The Unfinished Song: Initiate
…on behalf of the accusers,” Auntie Ugly said with ill-concealed relish.
“Kavio committed the most serious crime of which a Zavaedi dancer is capable. He concocted his own Pattern, a dance unknown to our ancestors. He cannot name the teacher that taught it to him, nor the society who held its secret. That is hexcraft.
“That in itself would be reason to discipline him. But on top of that, he used this Pattern for the vilest of purposes, to harm the community that bore him and to deprive his neighbors of their very livelihood.”
Kavio glanced involuntarily at Mother. He had never seen her so ashen. Though a part of him wanted to spit in Father’s face, the knowledge that he had disappointed Mother burned like chili pepper in his mouth. But no matter what happened, he’d be cursed before he’d show how he felt in front of this assemblage of vultures and jackals. Or in front of his father.
He lifted his chin and faced his accuser with his most insolent smile.
As he’d known it would, his smile infuriated Auntie Ugly. She jabbed a bony finger at him.
“Three days ago, Kavio, you went into a room here in the Laby- rinth and performed a hex that diverted a part of the river upstream from the Valley of the Aelfae. By doing so, you have lowered the water level in the fields, making it possible that not enough silt will be deposited by planting season.
“As witness, I call my own son, Zumo the Cloud Dancer.”
Kavio’s cousin, a young man of similar age, build, and height, stood. He removed his mask of blue shells. While Kavio seethed inside, Zumo repeated the lies that had led to this trial in the first place. Not that anything Zumo testified was false; his deception lay in what he didn’t say.
After Zumo, a second witness repeated the story of having found Kavio dancing alone in a kiva in the Labyrinth.
“Thank you both,” Auntie Ugly said smugly after the second wit- ness sat down again. “Kavio, do you deny these charges?”
“I don’t deny what I did,” he said. “I deny that I invented the Pattern, I deny that it was hexcraft, and I deny that it was intended to harm our people.”
When Auntie Ugly sneered at him, the anger that had been pum- meling his belly these last days bettered his sense, and he added sarcastically, “I do not deny that there are times I wish I had let you all drown.”
He knew it was a mistake as soon as he said it. The masked Tav- aedies and Zavaedies hissed and shouted.
“Zavaedi Kavio’s guilt is plain,” said Auntie Ugly. “I cast my stone with justice. I call for Kavio’s death!”
She glided to the pottery jar and pulled out a smooth, gray stone, then tossed it on the black mat.
Big surprise there, thought Kavio. You’ve always hated me, you old toad. I never even understood why.…
TO BE CONTINUED
Paulo Cammeli contributed the art today. I really love his paintings. I should note, however, that there are actually no iron chains in Faearth. Their technology is neolithic. No books, no chain-mail, no swords, no saddles — although some of them do ride horses, it’s rare, and they use a hoop, not a bridle.