Chapter 7

Written by: Gabrielle Burt

Disengaging from the knot of warrior sisters crowding the narrow entrance, Dilara stepped forward into the dimly lit cave. 

Finely-muscled arms akimbo, she stood, her right hand casually within striking distance of the double edged knife left for her by the woman in her dream and now stowed safely in her belt of twisted hide. With a single sweep, her obsidian eyes took in the sparse surroundings and, as they did, realisation hit like a physical blow. 

Her tone was measured as she addressed the pathetic hermit, “Nomusa, it was you who would behead a young man, then sell his wife to the highest bidder for the crime of … what?” She arched one eyebrow, "True love? You lacked that which your name promised. There was no ‘compassion’, only hate lives in your heart.” 

A ripple of disbelief went through the warriors' ranks. 

“How say you now, Old Man? I thought many moons had set since last your bitter footsteps trod this land. I see now, I was wrong. You are but a wraith, doomed to wander without peace or rest; in search of the meaning of true love.  Something only attainable with forgiveness and compassion.”

The old man appeared not to hear. His bulging eyes had locked on the knife in her belt, “Where did you ……..”  His voice crackled like fire in unseasoned wood.  “Where did you find this ….weapon?” The last word slipped almost silently through trembling, parchment lips as he pointed a calloused finger at the knife.

Dilara’s eyes narrowed. He looked so weak and helpless. Old. This miserable scrap of withered humanity had caused so much death and destruction. So much misery. For so long. Surely the woman from her dream was mistaken. How could he hold the key that would unlock the curse?  It was he who had started it all. When the son of the powerful Otunga Chief married the local High Priest’s daughter - instead of his own. How could he possibly know the secret to true love?  He was a warmonger not a peacemaker.

Her mind’s eye saw again the beautiful village that no longer was. Her home; now a pile of ashes. She saw the slaughter of unsuspecting, unprepared men, women and children. Heard their terrified screams as they were butchered. Her nostrils flared in remembered horror of the smell of charred human flesh as their beloved village burned; and the bile rose in her throat.  Her hand moved towards the knife. 

“Mirembe gave it to me. The woman who walks with the spirits and whose life you stole. I have met her, Old Man. She came to me when the earth was silvered by moonlight and silently weeping.”

A primal howl of anguish filled the air as the old man rose up, filling the entire cave. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the vision was gone and the shrunken old man sat before them. Deflated. Empty.

“To find peace – you must first make peace, Old Man.”  

Comments

What a super chapter this is. I was especially impressed by the research that went into the name of the Old Man. What was particularly noteworthy about this chapter was the use of 'show don't tell.' An example is when we see the effect of the smell of charred bodies on Dilara's body. This shows us how the smell of charred bodies made 'the bile rose in her throat...'
Impressive!
Thank you very much. It's a great serial. Really sincere compliments to all the writers thus far.
Well done! This chapter fits the spirit of the serial nicely, with some lovely flourishes along the way. There are some tantalizing hooks and threads for the last few authors to finish this serial with, so there is plenty of room for more twists and turns.
Thanks very much for your comments. Absolutely agree there will be some great twists and turns to come. Can't wait to see what happens next!