"Wake up, young one."
The small tauren rolled over, ignoring the older taureness shaking his shoulder. He knew she was worried. Most days, he would have jumped at the crack of dawn to sneak out and explore. Today, however, he remained slumbering on his mat.
"You have to get up. Your sister is waiting." The Elder declared, her voice firm yet soothing for the young boy.
That got his attention. He had been waiting months to meet his new sibling and from the sound of it, he could finally see her. Pressing his hands against the mat to support him as he sat up, he looked to the aging Elder with sleepy eyes.
With the lack of light that filled the tent, the boy could barely see the elder. Yet he knew from experience that her once light brown fur was graying around her muzzle and dark eyes. He could make out her long braids running down either side of her face, with loose strands breaking free. He reached to feel her robe as he caught a wiff of strong herbs and tea. It was her usual robe, soft and worn-out from constant wear.
The tauren sighed. He had been enjoying his sleep, but if Elder Epana herself came to stir him, then there was no refusing.
He yawned before letting himself ask, "Where is she?"
The Elder took his hand and tugged at it. He rose to his feet, following her as she led him out of his tent. She walked gingerly, taking care as not to rush or trip. The boy didn't have her grace though, brisking stepping to try and keep pace with her long legs.
He looked around the semi-circle of tents for signs of the others. After all, he reasoned, the birth of his sister should arouse much of the tribe to join them as they celebrated. Yet no one was outside. The flaps of most tents were closed as they had left that night, signaling that no one had exited them. The only ones that did were the Elder's tent that he had slept in that night and the center hut where he assumed his mother was.
"Where is everyone else?" The tauren asked the Elder.
The Elder continued making her way to the center hut, leaving the air silent except for wolves howling in the distance. She only stopped once she had reached the open flap.
"They're asleep, dear child. They can see the baby in morning." She responded softly as she ushered in the hut.
He blinked a few times once he entered the tall hut. It was barren but for a few small items scattered across the floor. Near the center, there was a soft but burning fire in a large bronze burner. It looked like it had been burning all night, with ash covering the base and the fire burning itself out. A large ceremonial mat extended from underneath the blazer to the far edge of the tent.
There a figure was laying, her arms wrapped around a small bundle. He took a step forward to her, allowing his feet to take over as he emblazed the sight into his memory. The figure's brown fur glistened with sweat, despite the chill in the air. Her breathing was rough, but no one seemed to mind. Instead, all leaned towards the bundle in her arms. Stepping closer, the tauren could see the outline of an infant squirming in the layers of prepared hides. Its cries echoed in the tent, endless calling for something.
"Jafern!" His mother's voice whispered as he neared closer. "Come see your sister."
He listened, edging closer to her faster than he had previously. He came to his mother's side, lowering himself to meet his sister for the first time. He realized that he had been holding his breath as he gave a soft sigh of relief looking over the child.
The child shared the fur color of him and his mother, a darker brown akin to mud after fresh rainfall. Her mane was even darker than that, almost black in the darkness. Her eyes were squeezed tight while her mouth was wide with the usual cries of a newborn. The tauren could barely make out the stubs on her forehead which would someday grow into beautiful proud horns. Yet he couldn't help but feel that this was someone that he would grow to love dearly. Of course, he wouldn't let the others know that quite yet.
Turning to his mother, he decided to ask a simple question. "May I hold her?"
Jafern was able to make out a smile on his mother's face as she placed the newborn in her son's arms.
"Remember to hold her like this." She guided his arms to the correct position as she spoke.
Once the bundle was firmly in his arms, he had a brilliant idea. "She is so….." He trailed off.
"So…." Elder Epana repeated, curious to see what the child was about to finish with.
But Jafern didn't finish the phrase. Instead, he grinned as he bolted out of the hut with the crying infant.
Once he had made it outside, he sprinted to his beloved kodo. It was a simple yet large beast with a scaly white hide and a saddle fashioned on his back.
"Hoof!" He commanded as he made it to the kodo. "We have to go!"
The kodo turned his head to the child, lowering his body to allow the children on. Once he was mounted and had affirmed his sister's security, Jafern reached to the reins and kicked the side of the kodo. Hoof hollered out and began running east towards the lake.
Jafern turned to sister. She was crying, even louder than before. With her volume and the kodo's disappearance, he knew that the rest of the tribe would be up and chasing him soon enough Yet he continued on, determined to reach his destination.
Soon enough, the kodo stopped at the bed of the lake. The boy smiled. He could always rely on his kodo, couldn't he?
He began descending off of the kodo, careful with the child. He walked to the lake, content to see no one else there. Searching the weeds surrounding the calm water, he found the small fishing baskets his tribe hide for their weekly fishing trips. With one hand holding the small child and another preparing the basket, he started to sing a simple song. Making it up as he went, the words flowed off of his tongue with as much rhythm as the young boy would muster.
Come to the riverbend,
There you will see me,
A friend to help mend,
So should you believe.
With spirits and echoes,
I patiently wait,
In the highs and lows,
Without even a mate.
Never shall you be alone,
Always will you find me,
Laying without a groan,
For you leave us be.
So come my dear child,
Rest for awhile,
The water is mild,
With no thoughts of vile.
Just the two of us,
Always and forever.
While she hasn't completely halted her screams, she had quieted down enough for Jafern to hear his own thoughts.
By now, he had finished his work on her basket. The wicker basket now had a soft blanket that had once belonged to Jafern. It was a well loved blanket with elegant stitchwork. They depicted many scenes from Shu'halo mythology, often accompanied with important names and events written on the side in his native Taurahe. Wrapped inside this blanket was some fish bundles and loaves of bread, only beginning to harden.
Mentally checking over everything in the basket, he nodded. He was ready to settle her down into the basket.
He leaned over, caressing the child before setting her into the basket. Gently placing the basket onto the lake, he heard something snap behind him. The tauren turned around, looking for the source of the sound. It had come from the nearby forest, so he left the basket down where it was and began walking up to the source.
The figure stepped out of the shaded undergrowth just as he was about to enter the forest. It was a young taureness, about a year or two younger than he was. Her light brown fur looked almost golden with An'she rising behind her. Her brown mane was a mess of tangled and uneven ends. She had small white stubs above sky blue eyes. She looked at him curiously, as if inspecting him.
"What are you doing?" Her familiar high voice echoed in the morning air.
"Going to send her on her first big adventure! What else would she be doing, Winoa?" Jafern answered proudly.
She huffed and retorted. "Going home to her mama without her big mean brother!"
"I am not mean!"
"Yes you are!"
The children continued to quall, determined to show the other that the other was wrong. At least, that's what they did until they heard something cry out.
"Ah, that's the baby!" Winoa screamed.
Jafern pouted. "Maybe if you hadn't mean such a meanie, we would be going on an adventure!"
Winoa narrowed her eyes at Jafern, determined to make him apologize. However, he knew better than to acknowledge the look. Insteed, he sprinted over to where he had left his sister.
Winoa followed suit, trailing on Jafern's trail. Once they returned to the infant, they were surprised to find Elder Epana rocking the child in her arms.
"What did you think you two were doing?" Epana asked sternly.
Well, this wasn't going to end well….
Author's Note-So this is a companion story for Stonestriders Together. It will be a series of one-shots ranging across the lives of Winoa, Kennocha, and Jafern. They won't always be in order though, so I will try to keep the ages of the main characters involved in the author's note. As always, any critic or comment is appreciated!
For this piece, Kennocha was born an hour prior, Winoa is nearing 4 years old and Jafern is 5.