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The Trading of Skin - Chapter 2

The Trading of Skin - Chapter 2

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Published by Chantal Boudreau
The 2nd chapter in my 3rd NaNoWriMo project - see chapter 1 for full details.
The 2nd chapter in my 3rd NaNoWriMo project - see chapter 1 for full details.

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Published by: Chantal Boudreau on Nov 04, 2012
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12/04/2012

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The Trading of SkinChapter 2 – Anár Their reception was as bad as Oaván had been expecting when they arrived in Anár. Acrowd gathered to ogle Dáidu and the strange girl he carried. They lingered, stagnant withmorbid curiosity, only one boy running off when Dáidu barked for someone to fetch his mother.Then came the questions.“Who is she?”“Where did she come from?”“Is she dead?”“Why is she so pale?”“Who shot her?”Oaván caught up to his brother just as this last question was thrown out from thosemilling around them. His face reddened when Dáidu turned to look at him, his eyes accusing. Amurmur ran through the crowd and those closest to Oaván backed away from him. This washardly the celebrated homecoming he had originally imagined.“It-it was an accident,” he stammered. “I thought she was a reindeer.”Another murmur, but this one mocking. Some snickered quietly behind hand-coveredmouths, while others jeered openly.“Did you have tree sap in your eyes at the time? She looks nothing like a reindeer?”“Where are her hooves and her antlers?”“Why not skin her and mount her pelt on your wall?”Oaván dropped his gaze and could have sworn his face was on fire, his cheeks burned sohot. At least his shame kept him from feeling any anger toward his ridiculers; otherwise hemight have ended up in worse trouble.“She wore a deerskin, and the sun had yet to rise. The shadows played tricks on me. Itwas an honest mistake,” he offered with a shrug, but he could not lift his eyes to meet their cruelstares and the volume of his voice had dropped as theirs had risen.“Klutz!” someone at the back of the crowd yelled, his bravado enhanced by being out of sight and surrounded by many others.“Brute!” yelled another, also finding mirth at Oaván’s expense.
 
The embarrassed young man had been hoping to find some solidarity from his brother butDáidu kept to himself, observing the entire scene with cool distaste. He looked veryuncomfortable standing there clutching Lieđđi and not because he was finding her heavy. Thiswas as close as he had gotten to any woman since Rana had turned him away.Instead of Dáidu, it was Jaská that came to Oaván’s rescue, offering both brothers areprieve with her arrival. She came running up, not something the robust woman did very often,and stumbled to an abrupt halt in front of her younger son, completely out of breath and her cheeks ruddy from strain. He had no doubt that she had sprinted all the way to the village centrewithout pause. Her eyes searched Oaván frantically.“Lars told me there was a hunting accident. Where are you hurt?”Oaván shook his head.“Not me – her.”He gestured toward Lieđđi. Only then did his mother finally notice the girl held inDáidu’s arms. Her brown eyes widened.“What happened?” Jaská glanced back at her younger son, puzzled. “She’s not fromAnár. I don’t recognize her. Where did she come from?”“Apparently your boy can’t tell a ‘deer’ from a ‘darling’,” came another wise-crack fromthe back of the crowd, as Jaská had Dáidu gently lower his charge to the ground where thetemporary noaidi could inspect her better. She knelt beside Lieđđi. Oaván hung his head.“I shot her by accident. She spoke in your tongue, Mother. She must be one of your kind.”Those words seemed to immediately set Jaská, who had started to examine the youngwoman’s wound, on edge. She reached to move aside the deerskin, but recoiled again, as if avoiding tooth and claw as soon as her fingers connected with the soft white hide.“My tongue? Impossible – why would she be this far south? Why would she betravelling all alone,” a startled Jaská mumbled, directing Dáidu to gather Lieđđi up again andtake her to their tent.“Were you not this far south when you met father?” Dáidu pointed out. “Were you notalone when he first encountered you?”“That was different – she is different,” Jaská insisted. “You cannot look at her andhonestly suggest that we’re from the same clan.”
 
That much was true. Lieđđi was as thin as Jaská was thick, as frail as the older womanwas muscular. While Lieđđi was almost as white as the hide she was wrapped in, Jaská’s skinhad a somewhat dusky, ruddy hue. The women could not have been more unalike unless theyhad been separate species, worlds apart in appearance. And yet...“But I heard her speak. I answered her in your tongue and she understood me,” Oaván protested. Had all of his senses failed him? His eyes had seen a reindeer that wasn’t there, hisears had heard words that according to his mother weren’t there either. Maybe Lieđđi’s smellhad not been nearly as enchanting as it had seemed, another cruel deception that had himquestioning his sanity along with his senses.“We must hurry,” his mother told him. “I will need to gather some herbs to make anelixir so that we can strengthen what’s left of her blood before I pull that arrow. I’ll need to havesome sinew and bone needles ready, to stitch her up once it is out, and I’ll have to have a salve prepared to dress the wound, to try to prevent infection. From there we will need prayer, lots of  prayer. It will be up to Maadteraahka to decide her fate. She gave this girl...”“Lieđđi,” Oaván interrupted. “I asked her her name, in your tongue, and she told me thatit was Lieđđi.”“Fine then. She gave Lieđđi her body and it will be up to Maadteraahka to choose if her soul gets to keep it. I would start praying now if I were you. Beg for her mercy and apologizefor the damage you have accidently done to one of her creations.”Oaván shook his head as he followed along behind her and Dáidu, still worn ragged fromhis trek back carrying Lieđđi. He wished he could be more like his father, the epitome of faith, but he had never found any answers in prayer, which was why he was not likely to become thenext noaidi. Not that Oaván wasn’t spiritual, but he found his connection with the divine whilehe was alone in natural places, meditating to the kind of silence that let you hear the sound of your own heart beating. He had never found it in the social worship of his village - not in thedrumming or chants or prayer that uplifted the other people of Anár’s spirits. He liked to simplysit at one of the sacred sites - either at the sieidi, the álda and sáivu hills, or one of the blessedsprings –and just feel the energies of everything that surrounded him.When Osku was still alive, Oaván’s father and mother would argue quietly over his lack of interest in prayer when they thought he was asleep. More than once, Oaván had overheardthem.“It’s not right,” Osku had grumbled. “He’s the son of a noaidi. Prayer should be anessential part of his existence. Why do you think he has such bad luck? The gods turn awayfrom him because of his lack of reverence.”

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