  He said to Arkwan, "Tlossos bronze maker wishes you health and safety, friend, though I do not know your name.  Fare well."

"Be in health, friend Tlossos.   Arkwan slave of Nute peddler wishes you safety, and your heart's desire."

"As to that, the kohiyossa will be safe with me until you come again, Arkwan peddler," Tlossos said.   But with that he turned back to the village, and although Arkwan shouted more than a slave should, he did not turn again.

.    TOP    .

The land they entered was different from the pine-covered mountains of Arkwan's homeland.   There were rounded hills, and many great oaks.  There was much grass, but not lush mountain meadows; here there were wide valleys with deer and wild cattle.   Even the stones were different.  Arkwan had thought all parts of the green Earth were like his own mountains; this strange country was like a land of song.   You might meet a God walking along the track, or a hero from an ancient tale.

That night, Arkwan made the fire and tended the oxen and the dogs.   He had walked naked all day.

Nute said: "You will want a cloak for the night.   Here is an old one.   And here is a dagger.   Do you know how to fight?"

The "old" cloak that Nute tossed him was as fine as the one Queen Mea had worn, and even more richly embroidered.    Arkwan answered: "I killed a pair of men with a dagger, but I had my shield.   I trained with shield and spear.   But I am best of all with a bow."

"I don't have a spear, but I have many spear points.  No shield, though.   Let me see what you can do with these," Nute said, handing him a bow and a quiver.   "Can you hit that tree?"

"Toss a stone in the air," Arkwan said, "and I'll show you what I can do."

Arkwan's hands moved too quickly for Nute to see what he was doing, and for a moment he thought Arkwan had shot a single arrow and missed.   But then he saw that a nearby tree had a trio of arrows in it, in a tight cluster.   All shot before a tossed stone hit the ground.

"That must be useful in a battle," Nute said.

"Some," Arkwan said, shooting another trio of arrows into a tree behind him, without looking at it.  The fledging of the arrows touched.   "But for a battle I use a lot of arrows."

Nute said: "Tomorrow, we will travel south.  It is the only path for a cart.   There may be thieves.  In the lands to the south they make good cloth, and I will buy some with bronze if I can get a good price.   We can get more arrows there."

"We will go to a village?" Arkwan said, trying to understand.  "They will give you a feast, for you are a peddler.  And you will give bronze to the headman.   What is 'buy'?"

"Things are different in your mountain villages, Arkwan," Nute said.  "Here there will be no feast.   We may get a meal, if you can sing better than I can.   I will show a dagger, and the headwoman will throw some blankets on the ground.   They will not be the best blankets.  I will say, 'it is not enough.'   Then the headwoman will add more blankets until I say 'enough.'  Or she will not, and I will put my dagger back in my cart."

"That is what you did with me," Arkwan said.  "I did not understand it.  In our village we were proud when we could give much, in return for a peddler's gifts."

"Different lands, different customs," Nute said.

This was worse than watching the shields that the cart used as legs.   Arkwan held up the dagger Nute had given him to use.   "Would it take many blankets to buy this dagger?" he asked.

"That dagger," Nute said, "is very good.  Tlossos made it.  See the shape of the handle?  This close to the village of Kros though, it is only worth a score of ewes.   If we reach the sea before winter, I could sell it for twice as much."

Nute had used the speech of Arkwan's own village, but Arkwan had not understood a word of it.   He was still trying to understand buy, and Nute had hit him with too many words, too fast.   He felt sick.  Asking Nute for more words, was like asking to be beaten over the head.   But he had to understand.

"What is 'score'?" he asked.

"A score is four hands," Nute answered.

Arkwan had heard of four.   When he whipped Huwh a hand of strokes, Huwh would sometimes say, "That is only four.  You need to whip me one more."   Arkwan didn't see what good one more stroke would do.  When you were whipped a hand of strokes, it hurt.   And sometimes Huwh would say, "Stop, you have whipped Tanyata a stroke and a hand of strokes already."    Tanyata hadn't fussed about such things; she just wanted her bottom to hurt when she lost.   Arkwan looked at his hand.  That was a hand of fingers, of course.   And if you covered the thick finger, Huwh had told him, it was four.   He covered the thick finger.   He didn't understand.   He picked up a hand of little stones.   He looked at them.  He picked up a stone, just one stone, and put it with the others.  Then he put that stone back.   He thought hard.   This hand of stones is four.   No, that's not it.   This is not a hand of stones, it is four stones.  Pick up this stone and it is a hand of stones.   Pick up another stone.  What had Huwh said? "You have whipped Tanyata a stroke and a hand of strokes."   This is a stone and a hand of stones.  Put one down.   A hand of stones.  Four stones.  A trio of stones.  A pair of stones.  One stone.   Why did he have to be the slave of a peddler?

Arkwan cut a switch with the bronze dagger.  "Whip me," he said.

Nute laughed.   "Peddlars don't whip slaves when we buy them.   We whip them to sell, to show the customer."

Arkwan wasn't going to ask what a customer was.   He just wanted the sting to take away the pain of all this thinking.

But he had to understand.  Arkwan handed Nute a hand of stones.  "Show me score," he asked.   And he waited for another beating with words.

Nute made piles of stones, a hand of piles.  No, he made four piles.   Arkwan looked at Nute's piles and did not understand.   Arkwan thought hard.   A hand of strokes.  A hand of stones.  A hand of ewes.  Trika and Suka and Suka's lamb would be a trio of ewes.   Arkwan picked up a stone that looked a bit like Suka and found another for Trika and a little one for the lamb.  Of course she was grown now, if the nomads hadn't eaten her.   The stone for Trika had a little cleft - he remembered how Trika had liked it when he fucked her.  Then he picked up one stone for every ewe in the flock he had guarded last summer.   He looked at all his stones and at Nute's stones.   He remembered a word Huwh had tried to teach him.

"These are my father's sheep," he said, pointing to his stones, and to his penis, which he was using for Tukaba the ram.   "That is your score of ewes.   So your score of ewes is half."

"More like two-fifths," Nute said, glancing.   But when he saw Arkwan's face he said, "divide your sheep into piles, piles that are the same.   A hand of piles, and a score would be a pair of those piles."

Arkwan threw up.   He felt so dizzy he had to lie down.  He.  "I need a whipping," he begged.

But Nute said nothing, and Arkwan had to think again.   He felt very sick.

After a while he picked up the dagger.   "My father was named Eos," he said.  "When we trained for fighting, if I was not the best of all the village boys, I was whipped.   'This boy is not my son.' he would say, and he would give me a long hard whipping in front of all the children.   It made me cry, and I was ashamed.  I had to be best at running and at every kind of fighting; I had to win every race and win every fight, and he whipped me if I didn't.  He also gave me a dagger he got from a peddler.   He didn't have - he didn't buy - any bronze for his own.   The dagger he gave me had a handle just like this one.   I did not know that to buy it took half of everything he had."

Nute put his hand on Arkwan's shoulder.  "I think it is time for sleep."

That night, Arkwan was chased by his penis, which had Tukaba's horns.   A score of stone ewes blocked his path, bleating like the creaking of the cartwheels.  They circled round and round, and the birds looked down from above.

.    TOP    .

"Arkwan, wake up."   It was Nute, shaking him.  "Get up now.  You went back to sleep before."

"I'll get up."

"Arkwan, wake up.  You fell asleep again.  Before you go back to sleep, is there any way to get you up?"

"Kros used to kick me.   Before that I used to whip a girl in the mornings."

Arkwan was wakened by a stinging stroke across his side.   "You fell asleep again," Nute said.  "I don't have a girl handy.   Is one stroke enough or should I whip you more?"

"It might help," Arkwan said.   He folded the beautiful cloak Nute had given him, and lay on his belly.   Nute whipped him hard, a hand of strokes, on his back and legs but not his bottom, where the burn was.  Wagga, Nute's bitch, whimpered. There was no sweetness in this whipping, no feeling of pain being lifted.  It was too late to do any good.   If only he'd been whipped last night, he thought, he wouldn't have had such terrible dreams.

"Why do you want to be whipped?" Nute asked.

"You shoot words fast, peddler.  They hurt.   The whipping is like a stinging poultice for my wounds."

"I will shoot at someone else, then.   Tonight you will see me in battle."

"I'll put the switch in the cart.  But I do not wish to avoid your words.   They hurt, but only like a blow from a wooden spear in training."

Nute wanted to roll the cart, but it took some time for Arkwan to pull the arrows out of the trees he had shot them into.  He knew nothing of oxen or carts, so that took time too.   The day had started to get warm before the cart rolled.   Arkwan had no belt, so he put the dagger into the cart, where he could reach it quickly.  The bow and quiver he carried over his shoulder.

click to hear tune (.MP3) They rolled along.  The cartwheels creaked, the oxen plodded, on and on as the sun rose higher and they crossed wide meadows.  It was like a song.  Arkwan might not know about "score" or "four," but he had a good memory.   He could remember everything Nute had said.  "If we reach the sea before winter," Nute had said.   The sea.   Peddlers had come to Arkwan's village, and bards, and wandering priestesses, and they all told tales.   Arkwan believed them all, of course.   But there were things you could have in a song, and then there were the things in his own green world, and they weren't the same.  The sea was just something in a story.  But Nute was not like a story.   If Nute said they were walking to the sea, then they were.  Arkwan was walking to the sea.   In this green world, and not in a story, Arkwan was walking to the sea.

Nute did not pull out any food until they stopped to rest during the hottest part of the day.   "A peddler learns not to speak ill of another man's clothing," Nute said.  "But it may be somewhat awkward when you walk into the village.   Do you go naked so you can be whipped more easily?"

What did Nute want him to say?   And why couldn't he talk like other people?   Arkwan puzzled.   Finally he said, "I do not have a loincloth."

"I have many.  Don't you want one."

"A slave doesn't ask for things."

"The ones I have known, did nothing but ask, except when they were sleeping.   Different customs in different lands.   Anyway, here is a belt.   And your feet are bloody because you didn't want to ask for shoes, no doubt.   Here is a loincloth.   You may use my shoes, since I will be riding in the cart."

Arkwan took the belt, which had a baldric.  Prince Taslan's had not been so fine.  The loincloth too, was finer than any he had seen.   It was not something to wrap a slave's penis in.   He folded the cloth carefully, rolled the belt, and put them in the cart with the cloak Nute had given him.   He put on the shoes, and prodded the oxen.   As they walked along, he recited over and over again: "one stone, a pair of stones, a trio of stones, four stones, a hand of stones."

The track grew worse.   The shields the cart walked on sank into holes, and the oxen strained to pull them out.   Nute got out and walked, so Arkwan gave him back his shoes.  They hadn't stopped his feet from hurting, anyway.   At the worst holes he had to lift on the cart, while Nute prodded the oxen.   After a while Nute took off his belt, and showed Arkwan his loincloth.  It was so dusty the fine dark red color could not be seen.   Nute tossed loincloth and belt into the cart and walked along naked beside his slave.

Arkwan began his recitation again, and Nute recited too.  But when the reached  "A hand of stones," Nute didn't start over, but went on.    "One stone and a hand of stones.  A pair of stones and a hand of stones.  A trio of stones and a hand of stones.  Four stones and a hand of stones.   Ten stones."

Arkwan tried.  He could hear Nute's words in his memory, but he was nervous.  "One stone." he said.  "A pair of stones.  Four stones.  A stone and, and, a stone."

Arkwan reached into the cart for the switch and handed it to Nute.  "Just try again," Nute said.

"One stone and, and.  One stone.   I can't."

"Arkwan, what is your name?"  Nute asked.

"My name is, is, Ark, Ark, Ark", Arkwan stammered.

"Well I suppose you know best.   Here it comes."

Nute whipped hard, and the strokes across his back lifted the ache from Arkwan's shoulders and the prickling irritation from the heat, as well as untwisting his tongue.

"How many strokes was that?" Nute asked.

"Four strokes."

Nute reached down as they walked and handed Arkwan a hand of little stones.  No, it was a pair and a hand.   

"How many stones is that?"

"A pair and a hand."

"Why did you make me whip you?  How many is this?"

"Four"

"And this?"

"That, is ten stones."

"We may as well stop," Nute said.  "We will not make it to the village tonight, anyway.   And I have a strong desire to get into that lake.  I want to be in it before you can count to ten.   Bring the switch.   You count faster that way."

"We will be too far from the cart."  Arkwan said.  "I should stay to guard it."

Nute sighed.  "Perhaps there will be a better spot further along," he said.

.    TOP    .

"We have a score of arrows, a pair, and ten," Arkwan announced.   They had stopped for the night by a spring, and Arkwan, after washing Nute's loincloth and braiding himself a pair of grass sandals, was looking over their weapons.  "That is not many arrows if there is a fight.   I can make arrows, but I have seen no peelbark, and no greenarrow.   And no flint.  And we have no straightener.  Perhaps we can buy some shafts.   I can cut javelins for these bronze points."

"Bring the switch, Arkwan son of Eos.   Four strokes have made you a peddler; you can count, and you talk of buying and selling like a peddler born.   Perhaps a hand of strokes will turn me into an priest - or a bard."

Arkwan brought the switch.  "A whipping will feel good after a day in the cart," he said.   "Drop your loincloth.   You can bend over this log.  If you want to be a bard, try to sing."

"Hold, Arkwan.   It will take more than green wood to drive barding into my peddler bottom.   I don't suppose you know how to sing?"

"I am no bard."

"Sing, or get a whipping."

"A whipping then," Arkwan said.   "I don't mind."

"Never buy a slave.  Did not the bards come to your village?  Did you not sing the songs they brought?  Don't you remember any of them?"

Arkwan sang.

      He rode to the battle; he rode to the battle;
          he rode to the battle to reach his king's side.

Rhonan the horseman rode to the battle; rode in the night to reach his king's side.
     A woman was naked there by the water; willow in moonlight waiting her lover.
Will you not ride to the battle she asked him; to the king's heroes will you not ride?

         ride to the battle to reach your king's side!

Only a moment with you will I linger; only to drink of this pool of clear water.
      Only to kiss your sweet lips have I time for; only to suckle your breasts will I stay.
I must go soon to my King in his danger; standing beside him swordplay and slaughter,
     But for a moment I want to embrace you; only a moment and then ride away.

         ride to the battle ; ride to the battle ;
      ride to the battle to reach my king's side!

In an embrace I will pull out your penis; using my fingers and reaching inside.
     I'll make you be naked here by the water; oak in the moonlight your penis uncover.
Will you not push it inside me? she asked him; then on your stallion you naked can ride?

        ride to the battle to reach your king's side!

Off with my cloak and my belt and my clothing; for naked I'll go to my death or to slaughter;
     Away from your pool in the moonlight I'll take you; whipping my horse on so faster we ride.
No other warrior must get there before me; no time to couple here by the water,
    So naked on stallion I want to embrace you; and ride to the battle my penis inside.

      He rode to the battle; he rode to the battle;
         he rode to the battle his penis inside.

"That's good enough for a supper," Nute said.  "and you have a nice voice.  Are there any more verses?   I want to know what happened next."

"You mean me sing in a village? Like a bard?  I couldn't do that."

"We'll see.   Whippings seem to loosen your tongue, even if you do keep asking for them.   Perhaps I should try one, after all."

Nute cut many thin twigs, a score of twigs perhaps, and tied them together with a bit of cord, and told Arkwan to whip his back, legs, and bottom.   The twigs were as thin as a switch for a baby's bottom.   After many strokes he told Arkwan to fetch a skin of water, and to pour it over him.  Arkwan didn't think a whipping with such small twigs would hurt, but Nute said it would help him sleep.

Nute put on his belt and fresh loincloth, and found a comfortable spot under a tree.  "Get some food, Arkwan," he said.

As Arkwan skinned and cleaned a hare he had shot, Nute asked him, "Was it Nakien, who sang that song, about Rhonan riding with his penis inside?"

"Yes, Nakien bard came to our village, before midsummer," Arkwan answered.  "King Kahul gave him a fine cloak.  At midsummer feast, he ate meat with the King, more honored than the Prince.   My wife ate with the Prince; she won at archery."

"Arkwan, did people in your village ask Nakien to judge their disputes, or the King?   Or did they want your village priest to judge?  Or do they ask your, what do you call him in the mountains, your elder?"

"Many came to the feast, but they asked for Nakien's judgment.   Disputes that were old, which they had not wanted to bring to the priest, they wanted Nakien to judge.  He did not have time to judge them all."

"So it is, always.   Bards know the law, and men wish to hear the law, when their disputes are judged.  What are the three kinds of bard, Arkwan?"

Arkwan wished Nute would ask harder questions.  He was hoping to be whipped with the thin switches tied together.   But he knew the answer: "red, white, and black."

"Right.   And Nakien is a white bard.   He knows the law well; a white bard judges more than he sings.   Although Nakien, I think, spends even more time lying with village women."

"Some women were sorry to see him leave, but all the men were glad; with Nakien every night is midsummer."

"And your priest was glad to see his back as well, I think," Nute said.

"Old Grios said we were fools to bring disputes to a walking penis," Arkwan said.  "But only after Nakien had left.   We all knew Nakien could make Grios look the fool, if they had a fight with words."

"Do you know how a priest becomes a priest or a bard becomes a bard, Arkwan?"

Arkwan thought hard.   He had heard stories about famous bards, but he hadn't really thought about them.   He thought he knew the answer but, when he tried to say what it was, he didn't know.    He handed the bound twigs to Nute.   Nute ignored them.

"Are you going to do something with that rabbit?" Nute asked.  "I am hungry."

Arkwan set the hare to roast over the fire.

"Perhaps a bard learns from his father?" Arkwan guessed.

Nute sighed.   After a bit, Arkwan groaned.    He went down on his hands and knees.   The twigs felt good on his burned bottom, which had begun to itch.   And the light sting made his cramped muscles loosen - he would sleep well tonight.    But to uncramp his foolish tongue - for that the twigs didn't sting enough.

.    TOP    .

The next morning, Arkwan was wakened by a stinging blow across his thigh.  Nute had pulled back Arkwan's cloak, and was raising the switch, the thick switch and not the twigs, looking for a spot to hit.    Arkwan turned on his belly.   Nute hit him a pair of hard strokes across the back.   Then Arkwan brought the oxen in from their grazing, put their necks in the yoke, and the cart began to roll.   The sun was just touching the tops of the trees.

"I do not know of any white bard who learned from his father." Arkwan said, once they had gotten rolling.  Nute was walking beside him, in the cool morning.

"It is not important, Arkwan."

Arkwan continued, his brow deeply furrowed with thinking : "Nakien himself learned from a hand of teachers, or maybe four.   One was the law-singer herself.  And Nakien had a student with him, a boy named Fiya.  He and my son Huwh became friends.  So it must be that when a child wishes to become a bard, he serves first one bard and then another as a student.   All this I know well.  I don't know why I said a bard learns from his father.  It was like when I miss a target I should have hit easily."

"But now you have hit it.   What do the students do in the winter?" Nute asked.

"The bard must stay in one village for the winter, so the student must stay with him."

"Anything else?" Nute asked.

"No.   Wait.   Nakien said he had spent the winter with Sugga the law-singer."

"Good.   Sugga the law singer was born blind, and now she is deaf as well, but her students still worship her.   All her former students will gather in her village this winter, and other white bards too; a gathering of teachers of the law.   It is in winter that students learn the law; singing the law songs, three score or more students together.   There will be debates; new laws will be agreed, and cast into song.   That is, if Sugga lives to the start of winter.   And they will discuss the priests.   They will say how the priests judge according to the will of the Gods, tossing a stick in the air to see how it lands.   People like to be judged according to the law, but the priests are many and the bards few, and people fear to go against the Gods.   So what you saw in your village was not just a dispute between wandering bard Nakien and village priest Grios; bards and priests struggle in many lands.  It is like a battle between two great kingdoms."

"And what of the peddlers," Arkwan asked.

"If the law is on my side, Nute likes the law; if not, then certainly a tossed stick shows the will of the Gods," Nute answered. "In your case, I seem to recall someone shouting 'he must die in the pit.'   And it wasn't a bard."

"But I loved Grios like a father," Arkwan said.  "He would dry my tears, and we would sacrifice together to the Sky-Father, after I was beaten.  I wanted to be a priest, but a priest needs to watch the skies.  I could never learn that.  My son Huwh could; I wanted him to become a priest, but Nakien said he could even be a bard.   Grios was not fighting a war against bards, although he wanted Huwh to be a priest."

A short time later, Nute said. "I hate to bring this up again, but," and then he shouted, "Put on your fucking loincloth!"    Then in his normal voice he continued, "Or I'll whip you till the switch wears out.   Or perhaps in your case I should just threaten not to whip you."

Arkwan stopped the oxen.   Nute's words were all crossed against each other, the way Nute always talked.    He couldn't tell if Nute was angry or laughing.  But anyway, he put on his belt and his loincloth, and tied the bronze dagger Nute had given him to the belt, in its beaded leather sheath.   He slung the quiver of arrows off his hip, then put on the fur-trimmed embroidered cloak, and then hung the bow from the copper hook on the baldric.    Then, dressed and weaponed more richly than King Kahul at a feast, the slave returned to his job of prodding a pair of oxen along a hot, dusty track.

.    TOP    .

It was not far.   They passed pastures with flocks of fine sheep, and saw the village on a hilltop.  No village could be as beautiful as his own, but this one was very fine, Arkwan thought.   Many houses had a room on top of a room, and all were painted with designs of brown, red, and white.   The thatch glistened in the sun.  Rams' horns decorated the ends of the ridgepoles.  Vines grew on some of the houses, with unripe clusters of little green berries.   Even the pottery beehives were painted in many colors.  The village dogs stirred themselves enough to sniff under Wagga's tail.  Women in bright tunics were spinning, and men weaving, in the shade of trees that grew among the houses. A grey-haired woman came out to greet them; she had the same tongue as the bronze makers.     "I welcome you, Wvaksa.   I welcome you, Nute peddler.   Stay in safety.  Sit and rest from your journey."

"Be in safety, headwoman Nohas, and health," Nute answered.   "This, is Arkwan the son of Eos."

"Be well, Wvaksa Arkwan Eos.  Stay in safety."

"Be well, Mother Nohas headwoman, and may your children be."

A young woman, about Arkwan's age, gave them each a jar.   The drink in the jar was red, and it was heady as mead or beer.   Arkwan thought it was very good.

"Would you like a smoke to rest you after your journey, Wvaksa?" the young woman asked him..

"The kindness of the welcome makes the journey short." Arkwan said.  It was something Queen Mea had said to his father.  Arkwan had no idea what a smoke was.

The young woman led him to a small tent.   "The Wvaksa and I will take a smoke, brother Tektu," she said to a boy, who was sitting by a fire in front of the tent.   The woman lifted off Arkwan's cloak and handed it the boy, and then took off her tunic.  Arkwan undid his belt and passed belt, dagger, and cloth to the boy.   It seemed a smoke was a kind of bath.  When both of them were naked, he followed her into the little tent.  The boy Tektu, using forked sticks, placed glowing hot stones in a pile in the center of the tent, and then closed the tent door, so the tent was dark except for the glow of the hot stones.   The young woman threw some sort of grain onto the stones, and then sprinkled them with water.   Clouds of steam with a pungent, nose-twisting smell rose from the stones.  The smoke and steam clouded Arkwan's eyes.   The intense heat made him sweat heavily.   He was struck across the shoulders, and tried to defend himself, but then he realized that the blows were just flicks with a leafy branch.  The  woman was flicking him all over.

Arkwan began to see a little.  There was another branch, so he picked it up and began to flick the woman.  She gave sighs of pleasure.  Then she shifted position, kneeling facing the tent wall, to let him strike her back and bottom, and he whipped as hard as he could, although a whipping with such leafy branches could not hurt.  He was finding it a little hard to think clearly.  The smell of her sweating body made him want to grab her, to kiss her breasts, and to lick sweat from her cunt.  His penis began to rise.  He turned away, and knelt facing the tent wall, so that she could whip his back, and also to hide his rising penis.   She flicked his bottom, but then reached between him and the tent wall and whipped downward on his penis, and then whipped upward, catching his penis from below.   He turned and tried to strike her cunt.  They dueled on their knees, tottering over the glowing stones.   Then he dropped his branch and grasped her, burying his face between her breasts and licking the sweat.  His eyes stinging with sweat, he felt for a teat with his mouth, and began to suck.  There was no milk, but Arkwan suckled hard.    He felt again in memory the chewing and biting on his paps, as he had tried to feed the baby, day after day on that dreadful journey through the snow.   Then she pulled backwards, pulling him on top of her.  She took his penis in her hand, and guided it between her knees, and she began to move her legs back and forth, squeezing and pinching his penis between them.

Arkwan backed up, around the curve of the tent, to bring his mouth to her cunt.   For a moment, the frenzy of desire lifted.  He tried to think, but found it hard.  Nute.  That was it, he needed to think about Nute.   Nute wanted.  What did Nute want?  Arkwan wanted to press his lips against these lips.   He pushed his tongue into her passage, and licked the salt.   He gnawed and chewed and licked deep, straining his tongue.  The desire to push his penis in, deeper into this passage, pushed him forward, and his face slid up her belly.   But then she pulled back, and flipped over, with her belly to the ground.   Arkwan tried to turn her over again, but in the tight space of the tent, he couldn't lift her.   He buried his face into her bottom, and bit her.  She squirmed and wiggled.  He bit her bottom again, and licked blood.

It seemed she had chosen not to let his seed enter her belly.    Arkwan backed up, around the curve of the tent.  But then she turned over again, and slid forward under him, and grabbed his penis, and pulled on it roughly, sinking her nails into the tender skin behind his balls.   Ignoring the pain, he embraced her and kissed her.  She guided his penis into the passage, and he slid slowly in and out.   He gasped for breath; the pleasure had been so strong he had forgotten to breathe.   The woman shrieked as women do at midsummer, when taken by the Frenzy, by the Strong Lust that some call a Goddess.   Arkwan had felt Her at midsummer, he knew Her touch.   But this was a different hand that he felt  -  Pleasure, not Desire.   But the touch of Lady Pleasure was too strong to bear - Arkwan longed for the peak, not because it could be more pleasure than this, but because it would be the end.   He began to thrust more quickly and violently, and the peak came; seed shooting out more like milk from an ewe's teat than seed from a man's penis. He lay gasping for breath in the smoky steaming air.

Arkwan wanted to stay where he was, with his head between the woman's breasts, enjoying the feeling of contentment and tiredness.  But the woman got up from under him, so he got up on his knees as well. She was looking at his face. Arkwan could see nothing but her eyes.  "I, that is I want, I ... , I, um, thank you," he said.

"You do not need to thank me, Wvaksa," the woman said.  "When a fine Wvaksa comes to a village, many wish to lie with him.   And you are young, and beautiful, like the Prince always is in the old tales.  You will have your choice.  But I do not choose to watch you with some woman more beautiful than I.  You will not see me again."

"I wish to couple with you again," Arkwan said.  "And only with you.   I will couple with no other woman of this village, even if I never see you again.   I swear it.  But I do not know your name."

"You may call me Kunera.   You should be able to remember that."

"Be well, Kunera."

"Be well, son of penis, I mean son of Eos," she said.

When they came out of the tent, Kunera went down on her hands and knees, and Tektu poured water over her.  Arkwan knelt also.   Tektu used a leafy branch, not to flick or whip them, but scrubbing it back and forth as he poured the water.   Arkwan sat on a stone, so Tektu could wash his front side.  Tektu stared at Arkwan's penis.  Kunera put on a baldric of gold and amber beads that passed over her shoulder, and between her breasts.  It had strands of beads hanging down in front of her cunt.  Then she put on a short tunic, which covered the golden beads, but was of a cloth like a net, so that glints of gold, and other things, could be seen through it.  The strands of the net were a shimmering lustrous cloth, iridescent like a dragonfly's wing.  Arkwan put on his belt and loincloth.  Then Kunera led him to a spot under a tree, and they lay down.  Kunera cuddled against him.   Wagga came over and licked his hand, and found a shady patch of dirt.  Tektu brought a jug, and then left.

Arkwan was not sleepy.   The sun was still in the morning sky, so it was early for a sleep at midday.   It was very pleasant lying under the tree, watching the women spin.  He watched a girl pull water from a hole in the ground.   What a strange place for a spring to be.   Arkwan was hungry, but he didn't want to ask for food, and he felt too contented to walk over to Nute's cart.  So he sat and watched.  Two men and a boy dyed skeins of wool; their hands and arms blue.   Arkwan caught a whiff of the stench.  Some girls ground grain.  Arkwan sipped from the jug, which held more of the heady red drink.   He wanted water instead, but not enough to fetch it from the strange spring in a hole in the ground.

Arkwan was contented.   Then, as the morning wore on, he became thoughtful, and at last a cold misery settled in his belly.   It had been a mistake to couple with Kunera.   He was no fine merchant, no "Wvaksa."    He was a slave.   Kunera must be the daughter of the headwoman, they were so alike.  Kunera dozed inside his arm, with her head on his chest, and one leg thrown over one of his.  Her hand was inside his loincloth, her fingers around his balls.  His penis stiffened against the cloth.  Her short tunic barely covered her bottom when she was standing - now, lying down, it covered nothing.    Arkwan thought that all the spinning women and all the weaving men were chatting about his teeth marks on her bottom.   Around midday, Tektu brought a basket with cheese, hard bread, figs, mushrooms, and a bit of honeycomb, and also a jug which, as Arkwan was glad to find, held water this time.   Kunera put a fig in his mouth, but Arkwan thought he had played the Wvaksa long enough, so he tried to feed her, instead.  Kunera tried to keep her mouth closed, but laughed, and he slipped a bit of cheese in.   Then he got honey all over her face, trying to feed her the honeycomb.   He licked it off, then told her to lie down, poured a little water, and licked again.   The glints of gold through her tunic of netting kept catching his eye, the glimpses of breasts held his gaze.  Her teats were bruised from his biting and suckling.  She watched him looking at her, and she glanced at his crotch.   The thin fabric of the elegant narrow loincloth was pushed out so far it looked like a penis made of embroidery.

Kunera laughed, and tugged at Arkwan's hand, trying to get him to stand up and follow her.  But instead he pulled her toward him, back to where she had been, between his chest and his arm.   She pulled away, and clapped her hands together with his penis between them, very hard.  "I wish to couple with you again, Kunera," he said, "but not now.  But by the Goddess of Lust, I will have no other woman of this village but Kunera."   Kunera sat down, not quite touching him, facing the other direction.

The spinning woman moved with their spindles out of the sun, then fell asleep.   The men left their looms, and found places to sleep under the trees.   Soon, everything was still.   After a while, Arkwan said, "No other but Kunera."   Kunera hid her mouth with her hand, but said nothing.  Hawks circled above the pasture, just as they had above the high pasture of his home.

.    TOP    .

A man woke up, and then another, and soon the village was alive again, and busy.   Arkwan waited.  Kunera wouldn't look at him.

Headwoman Nohas came.   "We have prepared a meal, Wvaksa," she said.   She led him to where a sheep was roasting, and many villagers were gathered, waiting for the feast.   Red-hot stones had been put into the sheep's belly.   A pit, lined with the hide of a cow, was filled with water, barley, carrots, onions, mushrooms, lentils and the meat of small animals, and the stew had been heated with more hot stones.  Bread was cooked on the stones of the fire.

Nute was there, sitting on a log.   "Come with me, Danha," Nohas said to Kunera.   Arkwan sat on the ground, near some men with blue-dyed arms.   "Be well, dyer," Arkwan said to one of them: "I watched your boiling.  Your blue is very strong and dark."  "Be well, peddler," the dyer answered.  "I am Gur dyer.  See that you pay as well as you praise."  But Gur was obviously pleased.  His apprentice boy, who was blue all over, and stinking of piss, stood up to give Arkwan his seat on the log.  Arkwan asked his name.

"Hyaramon apprentice dyer."

"I might have guessed that.   You're blue."

"And stinking.   Most men are smarter than to sit with dyers."

Arkwan hadn't meant to take his seat, but at that he didn't have much choice.   He sat down between the two blue-handed men, and tried not to wrinkle his nose.   He'd have to remember not to piss on a wall in this village--a village of weavers must have collection pots.  Young Hyaramon was to excited by the feast to sit still, and ran to get them food, getting in the way of the women who were passing it out: bread and figs, and cheese, and more jugs of the red drink.

Nohas returned, with Kunera, who was now wearing a long tunic of yellow wool. From the way she walked, Arkwan thought Kunera had been whipped.  She had certainly cried, for her eyes were red.   Nohas sat with Nute, but Kunera came over to sit with Arkwan.  Gur gave up his seat on the log, and sat on the ground, to give Kunera a place to sit.   She sat tenderly.

"Be well, Kunera," Arkwan said.    The dyers looked startled.   Arkwan continued: "Why did your mother call you Danha?   Nohas is your mother, isn't she?"

"I am Danha daughter of Nohas," Kunera said.   "I thought you could remember the other word.    Have you truly never heard the word before, Wvaksa?"

"I do not know your speech well," Arkwan answered.  "I had not heard the word.  But in your speech, 'kune ra' would mean 'woman's thing.'    Oh."

Danha and the dyers burst into laughter.   "I shall call you Wvaksa Penis," Danha said, "since you call me Kunera.  And I shall never forget how you promised to have no woman but kunera."  Danha looked solemn.   But then her mouth began to twitch.   And then she laughed out loud.

Gur shouted: "No woman, but KUNERA!   That is a oath even a peddler can keep!"

The roasted ram was lifted from the fire, and placed on a pair of logs.   Nohas expertly cut out a pair of ribs, and then handed the flint knife to Tektu, who presented it to Arkwan.

When they find out I am a slave, Arkwan thought, it will be even worse that I took the cut of honor, than that I fucked the headwoman's daughter.   But how can I refuse, unless I shout "I am a slave."   Does Nohas already know I am a slave?   Is that why she whipped Kun - I mean Danha?

Arkwan did not take a choice cut, but cut a modest piece from the haunch, and returned to his place.   With his dagger, he cut slices  from his piece and gave some to Gur, and some to Danha, and even a bit for the blue apprentice boy.   Nute cut next, and then the cooks divided the meat and passed it around in baskets.    Tektu brought an honor cup, and Nohas filled it with the red drink, and Tektu presented it to Arkwan.

"Be in health, Arkwan son of Eos," Tektu said, in a loud voice, after the commotion of the mutton-passing had died down.

"Health to all," Arkwan answered, and drank it all as quickly as he could.   When he put the cup down, the villagers gave a shout of honor.    The blue apprentice boy sprawled on the ground at his feet, and looked up with adulation at this wandering wvaksa, this honor-cup drinker, who came from the wide world to his little village and chose to sit with stinking dyers.

Nohas stood, as headwoman: "What news, peddler?" she said to Nute.  "What lands and wonders have you seen, since your last visit to our village - the village of best cloth?"

Nute stood near the fire.   "Peace and health to all the weavers.  Your hospitality honors us.   I am Nute.    I have been at the village of Kros bronze-maker.  Here are bronze weapons that I give you."   Nute held up a bronze spear point.

Nohas said, "I give gifts to our guests."

A grizzled man, no doubt the village arrow master, came to recieve Nute's gifts, so Arkwan went over to Nohas, to receive hers.  She had a pile of cloths, and she handed him one.   It would be a good blanket for a cold night, but nothing a woman would wear at a feast.  

"This color is very strong saffron, and the cloth thick," he said loudly, trying to be as polite as he could.   Nohas handed him another.   

"This weave is good for a blanket," he said, "warm, and with a tartan pattern in the weaving."   

The next piece of cloth was outstanding.   "A queen would wear this," Arkwan said, and reverently carried it to the cart.   Of the other blankets he made a pile on the ground.

For a pair of spearpoints and a hand of axes, they were given enough cloth to fill the cart, and some of it was very good indeed.   There was also some food, including a lot of dried smoked mutton, two jars of honey, and some arrows, two score at least, with flint points.   Neither Nohas nor Nute said "It is not enough." so Arkwan carried the cloth to the cart.   Gur helped.

"For a peddler, you do know something about wool," Gur said.   "But I could teach you a thing or two about dye.  It's not saffron just because it's yellow, you know.   Join us tomorrow and I'll show you something not many peddlers know."

Nute was declaiming again.   "We were at the village of Kros, and we danced at midsummer," he said.   The crowd became quiet.   "Things happened there, wonders, that will long be told.   They have Gods there, Gods that dance on human feet.   I have seen the Gods at that dance, seen the faces of the Gods.   But this year no God came to the heads that the priests worship; those faces remained of wood.   But a God did come to the dance.    Many saw the face of the God, but not in a wooden face.    A man danced, but then walked into the fire, where he must surely die.   But out of the fire came a God.   All fell before him, for his face was as a God, terrible.   All woman submitted to him, and he entered them all, his body burning them like fire.   After him, out of the fire, naked men came, their bodies of soot and ashes, their penises huge and long.   These men smashed what they would, tore clothing, raped women, beat men."

Nute stopped, and sat down, as if he was finished.   He ate some stew, mopping it up with a corner of bread, and drank, as if he had not noticed the sensation he had caused, as if he did not feel the eyes on him.   The villagers began to whisper to each other.   The murmuring grew louder, and Nohas had to ask him to say more.  He stood up again, and spoke loudly: "When the God grew tired of the dance, he went away, leaving the man whose body he had used, as if dead.   But the man was not dead, he lived.   He is here.  He has the mark of the God on him.   There he is!"   And Nute pointed at Arkwan.

Arkwan stood up.   He did not know what Nute wanted him to do.   Danha looked disgusted.

"I danced at midsummer, at the village of Kros bronze maker," Arkwan said.   "I coupled with a woman.  It was midsummer, and we were naked.   I coupled with other women after that, I think, but I don't remember.  It was Frenzy.   I did not see any Gods."

"Show us the mark of the God, peddler, if you really have one." a woman said. "Take your clothes off."

"I was burned at the fires," Arkwan said.  "The burn is in the shape of a hand.   I do not say it is the hand of a God.   And I will not go naked here."

"You are right to refuse," Gur said.  "But I do not yet see your game, peddler."   Gur's gruff friendlyness was replaced by suspicion, and Danha looked at him as if he made her sick.    And Nute was angry at him as well - only Hyaramon still seemed to be his friend.

Arkwan sat on the ground next to the blue apprentice and took a drink from his jug.  Someone, not a bard obviously, began to sing, and the village stopped staring at Arkwan.   "Can we slip away?" he whispered to Danha, "I have had enough of this feast."   He only hoped for a chance to talk to her, to explain.   Danha led him behind a house, but a crowd of children followed them, led by Tektu, Danha's little brother.  "We might as well go back," Danha said. "Fucking here would be like fucking at the feast, with your friend Nute pointing out the mark of the God on your bottom as you entered me."

.    TOP    .

Nohas showed Nute and Arkwan a place to sleep in her house.   "You honor us, headwoman," Arkwan said, although he would rather have been outdoors on the ground, without so many fleas.  When they were alone, Nute said: "Once we are out of the village, I will give you a whipping I don't think you will like."

"What did you want me to do, Nute, when you told the villagers I had been a God?" Arkwan asked.  But Nute did not answer.

Arkwan felt the misery settle on him, as bad as waiting for a whipping from his father.   Danha came over, and began to undress.  Once Arkwan saw her bottom, he could tell it had been no more than warmed; nothing to make a fuss over.   Two little girls peeked around a curtain, giggling.   Nute looked the other way.   Danha used her tongue and her fingers, but could not get Arkwan's penis to stiffen.  "You do not deserve your name," she said, "Wvaksa No-penis is who you are."   With a sigh, she snuggled into her place inside his arm, idly fingering his soft penis until she slept.   Arkwan did not fall asleep so easily.

When he woke, his penis was tight and hard.  Danha had her mouth around it, and was using her tongue.  "That's nice," he said.  Then he fell asleep again.

Arkwan woke from a dream of Sujasa being raped, by a nomad with a huge penis, except that he was that nomad.  When he woke his seed had spilled down his penis, and Danha had some on her mouth.   "You're awake," she said.   Arkwan's head felt as if Kros was pounding on it with a hammer.

Nohas came out from behind a curtain.  "The sun shines on on your visit, guests," she said.

"Your hospitality honors us, hostess," Nute answered, "but today we shall depart."

"You shall have gifts for your journey."    Nohas noticed the white drizzle on Danha's chin.    She said: "Come with me, Danha, we have something to finish."

Nute and Arkwan went to the cart.  Someone had yoked the oxen, so Arkwan got them started, and the cart rolled out of the village.  Many villagers silently watched.

"You did well buying the cloth, Arkwan.  Craftsmen like to sell to a buyer who knows good work.  I doubt if Nohas intended to offer so much."

But Arkwan did not answer.   He hated being praised for one thing, while waiting to be whipped for something else.  He was going to be whipped and he didn't know what he had done wrong; did Nute want him to call himself a god?    His belly felt sick as well as his head.   He hardly had strength to walk.   After a while, Nute stopped the cart under a tree, and got out the switch.   Arkwan took off his clothes and put them in the cart, carefully folded.   He thought about escaping.   For just a moment, he thought of sending an arrow through Nute's throat, and becoming both a free man and the owner of a cart and a treasure in bronze and cloth.   But it was only for a moment.   He lay across a log, not a murderer but just a slave about to get a long whipping.   Nute began.   He stood at Arkwan's feet.   In a little while, Arkwan's bottom was biting, burning pain.  Nute couldn't hit any other part of him - his own fault for bending across a log. He would lay flat on the ground, next time, so the strokes would be distributed all over.   Arkwan's father had whipped hard and long, but always for a reason, and there had been a kind of comfort - a feeling of safety - in it.  Arkwan's whippings from his father had lasted so long only because he had made them last so long; he had felt such a rage, that he cursed and scratched and bit his father; only when the rage was whipped out of him, was Arkwan able to ask his father for forgiveness..   But Arkwan didn't know how to ask Nute for forgiveness, because he didn't see that he'd done anything wrong.

Nute whipped for a long time, until the switch began to fall apart.   Nute tossed the switch into the trees, as far as he could throw it.  Arkwan looked up from the ground.   Tektu was watching them, moving his hand slowly back and forth on his hard penis.   

"The sun shines on your journey, peddlers," Tektu said.

"Health, Tektu, and your heart's desire." Arkwan answered.

"Are you being whipped to gain endurance, Wvaksa?" Tektu asked.   "You bear it like a true warrior.   I want to train as a real warrior and not a weaver boy.  I can endure it.   I can endure a whipping to be a warrior.  What other training do you do?"

"I am no Wvaksa, and no peddler, and no warrior.  I am being whipped because I am a slave."

"If you are a slave, you should not have drained the cup of honor.   The more so as you have no head for wine.   I'm sure your song was funny, but none of us knew your tongue.  And your dance was worse; we couldn't tell if you were trying to show a man fucking, or a man riding a horse."

"The cup was an honor I would willingly have done without.   But how do you come to be here, Tektu?"

"In the cart," Tektu answered, pointing under the blankets.   "Danha planned to come, but Mother stopped her, so I came instead.   You should have told Danha you were a slave.   She means to come after you, I think, even if she must walk alone, following your tracks."

Nute said: "Nohas will be furious about this."

"She should be," Arkwan said.  "Does Danha know how to shoot, Tektu?   Will she carry a bow?   Will she bring dogs?  What if night falls and the wolves come?  Nute, I think we must return toward the village, and look for Danha.   You can finish whipping me later."

"I was finished." Nute said.  "I don't know why I bother, anyway."

Arkwan got up from the log.   "Well I hope someone will whip Danha, and whip her well, if she has been wandering about alone," he said.   "And whip this boy, too, for not stopping her."

"A warrior is not afraid of pain," Tektu said.  "You may whip me as much as you like.  I will bear it as well as you did, Wvak - I mean, slave.   But it may not be safe for Nute to return to the village."

"Not safe?" Nute said.  "I have been coming as a peddler to that village since your grandfather's time.   And no one harms a peddler."

"Taucon, the priest, talked against you at the feast.  He says your story is a peddler's lie, about the Young God coming to the dance of the bronze makers.  Some believe you, some follow the priest."

"My story was not a lie," Nute said, "and many will tell of that dance."

Arkwan turned the oxen, and they began to roll back toward the village.

"You are not a man, slave," Tektu said, "yet you fucked my sister.   That is worse than drinking the cup of honor.   She must not have seen your boy's penis in the smoke tent.   I hate you for that."

"I fucked your sister without telling her I was a slave," Arkwan answered.  "Hate me for that if you want.   But I am a man.  My people do not get tattoos on the penis.  I got these the night I became a man."   Arkwan pointed to the knotted snakes on his chest.  "And as for the cup of honor, being made a slave has not changed my blood.  Annuas my grandsire has a cup in his hands, and we heaped a mound over him.  My grandmother was a royal princess.   I was entitled to the cup and the meat, if not to your sister."

"All the same, I don't think my sister is going to want your boy's bare penis sliding into her kunera," Tektu said.  "It doesn't seem right.  And why do you walk naked, if you are not a boy?"

"Watch the oxen; I will get my belt and loincloth. I only put them aside to be whipped."

Arkwan reached into the jolting cart for his clothes.  Tektu cried out, "look, someone ahead."   The figure was alone.

Arkwan ran.   He ran as hard as he had ever run, to win a race and escape his father's whipping.  It was Danha, and she carried no weapons, had no dogs.   "Kunera!" he shouted.   Then he embraced her, and kissed her.   "You should be whipped, Kunera.  It is not safe to wander the roads, without any weapons."

"You shall whip me as you wish, Penis.  But see what I have already borne, for defying my mother, and saying I would follow you."  Danha proudly lifted her tunic, to show a bottom and legs bruised and bloody from a terrible beating.

"It is I who did this to you," Arkwan said.  "I let you think I was a peddler, but I am not.  I am a slave."

"You are not a slave, Waksa Penis," Danha insisted.

"I am a slave.  See, I have been beaten today as well.  Beaten as a slave."

Danha said nothing.

"Nute will see that you get back safely to your village, I think," Arkwan said.   He turned and walked back to the cart.  Danha followed.

Arkwan was crying when they got back to the cart.   "I have told her I am a slave," he said.  He asked Nute: "Shall we return to the village?  It will not be safe for them to go alone.   They have no weapons."

"If the villagers are angry, it will be better if I do not show my face," Nute answered.   "If we go on, we are sure to meet some peddler or bard who goes in that direction, and can take them."

Tektu asked his sister: "Are we going home?" but Danha didn't answer.   "A warrior is not afraid of pain," he said, rubbing his bottom.   "But I am definitely afraid of Mother."

.    TOP    .

After midday, they met a peddler who was moving a flock of fat sheep along the track, with his wife and daughters.  But they were not headed for Danha's village.

Near dusk, the track descended into a valley, and came to the edge of a river; there was a chill breeze, a reminder that summer would not last link to duwong.mp3forever.   A boat was moored midstream, and men and women were sitting around a large fire on the river bank.   Many wore good cloaks, and Arkwan supposed they were the peddlers; others had tattered cloaks, or none - slaves, or the boat's crew.  There was a smell of roast onions, and fish, and someone was singing, and playing a lyre.  The boat was the first one Arkwan had ever seen, but he knew every part and piece of her.  His son Huwh could remember every word of every song he heard, and they had spent many summer days singing together every song that had anything to do with boats.

The singing stopped.   The bard had seen them, alerted by the barking dogs, and when he saw who it was his song died on his lips.   He shouted to the travelers: "Nute! You villain.  Has no one stuck a dagger in you yet?   Have some beer."   Arkwan knew the voice - the whole world knew it - it was Nakien.  "Tektu!   Have you become a peddler? I thought you wanted to be a warrior.   And your sister, your sister, um, . . ."

"Danha,"  Tektu supplied.

"Danha.   Of course.  I remember you very well.   Very well.   But who is this?   Your husband, it must be, I can always tell.  And you've been having a fight.  You won't look at each other.   Take it from an old bachelor, let her have her own way.  But I know you, you're. . ."    Nakien stopped talking, and dropped his eyes.

"Be well, Nakien.   Yes, I am Arkwan son of Eos.  I am now slave to Nute peddler."

"My heart is sad for your loss, Arkwan.   But I have news: King Taslan has given tribute to the High King."

"The High King's warriors can defeat the nomads.   But I am sad for Taslan."

Nute said, "I sent him your message, Arkwan.    But if he wants to buy you, he will seek you with the bronze makers.   We can send another message."

Nakien said : "King Taslan will need warriors, and I know he will remember your skill, Arkwan."   To Nute, he asked:  "Why did you buy him?  You never buy slaves except to sell again.   There are always boys like Tektu ready to leave their villages and go with you on the road."

"I bought him because a priest was about to kill him, and because the God chose him."  And then Nute told Nakien the story of the midsummer dance.   The sailors stopped their carousing to listen.

"I can fuck a woman at midsummer without any help from a God," Arkwan protested.

"I whipped him for that," Nute said to Nakien, "but you can see what good it did.  Do you have any more of that medicine?   My shoulder feels like the High King's warriors are all sticking their daggers into it."

"The medicine makes you crazy, Nute.  I will make you a sling.  If you can hold off whipping Arkwan for a few days, the pain will grow less."

Nute said, "I will take the medicine.  At least I will be able to sleep."   Nakien took dried herbs from his pack, and Nakien's student, who was named Fiya, fetched water in a cooking skin and dropped in the herbs, and added red-hot stones from the fire.   He put in Nute's loincloth, and his own.   Fiya had a line of fresh tattoo on his penis.  While they waited for the medicine to cook, Nakien massaged Nute's shoulder.

Nakien said, "This story of the Young God will spread, Nute. The priests will not like it."

"I have been spreading it," Nute said, "Taucon priest of the weavers wishes to kill me already."

"Why are the priests angry?" Arkwan asked.   "They honor the God we do not name, as well as other Gods."

"In your village, Arkwan," Nakien said, "before we danced we had milk mead and honey mead.  We felt the strong desire, the Frenzy, but we did not see a God.   But in the village of the bronze makers, the priestesses provide Hema at midsummer instead of mead: Hema is like milk mead, but with a bitter taste.   It is made from seeds of hemp, the seed of a strong man, the milk of a good mare, the juice of the red poppy, and other things.   Then the priests make prayers and sacrifices, asking the Gods to come, and many times a God does come."

"So why were the priests so angry at me?" Arkwan asked again.

"Because the God used the body of a man, and not one of the wooden Gods of the priests.  Because the God did what He wanted to do and not what the priests had prayed for Him to do.  And most of all because no one will make gifts to priests, if the Gods ignore their prayers and their sacrifices, and walk instead among men.  Tell me this, Arkwan, who decided when the midsummer dance would be, in your village?"

"Grios the priest of course," Arkwan answered.  "He watched the stars for us.  He put little stones in a gold cup, and said: 'take out one stone for each sunrise, and the last stone will be for midsummer day.'  Only he had such skill in our village."

"I have the skill, Arkwan, and I showed your son Huwh how to do it; it's not hard. Grios even got it wrong, and your village danced the night before midsummer.   They danced one night before every other village on the green Earth, and I'm sure Huwh didn't make that big a mistake.  When a child can watch the stars better than a priest, who will honor the priest?"

Nakien lifted one of the loincloths from the boiling water with a stick, and dropped it on Nute's shoulder.  Nute screamed and pulled the cloth off.  Nakien put it back in the boiling water, and put the other cloth on Nute's shoulder.  Nute screamed again.   It took a lot of work by both Fiya and Nakien, but the boiling cloths got dropped on the pedler's skin, until they raised blisters.   Arkwan looked away, but Tektu stared, and his hand slipped down to his penis.   Finally Nakien declared the treatment complete.

"Your son Huwh, was he killed?" Fiya asked Arkwan.

"I do not know, Fiya.  The nomads led off the boys and young men as slaves.  Before the battle, when we saw how many nomads there were, we promised each other that if we were captured we would endure the beatings and the rapes, and try to stay alive, hoping for rescue.   But Tanyata was raped and killed, her screams were horrible.  My wife Sujasa also.  Huwh may not have wanted to stay alive, after that."

Fiya burst into tears, and Arkwan embraced him.   "I should be happy that he might be still alive," Fiya sobbed, "but I'm not.    This is worse than thinking he was dead."

Danha put her arms around them both.

.    TOP    .

The last glimmer of twilight was still in the sky, and the tormenting bugs swarmed in clouds.    Nakien and a red bard were still singing.  Nute had fallen asleep.   Arkwan lay beside him, and tried to think about Nakien's words.  Nakien didn't like priests; that much was clear.

Danha came over, removed her cloak and tunic, and slipped naked under Arkwan's cloak, spreading her cloak on top of his.  She snuggled against his sore bottom, and reached over awkwardly for his penis, pinching it hard.   At first he thought she was punishing him, and he submitted.   His penis remained soft, despite her hard pinching.   She climbed over him, and rubbed his face with her breasts; that stiffened his penis.   She tried to get her mouth around his penis, but he clasped his knees.  She licked his ears, fondled his paps.   He tried to ignore her, but his penis was tight and hard.   Finally he shoved her on her back, and roughly entered her; just a few hard, banging thrusts.   She stifled screams as his powerful thrusts scraped her bruised bottom along the rocky ground.   The end was not a pleasure, just an end.  And it was surely no pleasure to her.

"I have done you harm, Danha, by not saying I was a slave from the start," Arkwan said.

Danha said nothing, only looked into Arkwan's eyes.   He turned away, and she snuggled into him, his penis in her hand, and fell asleep.   Her sleeping face had a look of bliss, of secret joy.  Arkwan wept.  He put his hand around hers, around her hand that was around his penis, and he thought of home; of sheep grazing in the high summer pasture, and Niri and Lumpkha running out to bring them into the fold.

Arkwan woke up.   The sun was bright, and no one had woken him.   For just a moment, he thought it was Sujasa beside him, and that Tanyata was waiting for him, bow on her shoulder and a new-cut switch in her hand.   But Tanyata was dead, and it was Danha beside him, sewing a tear in Fiya's cloak.    The day would be hot, and Arkwan went to the river with a cooking skin, and poured water over his body before putting on his belt and loincloth.   The belt had a baldric strap for the shoulder, and was finished with embroidery: a weapon belt for a hero or a prince, not a slave.   He had walked into Danha's village dressed as a fine wvaksa, indeed.   Now she knew he was a slave, she still wanted him, but he had done her enough harm already.   He had not wanted to fuck her last night, but he had.   And I will again tonight, he thought, if she comes to me.   She needs to forget about me and return to her village.

Tektu came down to the river with Nute's water skins.   "That is a fine belt, Arkwan, are you going to put it on, or just talk to it?"

"On a hot day I wish I could walk with my penis free, like a boy," Arkwan answered.  "You will learn that next summer.  You must be getting your tattoos soon, you are more than old enough, headwoman's son.   Your penis is very fine - a man's penis.   And you know what they say:

When your fine son can't keep hand off his rod -
 prick him and 'cloth him and give to the God.
Tektu looked down at his rod which was, he found, stiff and in his hand.   He blushed and squirmed and covered his face.   But he looked up and said: "I wanted to get pricked at midsummer.   I ran between the fires, and danced.   I coupled with another boy who danced; I entered his shit-eye.  But my mother said she'd whip me bloody, law or no law, if I got tattoos.  She shouldn't have done that."

"My father was the same," Arkwan said, pointing to his chest, "but I got these anyway, and got a sore bottom for it.    Your mother whips much harder than my father ever did.  Your sister's bottom is cut to ribbons, and she has welts and bruises all over, even on her breasts.   She got that for wanting to follow me, because I didn't tell her I was a slave.  You and Danha must go home, and I guess you will both get a whipping.    Your mother may whip you even more, if you come home with man's tattoos.   But that won't make you a boy again."

"I will bear Mother's whipping like a warrior, once I am a man." Tektu said.   "But tattoos?  How could I get any?  What about the feast?  What about giving to the God?  I'm a headwoman's son - a ram at least?  Or should it be a bull for a headwoman's son?  Will I really be a man, without the right sacrifice?"

"Fiya has a line of fresh tattoo on his penis, so I guess Nakien is pricking him; and Nakien is a white bard."

"If Nakien says I will really be a man, pricked here, on the road, with no proper sacrifice, then I will ask him for the pricking.  I will ask him now."

"If Nute allows, I will be pricked with you.  I wish to be a man by the customs of your country.   We can do it today, if we can bear the pain."

Tektu said: "I will bear the pain that makes me a man.   But if there can't be a feast for our pricking, at least I must give gifts.   I want you to have my ivory wrist-guard."

"You shame me," Arkwan said.   "I am a slave, and have nothing of my own to give."

"Danha always gets what she wants.   And to whom should I give a gift, if not my sister's husband?"

.    TOP    .

Arkwan found Nute, with his arm in a sling, talking with the red-cloaked bard.   The bard gave Nute a fine cloak, and a necklace, and got nothing in return.   Then Nute gave gifts to another pedler : an axe and some chisels, and some awls; that pedler didn't have a cart, only a bag on his back, and he gave nothing to Nute.

"Nakien says he will be going north," Nute said, "and can take Danha and Tektu home.  If Danha will go."

"Why did you give nothing to that bard, Nute?" Arkwan asked, "He gave you fine gifts."

"Yes, and to Andros peddler I gave good bronze, and he gave me nothing.   So it is with peddlers.  Andros peddler will repay me another time.  And I gave salt to Heyos bard when I last saw him, and now he repays me."

"Repay" was a new word.  Arkwan would think about it carefully.  He didn't understand it yet, but it didn't make him feel tight and twisted.

Nute said, "We must carry everything from the cart to the boat today, Arkwan.   Can you swim?"

"Swim" was in many songs, but Arkwan had never understood it.   Arkwan could only think about one new word at a time, so he forgot about "repay" and thought about "swim;" he liked the sound of "swim."  "Are you giving everything to the captain of the boat?" he asked Nute, "are you buying something from him?"

"No, we shall take the boat from here, down to the sea.   The cart and oxen will stay at a village near here.   Then we sail to the islands.  They will give a good price for bronze, and for warm wool blankets, in the islands.  Not the fine cloaks.  My customers are not queens, just fisherfolk.   They pay in salt, and dried fish.   If we are lucky, a boat will have come from across the sea, and the fisherfolk will have faience to sell, or scented oils, or slaves, or horses.  Although I may give up buying slaves.  Even horses on a boat are less trouble.   And if we do meet a boat, the captain will pay well for the best Nohas cloaks; he will sell them in Kafftiaw.   But if there is no good customer in the islands, I will bring them back to the mainland.  I can surely sell my good cloaks in Queen Ishan's village, if we get so far east before winter."

Nute's words had come too fast again.   The green Earth lurched and twisted under him, and Arkwan fell down.  One phrase rang and echoed in his ears.  Then we sail to the islands.   To the islands.  Sail to the islands.  Sail across the sea.  To the islands.

"Are you ill, Arkwan?"

"I'm fine.   Well, I need a whipping.  But your shoulder.   Just don't hit me with any more words."

Nute helped Arkwan up, silently.   Nakien was ready to leave, with Fiya and Tektu.

Tektu said: "We are leaving now, Arkwan, so Nakien will not have time to prick you.   But he will do me tonight, thanks to you."

Danha was kneeling on the ground.   "We are going, Danha," Nakien said, "are you coming?"

Danha nodded, and stood up.  She was weeping, but she stepped into place behind the white bard.

Suddenly Tektu said, "Danha, wait!   He wants you to stay. I know he does.  He thinks it is better for you, to go home, because he is a slave.  But he wants you.   I told him you wouldn't like his penis, bare like a boy's, and he is going to get tattoos on it.   I have to endure the pain, to become a man, but he wanted to endure it, just to make his penis the way you would like it."

Danha said, "I will stay with Arkwan."

Arkwan still felt groggy.  He tried to speak.  "Nothing for you, for you here," he said.

Nute said, "We are going from here by water, Danha.   The captain will not let me take my slave, my slave's woman, and my slave's woman's little brother."

"Then I will walk along the bank," Danha said.

Arkwan was roused.  "You will not!  You should be whipped, Kunera!  And dragged home!"

"Whip me, Arkwan," Danha said.    "And then I shall call you husband."

"That is not the law," Nakien said sharply.  "Whipping does not make any marriage."

"He is a slave, and I am the daughter of a headwoman. How can he whip me, if there is not marriage between us?"

"The law is:" Nakien said,

A bard can marry, though he has no house,
    or any other man, who lives from place to place.
Two sticks shall be his doorposts and,
    His ridgepole is the Milky Way.
Three days shall they travel, and three nights rest;
     husband is he then to her, and his wife she.
"So I rule that Nute must put sticks in the ground, and call them his doorposts, and you must pass between them and spend the night with Arkwan.   And this must happen three times in three different places.  And all this must be done openly and known to many.  Only then are you married."

"If I willingly submit, and he whips me, is that not as good as stepping between two sticks?"

"If Arkwan whips you on his own account, that is nothing : he is a slave.   But if you submit to being whipped by Nute's order, at Nute's cart, you are as if under Nute's ridgepole; under his authority and part of his house.   Nute's authority, not Arkwan's.   But it still must happen three times in three different places, and each time must followed by a night spent with Nute's slave, openly and known, before you become that slave's wife."

"This can be the first, then," Danha said, and she lifted her tunic of netting and bent, rather awkwardly, across the cart tongue.  Her bottom was still bruised, scabbed, and swollen from her mother's whipping; even to touch it would hurt.   Arkwan looked at Nute.  The plants along the river were thin, but perhaps a thin switch would do.

"I will not order Arkwan to whip you, Danha," Nute said.   "But you can't walk along the bank.   You really should go home with Nakien."

"I will not."

Nakien sat down.   "Nute," he said, "I need some of your merchandise, as one trader to another.   I will repay."

Nute sat down facing the bard.  "We keep no reckoning, friend.   All I have would not repay you, ever.   But I have only bronze and cloth, brought from the north.  Do you want to carry these back north again?"

"I was not thinking of bronze, nor of blankets."

"But that is all I have.   What do you want?"

"Arkwan."

Nute was silent.   At last he spoke: "I have said that all I have would not repay you, Nakien.   But Arkwan?   Do you mean to sell him?"

"I may sell him to King Taslan," Nakien said.  "For now I want him as my own slave.   He will be useful, I think.   He can shoot four arrows faster than I can shoot one."

"Well, he is yours.   I will miss him, though.   And I will need help.  I will have to find some fisher boy who wants to sail across the sea."

"Perhaps you won't need to.   Fiya, I say, Fiya!"

"Yes, Teacher?"

"Do you want to go with Nute?   He goes by boat, to the sea, and over it."

"Go with Arkwan?"

"Arkwan is going with me, Fiya.   You were daydreaming again, and not listening."

"Do you think I am not fit to become a bard, Teacher?   Is that why you are sending me away?"

"Fiya, Fiya!   I am not sending you away!  You will join me with Sugga for the winter.   For now, learn the ways of peddlers; it is good training for any bard."

"If you think I should go, I will go.   Only . . ."  Fiya paused.

"Only what?" Nakien asked.

Fiya said: "I could not bear the pain of the pricking.  Now I am neither boy nor man.   So I must bear it.   And it must be now, if I am to go with Nute."

"Get the needle, then," Nakien said, "and prepare the charcoal.   Best to get it over quickly, since it must be done."

.    TOP    .

The two boys and Arkwan drew lots, and Arkwan drew the white stone, and was first.   Nakien insisted that he be tied, so they tied him to the side of the cart, kneeling, with the ox-yoke between his legs.   Nakien tied a string around the end of his penis, and pulled it tight, and tied it to a yoke-peg.   Then he wedged sticks under Arkwan's penis, making it even tighter.   The pain of the string cutting into his penis, and his penis being, it felt like, pulled out by the roots, was so great that Arkwan strained at the ropes; his need to get the string off his penis was stronger than his will to endure the pain.   Then Nakien used the needle, and made many jabs in a line.  Arkwan groaned.   "Do you really want to do this, Arkwan?" Nakien asked.   "If you are doing it for Danha, she may not even care.   Now, shall I let you go?"  And Nakien gave an extra tug on the string.  "Yes!"  Arkwan shrieked.   But then as Nakien moved to remove the wedges he said "No!"    Nakien stopped, and waited.   The pain was horrible.  Arkwan gasped, "It is not ... just for Danha ... anyone who sees  ... thinks I'm a boy ... that I couldn't ... bear the pain ... if I don't ... do this ... they'll be right."  Nakien removed the wedges, and the pain eased.   "Very well," Nakien said, "we will complete the tattoo.  You will not get another chance to say no."

Nakien smeared on charcoal paste, drawing a part of the design.   Then he stuck in the wedges to pull the penis tight, and made more pricks, driving the black soot under the skin.   He removed the wedges again, and rubbed more charcoal.   And did this over and over, twisting the penis to prick the sides and bottom.  As more and more of his penis was covered with lines, the pain got worse.   Arkwan tried desperately to endure the pain.   He tried not to pull on the ropes.  He tried not to whimper and sob.  He tried not to beg.   But the pain was everything.   The birds sang, but he did not hear them; a soft wind blew, carrying the scents of pine and meadow, of river mud and impending rain, but he did not smell them.   He was trying to endure the pain.  But he failed.  For all his will to endure the pain until the tattoo was finished, he begged Nakien to stop.   He just could not endure it.

But Nakien didn't stop.    Arkwan strained on the ropes and shrieked; he begged and sobbed.   But it didn't matter.   The torment would continue to the end whatever Arkwan did; he would suffer to the end and there was nothing he could do.  Then he saw a hawk, circling on the other side of the river, make a sudden dive.   The day was turning very hot indeed, and the sun beat down on him.   But on the muddy river bank his knees were cool, pressed into the grass.   Danha was holding one of his hands.    Then Nakien asked Danha to hold Arkwan's penis while he did the most painful part - the head under the foreskin, and the foreskin itself.

But that was the end, except for some final cleaning, which actually hurt quite a lot.   Nakien untied him, and Danha held him in his arms, and he sobbed.  Nakien told him not to touch his penis, and Nute watched to make sure he did not.  Arkwan was so ashamed that he had cried and screamed, that he covered his face with his arms.

"I will bear it as well as you did, Arkwan," Tektu said, and he marched over to the cart, and held out his arms to be tied.

As Tektu was tied, Fiya took Arkwan's hands.   "We shall be three brothers," Fiya said.  "And if ever I can serve you, get me word.   I will do what I can, for Huwh's sake."

"A slave can do little," Arkwan answered.  "But what I can, I will do, for Huwh's friend.   You honor me by calling me, a slave, your brother."

Tektu's penis hardened when Nakien tied on the string, so Nakien untied it, and rubbed it with his hand until the seed shot out, and then tied the string again.   Tektu blushed with shame, and he did not scream or struggle as his penis was pulled tight, and he gazed far away as the needle jabbed.  Only a few tears dripped from his eyes.   He did not yell until Nakien pricked under his foreskin.   Wagga, who was shaking in terror, answered his howls with great ululating wails.   But then it was over.    

Arkwan said: "No warrior could have done better, Tektu."

Tektu blushed.  "But I ..." and he pointed to his penis.

"I will have to tell you what it is like in a battle," Arkwan said.

Fiya's courage lasted until he was astride the ox-yoke, then he broke.   Nute and Nakien had to hold him as they tied his arms, and they had to tie his legs as well.  His shit and piss came out.   He shouted "No! No! No!"   Arkwan tried to comfort him, but Fiya bit his hand.   When the jabbing started he blubbered and sobbed, in choking, strangled sobs.   Nakien started to cry, and had to stop.   But after a while he picked up the needle, and finished the design.   When Fiya was untied, he sat sobbing, and Arkwan went to comfort him again, watching out for his teeth.   Fiya sunk his head on Arkwan's chest, and Arkwan held him in his arms, twisting to avoid any touching of either of their penises.   Wagga came over and shyly licked Fiya's side.   Fiya sobbed for a long time.

But the captain said it was time to go; he said it was the will of the tides - Tides were mentioned in some stories and Arkwan supposed they were some kind of sea God.   Fiya was carried onto the boat by the sailors.   "Whip him, Nute," Nakien shouted, as the crew dipped oars. "He can be a bard someday, but he is lazy.  I didn't whip him enough.  Whip him for daydreaming.  Make him work, and whip him for slacking.  If you can't make him a hard worker, I can't make him a bard."

"Fare well Nute," Arkwan shouted as loud as he could.  "Safety and your heart's desire!"

A faint echo came over the water as the boat passed out of sight. "Fare well."

.    TOP    .

The first night of Arkwan's marriage was done by trickery.

They had contrived packs with some bags from Nute's cargo, and had walked for many days, on rather short rations.  Danha had been snarling at Nakien all day.  They came at last to a small village, and after the feast Nakien went off with Tektu and two of the village women, and as he left he told Arkwan to give Danha a good whipping. 

"Who is he to say I should be whipped?" Danha asked.

"You travel with him, and eat his food," Arkwan answered.  "You wanted to be here, Danha.  Go home, if you don't like it.   Otherwise, pull up your tunic and bend across this log."   In the days since they had been walking with Nakien, Danha's bottom had healed from her mother's whipping.

Tektu came to watch his sister whipped.   He had a boy from the village with him.   Arkwan cut a thin switch, but whipped hard and fast, for a long time.   Danha moaned and begged him to stop.  That hurt enough, he thought, but tomorrow her bottom will not be as sore, as if I had used a thick switch.

"That is hardly a whipping," Tektu said.   "Let me cut you a real switch.   You can whip me, too.  Now I am a man, I can bear any whipping.  I want to show you."

"You can show your friend," Arkwan said, and handed him the thin switch.  Then he went to lie down by their packs.   He had to send away the naked woman who was there.  Although he wanted Danha to go home, he felt bound by his promise, and as long as she travelled with him he would not couple with any other woman.   Besides, his penis was still sore.   But the village woman was persistent, and he had to tell her he was bound by a promise to another, as hers alone.

There was a loud gasp.   It was Danha.   She had been listening.

"Wvaksa Penis," Danha whispered, when they had kissed and laid down side by side.  "Lady Kunera," he replied.    She brushed his penis very softly, but it sprang into a tight hardness, which hurt.   He pushed her away and waited for his penis to soften, but it didn't.  Tektu came over.

"Did the whipping hurt, Sister?"

"Oh, it was awful."

"You cheat!   Look at how thin the switch is."    Tektu dropped his cloth, and handed the thin switch to his new friend, who began a vigourous thrashing of Tektu's bottom.   Tektu smiled through it, and then even began to laugh at his sister.   She blushed.

Arkwan said: "But your bottom is still sore from your mother's whipping, Danha.   I couldn't use anything thicker - I'm sure it hurt."    

Danha said: "No, husband.   It didn't hurt a bit.  Don't let me fool you again."  

Tektu's friend wanted to try the switch too.   But during that thrashing Tektu's penis swelled, and they went off together.  Arkwan's penis was very hard, but the pain of it didn't quench his desire - it just made his need to reach a peak of pleasure even stronger.  His desire was now to  fuck however much it hurt.   Danha pulled him over on his side, and holding his penis in her hand, gently stroked the lips of her kunera with the tip of his penis.  She slipped it inside.  He pushed further in, although it hurt.  The end came suddenly, quickly, unexpected, and he felt glorious as seed poured out of him.  It was like starting a pheasant that he hadn't seen, and shooting it as it rose, a blur of brown and black, crawing into the sky.

The next morning Danha questioned Nakien about the law.  "Did you put your seed in her, Arkwan?" Nakien asked.  "Did a villager see the whipping?"   Nakien ruled that it had been a marriage night.  A whipping at Nakien's order, followed by seed put into her by Arkwan, with at least their lying together witnessed by a villager.  Two more such nights, he said, and they would be married.

"But from now, you won't need to provoke me to have you whipped, Danha." Nakien said.  "I will place sticks as doorposts."

"Do you want us to marry?" Arkwan asked.  "Do you want her to be the wife of a slave?   She should go home."

Nakien answered, as a bard, pronouncing a judgment: "Arkwan, Nute loved a woman once.  A love so strong it could compel the Gods, but she died.  Nute thinks they will live again, on the green Earth, and be together.  He thinks their love can make that happen, it was so strong.    Arkwan, if you do not wish to be married, you must put no seed in her.  And in any case, Arkwan, I can't claim to have no ridgepole - when we stop each night, our camp really is, in law, my house.   Danha, if you love Arkwan, be sure to win him if you can; and I will not stand in your way, and I wish you happiness. If you marry Arkwan, you do not become a slave, of course.  Your children will be slave's children - not in law, but in how they are treated.   And  if you travel with me, married or not, I will rule.   There will be work, sometimes hard, if you wish to eat.  And I will have Arkwan whip you, hard and often, unless you behave much better than you have so far, and work much harder than you ever have in your life.  Do you understand?  That will be your life, if you stay with Arkwan.  And from now on I will choose the switch."

"Danha, you should go home," Arkwan said.  "You might as well be a slave, as marry one.   If we married and our children are slave's sons and slave's daughters - well, I am slaves's-son.   My mother was a slave.    I do not want that for my children.  And I will not marry you: I will not put my seed in your body any more - I will make no slave-sons with you."

"Seed in her body does not make a marriage, Arkwan," Nakien said.  "even under a roof.  It must be 'acting as married, openly and known.'   If you fuck by the side of the trail, in secret, that is nothing.   Even if  I, your master, and Tektu, her own brother, know that you couple together, that is not enough.   That is not acting as married, openly and known." 

.    TOP    .

"I thought you meant to put no more seed in her, Arkwan," Nakien said, stepping over them as he came back from pissing.  Days had passed, and the moon had waned again. 

"I do not want to, but every time she comes to me, I do," Arkwan answered.  "There is no one here.  It does not make us married."

Nakien said: "Yes, but do you have to do it every time we stop to rest?  We will reach a village tonight, and sleep on the threshing floor.   If you put seed in her there, it will be 'openly.'    Let me see your penis.  It has healed well; all this fucking has done you no harm.   No one will know that the tattoos were done since midsummer.    Let me see your bottom.  Well, you can see the hand-print if it is pointed out.   And it doesn't look as if it will fade any more.   It will do.   I want you to wear your cloak as we come into the village tonight.  Bow and dagger.  And your ivory wrist-guard.   You don't have to mention you are a slave.   Danha, wear your jewelry.   If the headman wants to see the mark of the God, Arkwan, show it to him, but don't bare your bottom to the whole village by firelight, the mark is too hard to see."

"I do not think my burn is the hand of the God we do not name," Arkwan said.

Nakien looked at Arkwan's face, and took his hand in his own.  Nakien said: "Danha, take Tektu and go gather some grass.  We should make some more rope."

"Tell me about the fires, Arkwan," Nakien said, once they were alone.  "You got a burn on your bottom.  Did you fall, and sit down on a bed of coals?"

"I don't know how I got it.  I don't remember sitting on coals."

"Did something hit you from behind, Arkwan, something that burned?"

"When I was in the fire, I climbed up a burning log.  But it broke, and I fell toward the fire.   But I didn't fall in, somehow.  I landed safe.  Something did hit me.  I guess it was a burning log, that fell and hit my bottom."

"Arkwan," Nakien said, "do you really think it was a log that fell?"

"It.  It.  Felt like.   A hand."

"I thought maybe it did."

"Nakien, how can I have been a God?   Men fell on their faces, they couldn't look at me.   And it was so strange.  I was there and I wasn't there."

"That is the Hema, Arkwan, you must have taken gulps and gulps of it.    Don't you believe in the Gods, Arkwan?"

"I don't understand you, Nakien."

'I saw the Gods in your village.  Fine gods you have, indeed.  Did one of them ever walk up to the high pasture, sing with Lumpkha and Niri, and have an archery match with Sujasa?"

"Stop it, Nakien.  That is like a story."

"Gods walk, but only in stories.   Listen Arkwan!  They do walk.   On the green Earth.   I have seen it.   And at the dance, everyone saw it.   You felt the God yourself.  And you will!  Not!  Lie!  To me!      You will tell me what happened.  Tell me . . . everything."

The grass was good, and Tektu and Danha twisted coils and coils of cord, and had laid out a rope walk.   Danha was used to spinning every day; she missed it, and the cord-making was a bit like spinning.  As she twisted the grass she saw in her eyes the dark red cloak she would make for Arkwan, spinning every thread herself.  What a silly girl I am, Danha thought, to bring my jewels instead of my spindle.

Nakien came out to find them.   "Danha, Arkwan is ill.   I.  I upset him.   He is shivering.  He flinches at the sound of my voice.   See if you can help him."   Danha and Tektu ran back.   Danha tried to take Arkwan in her arms, but he turned from her, and clung, desperately, to Tektu.  "Brother," Arkwan said, "we got our man's tattoos on the same day.   You wanted to show me you would not cry from a whipping.   Go cut a good switch.  Only, whip me first.   I don't think I will cry, either."

Tektu looked at Nakien, and his sister.  Nakien dropped his eyes to the ground.  Danha looked angry, but didn't say anything.   Tektu had to pull Arkwan's arms off.  He took his flint blade, and went to cut a switch.   This will be so good, he thought.   When Tektu had been whipped by his mother, his cries and screams could be heard all over the village.  All the children made fun of him.   But Tektu really did think that he wouldn't cry any more, now that he was a man.    He had been as disobedient as he knew how to be, to Nakien, hoping for a whipping, but no one had noticed any difference from the way he normally behaved.   And Arkwan didn't whip for mistakes at knife practice and archery. 

 When he saw a good switch on the first small tree he came to, as if it had grown there on purpose, Tektu felt an excitement like battle.  This is going to hurt terribly, he thought, and I'll just watch the birds.   I won't cry.   I hope it hurts so I can't bear it, but I will bear it, and not cry.  I will win.   He felt a tingle in his penis, as if a woman was touching it, very lightly, with her eyelashes.  I hope he whips me till I bleed, Tektu thought.   In his ears, Tektu heard already Arkwan saying  "You bear it well, Brother.  No warrior could have done better."    Tektu licked his lips.  He felt a pounding in his chest.

When Tektu came back with his thick, knobby switch, Arkwan had undone his belt and was slumped forward onto the ground.   Tektu pulled away the loose loincloth, and brought the switch down across Arkwan's bottom.  It was like whipping a pile of cloth, as if Arkwan did not feel it.  This was frightening.  Tektu laid the strokes from the shoulders to the thighs, and even on the calves.  After a while, Arkwan began to flinch a bit, as if the switch had started to hurt, and at last he pushed himself up.   He looked very tired, but his eyes looked like Arkwan again.   "I think I'll go to sleep," Arkwan said.   Danha held Arkwan in her arms, and fed him stew, and he slept in her arms, although the summer sun was still bright.

Tektu took the switch back to the woods.   He tried a couple of strokes across his own bottom, then tossed the switch high into a tree.  "It's not fair to expect it.  He was ill," he said aloud.  "But he did promise."  His eyes glistened with tears.

.    TOP    .

The next morning they let Arkwan sleep till he woke up.  The sun had been up for some time.   Danha could see at once that he was well.   She ran over to Nakien and began to beat him with her fists.  The old white-bearded bard covered his face with his arms, then curled up on the ground.   She beat and kicked him.  It took Arkwan a while to wake up; then he ran over and pulled her away.   "Danha!  Danha, it is all right.   I am well again.   And he had to do it.  I'm glad he did.  Now, I will get water.  Why don't you see about a fire."   Danha let herself be distracted with flint and tinder: no one had remembered to wrap up coals the night before.   "Tektu, shall we go for water?" Arkwan shouted.

It was a ways to the water, and it was only a trickle.  The banks were muddy.   They took off their loincloths on the bank, and Arkwan slid down.  "Pass me my bow and quiver," Arkwan said.   Tektu slid down as well.  Arkwan filled a cooking skin at a tiny pool, and poured it over Tektu, then poured a skin over himself.   Tektu held the water skins, and Arkwan scooped water to fill them, and Tektu tied them off.   They got muddy again climbing the bank.   Tektu thought: he is well now, I could remind him.   But I hope he remembers by himself.   On the way back, Arkwan shot a partridge.

As they watched the partridge roast, Nakien looked only at the ground.   Arkwan sighed.  This would be hard.   "Nakien, I'm glad you made me tell the whole story of the dance.   I think I should tell Danha and Tektu."  Nakien looked up.  His face was still glum, but his shoulders straightened.   Arkwan told the whole story, with all the details in order; a better telling than he had given Nakien the day before.  "And there is one more thing, that I haven't told anyone.  I - that is the God, that is -, well, whoever it was, we looked at all the women, and we, that is He, thought one was more beautiful than the others.   I just looked at her, or He did, and she knew that she was chosen.  She dropped her cloak, ripped her tunic as she took it off, and ran over to me, er, Him.  She screamed when he slid His penis in, I mean my penis.  But she clung to me when He tried to leave her."

When Nute had come to the weaver's village, and told the story, Tektu had believed him well enough.   But he hadn't fully realized what it meant, that Arkwan was the God.   Well, he isn't now, but still, a God.   A God had used that penis, that one there, to enter all those women.   The God we do not name.  People don't even like to talk about that God.  All those women, last new moon, had felt the burning God inside them.   And it was that body, sitting there, roasting a partridge.  And I was going to ask him for a whipping to prove I wouldn't cry, Tektu thought.   I was going to ask a God to whip my bottom.  But he isn't a God, not really.   He calls me 'Brother.'   We got our man's tattoos on the same day.   And he was a God.

It was midday, but they had not started.   They ate the partridge.   Arkwan was still sore from the night before; Tektu had whipped him well, with a thick switch.  A whipping felt good, when he needed one, but he wished it didn't have to hurt the next day.  That was why he liked long whippings with a thin switch.   But that switch I used on Danha was just too thin, he thought.   Tektu and that village boy had just laughed.    One good thing, he wouldn't have to show his bottom to the village headman, he was so bruised, you couldn't see the mark of the God.

Nakien was lecturing Danha: "It is ridgepole and doorposts that make it a house, Danha, not penis and womb.  If a boy is born of a house, he must keep the ridgepole up, and guard the door.   That is the Law.   That is why ridgepoles are decorated with bulls' horns, and doorposts have carved penises.   That is why men sleep facing the door.  A man's first duty is to those under his ridgepole, not to his sister.    When a woman marries and has a child, she becomes the ruler of her husband's house.    Her father's house belongs in due course to a new woman - her brother's wife.   Once she bears a son for her husband's house, a woman may not even walk into the house she was born in - she must call from outside and wait to be asked, like any stranger.   She and her brother grew in the same womb, seed of the same penis, but marriage makes them of different doors.   Even if they are twins it is the same."

"A womb is more important than two posts of wood," Danha protested.

Nakien said: "Arkwan, whip your wife, I mean, whip Danha.   Danha, if you want to make law, become a bard.   But don't say: 'a man should do this,' when the Law says: 'he must do that.'"

Danha said: "You're having me whipped because you know I'm right.  Whip me hard, husband.  This is Nakien's proof."

"I am not your husband," Arkwan said.  "Tektu, where is the switch?"

"I do not have it," Tektu said, looking at the ground.

"Where did you put it?  It will be easier to get it than to cut another."   But Tektu did not answer.    Arkwan looked a bit for the switch, then cut a new one.  "Were you upset about whipping me, Tektu?  Did you burn the switch?"   Tektu said nothing.   "Your whipping was a gift." Arkwan said, "And I can give you one.  We have time."

Tektu didn't want to be whipped.   It would hurt horribly and he would cry.   The confidence he felt earlier had vanished.  But he was ashamed that after asking for a whipping, he was now afraid to go ahead with it.  He tried to say he didn't want a whipping, but the words stuck in his throat.  He was ashamed anyway, because he was sure Arkwan could tell how frightened he was.

Arkwan asked: "Do you want to be whipped before your sister or after?"

Tektu was about to say "after," when he thought about watching his sister whipped, knowing he was next.   "Before!" he said.  It was almost a sob.   As if in a dream, Tektu removed his loincloth and lay across a low stone.   Arkwan said: "Watch those ants.  They are bringing home food.  And that snail - perhaps he will travel a handsbreadth.  A whipping lasts a long time - to the one who's being whipped."

After a few strokes, Tektu screamed.   Then he shouted, "I don't want a whipping!"   Arkwan paid no attention.   Tektu sobbed and blubbered.  At home, two men had to drag Tektu to his mother and hold him while she whipped him.  No one was holding him now.    But somehow he didn't get up and run.   I'm no warrior, he thought: I'm crying.  I'm begging him to stop like a baby.  I have nothing to prove, any more.   I may as well run away.   But he didn't.   He lay there, looking blank, not screaming or crying any more, as Arkwan whipped and whipped and whipped, up and down his body.    The switch was green and sappy and the tip stung like a bee.  Then it was over.

Danha went to take her brother in her arms, but Arkwan stopped her.   After a bit, Tektu got up, arranged his loincloth, and tied his belt. Arkwan handed him his flint dagger, quiver, and bow.   As soon as the bow touched his hand, Tektu scanned the trail behind and in front, keeping his eyes open for brigands as well as game, as Arkwan had taught him.

Arkwan looked at Danha.   She removed all her clothing, put her golden baldric back on, and lay down across the stone.   "This hurts my belly," she said.    Arkwan liked making bottoms hurt, even if he didn't like making people unhappy.   But he wanted to make Danha unhappy now.   He wished he had some way of making her even more unhappy, something that hurt even more than a whipping.   Well, he would whip hard, and it would be a long whipping.   He began whipping her bottom.   Danha made a show of not minding, but that did not last.    She was soon whimpering, then screaming.  "Stop!" she shouted.   Arkwan stopped.

Arkwan said: "You did well, Tektu.   A warrior endures pain, not when he chooses it, but when it comes.  I saw my friend Sindjas, with an arrow in his belly, rescue a companion.  Others, uninjured, were too frightened to shoot straight.   If you are ever in a battle you will be one who can face the fear, and bear the pain, and go on; I have seen that today."

.    TOP    .

First, Nakien had to judge a complicated land case.   Then, since it was the dark of the moon, a priestess gelded and killed a ram for the Queen of the Wombs.   Then the village women danced and sang.       So it was late when Nakien sang parts of his new song, and the villagers were drunk.   Nakien had been given the honor cup, and if he was not yet "drunk as a bard" he was at least "jolly as a judge."    Another song about the Young God fucking women at a dance, the villagers thought.   They liked the parts about women getting burned inside by a hot penis.   One man took off his loincloth and said his penis was red hot, and would any woman like to feel it inside?    "Only one moon ago, and it was this man here?  That is nice.   A good song.  Come back any time.  We are always glad to see a bard."

"Wvaksa Penis," Danha whispered.   The short summer night was almost over, and they had at last gone to bed.   They were on the threshing floor.   Danha licked Arkwan's ear.   Arkwan got up, walked a ways through the moonless starlight, and used his hand to bring his penis to hardness and to bring out his seed.  When he got back to the threshing floor, he shouted at Danha: "That seed is not going in you.  Kunera!"

"Don't you know where we are, bard?" Tektu asked.   It was the next day, after midday, and they were lost.   The trail had gotten fainter and fainter, then vanished.   They had turned back, but had somehow missed the trail.

"Whip this boy, Arkwan," Nakien said.  "And your bottom will get it tonight.   Why couldn't you act more like a God?   You weren't trying."

Danha's eyes were red with weeping.  Arkwan hadn't slept.  Tektu seemed angry; he wouldn't look Arkwan in the face.  All three of them had sore bottoms.  It was hot.  They were lost.   But most of all they couldn't take any more of Nakien's tongue.  Nakien had the only bottom that wasn't sore, but he was in an even worse temper than any of the others.

"A whipping tonight will be good, Nakien," Arkwan answered.  "Although I am bruised already.   When my tongue is twisted and my shoulders tight, and everything I say is crooked, a whipping untangles me, like combing wool.   But you will have to show me how to act like a God, master."

Nakien shouted: "Kahnikos!  You mean to say my tongue is twisted and my words are crooked, and you think I should be whipped.   It is too hot to punish you now, but you will be sore for this.  And you will do as I say."

Arkwan said: "Tektu, Nakien says you must be whipped.  Cut a willow switch the next time we come to a stream."

They were in a forest of oaks, mixed with ash and beech.   The going was not difficult, but they couldn't see far, and they kept having to detour around thickets.  They went south by the sun, sometimes up and sometimes down.   Looking for a willow was just an excuse; Arkwan wanted Tektu to get a rest, and a chance to cool down at a stream, before having to face another whipping.   And he was worried: Was Nakien thinking about nightfall?   Bows are not much use in deep forest.  The wolves are on you before you see them.

The came to a meadow, through which ran an unmistakable trail, and Nakien said, "I know where we are, now."   They cooled down in the marshy parts of the meadow, and settled in for midday sleep in the shade, although midday by the sun was long past.   Arkwan shot a doe, but she ran away, wounded, and with no dog she couldn't be followed.   They ate food from their packs, and lay down to sleep.

But Tektu didn't sleep.  "I am ready to be whipped now, Arkwan," he said, looking at the ground.  "There is no willow, but it will not be hard to find a switch of some kind along the edge of the meadow."

Arkwan asked: "Nakien, do you want Tektu to whip me now as well?  We are going to look for a switch."

"Cut a switch," Nakien said, "but don't bother with Tektu's whipping.   Tektu can whip you.    It is your words that are twisted, Arkwan, and not mine."

Arkwan and Tektu went to look for a switch.  Arkwan said: "I am glad it will be your hand, Brother, using the switch.   I know you will not like to do it.   As I try to bear the pain, I will remember how you bore it."

Tektu, looking at the ground, said: "Arkwan, Brother, when you told the story of the dance, I saw what it meant.   That the God was you.   The God danced, on your legs.  He entered women, but it was your penis.   We have Gods in our village, Gods of wood.   I never saw the Gods' real faces in them.   But you can feel the Gods, feel that they are there.   I could never look at our wooden Gods.  I could never have touched them.     But those wooden Gods were nothing compared to this.  I have never felt ... Him - He who we do not name - the way I feel him now, in you.  I've never felt it so strong before.  Before you whipped me, I wanted to say, 'I am afraid of the pain, I can't do it.'   I wanted to run away.   But because you thought I could face the fear and bear the pain, I could.  And I always will be able to, I think.   But I can't whip a God.   How could I?"

"I can't be a God, Tektu," Arkwan said.  "I danced, and I entered many women; my legs took me without me wanting it.   Perhaps that was the God, using my legs, my penis.   But that is over.  I did not feel the God.  I am just Arkwan now.  I don't know how to be more like a God, even if I wanted to be.   I don't know what Nakien wants me to do."

Tektu lifted his eyes to look at Arkwan's face, and then quickly looked away.  He dropped to the ground and put his arms over his face.  "Arkwan," he said.  "Brother."   He had his arms on the ground, stretched out, his face pressed into them, and his voice was strangled and rough.   But it had no fear in it: "When you told us the story of the dance, I could feel that the God had been in you, because you wanted me to feel it.  Last night, when Nakien sang, the villagers did not feel the God, because you didn't want them to.  I ..."

Tektu didn't say any more.   Arkwan said:  "Tektu.  Brother.   We got our man's tattoos together.    I am Arkwan.   I would like it if you could look me in the face."

Tektu slowly lifted his head.   Some tears fell, but he held Arkwan's eyes.   It was Arkwan who looked away.

Arkwan cut a switch from a peelbark, and also a number of arrow shafts, although he still had no straightener.   They went back to Nakien.

"Here is the switch, Nakien.   Tektu has helped me understand.   Last night, I did not help you as I should have with your song.   I see that now.   I can do better.  But I do not think I can be what you want.  I can't go into a village and make them think I am a God.  I can't."

Nakien said: "Whip him, Tektu."

Arkwan undid his belt and lay down on the ground.

Tektu took the switch.   "Not on the ground, Ark . . . Arkwan.   Lie across my pack."

Tektu fumbled and dropped the switch, but then he whipped hard, but only a few strokes.  Then he stopped.   "That is enough," he said.   Nakien did not say anything, and then Arkwan and Tektu went hunting.

.    TOP    .

The heat broke at last, with a thunderstorm, and they stopped for the night as the rain began to fall.   The moon had waxed again; it was, as Huwh used to say, half.   Danha snuggled close to Arkwan, under their cloaks, in each other's arms, their bodies pressed together.  The rain drummed on the tight wool cloth, and trickles of water came in here and there.  He kissed her, and whispered, "Kunera."

"Do not call me that again," she said.

"I'm not calling you that, it's where I want to put my penis," Arkwan said.   Since the night on the village threshing floor, at the new moon, when he had spilled his seed rather than have a second marriage night, he had begged, tickled, and kissed her, but she had kept her knees together.   To ask her, to plead with her, made his penis harden, and then there was nothing to do but to wait for it to get soft again, with her body pressed against his.   And it was always hard again when he woke up in the morning.

"Do you want to get married? she asked.

"No," he answered, then asked: "why do you want to marry a slave?"

"Should I go home?" she asked, "I wouldn't be happy there.   I am only happy here.  I want to do more, work more.  I am as good a shot as Tektu, I could help with the hunting.  I want to get wool, and a spindle.  I will give a bead of gold for them, next time we come to a village.  Then I can spin for you. "

"Then I want you to stay," Arkwan said.   "But I want to have more than this for my wife."    They were now lying in a puddle.

"This is what I want from a husband," Danha said, giving his penis a hard twisting pinch, "not a ridgepole or doorposts.   But have you thought about the baby?"

"What baby?" Arkwan asked.

"The one you are about to beget, Wvaksa Penis."

.    TOP    .

"Tonight, we shall be warm, and have something to eat besides venison," Nakien said.   It had been raining, on and off, for three days.   Mud was everywhere.   They had all slipped and fallen so often that they were covered with it.   Arkwan was naked - he had put his clothes and even his loincloth in his pack, and wore nothing but a bit of rope as a belt for his dagger, but the others' clothes were mudcaked and sodden.  Only Nakien had any spare clothes.

They had spent the last two nights clinging together, all four of them, naked under wet cloaks, and this morning they had neither dry tinder nor burning coals to light a fire.  There was no more food, and their bowstrings were wet.   So Arkwan would be glad to reach a village.  But what was he going to do when Nakien sang his song The Young God at the Dance?

The village was just where Nakien had said it would be, and they saw it long before they reached it, perched on a hill.   The houses were all white, and wisps of smoke rose into the cloudy sky.   As they climbed the hill, the village dogs were loosed, and the travelers prepared to defend themselves, back to back, using their bows as quarterstaffs.   One dog charged ahead of the others, his tail wagging, singing and barking in ecstasy.   It was Lumpkha.

"Lumpkha!   Down!  Don't shoot, Father, it's Lumpkha."  A young man came running down the path, slipped on the mud, and rolled and skidded past them down the hill.   Only one male on the green Earth fell down in just that way.   It was Huwh.   As he rolled past, they heard him shout, "Nakien!"

Arkwan ran after Huwh, tripped over Lumpkha, and fell on his face.   But he reached Huwh in time to help him out of the thorn bush that had stopped his slide down the hill.   Huwh had a bad gash over his eye, his loincloth was torn, his cloak was in tatters, but no broken bones.  He clutched Arkwan, and sobbed.   "Father, I heard you were alive, but I didn't believe it.    How did you survive?   Grandfather's house was burned to the ground!    It was you who shot from the roof.   It had to be.   Wasn't it?"

"I survived in the pit in the stables," Arkwan said.   "I had time, before I started shooting, to make it bigger.   I used all the mead and beer.   But how did you escape?   I thought you must have been taken as a slave."

Nakien, Danha, and Tektu had climbed down the hill, and were in time to hear Huwh's story.  Huwh used the speech of the southlands.

"Father, not long after you fled the battle, Grandfather died.  He wasn't hit again, he just - died.  Great-Uncle Bohina, who hadn't wanted to offer battle in the first place, told us to scatter and hide.  But as we pulled back, the nomads swarmed after us.  We ran between the houses with them at our heels.  Mother was at the mid-wife's - Tanyata's mother - she was having the baby, so Tanyata and I ran there, and barred the door behind us.   And Mother was screaming in pain; having the baby."

"But she can't have been, it wasn't time," Arkwan said.

Huwh said, "It was time.  Nine moons."

"What is 'nine'?" Arkwan asked.

Huwh didn't answer, but continued his story: "The nomads didn't try to break down the door for a while.  They broke into some other houses first.   But then they started on our door.   We thought we might kill one or two, but there was no chance of escape.    Then you started to shoot.    All the nomads had to run.    I said, "Now is the time to go.   We might escape the village and get into the woods.  Mother will just have to come with us.

"But Tanyata said, 'No!   We must each go out a different window.'

"I said, 'But we can't leave Mother.'

"'Don't you see, Huwh,' Tanyata said, 'her chance is best if we don't stay together?'

"And she was right about that.  When Mother used to run after Tanyata and me, to give us a smacking, we always ran in different directions, and she usually didn't catch either of us.   So the plan was, that Karipas and Mother would go out the door, and then run in different directions.   Mother was in pain, but she could run.    Tanyata and I would go out of windows in back.   When I dropped out of my window, I saw Tanyata shoot a nomad.   I think she was trying to draw them away from Mother, or maybe away from me.   There were nomads everywhere.  I got into the sheep fold, and hid under the sheep.   Then I whistled for Lumpkha and Niri, and opened the sheepfold gate.

"You know, Father," Huwh said, falling back into the speech of their own village, "when you and Mother fucked on the grass, there was no way to get close to you.  Except one.   We taught Lumpkha and Niri to drive the sheep to where you were.   I just hid behind the sheep.   I was often close enough to have touched you with a spear.   Then I would tell Tanyata what you had done, and show her.   I liked that part.   But if we told you, the trick wouldn't work again, so we would tell you that we were in the trees, and hadn't really seen anything, and you would give me a whipping.  Afterwards Tanyata would give me a kiss for every stroke I took for her.  I liked that part too.   She didn't know how to count, but I did."

Huwh continued his story in the southland  tongue: "So I know how to hide among sheep, and those sheep knew me.  When the nomads charged grandfather's house, I was with the sheep, moving toward the edge of the village.   I made it to Great-Uncle Bohina's olive tree, and hid in the upper branches until night.   So I was listening to the nomads when they. . .  they . . .    I escaped the village just before dawn, and hid in the woods.  Lumpkha found me.  The nomads only stayed one more night.   Then I went back to the village to look for food and clothing.  There were piles of the dead.   The nomads had done nothing for their own dead, they lay where they fell.  They had been starving; they were skin and bones.  I took off the nomad's clothing, and dragged their bodies out of the village, and tossed them into the pit where we dug clay.    The bodies of the villagers were horrible.  The nomads had . . . they had. . .   When the King came, and his warriors, they say I screamed and ran from them.  They had to hunt me through the woods with dogs.   I don't remember it.   I found Tanyata, she was, she was . . . she had been  . . . when they . . ."

"But how did you come here?" Arkwan asked.

"When I was . . ., when I could speak again, the King asked me what I wanted to do.   Of course I said I wanted to fight the nomads.   But the first time, when we ran down and killed a few stragglers, children, and old women, I couldn't kill them.   I guess I am not a warrior."

"You fought bravely, Huwh, at our village," Arkwan said.  "A hero could not have been braver, standing to shoot as the nomads ran toward us.   Of course, I don't know if you ever actually hit anyone."

"I couldn't go with the King, and not fight.   Besides, I couldn't control my horse - I fell off.   And you are right - I never killed anyone I shot at.  Ghoiokh, the black bard, was at Taslan's king-making - you remember him.   He found out that I could sing The Song of Kala Khoam, and took me as his student.   He left me here; I'm still his student, officially.   Nakien, is Fiya all right?   He's not . . . dead?"

"Fiya is well, Huwh," Nakien said.  "He is sailing across the sea.  He saw your father, and asked about you.   But Fiya will come here, before winter."

"Here?" Arkwan asked.  "Why here?"

Huwh said: "He will come here, Father, because this is the village of Sugga the law-singer."

.    TOP    .

The villagers watched them as they walked through the village, but no one greeted them.   Sugga's house was large, but in need of new thatch, and new plastering.

Huwh took Sugga's left hand, and she put her right hand over his face, her fingertips on his lips.   "My father has come." he said.

"You are very excited, Kowh," she said.   "Has someone come?"   Huwh nodded.   "Is it a bard?   A warrior?   A peddler?   Is it someone you know?"   Huwh nodded.   "Someone from your village?"  A nod.   "A relative?"   A nod.  "With a penis?"  A nod.  "Your father?"  Huwh nodded, and smiled.

Sugga said, "Kowh, that is wonderful.  Let me touch him."

Huwh said, "Say your name, Father, when she touches your lips.   She will guess the sound.  If you nod, that will be her name for you.   She calls me 'Kowh.'"

Sugga put a hand on his lips, and the other hand on his throat.  Arkwan said "Arkwan."   Sugga said "Itrill."  Arkwan nodded.

"Be in health, Itrill father of Kowh, and be welcome," she said.

Sugga sniffed him, and ran her hands over his face, and all over him.   She got her hands muddy, and rubbed her fingers together. She felt the bow and the quiver over his shoulder, and felt the grass rope he was using as a belt, and seemed surprised by the absence of a loincloth.   She fingered his balls and penis carefully, and sniffed his hands, his penis, and his knees.   She even knelt down and felt his feet, lifting them one at a time to feel the soles.  She drew her fingers across his bottom, tracing the outline of the burn.  Then she noticed the dagger, and drew it from its sheath.   She felt it carefully, especially the guard and the pommel, tried the edge, and licked the blade.

Sugga said, "Let someone offer Wvaksa Itrill a bath, and food, and wine.   The best wine."

"How can I tell her I am no Wvaksa, but a slave?"   Arkwan asked.

Nakien took Sugga's hand next.   Sugga put her hand on his lips, then sniffed and ran her hand over his face.   "Nakien!" she shouted.   He nodded.  She playfully slapped his face.  "Don't nod, Nakien.  Did you think I might not know my old lover?  My best student?"   She hugged him and kissed him.  "Nakien.   Nakien.   I did not expect you until winter.   I wish I could hear all your new songs, and all your stories of the village women.   Perhaps you can tell me one of the stories with your hands.   And your lips.  And your penis."

Next Sugga touched Danha's lips as she spoke her name.   "Kinnih, Tinnih, Dinnih," Sugga guessed.   Danha nodded, very slightly, at "Dinnih."

Sugga said: "Welcome, Dinnih.  Health and safety."     Sugga ran her fingers over Danha's body.  She said:  "and may it be a fine son, and easily born."    When she felt Danha's fingers, she said: "We must sit and spin together, Dinnih, I can tell you all the gossip."    Sugga felt Danha's wet and muddy clothing, and her hair.   Danha wished she had worn her baldric and her hair pins.   "Are you Nakien's student?   Slave?   Are you Wvaksa Itrill's wife?   Was that yes or no?    Nod clearly.  His lover?"   Danha nodded her head up and down several times.

"Tektu!  Tek! Tu!" Tektu shouted, when Sugga touched his lips.   Sugga said  "Nakien, can you tell me this young man's name?   I can't tell what he is saying."

"Tektu," Nakien said, when Sugga's fingers were on his lips.  "Digwa, Tegwa," Sugga guessed.   Nakien nodded slightly on "Tegwa."   Then he said "Tektu," nodding as he said "Tek," but holding his head still for "tu".  "Tegdah, Tegtah," Sugga guessed.  Nakien nodded.

"Health, Tegtah," Sugga said.   She did not feel or sniff him.

"Is Dinnih your mother, Kowh?" Sugga asked, turning to where Huwh stood and putting her hand on his lips.   Huwh said: "No."  

Sugga asked him: "Has your father told you that your mother is alive?   That she is dead?   So he doesn't know?"   Huwh nodded at that.   Then he took Sugga's hand off his lips.   "Do you Father?    Mother's body was not in the village."

"I thought she had been killed," Arkwan said. "But if her body was not with the others, I suppose she must have been taken."

Sugga said: "Kowh, let go of my wrist.  Tell me what it is.  Is it bad news?  Good news?  Still no news?"  Huwh nodded.   Sugga gave Huwh a hug.  "Kowh," she said, "I want you to be friends with Nakien.  Your questions about the law; it will be so much easier to ask him than me.   And you mustn't be jealous if I let him enter my body, it is only for old time's sake.  Your penis is the one I want.   Sing him 'The Law of Ploughed Fields.'    But first get your Father and his woman into a bath.  And see about some food.   Nakien, you stay with me.  Kowh, bring him a cloak.   Nakien, take those wet clothes off.   I'll warm your bottom for you."

"She can't hear what anyone says," Huwh said, "but I don't suppose it makes any difference.  She never stops talking long enough for anyone else to get a word in."  

Tektu took off his sodden muddy loincloth, and slapped and rubbed his bottom and penis.  Danha took off her wet tunic, and Huwh stripped as well, and Arkwan took off the only thing he was wearing, a rope to hold his dagger.  He noticed that Huwh, who had no tattoos on his chest, did not have any on his penis either, even though he had been wearing a man's loincloth.   Huwh led them outdoors to a little hut.

Huwh said: "I will bring hot stones from my house; Sugga's house I mean.   Meanwhile, you may want to go in; at least it is out of the rain."

In the hut, Danha squatted next to Arkwan, and put her arm around his shoulders.  "Tell me about your wife," she said.

Arkwan said: "I thought she was dead.  Sujasa her name was.  Is.  Or was, slaves don't keep their names.  I thought I heard her die.  I still wonder if she can really be alive.  And I thought Huwh was a slave of the nomads.   I should be happy he is free, and happy that my wife may be alive.   But I feel as if I have an oak tree on my shoulders.   I want to fight the nomads.   I thought I might rescue Huwh that way.    But Huwh never needed rescue.   I am the slave, not him.   And now, perhaps I could rescue Sujasa.  It's as if the oak tree was lifted, then dropped on me again."

"Do you still want to fight the nomads?" Tektu asked.  "I will fight beside you, Brother."

"Nakien talked of selling me to King Taslan," Arkwan said.   "Then, slave or not, I could fight.   But I can't do anything, now, to make that happen.  Nakien wants to take me into villages, and make them feel that the God is in me.    If I could do that, perhaps he would let me fight.   Or perhaps he will be even less likely to sell me, if I do what he wants."

Tektu said: "When you told me the story of the dance, just told it, there was no doubt the God had been in you, had used your legs to walk and your penis to enter women.   Hearing the story, when you told it, made it not just something in a story, and then I could feel the God in your penis.  And most of all in your eyes.  You tell the story better than Nakien does.   It is impossible not to believe you - if you choose to be believed."

"Well, it wasn't like that at the village, when Nakien sang his song," Arkwan said.   "He sang, and I was supposed to show I was a God."

Danha said: "You should tell the story of the dance to Huwh, Arkwan.   Tell it the way you told Tektu and me."

Arkwan put his face on Danha's neck.   "Kunera, I am afraid that Huwh won't be able to look me in the eyes."

"In the eyes, Father?  What are you talking about?"  Huwh said, looking through the doorway.   "And why do you call your woman, Cunt?  Here are some stones.   They are not really hot yet, but they will warm the place up.  Let me welcome you properly.   Health, Danha, and welcome.  I won't call you the other thing.  If you are Father's woman, I hope we will be friends.   Health, Tektu, and welcome.   May I ask, why are you traveling with Nakien?"

"Tektu is my brother," Danha said.

Arkwan said: "And mine, and Fiya's; we all three got man's tattoos on the same day, from Nakien's hand.   And speaking of man's tattoos, I can't have understood what Sugga said, about you not being jealous of Nakien."

Huwh answered: "You understood, Father.   Sugga does not know that I am still a boy.   When I first came, I tried to tell her. But I couldn't get her to ask 'are you still a boy?'   Every time I put her hand on my penis or my chest, she just thought I wanted to fuck.   I thought she would ask someday, as I have no beard, but she never did.  I want to get tattoos.   But there is no one here who can do the snakes.  Now that you are here perhaps someone can copy yours."

"You should get tattoos on your penis.   That is the custom here in the south.   Sugga will have to know.   You shouldn't go on fucking her, with your boy's penis."

"Yes, Father.   I have missed you so much.   I should have gotten the tattoos long ago, or found a way to tell Sugga.  Will you whip me?"

Arkwan said: "Get the tattoos, Huwh.   That will hurt enough."

"I have my father again.   I can make a blood sacrifice to the Sky-Father, because I have my father again.  A sore penis is not going to stop me from doing that."

.    TOP    .

"It's not hot enough in here, what were you thinking, Kowh."   It was Sugga.   She felt along the wall until she encountered flesh: Tektu's hip.   "Wvaksa Itrill, come into the house.  Nakien is trying to tell me a story.   Something about a dance."

"You should hear this too, Huwh," Danha said.

"I was going to see about some food," Huwh said.

"We are famished," Danha answered, "but we can wait."

When they got back to the house, Sugga put her fingers on Arkwan's lips, and said: "Wvaksa Itrill, Nakien has told me there was a dance.  Were you there?"   Nod.   "Was anyone else who is here, at this dance?"  No nod.  "Was it at midsummer?"  Nod.  "This midsummer just past.?"  Nod.   "Was it at your village?"  No nod.  "Was it at some village I might know of?"  Nod.  "Can you show me where?"  Arkwan put the handle of his dagger in Sugga's hand.   "Was it at the village of Kros bronze maker?"  Nod.   "Is this a story about the law of midsummer?  Is it about boys or girls who run between the fires?  Is it about a God coming to the dance?"   Nod.  "A male God?"  Nod.   "The Sky-Father?"    Arkwan put his hand over Sugga's mouth.   "The God we do not name?"  Nod.

"I love stories about the Young God at village dances," Sugga said.  "At my first dance, and of course I could still hear then, I danced naked, and a man grabbed me and fucked me.   I had never felt a stiff penis before, not even with my hands.   I was sure he was the Young God.   I didn't think a man could be like that, could make me feel like that.    His penis was hot.   It was huge.   I keep waiting for a penis as good as that one.    But then he spoke, and it was just a village boy, who had run between the fires, so for that one night could do anything he wanted.   I never felt that boy's penis again.   Perhaps he had a huge hot penis, or perhaps the God truly possessed him.   I still think about that penis.   You have a nice long one, Wvaksa Itrill, and it didn't swell when I fingered it.   'Slowly to rise is woman's delight; and lasteth well, all through the night,' as I always say.   But I don't want Kowh to get too jealous."

How does Huwh put up with this chattering?  Arkwan wondered.   She couldn't be more different than Tanyata.

"But the Young God really came, just this past midsummer."   Nod.  "And you were there, at the village of Kros."   Nod.  "I never felt or heard a real God.   Never in my life.  Did you see the Young God's face in the carving of some other God?"   No nod.   "Did he just come, without using a wooden God?"  No nod.   She was silent.    Arkwan waited for some time.  The village dogs all began to bark..  There was a smell of well-seasoned rabbit stew.  Arkwan took Sugga's hand, and ran it down his face.  "Was the God's face seen in the face of a man?" Sugga asked.   Arkwan nodded.   "Was it your face, Wvaksa Itrill?"  A nod.   Sugga grabbed his penis and held it, her hand shaking.

"Did you put this, this penis, did you, ah, ah, did you, ah, enter women, at the dance?" Sugga asked.  She began to cough.   Arkwan nodded but her hand was not on his face.   Arkwan took her hand, and placed it on his face, and then nodded firmly.

"Did you grab them, rape them?"  No nod.   "Did they offer their bodies?"   A nod.   "All of them?"  A nod.   "And you fucked them?"  A nod.   "Every one of them, to the oldest crone, like in the stories?"  A nod.  Every single woman in the village?  A nod.   And your penis stayed hard?  You fucked a village of women and your penis stayed hard?  A nod.  Sugga knelt down, and wrapped her arms around her head.   She was sobbing.   Arkwan's penis was starting to swell.   Sugga hugged his knee, and lifted a hand till she found his penis.   Her hand flinched from the touch.  But she grabbed it, and rubbed like a man rubbing his rod to bring out seed.   It grew hard, but no seed came.  Her hand flinched from the touch.  "Did the woman ..."  Her voice cracked.   In a strangled whisper the law-singer croaked: "Did the women seem to get, to get, very great pleasure from it?"   Arkwan said "Yes."   He nodded as well, but the law-singer's wrinkled hands were on his penis and balls, not his head.

"Hand me a stick from the fire, Tektu," Arkwan said.   He turned away slightly, pulling his penis free.  She let it go.  He took Sugga's hand, and held the glowing brand close to her palm.  Sugga said: "Hot.   The touch of the God burned them.   The penis burned them inside.   Of course."   Arkwan put her hand on his face, and nodded.    "Did they scream and try to run away?"   No nod.  "Did they seem to get pleasure, even though it burned?"   Arkwan nodded.

"Your penis is hot now.   I want to feel the God's penis inside me," Sugga said.   "I have wanted this all my life.   I have stayed alive so long, waiting for the penis of the God.   The burning penis of the God we do not name."

"I don't mind, Father," Huwh said.

"Huwh!"  Arkwan said.

"I do mind," Danha said.

Huwh's face fell.   Arkwan went to him, and took him in his arms.  "Huwh, I should not shout at you.  Not for any reason."

Huwh said.  "I am only a boy, and she is Sugga the law-singer.   Even so, I should have known you would not couple with my woman.   I was wrong to suggest you would.   Punish me?"

"No, Huwh, you have not done anything . . ."

"What is happening?" Sugga said.   "Why is no one talking to me?"  Arkwan put her hand on his face, and waited.   "Will you fuck me, Wvaksa Itrill?" she asked.   "Will you let me have the penis I have wanted all my life?"   Arkwan kept his head very still.

Sugga took her hand from Arkwan's face, and folded her arms across her chest.   "Our guests will need food, Kowh, and then perhaps there is room for all of us in the bath."

Huwh opened the oven, and pulled out a shoulder of pork, but then put it back.    He filled a bowl with stew from a cooking pot by the fire, and presented it to his father as if it had been the honor cup, although it was just a wooden bowl with a horn spoon, and some rabbit stew, well seasoned but watery and with very little rabbit in it.    He gave a bowl to Sugga, and then searched through a basket and found some more spoons.   Huwh, Nakien, Danha, and Tektu ate out of the pot; there wasn't a lot.   Then Huwh searched through baskets, and found a few moldy figs, and some hard bread that the mice had been at; he passed these around.   Then he took the pork out of the oven, and cut a slice for his father.   He watched his father's face as he took a bite.

"This," Arkwan said, "is the best roast pork I have ever eaten."   And he quickly ate it all, and then looked at the joint.

"How do you make it taste like that?" he asked, as Huwh cut slices for everyone.   He cut the pieces for Sugga into very small bits.

"Salt, honey, dill, and wine," Huwh answered.   "And the meat should not be too fresh.  But most of all the oven must be very hot."   He gave his father some more.

Huwh went to an alcove, and came back with a large basket.   Nakien cut some more meat off the joint with his own dagger, but Tektu snatched it.   Huwh took out a plump skin, and filled a horn drinking cup, and gave it to his father.

"I had wine at Danha's village," Arkwan said.  "I like it.  But this wine is a little different, this is, this is. . .  This is the drink of the Gods!"

"I thought you might like it," Huwh said.

Sugga took off her tunic, and they all splashed through the rain to the bath.   The fire by the bath house was blazing in spite of the rain, and Huwh passed in rocks that were glowing red.   He ladled on a generous amount of water, and soon the heat was scalding, the steam almost stifling.   Sitting in the heat and darkness, Arkwan began to feel pleasantly tired.   He remembered, for some reason, the sound of his mother's flute.

"Do you want to talk about the God at the dance?" Sugga asked.   Nakien said "Yes," and Arkwan supposed he had also nodded.   Sugga said: "Do you want to talk about the law of midsummer?"   "No."   Sugga said: "The top of my head?   Oh.  A priest-hat.  Priests?"   "Yes."  "The priests can't have liked it that the God used Wvaksa Itrill's eyes, and his penis."   "Yes."  "Have the priests caused a problem?   Does Wvaksa Itrill need protection?"  "No."

Sugga was quiet for a while.    A draft from the door chilled Arkwan's neck.  Sugga said: "But you hope to make a problem for the priests, don't you, Nakien?"   "Yes."  "Will you tell the story in many villages?"  "Yes."   "Have you made a song?"  "Yes."    "And Wvaksa Itrill goes with you?"  "Yes."

"Move over, Nakien, I want to talk to Itrill," Sugga said.    

Once she had her fingers on Arkwan's lips, the law-singer said: "You entered every woman at the dance?"   Arkwan nodded and said: "Yes."   "Did you put seed in them all?"  "No."  

Sugga said: "Well I suppose some things even a God can't do.  Did you put seed in any of them?"   "No."    "Not even one?"   "N-No!"   Sugga said: "Well, if you say so.  In the song The Midsummer Dance, the God we do not name fathers a child, born that same night: the Kohiyossa.    Wvaksa Itrill, are you all right?"

Arkwan's sudden collapse had made Sugga lose touch with his face, but she soon found it again.   There was a hiss; Huwh was putting more water on the rocks.  "Was it the word 'Kohiyossa' that made you jump, Wvaksa?"   "Yes."   "Do you know the story of the Kohiyossa?"    "No."

Sugga began: "Long ago, the God we do not name came to a dance, a village dance, at midsummer.   He entered each and every woman, from the girl who got her woman's tattoos that night, to the oldest, most wrinkled crone.   Perhaps as wrinkled as me.   But there was one woman who surpassed in beauty all the others.   He coupled with her last, and in her alone did he put his seed.   She gave birth that night to a baby boy, born with a golden cap on his head.   Although this boy was the son of the God, he was human too, and was born to sicken and die, like all who are born of women.   In the tenth moon nine women gave birth to sons, fathered in rape by the nine Smashers.   The God's son had a  golden cap, but the Smashers' sons were born with full heads of black hair, black as soot.   On the same day that the nine black-haired boys were born, an arrow of the Storm God struck the Young God's golden son, and killed him, and also split the great oak tree, under which he played.   The tree tottered, and began to fall, to land on his body and smash it flat.  But his mother ran in and snatched the body, and tossed it out, safe from the tree, but was herself crushed.   She tossed the body with more than mortal strength, and it landed so hard, that the fall would have killed a living child.   But a God's son is not killed so easily.  He lived, despite the fall and the lightning.   They say his mother wished that she might die, if he could live.   The Wvaksa of the Storm had sent the lightning that felled the tree - he had tried to kill the Kohiyossa.   But the mother's love was stronger than the God's hate.   She died, and the Kohiyossa lived.  But the human part of him died that day, and he recovered purged of human weakness; deathless as his father.   'Kohiyossa' means the one who was given in exchange.

"The God's son, and the nine black-haired sons of the Smashers, grew up.   He was kind, and honest, and loyal, and generous; they were the most wicked disobedient boys that ever have been.  For all this, they were inseparable; the best of friends.   But the nine bad boys were always getting into trouble.  The God's son would tell them to be honest, and to stop their mischief for pity's sake, but smashing pots and spreading filth was their great joy, and so they would never listen to him.  But when they were caught the ten friends scorned to tell tales of each other, and would not say which boy had done what, and so all ten would be whipped, for whatever any one of them had done - the God's son whipped too, who never did any mischief at all.    When they were men, they were in a great battle.   The nine bad boys formed his bodyguard, and bravely gave their lives for him, when other friends had run away.    Another song says that the Kohiyossa's nine wicked friends will fight for him in the final battle, that will mark the end of this age of the green Earth.   No other God will survive that battle, for no other God will have such a loyal bodyguard.   Only the nine wicked boys give hope that the next age will begin in peace and joy."

"Had you heard the word 'Kohiyossa' before today, Wvaksa Itrill?"   "Yes."

"Did you hear it at the village of Kros?"   "Yes."

"Did you hear it at the dance?"  "No."

.    TOP    .

"There is no more heat in these stones.   We may as well go back in the house," Huwh said.   They went outside.   The rain had become a fine drizzle, and the moon was nearly full.   The end of the rain had brought out the owls; braving damp feathers for moonlight kills. The moonlight splattered on the curtains of mist, drifting like owl-down on the naked bathers, cooling their steam-heated skins.   There was a large cooking skin in a basket by the fire, and Huwh filled a scoop from it and poured it down Sugga's back, and then did the same for Arkwan.

"Why are you pouring soup on me, Huwh?" Arkwan asked.

"It is not soup, Father, it is water."

"You cook the water that you use after a bath?"

"It is more pleasant than cold water, on a cool night," Huwh said, as he poured more water down Arkwan's front, and rubbed with his hand to remove the last of the mud.

"It just seems funny to wash in soup." Arkwan said.

But Danha liked the warm water, and so did Nakien, who said it eased his old bones.   Tektu thought it wasn't a proper thing for a warrior, and wanted cold.  Huwh gathered some coals from the outside fire in a chipped pot, and in the house he used them to light a tallow lamp, and then started a small fire using well-aged willow pollards.   Then he rubbed the water off Sugga's body with a cloth, and rubbed her hair with it.  He handed the cloth to Arkwan, who rubbed his body as well, although he didn't see the point of it.   "This is very smooth wool," he said. 

"It is linen, Father," Huwh answered.

Huwh put the coal-pot into a larger pot, nestled in a warm blanket of grass, to keep red all night for the morning.   "I think it is time for sleep," he said, and showed them the sleeping place.   There was a bear skin.   When Arkwan lay down it felt like floating on water, or like being held by his mother as a child.

"Huwh, Why does it feel so, so, like drink in a bladder?"

"Don't you like it, Father?"

"I don't think so.  What is it?"

"Wool.   In bags.  Under the bearskin."

"Let me try," Danha said, and cuddled up to Arkwan's chest, her head on his arm, and a leg slid between his.  Huwh put bags of wool under their heads.

Huwh told Nakien: "You'll need this." and handed him a bundle of twigs, tied together.   Nakien took the twigs and went over to lie by the law-singer.

Then Huwh spread a cloth over Arkwan and Danha, blew out the lamp, and then slipped under the blanket, cuddled into his father's back.  Tektu lay against Danha's back.

"This is like a bath," Arkwan said.  "I shall need more water soup poured over me."

They listened to the bard and the law-singer, on the other side of the fire.  Sugga said: "Put this dagger in the fire, Nakien.  Shove the handle up me when it's glowing.    Where's your bottom.   Don't move around so - don't you want to be warmed up?"      There was a swish sound of the twigs striking the old bard's revered bottom.   "Is it hot enough yet?      Use your penis first - then the hot dagger.    Unless you want to boil your penis?     Do you remember that time we used nettles?  That hurts, but I can take it.  I want it hotter.   I suppose you think I am too old?.   I want it glowing red.   Well I suppose this will have to do."

"Huwh, slip between us, as you used to do between me and Mother," Arkwan whispered.

"May I, Danha?" Huwh asked.

Danha said: "Come over, Huwh.   Your father and I will not fuck tonight.   We are not married, and your father does not wish to marry me.  To fuck here would be 'openly and known,' Nakien says, and would be a marriage night, one of three to make us married."

Huwh climbed over his father, and slipped between them, facing Danha.  He kissed her.  "Danha, I call Sujasa 'Mother', but my own mother is dead.   I am not Sujasa's son by blood, any more than I am Father's.  I will think of you as a mother, since you are my father's woman.   I hope you do not mind that I call Sujasa, 'Mother,' and you 'Danha'."

Danha gave him a hug, and he turned over facing his father, and curled up tight, knees against chest.  Danha snuggled her breasts and thighs into his back and bottom.   Huwh felt as if he were back in the little hut by the sheepfolds, his parents' bodies pressing him between them on the coldest nights, their arms crossed over him.

"Now I'll warm your bottom, Nakien," Sugga said.

"Tell me about the Kohiyossa, Father,"  Huwh whispered.

Arkwan said: "I will, Huwh.   Does Sugga whip you, too, every time you couple together?"

"I whip her before we couple together, but I don't like it.  She doesn't whip me for pleasure.  Only for punishment, when I get a line wrong in a song.   She makes me use a big dildo, bigger than any penis.    She says mine is too small, she only lets me stick it in for my pleasure, not hers.  I boil the dildo becasue she likes it hot.  She doesn't whip me, but she makes me put hot lamb's marrow on my penis when we fuck, and it really hurts."   

Huwh continued in the speech of their own village: "Father, I didn't like it when you whipped Tanyata, but that was only because I wanted to whip her myself."   

Danha gave Huwh's pap a pinch, and he switched back to the southland speech, turning his head to talk to her: "Mother Danha, the girl I was going to marry was named Tanyata; she loved any sort of shooting match or race, or a challenge with shield and wooden dagger.   She was the best in the village, and it drove the boys to frenzy that a girl was better, and they challenged her over and over.  She didn't spare them when it came to paying their bets.  I was the only boy in the village who didn't get whipped by her - she would tell me I wasn't good enough even to challenge her.   But just once, our last midsummer...  She ran between the fires on midsummer night.  She said if I could make it through too, we could do anything I wanted.   I made it through.  I put my tongue in her cunt, then she suckled on my penis like a teat.   It felt good, then we kissed.    We played like that all night long.  I put my penis in, but I was too young then for my seed to come.  I was ashamed, and wanted to try it with my bottom warmed, like Father.  I cut a switch.  But she wouldn't.  That was the only thing she refused to do, in spite of her promise, and I gave her a whipping for it.  She said 'Next year Huwh, we will run between the fires again.  You will be able to fuck me then.  We will get tattoos, and the next night after midsummer night we will spend together and so be married.'    But instead she is dead.   The nomads . .  ."

Arkwan said: "Huwh, the peddler Nute, who was my master, loved a woman once, but she died.   Nute thinks that because of their love, they will be reborn on the green Earth, and be together again.   So you and Tanyata may dance again, on some warm midsummer night, in some age yet to come.   With your bottoms warmed, your penis will slide smoothly in and out, to the beat of the drum, as the bards sing and the moon of a new Earth shines from above.  For this age, we can do nothing for Tanyata.  But somehow, I don't know how, we will find a way to fight the nomads, and that may help to rescue your mother.   Somehow we will."

Huwh said: "The message I got from King Taslan. . .  You know about that?  Kahul was taken in a fight with the nomads, who sent back his head packed in salt?"

Arkwan said: "I had heard that Kahul was dead and that Taslan was chosen king.  What message did you get from Taslan?  Did you hear that Taslan has paid tribute to the High King?"

Sugga's voice: "Shove it in hard, Nakien!   Oiya! Oi.  Ya!  ah! aya! aya!  Oi! Oi!"

Huwh said: "So we are men of the High King now, and not of our own King.  The High King doesn't even know our speech.  Poor Taslan.  I was there when he was made king; no one wanted anyone else as king.  He married a headman's daughter named Freygga, to have a Queen for the sacrifice, but he didn't much like her, and when the time came his penis wouldn't stay hard!   And the white stallion they found was no better.   Kapi wouldn't let him near her.   And when Taslan fucked the cow, his penis was stiff as you please, and poor Freygga had to listen to all the jokes; people said, no wonder, the cow was better looking."

"But what message, son.  What message did Taslan send?"

"The message I got from Taslan was, that he had heard that you were a slave of Kros bronze maker, and that he would send to Kros to see if this was true.  He sent no promise that he would buy you.    I suppose the tribute takes everything he can spare.  But if you are the slave of Kros, why are you here?"

Arkwan said: "Kros sold me to Nute the peddler.  Do you know him?   Fiya is with him now, they are sailing to islands across the sea."

Huwh said, "I had heard of him.   So you are his slave?"

Arkwan said: "Nute then gave me to Nakien, to repay him for something.   I am Nakien's slave now."

"And what does Nakien mean to do with you?"

"That," Arkwan said, "is a long story."

"Father, the villagers here are proud of Sugga, and proud of the gathering of teachers of the law.   But pride doesn't feed their children.  There is not much good grazing here, and I don't like asking them for food, when they are as hungry as I am.  I hope we can go hunting tomorrow, if Nakien lets you.  I'm such a bad shot, that when Lumpkha finds game, and I miss, even Lumpkha gives me that look.   You know, the look you gave me when I missed a shot   But you are the best hunter.   And if we hunt tomorrow we can talk."

After a bit, Huwh said: "I don't know how, Father, but you will be free.   Somehow, we will do that."

.    TOP    .

But it was Huwh who made the first kill, a large hare.

"Is it a buck?" Nakien asked.  "It must be, look at the size of it."

"A buck!" Huwh shouted, when he had collected his kill.   He carried the dead hare cradled in his arms as you would carry a lamb or a puppy.

"Tie your son to that tree, Arkwan.   Take his cloak off, no point in getting blood on it.  Help him, Tektu."

Huwh didn't understand, and for a moment he resisted in confusion, but Arkwan and Tektu were firm, and he submitted.   Arkwan used the rope Danha and Tektu had made.   Nakien cut the hare, as if for skinning, and then put the hare's balls in Huwh's hand.   He put the bloody arrow in the other hand, and smeared the hare's blood across Huwh's lips.   Then he put the skinned body of the hare under Huwh's penis.

The old bard took a few things out of his pouch, including the needle. He drove a stake in the ground, and tied a string to the tip of Huwh's penis, and pulled it tight and tied it to the stake.   He smeared on charcoal paste, and then used sticks as wedges under the hare's body, drawing the penis very tight.   Huwh looked down at his stretched penis.

He said: "Nakien, Danha said that if she had coupled with Father last night, it would have been one night out of three to make a marriage.   Surely it takes only one night to make a marriage."

Nakien pricked a row of tattoo, and released the wedges.  He said: "But the law is: "A bard may marry. . ."

Huwh said: "I know that." Nakien put in the wedges, stretching the penis so tight the string cut deep into it.   

Huwh quoted: "three days shall they travel, and three nights rest."    Nakien pricked another line of tattoo.  Huwh said: "But that is by the side of the trail."   

Nakien released the wedges, and smeared more charcoal.   Huwh said: "In a house, it would be one night."

Nakien put in the wedges, and pricked another line of tattoo, and released them.  Nakien said: "But that was not Arkwan's house, not his ridgepole.  And he is a slave."   He rubbed more charcoal.

"One night in any house makes a marriage," Huwh insisted, as Nakien stretched his penis tight and pricked it.

Nakien rubbed charcoal and said: "Huwh, if a bard coupling in a house was a marriage, I would have more wives than you have needle pricks in your penis.   This law is about a bard's marriage.   Think about a bard's life: he comes to a village, he may well couple with a village woman, and then he travels on, and she stays.   They are not married.  Marriage, among bards, is when they travel together.   But a bard's coupling with a village woman may well be in a house."

Huwh said, angrily, "Finish the pricking!"   He didn't say any more until it was over, just looked at his penis as Nakien completed the design.   When he was released, he said: "It does ... hurt."    He put his hand on his penis, and Arkwan pulled it off.    Then Huwh went off by himself.  Nakien put away his equipment.  After a while, Huwh came back; his eyes were red, and the tears he could not bear to have anyone see him shed, had wet his face and mingled with the hare's blood, and had run down his chest, and had even begun to wash off the blood and charcoal on his thighs.   "I still want that whipping, Father.  A blood sacrifice.   But not today; the pain is not so easy to bear, as I thought."   Arkwan kissed him.

They flushed thicket after thicket.   Lumpkha had not lost his skill, but they had no luck, until at last a buck and a doe broke and ran toward Arkwan.   Arkwan shot at both of them, but the buck was only scratched, and pounded away through the woods.   The doe dropped to the ground.  "Your kill, Tektu," Arkwan said.   

"No, yours," Tektu said, "there is my arrow, in her haunch."

"Mine can't have killed her," Arkwan said.   And when he came up to her she was not dead, and he killed her with his dagger.

"You gave yourself so we could eat, Doe," Arkwan said.  "You lay down, so I could kill you.    I think we would kill little game if they did not choose to be killed, Tektu.  I have seen it again and again, how they walk into my arrows, or show themselves when I did not know they were there.     This doe could have run way; but she would have died of pain and loss of blood, for the ravens to eat.  Since she gave her life, she will walk again on the green Earth.   She may run through the woods again with the same buck, and have more fawns to follow her.   Look at her teats - this year's fawn must have died.   If she had a fawn to care for, she would have run, desperately, with our arrows in her.  We will not crack her bones for marrow; that will help her to live again."

Arkwan carried the doe, and they headed back to the village.   "We can talk," Arkwan said.  "We may scare away some game, but at least we will not be hungry tonight.   Keep looking, anyway."

"When did you hear the name 'Kohiyossa,' Father?" Huwh asked, using the speech of their own village.

Arkwan said: "When I was captured, we . . . but first I should tell you, when I escaped from the village, Grandmother was with me.   And a baby boy we found in the village.   Grandmother had been raped.   Many times, I think.   She screamed horribly, for a long time.   There were marks of torture on her body."

Huwh said: "I was in the olive tree, Father.   I could hear it.   And see it.   I watched when Tanyata ... when they ..."

Arkwan said:  "When we left the village we went south.   I was hoping to find King Kahul."

Huwh said, "Father, the baby.   Where did you find him?"

"Behind our smoke-house."

Huwh said: "He was your son, Father.  My brother."

Arkwan said: "He can't have been, Huwh.  He was not new-born.   He had hair, and teeth.  I should know, for when I tried to feed him, he bit my paps bloody.   And I don't think your mother was on the point of giving birth.  I have seen women who were much larger."

"Father," Huwh said, "she was feeling the pains - feeling them strong and often.   Very soon, Karipas said.     And Karipas was midwife for her husband's clan, and for her own clan before she married.   It is not unknown for a baby to be born with hair and teeth."

"But he did not look new-born," Arkwan said, "I think he must have been some baby from the village, a few months old.   I didn't shoot a nomad woman holding a baby.    And anyway there were other women in the village with big bellies."

"But the babies in the village were all girls, Father.   Euarz's boy was the youngest boy in the village, and he could talk.     So the baby boy must have been new-born, even if he didn't look it.   He was the new-born son of a village woman, and that woman must have been Mother - no one else was so close to giving birth.  She ran from Karipa's house toward our house, behind the smoke-house.   The running, or the fear, must have brought on the birth."

"I don't know, Huwh, I suppose it is possible."

"Father," Huwh asked, "where is that baby?"

"I think he may be with Tlossos bronze maker," Arkwan answered.   He told Huwh the story of the great house-post; how the baby had been rescued.   "Your grandmother died to save the boy, Huwh.   The post was already sliding when she went into the pit.  She knew she wouldn't have time to climb out, only to save the baby."

"That is the story of the Kohiyossa," Nakien said.

Tektu said, "Kohiyossa?  Are all of you going to talk bar-bar-bar?   What are you saying about the Kohiyossa?"

Arkwan, in the speech of the southland, said: "We carried a foundling baby boy from my village to the village of Kros.   Huwh thinks he may have been my own son."

"And I think he must be the Kohiyossa," Nakien said.

"When my mother saved the baby, I heard the villagers say 'Kohiyossa'.   That was the first time I heard the word,"  Arkwan said.

"But there are many differences with the story of the Kohiyossa," Huwh said.   "In the story, it was a tree hit by lightning.  The rescue of the Kohiyossa was supposed to happen after the God came to the dance, not before."

"That does not matter," Nakien said, "stories are like that.   Arkwan, what color was the baby's hair?"

"Red.   Like Huwh's.  Or a bit lighter."

Nakien said: "The golden cap.    You were captured along with the Kohiyossa.   The villagers can't have been surprised when the God chose you."

"But the story about the Kohiyossa was supposed to be something that happened long ago," Huwh said.

Nakien said: "The Kohiyossa will not grow old, and will not die, unless he is killed.   But the nine black-haired boys are as we are, mortal.   If they will die in the final battle, which is still to come, then they weren't born in ancient times.   They were born recently, or they have yet to be born, and when they are born the final battle will come in a lifetime.  I think the nine boys will be born of the women the Smashers raped, at the God's dance at the village of the bronze makers."

Huwh said: "So the end of our age has come?"

"I am old and will not see the final battle, but you will, Huwh, and you, Tektu, before you are old."

Tektu said: "I think I have always known this, without knowing that I knew.  I will see that battle.   But not the end of it.   Arkwan, Brother, please, I need to get better at fast shooting.  Can't you whip me?  I need to get better more quickly.  Because some day, I will defend the Kohiyossa, your son."

"But this boy is not the Kohiyossa," Arkwan said.   "Not if he is my son.   My child was not born in a night; my wife carried him for many moons."

Nakien said: "True."

Huwh said: "But he could have been born of a coupling at midsummer, Nakien.   A year before, at the last midsummer night at our village.  He could even be your son, Nakien."

Nakien said: "They say that in the Frenzy of strong Desire, men do not know what women they enter.   My midsummer nights are as Frenzied as any, but I remember them.   I wanted Sujasa badly, but I did not get her.   And I do not know who did."

Arkwan said: "Only one, besides me.  Taslan."

.    TOP    .

"But Taslan's son or mine, he is not the son of a God," Arkwan said.

"If your wife was naked, and it was midsummer, he is your son, Arkwan," Nakien said, "that is the Law.  Children begotten in the Frenzy are the God's, and in Law, they are the husband's."

"But it wasn't midsummer!" Huwh shouted, very excited.   "I did the watching as you told me.   I thought I got the night wrong.   But since then Sugga sang me 'The Sky-Watchers' and now I'm sure I was right.   Grios was wrong about the night."

Nakien said: "You were right, Huwh.  But if the case came to me for judgment, I would say it did not matter.   Everyone thought it was midsummer."

Huwh said, "Nakien, I would like to be your slave in my father's place.   I am no hunter, and no warrior, but I know a few law songs."

"I will not agree to this," Arkwan said.

"A slave's agreement is of no importance," Nakien said.   "But Huwh, I will not agree, not yet.  Learn more from Sugga, and then, perhaps."

Arkwan said: "You must not do this, Huwh."

"I will do it, Father.   If you are free, you can fight for the King.    I want to go with Nakien in any case - a student.   Servant, if he will not teach me.  I wanted to; I planned to go with Fiya - it was all set, and I even told Tanyata, and she said she would join me in a year, and we would wander the roads together.    But Fiya at the last minute changed his mind, and told me to stay.  He said I would be a fool to leave you.   And now I want to go with Nakien even more, because I understand more.  The law in Nakien's hands is alive; it is life itself.  He is truly the great bard of our time.  I know enough of the law songs now, to see that the law is more than just the words, as Sugga thinks."  

Huwh looked straight into Nakien's face: "But I do not always agree with him.   He may have been right about a bard's marriage, but I do not think a night counts as midsummer, just because people think it is midsummer.   And in this case, they didn't think it was midsummer night.   The King and Queen were late, remember.   They were late, because that wasn't midsummer night.  They came the night before midsummer, thinking to be in good time, and found us all dancing on the wrong night.     Taslan coupled with Mother, a married woman, on a night he knew was not midsummer.  The boy has a claim on him, a claim to be acknowledged as the son of the King."

Nakien said: "If you ever become my slave, Huwh, you will have to stop doing that."

"What?"

"Being right."

Tektu said: "Huwh, I know the God used your father's legs, and his eyes, and his penis.   I know because I can feel the hand of the God on him.  It is stronger on him, than on any carved wooden God. I feel it in his legs, in his penis.   But most of all, I feel it in his eyes.   Don't you feel it?"

"No.  Father's eyes have always been like that."

Tektu said: "So I know the God was in your father, and so I think this boy must be the Kohiyossa.  So I don't think he is Taslan's son.  I think he was born of seed from Arkwan's penis.  I think the God used Arkwan's penis, not Taslan's, that midsummer night."

Arkwan said: "I felt only the Frenzy that night, the strong Desire.  There was no one who saw the face of the young God in my face.  Not that night."

Nakien said, "But you didn't use Hema in your village, Arkwan; Gods are not seen so easily.   This boy could be the Kohiyossa, it makes sense.  And that night wasn't midsummer.  The God used your penis to father the child, and then used it again after a year, and a day."

.    TOP    .

After supper, which was venison, Sugga took down a sheep-whip from a peg in the wall, and said: "Kowh, I want you to sing The Law of Ploughed Fields.   I'd like Nakien to hear this."   She sat down and rested her back against a basket, whip in hand.

Huwh took his father by the hand, and led him to Sugga, and took the whip from Sugga's hand and put it in his father's, and then let Sugga feel Arkwan's hand with the whip in it.

"Very well," Sugga said, "if you are tired of being whipped by a blind woman.   But Nakien shall count your mistakes."

Sugga put her hands on Huwh's lips and throat, and he began:

   "I sing the song of the sons of the Father;
           who first used oxen to pull the plough,
   Sky-born and bright were the minds of the brothers;
          long have we followed laws they left us,
    . . .
Sugga nodded in time with the song, and her lips moved.   Only once did Huwh falter.   Sugga supplied the line, and he continued on, singing on and on as fire burned down and the room chilled.  Danha fell asleep, and then Tektu.  When he came to the end, Sugga said: "Nakien, I can't tell everything, by feeling his throat.  Did he make many mistakes?"

Nakien tapped Sugga's wrist.  She asked: "One mistake, besides the one line he missed?"   Nakien nodded.  He told Huwh: "It's 'ploughed with bull and mare,' Huwh, not 'with ox and mare'."   Huwh groaned and slapped himself on the mouth.

Huwh put his father's hand, holding the whip, into Sugga's, and moved it up and down a hand of times.   "Very well, Kowh," she said, "Wvaksa Itrill, will you give your son a hand of strokes for making mistakes in the song?"

Nakien said: "Huwh, no bard on the green Earth, except Sugga, can sing 'Ploughed Fields' without a mistake.  I never have.   Why do you need to do this?"

Huwh removed his loincloth and lay on the floor, and Arkwan swung the whip.  The boy - a man now - clinched his fists as the knotted strands lacerated his soft skin, and Arkwan spread the strokes along his son's body, to avoid landing one stroke on top of another.   He counted aloud, and spoke the words "four strokes,".very proudly, thinking of a brilliant son teaching his blockhead father, trying to teach him to count, as they watched over the sheep in a high mountain pasture.    Arkwan hadn't seen the point of counting, but he wished now he had tried harder to learn from his son.   Well, there would be other moons - endless days they could spend together, watching their sheep in their mountain pastures.  When the whipping was over Huwh answered Nakien's question.  "I don't like to make mistakes and just ignore them, master," he said.

"Nakien, are you going to leave soon?" Sugga asked.   Nakien nodded.   "Does Wvaksa Itrill intend to go with you?"   A nod.

"Can't you tell her I'm a slave and not a Wvaksa?" Arkwan said.

"Kowh, you must go with your father.  I know you love him better than me.  My villagers can look after me.   Nakien, do you plan to sing your new song in each village?  About the Young God at midsummer?"    Nakien nodded.   "And Itrill will tell his story, and say he was the one the God touched?"   Nod.  "Have you sung the song already?"   Nakien tapped Sugga's wrist once.  "You sang it in one village only, so far?"  Nod.  "Since you were young, Nakien, you've wanted people to see the Gods as you see them.  When Itrill told his story, did they feel the hand of the God on him?"   Nakien kept his head still.  Sugga said: "They didn't?   I felt the God, with my hand on His penis, the God's penis.  Couldn't the villagers feel it?   You will keep trying?"   A nod.

Huwh said: "So that is why you want Father as a slave, master Nakien.   Father, would you go with him to tell your story, if you were free?"

"Huwh, I don't know," Arkwan answered.   "At the dance, men fell on their bellies and put their faces to the ground.   The women gave themselves to me - to the God - willingly, but I don't think they were really willing.   Tektu, who I call Brother, can't look me in the face.   I was afraid you would not, that you would look on me as a God, and not your clumsy fool of a father.   I am just Arkwan; I don't feel any different.   I don't want people to see the God when they look at me.   But the God did touch me, did use my eyes, my legs, my penis; I know that now.   So yes, I am willing to tell the story."

.    TOP    .

"I want your penis tonight, Kowh," Sugga said.  "One last time.  The night with Nakien was just for old memories.  I told you not to be jealous."

Arkwan said: "You must tell her."

Huwh said: "Nakien, lend me your pricking needle."    Nakien took it from his pack.   Huwh put Sugga's hand on his penis, then pricked her palm lightly, making little rows.   "Tattoos?"  Nod.  "Man's?"  Nod.  "Someone has them?"   Nod.   "In your family?"  Nod.   "Your father?"   No nod.   "You?"   Nod.  "You have them?"   A nod.  "Well, of course you do."

Sugga thought for a bit.   "Kowh, do you have tattoos on your chest, snakes, as they do in the north?"  No nod.   "You have tattoos on your penis?"  Nod.   "Did you get tattoos in your village?"  No nod.

Huwh put Sugga's hand on his penis again, and pricked her again.   "You want to tell me about getting your tattoos?"   Nod.   "Did a bard prick you?"  Nod.   "White?"  Nod.   "Nakien?"   Nod.  "Does it matter when?"  Nod.   "In winter?   Spring?   Summer?"  Nod.   "Last summer?   Before last summer?    This summer?"  Nod.   "Kowh, what are you saying.   You've been with me all summer.   And Nakien just ... Kowh, has Nakien pricked you since he came?"   Nod.   "Today?"  Nod.   "And before, you were a boy?"   Nod.

Huwh got the whip, and put it in his father's hand, and put his father's hand in Sugga's, and moved them vigorously up and down.   "Your father came, and found you were still a boy, but you were coupling with a woman, a very old woman."   Huwh nodded.   "He whipped you?"   No nod.   "He made you get tattoos?"   Nod. 

Sugga said: "Kowh, what you did.  The Law of the Sky-Father ...   But you know that.    You want a judgment.    You want as many strokes as days in a year, for the  Sky-Father."     Huwh nodded, but he tugged Sugga's hand.   "You want more?"   Nod.   "Many more?"   Nod.    "As many as ...   As many as the stars in the sky?"    Nod.    Sugga said: "Nakien, judge this case.   I am too angry."

"Do you have grain, Huwh?" Nakien asked.    Huwh found a jar of barley, and Nakien put Sugga's hand into it.   She said: "That is severe, Nakien, I thought you would be more lenient," and she lifted her hand out, clutching a little barley between her fingertips.   Nakien put the barley into a little bag.   He said: "Huwh, you will get one stroke for each grain.  You must cut a switch, but Sugga must judge it, so do not cut one too thin.   And Huwh, don't cut one too thick, either.   The law says nothing about that, but I will not allow it.   She has been kind; I judged a handful of barley, and she has taken out only a little.   It is not enough, really."

"I am ready," Huwh said, "but it is not enough.   Strokes with a switch are for stiff shoulders after spear practice.   Or for relaxation in the bath.   I should be punished, not tickled.  Tattoos are the law of the Sky-Father!   You are a too-doting father to us, to Fiya and me, but you are the white bard Nakien; and you should judge us fairly by the Law.   A hand filled with barley would be fair, but the grains must count strokes of the sheep-whip, not the switch.   A whipping that will draw blood as a sacrifice to the Sky-Father.   Whipped till the blood flows and wets the ground?  Isn't that the Law?   Isn't it, bard?"

Nakien raised a hand.   "My judgment was fair.  It would have been enough, if she had filled her hand.   Do not scorn an old woman's kindness.   She, too, is a white bard, and knows the Law, but she loves you, as I love Fiya.   At first light tomorrow, you may go for a switch.  I know you want to be whipped by your father, but it must be Sugga, unless she chooses your father to do it for her."

Sugga said: "Nakien, if Kowh's penis is sore, I guess you get another night.   I'll warm your bottom.  But I want to feel your teeth on my cunt."

"I can't stand that woman," Danha whispered, when she lay down with Huwh.   "I'd rather get my woman's tattoos again that spend another day with her.   Her voice is worse than a tattooing needle.   I couldn't spin calmly with her constant dreadful talking, and then she would insist on feeling my thread, and telling me how badly I was spinning."

Huwh wispered back: "I'm going to get my whipping from Father, and not from her.   When I lived with Father, and I did something wrong, he would give me a look.  It felt like a cold hand on my guts.   He didn't whip me much, but his looks were worse than any whipping.  Since I escaped from our village, I've done a lot of wrong things.  I couldn't stop myself.   I thought Father was dead."

Arkwan had come up behind Huwh.   "I think Nakien means to leave tomorrow," he said. "Do you plan to go with us, Huwh?"

"I don't think I can, if Nakien doesn't want me; and he told me to stay here, and to learn more law from Sugga.   I'll beg him, though.  I wonder what Nakien plans to do about the Kohiyossa."

"What about the Kohiyossa?"   Danha asked.

Huwh said: "Father brought my brother, a baby, to the village of Kros bronze maker.  My grandmother gave her life to rescue him.   Tektu is sure he is the Kohiyossa, and Nakien thinks he is."

"What is his name?"  Danha asked.

Arkwan said: "I did not name him.  I did not know he was my son."

Huwh said, "He should have a name from his father, even if they have given him another name among the bronze makers."

Arkwan said: "I burned the house of Annuas to the ground.   But we may raise the ridgepole again.  Until then, the house of Annuas lives in Huwh, and his brother.   I give my son the name: Annuas."

Danha said: "The Kohiyossa is a God, deathless.   And he is your brother, Huwh.  A baby boy growing up in the village of Kros bronze maker, and he is a God.   He will be in the final battle."

.    TOP    .

Danha woke up.  It was night, but Huwh was awake, and was lying on his back, rigidly.   "Huwh, is something wrong?"

"It's my penis.   It really hurts."

"I'll wake Nakien."

"I don't think we need to do that."

"Huwh, I've known boys, I mean men, who have gotten tattoos.  This isn't right.   I want to know what Nakien thinks."

Tektu woke when Danha stood up, and he jumped up, grabbing his bow and nocking an arrow to the string.  Sugga woke too when Danha waked Nakien.  Only Arkwan slept on. 

"This happens sometimes with tattoos," Nakien said, when they had lit a lamp and he had looked at Huwh's penis.  He will be sick for a day, or more.  He may see things, perhaps Gods.   We must stay by him."

Nakien led Sugga to Huwh, and put his hand in hers. "Is he sick?" Sugga asked.  Nakien nodded.  Sugga felt Huwh's face, and ran her hands down his body.  Nakien stopped her before she touched his penis.   "The tattoo has gone wrong?"  Nod.   "Nakien, why did you have to tattoo him?   I would never have known he was a boy."

"Should we ask the priest to do a sacrifice?" Danha asked.

"We could," Nakien said.  "To the Sky-Father.   He made the law that men should have tattoos."

"You can ask Kratik for a ram," Huwh said.   "He has been very kind.   I wish I could have given him something for all he has done for me."

Sugga held one of Huwh's hands, and Tektu held the other, and they waited for dawn.  Then Nakien went to find Kratik.

"We should wake Father," Huwh said.   "You will have to wake him over and over again, but I guess you know that."

Nakien came back.   "Kratik has said they will sacrifice, not a ram, but a bull."

Arkwan didn't go back to sleep again, once he was told that Huwh was sick.  "Father," Huwh said, "there will be a feast tonight, when the villagers eat the bull they have given to the Sky-Father.   I want you to tell the story of the God we do not name."

"I will stay with you, Huwh," Arkwan said.

"Tektu can stay with me.  And Danha.  No, I want Danha with you.   Kratik's daughter Kahela can stay with me.    I want you to tell your story in this village.   You don't have to say that Annuas is the Kohiyossa.   Just tell them how Grandmother saved him.   And tell the story of the dance.    And tell them Annuas is your son.   He is your son, Father, I'm certain he is.  At least, I am certain he is Mother's."

Arkwan said: "Why do you want me to do this, Huwh.   Why here, tonight?   When you are sick?"

Huwh said: "You are willing to tell the story, Father, but you are afraid.    Afraid of being looked at as the God.  But if you are going to tell the story, that is something you have to face.   So face it;  you taught me that.    And this village is a good place.   They are very solid people, very sensible.   They know me; and Annuas is my brother, after all."

Arkwan said: "I will tell the story."

"There is more at stake now, Father.   If Annuas is the Kohiyossa, and I think he is, then the final battle is coming.   The warriors of the Kohiyossa must be gathered."

Tektu said: "The warriors of the Kohiyossa.  I am the first."

There was a loud voice outside the door: "Kratik of the house of Yatt stands before the house of Sugga headwoman."   Kratik waited politely.   Huwh invited him in: "Be in health, son of Yatt; honor this house."

"Be in health, son of Arkwan," Kratik said, even before putting his hand in Sugga's.  Kratik said: "We will sacrifice a bull for the health of your son, Wvaksa Arkwan.  You are welcome to participate in the sacrifice, and to eat with us.   But perhaps you will want to stay with Huwh.

Huwh said: "Kratik, will you ask Kahela if she will come to me?  She will miss the feast.   But tell her I would like to have her, if she will come."

"She would be here already, if I had not forbidden it," Kratik said.   "I will let her come."

"I will participate in the sacrifice, Kratik son of Yatt," Arkwan said, "and attend the feast."

When Kratik left, Huwh asked: "Father, is the Kohiyossa safe where he is?"

"I think so, Huwh.   Tlossos bronze maker told me the Kohiyossa would be safe until I came.  But I don't know what Kros thinks.   The priests may want Annuas killed, just because some people think he is the Kohiyossa."

"So Tlossos thinks Annuas is the Kohiyossa, and will try to defend him?" Huwh asked.

"He will, and I think he has many friends in that village.   I heard them speak of the Kohiyossa, before I knew what it meant." Arkwan said.

"So there are some here, who will defend the Kohiyossa, and there are others in the village of Kros.   It would be well if each knew of the others."

"I will go to the village of Kros," Tektu said.

Huwh said: "It would be better not to travel alone.  And you are no bard, and no peddler.  Can you even find the village of Kros?  I hope, when Father tells the story, there will be many from this village who will want to defend the Kohiyossa.   Perhaps someone who has traveled.  But you must be careful, and quiet.   Find out if Annuas is safe, or if it would be better to bring him to Father.   Tell Tlossos that the Kohiyossa has other friends.   But don't let the priests know.   Travel as a peddler."

Tektu said: "No one will take me for a peddler, and I have nothing to trade.   I will go to my own village.   Mother will whip me bloody, but I have friends who will let me have a load of cloth.    I can go to Kros and trade it for bronze."

Huwh said: "I don't know what Rohish our priest will do, when he hears the story.    He wants to think that his rituals bring the Gods.   I don't know what he will do, if he thinks the end of this age has come.   I don't want him to know, not yet, that we are gathering the warriors of the Kohiyossa."

Tektu repeated: "The warriors of the Kohiyossa."

Kahela walked through the door without shouting a greeting, which caused Arkwan and Tektu to grab their bows.   With two arrows pointed at her feet, she said "Health, Father of Huwh.   I am Kahela daughter of Kratik."   Kahela carried a pot of lamb and barley stew that smelled so enticing that Huwh ate quite a bit of it, even though he said he was not hungry.

"You are health to me, daughter of Kratik," Huwh said.

"Your eyes are bright, teacher.   What happiness have you found?"

"I owe a blood sacrifice to the Sky-Father.   It is always better to pay him quickly."

Nakien said: "I will stay until you are well, Huwh, but then Kahela must tend you.  You will be weak for some time."

"Where will you go next, Nakien?" Huwh asked.

"Continue east." Nakien answered.  "It has been hard with four people.   We used to leave each village with our packs heavy; maybe more for Fiya's singing than for my judgments.    But since I sent Fiya away with Nute, we would have gone hungry without your father's bow.    On the eastern plain, the villages are not so far apart.   The people are quarrelsome.   Field boundary disputes aren't much fun - but they pay well."

Huwh said: "Take Lumpkha with you.   With Lumpkha and Father, you will always have meat in the hills; perhaps not so much in the eastern plains.  What do you think of going north, and looking for the High King."

"I think it is time for you to rest, Huwh," Nakien said.

"I will rest soon, and for a long time I think," Huwh said.   "If you just want to tell people that Gods walk the green Earth, any village will do.   But have Father tell his story before the High King, or before King Taslan if you find him first.    Let Taslan and all his heroes know that the Kohiyossa has been born.    Taslan will not take your slave, not unless he can give something in return."

Nakien did not answer.   He said: "Let Danha lie on one side of him, and Kahela on the other.   Huwh, you must rest now."

Sugga began to spin, and Arkwan brought wood and water, honed his dagger, and did small repair to items in their packs. Nakien sat, leaning back against a bag.   Tektu went outside to practice shooting.   Toward mid-day, Huwh said there was pain all over his body.   Nakien looked grave, but would not say what he feared.   After a bit, a red rash appeared on Huwh's ankles.  He fell into a troubled sleep, tossing and turning, and speaking unconnected phrases.  "Frenzy takes him," he said, and "fire burns him," and "blood sacrifice."

"He is reciting bits of The Law of Midsummer," Nakien said.    He put Sugga's hand on Huwh's brow, so she could feel the heat of his fever.

Kahela said: "They will be waiting for you at the sanctuary, Wvaksa, the temple of the Sky-Father at the top of the hill."

Arkwan stripped naked.   He stood on the fire, and filled his hands with ash and hot coals, and smeared them into his face, and all over his body, burning himself.   He put on Huwh's loincloth, stained with charcoal and blood.   "Come along, Tektu," he said, taking his dagger in his hand.  At the hilltop, the bull's horns had been decorated with garlands, and he was not in a good mood.  The priest said: "Health, Wvaksa Arkwan, and health for Wvaksa Huwh also.  I am Rohish son of Kiron.   This brave bull goes to the Sky-Father; his name is Inka.  His sire was called Juba the Beautiful."

Arkwan said    "You didn't bring your dagger, Tektu.   Always better to keep your weapons to hand.   Go around in front of him.   Try not to get killed."    The bull looked at Tektu, and snorted.   Rohish said, "Wait, Wvaksa, I can summon more men," but Arkwan walked up along Inka's flank, and thrust his dagger into the side of the bull's neck.   Inka twisted so suddenly that Arkwan was knocked over, and Inka lowered his head to skewer him, but stumbled and fell dead before he could sink a horn into his killer.   Arkwan had to lift the bull's head in order to pull out his dagger.  "Honor, son of Juba," he said.

Huwh had not changed when Arkwan and Tektu returned to Sugga's house, and they sat by his side.    "I think he is sleeping more quietly now," Nakien said, "and the rash has not spread."   At sunset Kratik came to say that the villagers had gathered.    Nakien told Arkwan to wear his good cloak and belt, but Arkwan ignored him, and put on Huwh's old torn cloak instead.   Arkwan was covered in Inka's blood from head to foot.   "If Huwh wakes up," Arkwan said to Tektu and Kahela, "send for me."

At the temple of the Sky-Father, Rohish led Sugga to a carved seat of wood.    The roasted beef was piled on the altar, in front of the wooden God.    Arkwan selected a section of neck-bone, and cast it into the fire.   Rohish filled an honor cup, put Sugga's hands around it, and then handed it to Arkwan.   Arkwan poured a generous libation, but then stood the cup on the altar, untasted.  And he took his portion of meat, but set that aside as well.   Rohish didn't quite know what to do about this, but decided to go ahead with the ritual.   The meat was passed out, and the villagers began to eat.

Arkwan stood, with the honor cup in his hands.   "I am Arkwan," he said.   "Huwh is my adopted son.   We lived in the north, in the lands of King Taslan.   This past winter, nomads from beyond the mountains attacked our village.   I escaped, thinking Huwh either dead or taken as a slave.    I had with me my mother and my baby son, Annuas.   We traveled south, hoping to reach our king, but in the winter snow we lost our way, and we traveled beyond the lands of our king, and came to a village in the lands of the High King.   The village of Kros, bronze maker.    We were taken as slaves."

Arkwan continued: "On the day we were captured, at the village of Kros, they were building a great house, and they had the trunk of an ancient tree, to raise as the center post.   Into the hole they tossed a slave child, my son Annuas.    And then they tipped the post and sent it sliding into the pit.   My mother jumped into the pit, and just before the post crushed her, she threw the baby, her grandson, clear.   He landed hard, but he lived."

The villagers were very quiet.   The meat, half-eaten, was resting in their laps.   Arkwan continued: "I served Kros as a slave until summer.    On midsummer night I was at the dance; I helped to carry wood.  I did not join the dance, for I am only a slave.   But then, although I did not want to dance, my legs leaped up and danced.   When I came to the passage between the fires, my legs took me in, although the flames burned my skin.    I climbed a burning log, which broke beneath me.  I would have fallen into the heart of the fire, but a hand struck me from behind, and knocked me clear.   When I came out of the fire, men fell on their knees before me, and put their faces to the ground.   I continued to dance.   My body moved as it would, not as I wanted.  Each woman I saw, tore off her clothes, and we fucked.   The touch of my body burned them, and my penis inside of them burned, yet each clung to me, and I had to pull away."

"Some men of the village, who had been dancing, followed me as I danced around the circle.   Their bodies were covered with soot and ashes, and their penises were swollen to a huge length and size.  Women did not submit to them willingly, but the men seized them, beat them, stripped them, and raped them.   Men who tried to defend the women were beaten also."

"When I woke in the morning, my legs were again mine, and I could walk where I wanted to go.   Men no longer put their faces to the ground before me.   Although I had passed through the fire, and my loincloth had been burnt off my body, I had no burns, except a burn in the shape of a hand, across my bottom, where I had been struck and knocked clear of the fire.    A priest accused me of rape, and I was brought before Kros for trial.   The woman I was said to have raped, would not accuse me.   She said the the God we do not name had used my body, and it had been the God's face, and not mine, she had seen.   But the priest asked for judgment of death."

The villagers started to whisper to each other.   Arkwan waited for quiet, and then continued: "The peddler Nute bought me from Kros.   Kros made him pay a great sum in bronze, more than the worth of any slave.   Nute bought me to save my life, and gave me, for friendship's sake, to Nakien.   So I am now the slave of Nakien, the white bard.   I do not drunk of this honor cup, since I am a slave."   Arkwan sat down.

"Why should we believe you, slave?" Rohish asked.

"He is the father of Huwh," Kratik answered, "and Nakien tells this tale as well.   Do you doubt Huwh?   Or Nakien, whom Sugga calls the wisest and best of bards?  The greatest bard since Manzen?  All men know that the God we do not name dances at midsummer; why do you doubt that He danced this past midsummer, at the village of Kros?"

"We have our Gods, in our temples," Rohish said.   "If this slave starts to dance, and to rape our women, shall we call him a God?"

Kratik walked to the carved God, and pointed to His eyes and ears. "Our carved Sky-Father, here in His temple, is touched by the Sky-Father.  The Sky-Father sees with these wooden eyes, and hears our prayers with these wooden ears.    But what of the God we do not name?   He has no carving of wood.   With what eyes does He look?   With what ears hear?    How does He dance, as all know He does, unless He uses the body of a man?"

Tektu and Kahela walked up to the fire.   From the slowness of their pace, Arkwan knew what the news would be.   "Huwh is dead," Kahela said.    Nakien led Sugga back to her house.

Rohish said: "Honor to Huwh," and made a libation.   All the villagers who had jugs of wine did the same, and passed the jugs so that everyone could pour.

Kratik said: "Sugga is our headwoman, but Huwh was her eyes and her ears.   When we went to Sugga with disputes, Huwh never judged us, but listened so well to each side, that many times we made up our quarrels without a judgment.   He has been in truth the headman of this village - a headman with no faction, no enemies; a friend to each and every one.  We do not get along with students, but Huwh was different.  I will help to heap the earth above his grave."   There was a general shout of: "And I."

"His death was peaceful, Arkwan," Kahela said, speaking loud so the village could hear.  "Just before he died he shouted 'Tanyata!'   Tektu tells me that was the name of the girl he wanted to marry.   But before that Huwh spoke of the Kohiyossa.    Is it true, Arkwan?   Is the Kohiyossa born, from seed of your penis, from when the Young God used your penis as his own?"

"Huwh thought so," Arkwan answered.  "I am a slave, and Annuas my son is a slave's son.  I do not claim that my son is a God."

"Some say the Kohiyossa was born long ago," Kratik said, "but others have said that his birth was yet to be, that it would not come until our age of the Earth was ending.   I feel that our age is coming to a close.   This rescued boy could be the Kohiyossa, the Rescued One.   Where is Annuas now, Arkwan?"

Arkwan said: "He was with Tlossos, a bronze maker at the village of Kros.    Tlossos also thinks that Annuas is the Kohiyossa, and he pledged his safety."

"I will go to Tlossos," Tektu said.  "Huwh commanded me."

"I will go with him," Kahela said.  "I will bring the Kohiyossa to you, Arkwan, if He is in danger where He is."

Kratik said: "Kahela! You shall be whipped!   You must not think of such a thing.    Bring me my whip.   My bullhide whip."

A villager stood.  "I will go with Kahela, and guard her.   What does Nakien say?   Is this baby the Kohiyossa?"

Nakien stood, and spoke in the practiced, steady voice of the white bards: "All who were at the dance at midsummer, saw the face of the God in Arkwan's face.    So there is no doubt that the God we do not name used the body of Arkwan, the penis of Arkwan, at that dance.    This baby Annuas was born of seed of that penis.   The tale, known to you all, says that the God would come to a dance, and beget a son.   The son would be rescued from a falling log, by a woman who gave her life for His.   All this has come to pass.   I judge that this boy, born with a cap of golden hair, is shown to be the God's son."

.    TOP    .

They laid Huwh at a spot well away from the village, with his bow and quiver.  They laid him on a white cloak, which Nakien gave him, which Sugga had given Nakien when he became a bard, and which Sugga had been given by one of her teachers.  Huwh was naked; they did not cover the swollen and discolored penis, nor hide the red blotchy rash which covered most of his body.  Lumpkha lay down at Huwh's feet.    Nakien led Sugga into the shallow grave, and she ran her hands over him. Sugga screamed, and pulled out her hair, and scratched her face until the blood ran.   Arkwan wanted to give his bronze dagger, but Nakien would not allow it.    Arkwan put in Huwh's hand the little bag of barley grains; token of the promise which, in this age of the world, Arkwan had been unable to keep.   Arkwan called Lumpkha, and for a while it seemed that the dog would not come, but then he slowly got up on his long legs, and came out of the grave.   Then they tossed in flowers, and each put a branch across the grave.    But then Rohish came hurrying up with a large jar, and they lifted the branches again to put it as an honor cup in Huwh's hands.    Then Kahela came running up, with Kratik chasing after her.   She got into the grave and gave Huwh a kiss, and refused to come out again.

"Kahela, will you go with me to the Kohiyossa?" Tektu said.   "Huwh commanded me to go, and I will need your help."

Kratik said: "Let me bring men, and we will drag her out."

Tektu stood aside, and Kratik turned to shout to the villagers, who were gathered at a respectful distance, each with a basket of dirt.   But then Kratik turned again.   "I can't stop her from going, if she will go," he said.   "Kahela, you may go with Tektu to the Kohiyossa, and I will help all I can.   Now will you get out of the grave?"    Tektu helped Kahela out of the grave, and they put back the branches.   Then Kahela gave the sign for the villagers to come.

They came one at a time.   "Be well, Poradis," Kahela said to the first, after he had emptied his basket, "I will go to the Kohiyossa.   Will you come?"

"Health and safety, Kahela," Poradis said.  "My bow will guard you.   And serve the Kohiyossa."

"I will serve the Kohiyossa, if you need me," the next man said.   Then a pregnant woman asked Nakien: "How long will it be, until the final battle?"

"Some who will fight in it, not Gods but men, are now in the womb," Nakien answered.   "So the child in your womb will see it."

The woman said: "Perhaps no one, born of woman, and not a God, will live beyond that battle.   But we think our best hope is with the Kohiyossa."

"I will give one of my rams to the Sky-Father, to ask his help," Rohish said.

And so it went.   Many men, and some women, offered to serve the Kohiyossa in arms, and all offered good wishes, at least.   Many who said nothing when they emptied their first basket, offered their spears, when they returned with their last.  When the last basket had been up-turned, they all sat down to a feast, which consisted largely of Inka, the sacrificed bull.   Last night, once they had heard that Huwh had died, no one had eaten any more.  Nakien said: "When a sacrifice to the Sky-Father, to ask for healing, is closely followed by the funeral, using the meat for the funeral feast is no more than thrift, and should cause no offense."

When the villagers had returned to the village, Nakien told Arkwan, Tektu, Danha, and Kahela to sit in front of the mound.   "I will go north with Arkwan to seek Taslan, or the High King," Nakien said.  "Kahela, talk with your father.   Let him choose some older man to go with you and Tektu to the village of Kros.   And if Tlossos thinks the Kohiyossa is not safe where he is, bring him here.   Do not try to find us in the north!   Taslan is fighting the nomads; it is not a place of safety.   Send us a message, whatever happens.    I know little of Tlossos, except that his daggers are said to be the best on the green Earth, better than those of Kros.   But I think you should trust him.   But beware of priests, even those who seem friendly.    And beware, too, of Kros."

Arkwan said:  "Tlossos may doubt that you come from me.   Tell him that when I left the village with Nute, he walked beside the cart, and told me that the Kohiyossa would be safe.    Tlossos has a slave, Pataka, who was my friend.  A red haired man, a nomad.  Trust him.  But beware, also, of Kafassios son of Kros.   Be careful.   Be secret.  Let Kros think you wish a dagger he made, and not one by Tlossos.   Do not be seen to speak too much with Tlossos, until you have seen how things lie.   And fare well, Tektu son of Nohas, my brother.   Health and safety to you, and to you, Kahela, of the house of Yatt."

For the first time, Kahela looked at the ground, and would not look at Arkwan when she spoke to him.   "Your heart's desire, Wak ... Arkwan," she said, in a low choking voice.

Tektu took her arm.  "You must look at Arkwan when you talk to him.   He is not a God, only a man.   And he is not a Wvaksa.   He is a slave.   And before that he was a shepherd boy."

Kahela lifted her eyes to Arkwan's.   "Honor, father of Huwh," she said.   But then she began to wail, and tear her hair, and Tektu held her arms so she would not scratch her face.

"We should go now," Nakien said.  "Gather our packs and go."

"And what of me?" Danha asked.

"Marry her!" Tektu shouted.

"Do you wish your sister to be the wife of a slave?" Arkwan asked.

"If she will have you, Brother.   What do you want?   Do you think she will go home, now?"

"I want to do more for a wife, than make her the wife of a slave." Arkwan said.

Tektu said: "She will be tired, and cold, and often hungry, following you, Brother.   There will be whippings, hard work, and danger.  But this is what she wants.  You cannot provide a life of safety and comfort for her.   But she will not leave you to be the pampered wife of some weaver or dyer at home.   I would think her a fool if she did.   Married or not, she will follow you, and bear your child.  You have a baby already.   I tell you this, even if Danha will not.  Why do you think it will harm her, to marry her?"

"I am content if I can go with them," Danha said.  "I do not desire a marriage."

Tektu said: "Our age is coming to an end.  It will not be peaceful.   There will be no safety, no comfort, for anyone.  Marry her, Brother.  And Brother, fare well.   Sister, health, and your heart's desire - I know what that is.   And a healthy son, easily born.   Nakien, fare well."

Arkwan and Nakien each waited politely for the other to speak; Arkwan turned aside.   Nakien said: "Tektu son of Nohas, Kahela daughter of Kratik, fare well."

Arkwan and Tektu embraced and kissed, and then Tektu embraced and kissed his sister.   And then Nakien, Arkwan, and Danha walked away from the mound.  They did not get far.   Arkwan came running back.   "Tektu, Kahela," Arkwan said, "when Fiya comes, tell him the story.   And make sure you tell him everything Huwh said.   He may seek us in the north, if he wishes."

"We will do all this, Arkwan.  And we will leave word for him as well.   And I have no doubt that Fiya, our brother, will be one of the warriors of the Kohiyossa."      Arkwan ran to catch up with Danha and Nakien.  Lumpkha ran at his heels.  


- August 2003 -
David Pissing in Winter Nunes da Silva
Comments welcome: 
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  1.  "... and run between the fires on a warm midsummer night."    
      (  http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/Arkwan.htm )  
  2. Brothers of the Ox-Yoke  
    (  
    http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/tektu.htm  )
  3. The Song of Kala Khoam 
    (  
    http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/kalakhoam.htm  )

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The world in 2435 BCE.

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Egypt was ruled in 2435 by a man named Ka-ka-i, (Souls of (Re)), who took as his throne name Nefer-ir-ka-Re, (Soul as beautiful as Re).   He was the great-grandson of Men-ka-f-Re, (Soul as eternal as Re), who built the last of the Great Pyramids.   Men-ka-f-Re was succeeded by his son, but at some point after the son's death there was no male person of the royal family left.   Ka-ka-i's father made himself king, taking the throne name Weser-ka-f-Re, (Soul as strong as Re.)    He was not royal in the male line; but his mother was a princess.

Weser-ka-f-Re married, or was already married to, another royal princess: Khent-ka-wes, (Her souls are before (Re), probably a daughter of a son of Men-ka-f-Re.    Thus, she was royal since her father was, while her Weser-ka-f-Re was not royal, since his father was not.    So it may have been that in part, his claim to rule was as her consort.

According to a much later papyrus, Weser-ka-f-Re and the two kings who followed him, were triplet sons of the god Re.  Born one cubit long, with limbs covered with gold and heads crowned with lapis lazuli.   If this legend is not purely a later invention, it is possible that Weser-ka-f-Re claimed to be the son of Re literally, and denied that he had a human father.   (Three boys each a cubit long, to say nothing of associated stone and metalwork, certainly implies one unusual parent.)

Compared to Men-ka-f-Re's Great Pyramid and the huge temple he also built, for his own posthumous worship, Weser-ka-f-Re built a small pyramid and a small temple to himself.   Instead, he devoted resources to a huge temple to the God Re.    Given that he had a poor claim to be a God based on his parentage, it may have made sense both to claim a special birth, and to worship himself less, and Re more, than the kings of the previous royal family had done.

Sah-w-Re and then Ka-ka-i each held the throne after Weser-ka-f-Re, and they followed his pattern: each built a huge temple to Re, and each had only a small cult and pyramid for himself.   Khent-ka-Wes, the princess of the prior royal family, got a quite nice tomb.   No one thinks that Weser-ka-f-Re, Sah-w-Re, and Ka-Ka-i were in fact triplets, as the papyrus claims - the usual view is that the two later kings were sons of Weser-ka-f-Re.   But in any case the three huge temples to Re, which all continued to operate to the end of the old Kingdom period, consumed a large amount of the royal income.    The priesthood of Re became more and more powerfull.

Ka-ka-i is the first king whose birth name we know, since he used it in inscriptions alongside his throne name and his three or four other official names.   After Ka-ka-i other kings also used their birth names.

A cache of documents in hieratic dates from Ka-ka-i's reign.  Egypt: Neferirkare Kakai, Third King of the Old Kingdom 5th Dynasty

There are records of monthly inspections of workshops, with each tool inspected and its condition recorded. The Nefer-ir-ka-Re archive reveals a world of detailed and very professional administration. Elaborate tables provide monthly rosters of duty: for guarding the temple, for fetching the daily income (or 'offerings') and for performing ceremonies including those on the statues, with a special roster for the important Feast of Seker. Similar tables list the temple equipment, item by item and grouped by materials, with details of damage noted at a monthly inspection. Other records of inspection relate to doors and rooms in the temple building. The presentation of monthly income is broken down by substance, source and daily amount. The commodities are primarily types of bread and beer, meat and fowl, grain and fruit.
Egyptian goods are rarely found across the Mediterranean at this period, except in Lebanon, where they traded for cedar.
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Horses, riding, carts, and wheels.   Wagons, pulled by oxen or donkeys, existed long before 2435, and donkeys were also used as pack animals.  The wheels may even have been spoked, although no examples this early have been found.      Although many archaeologists think that early carts can only have been used on farms, and not for long-distance trade, since trade would have required roads built by governments, this is not the case.   At the time of the California gold rush, for example, men with ox-carts set out across a trackless continent, and crossed it.   By 1900 BCE, in Anatolia, we know from documents there was extensive wagon trade (donkeys more than oxen), but the roads, which must have existed,  have been detected by archaeology.   So I judge carts, roads, and long-distance trade to be more likely than not in 2435; of course I don't claim their existence is proven.

There were horses in southeast Europe in 2435 BCE, but they are rare, and there is no evidence that they were ridden.   When the use of horses for transportation does later begin, they are used to pull carts or chariots, they are not ridden.  There are no pictures of riders on horses until much later.   No bit nor harness has been found.   There is a claim that horses of central Asia show bit wear to their teeth as early as 4000 BCE, but this is disputed.   However horses were certainly domesticated and used for carts by 2000 BCE in Asia, and probably quite some time before that.   After 1900 BCE, horse-drawn chariots appear, explosively, all over the place.   So it seems likely that the horse-drawn chariot was not fully worked out as an effective weapon, much before then.  However, this argument only tells us that the use of horses in war was not effective, not that it did not occur.    Horses may have been domesticated by 2435 in Europe, raised to be eaten.    Or they may have been hunted.    A foal taken when its mother is killed, is easily tamed.   So whether horses were domesticated or tamed, people could have climbed onto their backs.    These horses were small, what we would call ponies.   It is possible to ride both bareback and without a bit; naturally, there is not good control of the horse.

So for purposes of trying to guess what happened, as opposed to what can be proved to have happened, I think that riding a horse was something that a few people could do in 2435, although even for these few it was not very practical.   It is just the sort of thing that a legendary warrior would be said to be able to do.   After all, if a legendary bronze age warrior could walk out along his chariot tongue, as in the Tain Bo Cuailnge, why not sit on his horse's back?

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Synopsis.   Things are changing.   The nomads are growing stronger, and the peddlers have a new thing - wheeled carts.    In training with the new bronze weapons, the defeated challenger must bear the punishment the victor chooses, if he wants to be thought brave enough to face battle.

Story codes.  M/f F/m cbt teen serious spanking historical  nc
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The house of Eos, and the village.   This is an "imaginative reconstruction."  If I described a late Copper Age house, but listed only those features which can be proved, my description would create a false picture of a squalid hovel.  In my mind, I see the village as more like a Swiss village of 1850 C.E. : everything neat and in line.  Painted walls, maybe even flowers.  Every house like every other house.  And the people pious and conservative, and all dressed exactly the same, in their colorful traditional peasant costumes.   I have listed those features which I think are more likely than not to have existed; while many details of this picture must therefore be wrong, I hope it is a fair picture of the overall degree of comfort and elegance of a late Copper Age house.  The nominal date of this reconstruction is 2435 BCE; the location, high in the Julian alps, near what is now the border of Italy and Slovenja.   The reconstruction is based on archaeology, ethnographic comparisons, and surviving documents of ancient, but much later cultures.  And of course, pure imagination.

The ground floor of the house of Eos was about 15 meters long and 8 wide, and the second story projected out another meter or so all around; the roof was thatch, with projecting eaves.   The house was oval, with one end squared off.   Posts, set into the ground, formed the exterior wall, with more posts in the interior.  Between the posts,  the outside wall was wattle and daub:  thin branches woven into panels tied to the uprights, plastered with mud.   The house was divided with interior walls, screens, and curtains.   Part of the downstairs was used for the cattle during the coldest nights, but an interior wall divided this space from the living area.   The inside walls were finished with a layer of mud that dried to a light color, almost white.   An abstract pattern, made with a comb, decorated the walls; this had been done by an itinerant artist.  The floor was a layer of mud over stone slabs, almost as hard as brick, and was kept swept.   There were rugs of sheepskin, wolfskin, and bearskin.  The door and window openings could be closed: the doors and windows were made of wood and wickerwork, and covered with sheepskin and stuffed with grass.  They sealed tight, and were closed at night, or when it was cold and windy.  The doors and windows turned on a sort of hinge: a post formed one edge of the door, and it pivoted in a socket.  There was enough wood in the door so that it provided some defense against intruders.  The doorway to the stables was wide, for the cattle, and closed with a double door.  The only interior door was from the stables to the living area.  There was a separate outside door to the living area, this was also the formal and ritual entrance.  The doorposts were carved, one in the form of a man with an erect penis, the other post had a design of dogs killing a deer.   The designs were repeated on the inside of the posts, so there was another face and another penis facing in.  Porches extended over the doors.  The main living room downstairs had an oven, and there was a smoke hole.  The downstairs ceilings were almost three meters high.  In the day the rooms were light, airy, fairly clean, and colorful.  On winter nights the firelight was supplemented with tallow lamps.

There were many storage alcoves, and there were sixty large pottery storage jars, besides wooden boxes, wicker baskets, sheepskin bags, and cloth bags; for food and clothing  Jars served to keep out mice and other pests.  There were also supplies of flint, string, scrap wood, tallow, and many other things. The flint was from hundreds of km away, from the north.  Bone tools included needles, awls, and pins, and there were also bone tubes used for pigments.   Jars, baskets, and cloth were all colorfully decorated.  Stored food included mushrooms, barley and spelt wheat, flour, acorns, onions, figs, fresh and dried plums, apples, feta cheese, cracker-bread, lard, dried smoked mutton, pork sausage, lentils, salt, garlic, and honey.  Cumin and coriander were offered by traders, but Eos would not trade for them.  Some of the bags hung on pegs; there were also wooden plank shelves.  Dried herbs hung from pegs.  In addition, several very large jars had been set into the ground.   These were used for the fermentation of mead, another alcoholic drink made of sheep's milk, and for making cheese.   One held water.  Pegs held bows and quivers of arrows, ready to be grabbed quickly.   Also stored in the house were some precious heirlooms; an honor cup Eos won in his days as a king's warrior; a belt woven by the old queen's own hands, and given to Eos's mother, who was the old king's little sister, as a wedding gift.

The large oak posts of the exterior wall, extended to the roof.  The upper storey extended beyond this line of posts, so they made a series of bays or alcoves.   A ladder provided access to the upper floor, which was used for storage, drying, and workspace.  The large loom was kept here.  It could weave a strip about 20 cm wide - cloaks took several strips sewn together.  The basic house construction was of logs lashed to logs, although mortise and tenon was used also.  Branches of the post trees were left in place for supporting the cross-beams.   If there was no branch in the right place, the post was notched.   There were about 140 square meters of living space, including the closets and other storage areas, but not including where the oxen were kept.

There were no metal cooking pots.   Clay pots were used on the fire, or food was cooked by dropping red-hot stones into liquid contained in a skin, which was either held by a basket or in a hole scooped in the floor.   Or food was roasted or baked.   Pottery cups, and cups and spoons made of wood or horn, were used for eating and drinking.   Salt, brought by traders from the mines at Hallstatt, was used sparingly.  Some of the food was from hunting, or gathering in the forest.  Garlic, and various herbs including dill, provided flavor.   Fermentation was an important means of food storage; and so particularly in winter, many meals included alcohol.  Quite a lot of cooking was done outdoors, especially roasting whole animals in pits using heated stones.  All but the poorest households  feasted the whole village to celebrate their sons' births and their daughters' marriages, and on many other occasions as well.

Arkwan liked to sing, and after his voice broke he had a pleasant bass voice.  His mother played the flute when she had time, but her hands were almost always occupied with the thousand tasks of running her household.  Eos's two wives owned not a single item of jewelry, but this was unusual.   Woman's hair was worn in elaborate coils and braids, kept in place by pins and cloth bands.   Most men cut their hair short, and wore distinctive caps.   Clothing was bright, and embroidered.   All the married women of the village used the same colors and patterns, and the same arrangement of hair; as alike as a uniform.

There were no chairs, benches, or beds.   In addition to the skin rugs, tied bundles of grass served as mattresses, these were put away during the day.   The family slept naked, cuddled together in a heap, under woven wool blankets, usually in curled-up positions on their sides.  Married couples faced each other, arms and legs intertwined; men slept on their left sides, women on their right.  Children often slept in facing pairs as well, with friends or siblings.  Relatives and friends who came to visit, wandering bards and traders, and the children's friends, would all join the pile of naked bodies under the bearskin, when it was chilly.   In the daytime, people sat on skin rugs, or on mats.  An old person might lean back against a basket.   But it was not considered any hardship to sit or sleep on the floor; their bodies were not so soft that they thought they needed to be cushioned.  The grass mats, when used, were for warmth.  People did use pillows for their heads.   In the cold of winter, clothing might be worn at night, but at other times fleas were less of a problem when clothing was taken off at night.   The fire was not kept burning all night long, and the smokehole could be closed.

Almost all the time since humans have been human, children have watched their parents having sex, from infancy.   But by Copper Age times, with large multi-room houses, couples could have sex without an audience if they wanted to, and often they did want to.   Eos liked to have sex with one of his wives, without the other one being within arm's reach.  So when Eos and one of his wives wanted sex at night, they  would leave the comfort of the family sleeping place, and go naked up the ladder to the upper floor, where a curtained alcove provided protection from drafts, and privacy.   When they were finished, they came back: parents did not spend the night in a separate room, away from the oven; nor did they leave their children to sleep without the warmth and comfort of their parents.   But sometimes it was just too chilly to go upstairs, or someone was too eager.   So Arkwan, like every other child of the village, grew up directly and closely observing his parents and his friends' parents having sex.  There was no association of sex with night.  A proverb said that a husband could claim he was serving his wife well, if he pierced her three times a day without fail - not that any such husband existed.

There were customary places for shitting outside, but no pits.

Outside, belonging to Eos, there were sheep pens and byres of wattle and daub, beehives, a smokehouse, and another oven.  The oval house was squared off at one end, but the upper floor continued for the full oval, by dint of some ingenious carpentry, so there was a large outdoor space under the projecting upper floor and the eves.    This was used for keeping things dry, including firewood.   Slaughtered sheep were hung here until eaten.  Houses were some distance apart, with trees, including plum, apple, and lime, growing among them.  Although the climate was warmer than today, olive trees would not bear in this high mountain village.   There was a village threshing floor.  There was no well; water was brought from a stream, some distance away, using pots and skins.

Almost all the women of the village menstruated at the same time each month.   They were in phase, not only with each other, but also with the moon: the moon's light was important, and there were monthly patterns of the times of sleeping and waking, and sexual activity.

On the day it was destroyed, the village had 149 inhabitants.   Listed by age:

Husbands were typically older than wives.   One other man, besides Eos, had two wives.  One man habitually dressed as a married woman, and another man lived with him.   Seven of the villagers, including Arkwan's mother and her brother Bohina, were slaves.

There were 71 dogs, counting puppies.   Seven oxen; no bulls nor cows.   No cats.  426 sheep.  93 pigs.   No chickens - chickens are from East Asia and had not yet reached Europe. The sheep were "woolly" sheep, although unlike modern sheep they did have thick guard hairs as well as woolly hairs, and the ewes had horns.  There were 21 households in the village; (38 adult males).  A household could in some cases include two separate house buildings.    Many of the dogs, including Lumpkha and Niri, were descended in part from a pair of huge British dogs that the old King had given Eos's father.

Military training was important.   The bow was the preeminent weapon, and both boys and girls trained.   Older boys, and some of the girls, trained in addition with spear and shield.   Everyone carried a knife, usually of flint, all the time, and knew how to use it in a fight.   The spear was a hooked spear, or halberd, and rarely more than 2 m in length, with a short flint blade of about 15 cm.  Shields were round and about 75 cm across, and made of several layers of leather.   The sling, besides being the main weapon of shepherds against wolves, was also used in battles and skirmishes.  In spite of the extreme violence of the times, the village had no surrounding wall.   The bow dictated battle tactics.   Arrows could injure at some distance, but they were not accurate; also, arrows can be seen coming, and dodged or taken on the shield.   It was important not to be shot at from two sides; it was important to keep moving; it was important not to present a massed target; and above all it was important to spend as little time as possible close to the enemy archers.   A basic tactic was a sudden charge, to bring overwhelming force against a weak point of the enemy, and to overrun and slaughter them.   And when attacked by a superior force, the tactic was to scatter and give ground, and then regroup.   The villagers could not hope to defend the perimeter of the village, it would spread their force too thin.   Rather, they offered battle on chosen ground.   The enemy would often accept battle, since to loot the village without first dealing with the villagers, would have been dangerous.    The villagers took part in raids, as well as defending against them, and raids were frequent.   A raid would be to capture some livestock, and perhaps take slaves, especially women, as well as all the other loot that could be carried off.  It was unusual for a village to be destroyed by a raid.

The village was divided into patrilineal clans.   These were not of huge importance, but you had to marry outside your own clan.   Some ceremonial duties, such as burials, were organized by clan.  Each clan traced their ancestry to a common ancestor, and many of these had lived at the time the village was first settled, in 2559 BCE.

Between the midsummer night when Arkwan got his man's tattoos, and the next midsummer, when prince Taslan was at the dance, nine babies were born, of whom only four, all girls, were still alive by the following midwinter day.      In the same period there were five marriages in or from the village, including

There was a cemetery some distance from the village; inhumation was usual.   There were two burial mounds, not near the cemetery.  One was over Eos's father Annuas.  The cemetery served the surrounding community, which included several isolated hamlets, as well as the village.  Graves were tended in an annual ceremony, an important ritual was held at sunrise, and graves were aligned to the direction of sunrise on the day of the ceremony.   Babies and fetuses were sometimes buried in the village itself.

The village had three wooden statues: two Gods and one Goddess.  The statues were carried about as part of the several annual ceremonies.  Sheep were sacrificed to them, although this just meant that the villagers killed a sheep and ate it.  Grios the priest had a pointed hat, and a gold armring, which he wore on ceremonial occasions.   This village had no priestess.

The village was, on the whole, a healthy one, although a cold wet spring was always a danger.    Winter was also the worst time for mental illness.  For the three years before the attack on the village, Arkwan's mother had episodes of hallucinatory paranoia.    Although she was Eos's favorite wife, she was a slave, and this meant she was offered as hospitality to important guests.   Her mental symptoms started after she was raped by a guest, and she never recovered her mental balance after that.

The village made its own pottery; there were three households who maintained kilns.  One household made high quality decorated jars, which the villagers used for the honey they used for trade.  Honey was also exported in skins.  A fair quantity of various goods, including all the flint, was brought in by traders.  Also the oxen.  Skins and pottery jars of food, such as oil, were brought in by traders, then used for food storage when empty; this pottery was much finer than the everyday village pottery.  Plain woven cloth was the main item given in exchange, also some honey.   The villagers could not make the very finest cloth.  Neither flax nor hemp was grown in the village, the inadequate fields were mostly used for barley and lentils.   There were some sloping mountainside fields that were tilled using hoes, as they could not be ploughed.    Here they grew, among other things, small round sour strawberries.

Some households had two, three, or four adult males; brothers or a father and sons.  In a few cases a cousin or a nephew lived in a household as a dependent; these were men unable to maintain a house of their own; none of them were married.   Some households had no adult males.  Although he was headman, the house of Eos was not uniquely fine nor well-provisioned, although it was the only one to have a full second floor.    Other houses had a kind of balcony or loft, used for storage.  Eos also kept four oxen, and had the only large outdoor ovens.   But these were more responsibilities of headship than privileges.  No household was especially well off, but some households were especially poor, often the result of illness.   The house of Eos, and one or two others, were the leading households; this gave them influence.   It was status and influence, rather than the possession of many sheep or fancy clothes or a very large house, that was considered to be wealth.   Ostentation was for kings, not villagers.

As in every village before or since, the primary occupation of the inhabitants was gossip.

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