THE FLIGHT OF DIRITHI
Jueneva woke up stiff, hungry and cold. Again.
She scanned the boards that made up the walls of her cage. Nothing had changed about them in the three days of her imprisonment. They were warped by rain and age but were an inch thick and still robust enough to prevent her breaking out. It was a few handspans taller than her own height, but only half as wide as her home bedroom had been. She figured about the width of a closet actually.
She peered through an old knothole in one of the floor boards. The mountain cavern floor was far below her. Her cage suspended on massive ropes from the ceiling. So, even if she managed to break one of the wood boards somehow, she would face a nasty fall and injury.
What is Boure doing at this moment, she wondered. Is he going berserk with worry? Falling back into misery that again the ruins are without their ruling family? Or maybe he is working up some rescue plan?
She actually hoped for the latter as she did not want anyone hurt or any blood spilled on her behalf. Her opinion of the people who had captured her had shifted since their first encounter. The odd resident tribe were not vicious or seemed to be of an evil bent. The only rough treatment had been at the time of her arrest. She believed it was a matter of territory and somehow her trespassing along with the bow had spurred them into action. As a warrior tribe surviving in this harsh realm, she tried to understand and forgive their territorial, aggressive over-reaction.
Jueneva was confident she would find a way to speak with them. Maybe with diplomacy she would win their acceptance, freedom and maybe a trade of supplies with them in the future.
At least today her cage was less packed. Her cellmate had been released the night before.
Her cellmate was a young woman too, with the same tribal tattoos, black hair, crystal green eyes and dark gray skin as her kin. The girl was shy and even nice, but she refused to talk with Jueneva while they stayed in the cage together for two and a half days.
On the first night. Jueneva had been imprisoned with the primitive clan, she was not given any food. By next morn, she was starving. When breakfast was brought, she wolfed down the greenish lumpy stew they bowled and served her. When she was finished, Jueneva licked the clay bowl clean for any remnants.
Her cheeks blushed when she spotted her cellmate staring at her. The girl did not have as much an appetite and had only partially eaten her own stew. She giggled and scooted the bowl to Jueneva.
It was one of the nicest gestures a stranger had ever done for her. In fact, she noticed that the small tribe of women warriors was overall good-natured and friendly toward one another.
As she had not much to do while in the hanging cage, so she studied the tribe. They spoke a staccato-beat language, short and clipped. The words were very hard to understand so she made no progress on understanding the meanings. However, their actions revealed quite a lot.
They might be called The Revie-ati, she was not positive, but the phrase was said a lot and seemed to be used concerning themselves. There were roughly fifty-some of them, mostly women. They had children, elderly women and only two old men besides the near two dozen warrior females. There were no young males – something had happened with them a few years before, but she could not make out any other details.
Their leader called Paora had been killed recently. Possibly by a creature. A gemstone altar or memorial of some fashion had been erected and the surviving members would come by daily to whisper prayers or words of goodbye. It touched her heart seeing how they gave respect and honor to their fallen.
The layout of their cave compound was simple. Several areas were dug out along the west and northern walls for sleeping quarters and two large areas were opened for meeting and for eating. Along the south wall, a stone oven had been set up for a kitchen. They ate as one, together like a huge family. In the eastern wall, a tunnel had been cut, leading further into the mountain which led to an inner spring which was used for fishing, gathering drinking water, and a bath and bathroom. Three main openings were made to enter and exit the compound and one other led to what seemed to be their centipede stables.
Last night at dusk, an excited teenage girl, a year or two younger than her cellmate, rushed in and spoke excitedly. The words Abdi laetra da were shouted a lot as the clan jumped up all at once and rushed about the cavern. From the little knothole, she could not fathom what they had been doing.
She had tapped her cellmate on the arm and made an expression of worry and question, but she had no idea if her meaning came across. Either way the girl only shook her head and scooted further away into the opposite corner. Minutes later, a heavy female guard had come and opened a trap door.
“Losda mooah, abdi laetra da keiva Mealli,” the guard had said, brandishing her spear tip only at Jueneva and not her cellmate.
The girl nodded and crawled over to the trap door. She glanced at Jueneva, graced her with a goodbye smile then climbed down a rope ladder hooked to the trap door.
Once at the bottom, the guard handed her a change of clothes and a thick fur jacket of some kind of animal. Other members spoke Mealli greetings to her, so Jueneva guessed it might be her name.
Within minutes, Mealli had left the compound on an unknown mission or errand.
Not one member of the tribe slept. The Revie-ati ran to and from, bringing in lots of wood or worked at digging up a large, wide trench in the center of the cavern. It led straight into the river tunnel.
Jueneva stressed and worried all night at what this would mean for her as well.
Whatever or whoever the Abdi leatra da was, it was coming soon, and it absolutely petrified this fierce tribe…
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