Monday, January 26, 2009

The Settled Dust, Part 24

A Continuing Haibun Cycle

Dusk had nearly surrendered to night, the passing merchants and masterless warriors only blots of ink upon the dimness. The town was quiet now, those who could consolidate power having done so, those whose best chance lay down a dusty track already absent.

A woman and a boy stood beside their camels as the light failed, stuffing the last of their provisions into their saddle bags. The woman reached with her unbandaged hand, touching the boy's cheek, bringing his face against her side for a moment. Just as quickly, this small gesture was broken, this token of affection passed into the stream of moments.

"We should ride straight through until the dawn," the woman said. "Our tasks are done here."

"Where will we go?" Haike watched her, standing in the way he had, that unaccountable stillness.

She gave a slight smile. "There is a place. I know it well, and I am its mistress, now that my own master has gone away. We could go there, if you wish. It is near the mountains. There is snow in the winter, and summer days are fresh and pleasant."

"Does it lie where the road ends, where the wilderness begins?"

She nodded. "It does. Does that suit you?"

"We will go there. For a time. There is another place I must visit again. You know where."

"That road is one you must walk alone, Haike. No one could follow you there, into the lair of the Dolgurs. I'm not ready to be without you yet."

"Don't fear, Mistress. I won't leave you alone until we're both ready. There is yet healing and learning to do."

"The wisdom to know yourself unready means that...I will not have as much to teach as my own master did."

"I've had rare opportunities, that is all."

"No. You are the rare thing. The opportunities were forced to manifest by your very nature. If you believe anything I say, believe that."

Haike turned his eyes away, looking back at Mima, who watched from the periphery, tears standing in her eyes. "I believe everything you tell me, Mistress. As much as I'm capable of such things, anyway." He turned toward her again. "We'll take Mima with us when we go."

The woman furrowed her brow. "Will we?"

"She was our only friend in a bad situation. We shouldn't leave that debt unpaid. In any case, she knows more than she should, and I don't have the stomach to kill her."

"You wish to go with us, Mima? The road will not be easy, and we are not kindly folk," the woman asked. Though bruised, scarred, and battered, her beauty was undiminished, the command of her dark eyes as solid as stone.

"I've never belonged anywhere, Sorcereress. With you, I feel as if for once I've done something important. Please, allow me to come with you. I'm not fragile. I don't need pampering. If not...if you must slay me for the secrets I've learned, at least I will die avenged."

The woman sighed. "We won't kill you, Mima. For our people, there have always been two, a master and an apprentice. These are unusual circumstances. We will try three." She handed a bag of coins to Haike. "Go buy another camel."

*****

In the dark, the road was a bright ribbon through nothingness. The quiet step of three camels was but a whisper, the dust of the day settled. Unheralded they went, and the night swallowed them up, the whisper of their fell deeds already dying upon the wind.

Through fire we came
the pain we carried equal
to that we dispensed

All that came before
ends tonight, without glory
the deed itself stands

Now rises the road
empty before us, trackless
whispering of hope


The End

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

A fitting end with a promise of future adventure left to the readers' imaginations. The mystery of Haike's sojourn into the Dolgurs' habitat & the relationship to be developed with Mima. Extremely satisfying!
Bobby-T

Anonymous said...

Yes! The ending is good. It just feels right. This is, indeed, a powerful story, with the format providing an aura of elegance to the underlying message. M

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick,

I'm am glad you wrote a coda. And it does feel right. You closed out the series with the posibility of future adventure too.

I still feature this story with pen and ink illustrations accompanying the poetry. I hope you're successful in getting it published. There is a sea of boring stuff out there. But this story stands out as unique in many ways.

Swiftboat

Patrick M. Tracy said...

Folks,

Thanks for sticking with me over this long journey. I think the story will only get better now that I can see it as a whole, but there will always be a magic about it because it started as an episodic piece, and grew naturally toward its finale.

I'm glad you liked the coda segment. I wondered to myself if I should write it, but for the sake of completion, I had to do it. We'll see what happens to the work as I put it all together. As of now, I'm up to part 9, and though there's quite a bit of new stuff at the beginning, I haven't been forced to do any major rewriting.

Again, thanks for coming along with me into this vital, savage world.

Anonymous said...

WHAT A GREAT JOURNEY YOU HAVE TAKEN YOUR READERS ON. HAVE ENJOYED EVERY INSTALLMENT AND LOOK FORWARD TO READING THIS WHEN IT IS PUBLISHED (WITH A SIGNED AUTOGRAPH COPY!) MUCH SUCCESS TO YOU.

SANDY

Rachel said...

Aw NO! Not the end! Dang it. I hope you will revisit these characters someday. I'd love to see Haike all grown and twice as deadly. Or Valila unexpectedly grown very old like a character in an Eastwood film.

But in any case, thank you so much for unspooling this fascinating tale. I enjoyed it tremendously from start to finish.

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