Early excerpt

A rider approached Mekli’s camp, kicking up clouds of dust in its wake, the thundering violence of its passage muted by distance. Children paused to watch, while most of the adults feigned disinterest. Dozens of tents huddled like tiny mountains against the desert floor, dying campfires serving as loci for three or four families apiece, casting large shadows in the failing light. Pots and clothes hung from lines stretched across the open spaces.

Mekli walked beyond the boundary of his camp, self-conscious of his duty to receive the rider first, and anxious to keep his conversation private. Good news was rarely delivered with urgency. This rider’s haste was an ill omen.

The rider arrived and dismounted smoothly. If his multilayered garments had once held color, it had faded in the sand and sun. He approached Mekli with a sure step despite his long ride. Mekli envied his youth.

“Honored Father,” the rider said with a bow, which Mekli returned.

“Tell me your name, messenger,” Mekli invited.

“I am called Viktin, of the Tektimti tribe.”

“You are welcomed here, Viktin. May our fires be home to you. But my hospitality borders on rudeness; you did not come here to exchange formalities with an old man.”

“No,” Viktin admitted. “The Asoki prepare for war.”

“The Asoki always war,” Mekli said dismissively.

“No, Honored Father. Their tribes are largely united now. They prepare for war with us.”

Mekli chewed the inside of his lip, considering. It was hard to imagine Asoko unified.

“Tell me everything,” he said.

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  • Ben Farrar

    I like this!

    But what could I say that would actually be helpful?

    Ah, “the thundering violence of its passage muted by distance”. The “adults feigned disinterest”. It’s little turns of phrase like that that sell a story.

    The names and dialogue seemed stilted and even difficult to pronounce at first, but then I saw that this was the whole intention: to create the impression of a civilization totally different from our own, with customs and ways of talking utterly different from ours. I am picturing a civilization similar to that of Mongolia, shortly before the rise of Ghenghis Khan.

    I loo forwar to the next installment.

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