Feeling a bit of victory, I move from in front of him. I’ve gotten my point across, so there’s no need to be so close to him anymore. So, this is what it takes to get him to shut up. He hasn’t moved or said anything, so I’m guessing I won’t get hit. Maybe I should try this more often. I think I’ve found a way to get over on him. He clears his throat and finally looks over to me.
“Let’s get this over with,” he says flatly as he starts back walking. I follow up silently behind him. Someone’s in a bad mood.
“Oh,” he starts. “You see that island over there?”
My eyes follow to where he’s pointing. A reasonable distance from the shore is a small piece of land in the water. I must have missed it when I was looking at the water. Judging by the distance, it’s a little too far to swim, so it must not be a place they go often. What could be there?
“Yea. What about it?”
He suddenly stops walking, and I run into him. This has to stop happening. His eyes are on me again. This time, I’m pretty sure if he could, he’d burn a hole right through me.
“Things are pretty peaceful here. We hear other stories of other places having wars and fighting between different groups of people. We give to nature, and She gives back to us. We work together to make sure everyone is taken care of. But every now and then, someone disturbs our peace. When that happens, they get exiled to the island. You know what’s on that island?”
He hasn’t taken his eyes off me. I shake my head, and he lowers his head to glare at me.
“That island is where we bury our dead. Only a few know exactly what happens when they arrive there, but it is said that the whispers of the dead will keep you up at night. I overheard my father say that those sent there are as dead to us as those who’ve passed on back to Her.
“While we’re not without our problems, it still takes a lot to be banished. If you manage to trick everyone into letting you stay, I think it would be good to let you know what could happen if you cross the line or show us who you really are. That mother of yours can’t protect you here.”
Our eyes haven’t left each other. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shaking a little, whether from fear or anger. I thought I had him in his place, and now he’s threatening me. I barely know what an island is, and they use it to bury dead people?
Who is She? What could anyone here possibly do to get them banished, and why does he think that I would do anything close to it? If Maeren is that against me being here, will the others not accept me as well? Now I’m worried, but I can’t let him know that. I won’t let his words get to me, especially not now.
He gives me a smirk like he’s gotten what he wanted and turns to keep walking.
He should know by now not to underestimate me.
“Well, I’ll be sure to be on my best behavior during all of my time here. I certainly don’t want to let anyone down. But if we’re making assumptions, if you become an elder after your father, then you should control that temper of yours. All these outbursts make you look weak,” I pat him on the shoulder and walk on ahead.
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t get the last word.
I don’t look back or give him time to respond. At this point, I feel like we’ve spent more time arguing than him showing me around.
Splashing water gets my attention as I turn and see boats coming into the lake and toward the shore. These must be Tetyh’s men, which means that not only do I get to meet more people, I can finally get away from Maeren. Watching them go by reminds me that I’ve never been in a boat before. I’ll add learning how to use a boat to things I want to do while I’m here.
Watching the men go in a row further down the shore, I notice more how much I stand out. Even though they’re seated, they’re taller than me. They’re still a little way away, but I can already see their deeper brown skin and wavy hair pulled back. I look over at Tetyh, and I also catch his eye. He waves to me, and I try my best not to run over.
“I think we’ll have to cut our fun short for now, Maeren,” I say over my shoulder. “But unfortunately, I’ll see you eventually.”
“If you’re lucky, I won’t have to worry about seeing you again.”
I almost turn around. I’m close to getting what I came here to do.
Don’t turn around.
Don’t turn around.
I take a deep breath and keep what I want to say to myself. I don’t hear him behind me, so I know that he’s at least not following me or near. I’m close enough to Tetyh, and I can tell that at least he’s happy to see me.
“How are you today, Aderran? Do you like what you see so far?” He says, putting his hand on my shoulder. My knees almost buckle under the weight, but I try not to show it.
“I’ve had an interesting day so far, but I don’t think I’ve seen as much as I’ve had liked yet.”
“Wasn’t Maeren supposed to show around?” He asks, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Yes,” I tell him, smiling.
Tetyh lets out a sigh and gives me a soft smile that Mother gives me a lot. Maybe it’s something old people do.
“Well, now that you’re here, I’ll introduce you to my men before we do anything else. Have you ever been in a boat before?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“We’ll see about getting that fixed soon,” he says, winking at me. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to my men then you can get a more…proper look around.”
I don’t hesitate to follow. I stand as straight as possible and follow him over to where the men have already pulled in their boats from the water.
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