Beast of War

By Christine Gardner

Children's, Fantasy, Action & adventure

Paperback, eBook

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3 mins

CHAPTER 9 – Red streaks

Barite and Terrus were walking along the edge of Lake Union. Terrus had joined the irrigation team, which Barite was also part of, but they had completed their chores for the day and had time to relax.
‘When do I get to see your new marks, Terrus?’
Terrus was no longer afraid of the rings, but still found them embarrassing and had avoided any of her friends seeing them by wearing long sleeves every day. She decided suddenly that she would like to see what Barite made of them though. He was intelligent and a good friend when he wasn’t teasing her.
She pushed her sleeve up and displayed the marks on her arm.
‘Wow!’ Barite was impressed. ‘Is that why you didn’t show anyone? But they’re beautiful!’
Terrus looked again at her arm. I suppose they do look rather attractive, now they no longer frighten me, she thought.
‘I was scared. I didn’t know what they meant.’
‘And now you do?’
‘No…well, they’re something to do with my song, but there’s more and Noctua won’t tell me.’
‘I bet she said something like “If you are meant to have the knowledge it will come to you” ’, he said in a pompous gruff voice.
‘That’s right! And “when you least expect it”.’ Terrus’ impersonation was not as accurate as Barite’s, but they both found it hilarious and dropped down on the sand laughing.
‘And then she said “I hope you’re more intelligent than you look, or we’re all in trouble!” ’ Terrus said, starting off another fit of giggling from them both.
They sat quietly for a few minutes to recover and then Barite said, ‘Why did she say that, I wonder? What does it matter to the rest of us how stupid you are?’
Terrus punched him and began a wrestling match on the sand, as had happened many times before. They had been friends all their lives as Barite’s mother, Himea, was a close friend of Maoni. Somehow there was an awkwardness between them now though and Terrus stood up and said, ‘We’re too old for that, now.’
Barite held out his hand. ‘Okay, Granny, help an old man get up, will you?’
She smiled, but left him to get up on his own and walked away along the lake’s edge. He soon caught up and as he walked along beside her, he said, ‘Would you sing me your song?’
Terrus drew in a quick breath. It wasn’t forbidden to sing the women’s songs to men, but customarily women sang only to their own men. Barite was a good friend, but he wasn’t her man.
‘I don’t know, Barite…’ she began, not wanting to offend him.
‘I understand. What if, instead of singing it, you just tell me what it’s about? That wouldn’t matter would it?’
‘I’ll try. It’s about drought and famine and war, like most of them. That’s the history I guess, but it may be prophecy as well.’
‘I certainly hope not.’
‘No. Have you ever thought how helpless we’d be against the Brooges?’
‘Not really. We wouldn’t have a chance, of course, but why would they attack us?’
‘Well, they have in the past. Generations ago, our ancestors fought all the time. I don’t know how. It’s hard to imagine Brinnies even attempting to defend themselves against the Brooges.’
‘They must have been very different. I suppose if you live with the constant threat of war you become different. Or you die. I’m glad we live in this generation then.’
‘Yes, me too. But…I wonder…does my song mean more wars to come in the future? If it’s prophecy…’
‘Tell me more about it.’
‘There’s a part about my rings! It goes “Green must join with white and blue.”! That’s my rings, Noctua says.’
‘I can’t see your ancestors making up a song about your marks, Terrus, seriously!’
‘No, there’s more to it. It’s part of the prophecy. But don’t you see? The rings mean it’s real! My song is real.’
‘Well, that’s great.’
‘But Barite, if it’s real and it’s a prophecy…’
‘I see what you mean. It could mean trouble. Drought and famine?’ He looked around him. ‘It’s hard to believe at the moment.’
‘It may not be for ages yet, but maybe our children…’
He raised one black eyebrow at her.
‘I mean your children and my children…they could be the ones to suffer. That’s too horrible to think about.’
‘It is. Let’s not think about it now. Come on, let’s paddle.’
‘You must be joking!’
‘What? Are you afraid those little red teels will dance too close to your feet?’
‘Hmph! As if you’re not…Barite!’
‘One of the lines in my song is “Red streaks dancing in still water”. Do you think…?’
Barite stopped. ‘I think you’d better tell me more, Terrus. What about red streaks in still water?’
‘It goes…Oh! It goes “Follow on to pain and slaughter”! Barite! What if that’s the sign? The sign that there will be another famine?’
‘The teels,’ Barite began slowly, ‘don’t like the still water of the lake. There has to be a reason for them to be there suddenly.’ He looked at Terrus. ‘The rivers…the rivers might be drying up or something!’
‘I think we’d better see the elders, don’t you?’
‘Why don’t we check out the river first, see if there’s any change?’
‘All right. Let’s just have a look at where the Vigour flows into the lake.’
It took nearly an hour for the two Brinnies to walk around the lake to the mouth of the river and when they arrived they were not happy with what they saw. The level was down to about half the usual depth and the water looked murky, unlike the usual clear stream. Along the banks there were a few dead fish and the roots of the willas that grew along the bank were exposed.
‘It looks awful!’ said Terrus. ‘How could it happen so quickly? We were just here a week ago! Why hasn’t someone seen it?’
‘More importantly, what can we do about it?’
‘I don’t see how we can do anything.’
‘Let’s hurry back and tell the elders.’
They were exhausted though and decided to have a short rest before they began the trek back to the village. Barite asked Terrus for more information from her song and as she began to tell him, the music took over and she sang. He sat enraptured as her clear voice rang out across the water, telling all who heard of the history of his people. And the prophecy. He understood it at once, as she never had. The meaning was given to him from within and he was both excited and terrified.



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