The Bone Elders

April 26, 2010
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Thick perspiration mixed with blood oozed its way along her outer cheek bone, the taste of salt thick in her mouth. Her breath was ragged and unsteady and her legs were numb. One faulty step, one unwise decision and he’d have her. Three days. No rest and Obdi’s flame still burned. She knew her limit was not far off, but determination forced her on. Blood encrusted gashes threatened to reopen with the movement of her arms and legs as she clumsily dodged Mieku’s fist.
Concentrate…think. Sliding to Mieku’s left; Nima put some distance between herself and his strong right fist. His left side held a lesser threat and had proven to be weaker…but only to a point. Blades like Mieku were chosen were chosen for their expert skill in lethal attacks ad capital defense. To find even a hint of weakness in him had taken a day, which also meant Mieku had most likely found hers also. Not much of an advantage.
Nima sidestepped just in time as Mieku swung another fist towards her. It missing by a few hairs did not help her self esteem. She was slowing down. She could feel it. Extreme irritation at herself raced heatedly through her mind. She wasn’t giving up, but her body was. She moved forward closing in on him. He countered by positioning his right side for a defensive attack. Nima’s groggy mind screamed at her to back off, but her angry impatience drove her fist forward towards Mieku’s head. With extreme speed and exact precision, Mieku’s left hand flew up grabbing her fist and cracking it back, the sudden excruciating pain in her numbed appendage caught her off guard. Sight blurred as a weighty fist cracked against her skull sending her into a complete darkness. She was dimly aware of her knees buckling and her body crumpling to the ground before darkness consumed her.

“And what are you implying Mieku?”

“That as a contestant in the Trial, Nima has more than proven she is fit to take on the role of a blade.” Mieku took a step closer to the Great Bone Elder. His mind whirring with thoughts of Nima’s cracked skull and broken wrist. She was lying inside the Healer’s hut now recovering, but slowly. Mieku had found her unconsciousness to be quite alarming the first few days after the Trial. Only the constant reassurances from the Migna, the tribe’s healer, had given Mieku any hope of her recovery at all. Miraculously, Nima was recuperating, although Mieku couldn’t forgive himself for all the pain she suffered. Every time he went to see her his eyes were drawn to the painful gashes in her arms and legs and her broken wrist. Knowing that he was the cause of it all didn’t help much. Guilt tugged heavily upon his conscious and hope of redemption was always on his mind. The Great Bone Elder’s grizzled voice interrupted Mieku’s thoughts.

“Nima failed to outlast Obdi’s flame and you. She has proven only her weakness.”

“She had proven she can last against me for three whole days without food, water, and rest which is more than any of the others has managed to do. No ordinary women can do that!”

“Excuses do not change the will of Obdi. His flame still burns as we speak.”

“A fact you should take to heart. Ask yourself Great Bone Elder, has the flame ever burned this long before?”

“You question Obdi’s will?”

“Not I. Perhaps I question only the will of the person who lit Obdi’s torch...”

Nima smiled although it hurt her chapped lips as Mieku and the Great Bone Elder’s argument drifted into the Healer’s hut. She lay wrapped in furs, the wrist Mieku had broken lay limp at her side wrapped in strips of cloth that had been dipped in clay and hardened. The cast itched but each time Nima raised her other arm to scratch it she felt a tearing pain around the ugly cuts that were trying to heal. A steady flow of well wishers had been streaming in and out of the tent all day long to see how Nima was faring. Mieku had been in to see her more than once; each time offering his apologies about all the damage he’d inflicted. Unlike Nima, Mieku had fared better in the Trial, getting away with a broken nose and a few gashes her and there, a fact Nima resented. It almost hurt worse to see Mieku up and moving than to feel the pain of her broken and bruised body. She secretly hoped he was being plagued with guilt about nearly snapping her wrist in half.

The first time he’d come to see her he’d purposely averted his eyes away from the wrist. He couldn’t even meet Nima’s gaze.

“So, what did I do to p*** you off?” She had asked jokingly.

Mieku had shrugged sneaking a quick glance at her. “I think my instincts really kicked in there. I was actually trying to be careful.”

“What!” Nima had cried out in disbelief. “You were trying to be careful?! Look at me Mieku. This is really what you call being careful?”

Mieku ignored her and instead took a seat next to her. “What are you going to do if you don’t get the Great Bone Elder’s approval to become a blade?”

She had sighed wishing Mieku hadn’t brought up the disheartening subject. What did he expect her to do? “I don’t know.”

“Will you try again at the next Trial?”

“I’m not sure. What if all my hard work pays off with the same results?

“Nima, you’ve got to keep taking that risk if you really want to become a blade.”

She had frowned. “And I suppose you’d know all about that risk wouldn’t you? First time in. Am I right?”

He had nodded.

“And how would you feel if you were like me?”

“Like what?”

“You know…a woman.”

Mieku’s dark eyes had met Nima’s and held them. “I’d feel pretty damn amazing! How many women do you know have gone on to be blades?”

“None. And that’s just my point! Perhaps Obdi believes women weren’t meant to be blades.”

Mieku had leaned closer. “Or perhaps someone else believes women weren’t meant to be blades.”

Nima had kept silent. It was possible. Hadn’t the tribe been around for a very long time..

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