Keta's Storybook!

CANYON, a novel in two parts

. . . CONTINUED FROM

Chapter 2

She got quite reception; when she produced the bones and pelts that she had scavenged, on the third day running, the members of her community erupted into celebration. This girl was a virtual gold-mine of resources!

She quickly decided that this would be as good a time as any to broach the subject of her new discovery, so she blurted out, "I found out something today that is going to change all of our lives forever." The group fell into a wary silence. She grabbed her opportunity and took the floor, "There is another community that dwells a ways down the canyon in this direction. They are just like us except that we do not know them."

A gasp made it's way through the crowd. Those most fearful instantly assumed that this could only mean more danger and started murmuring to that effect.

Teone raised her voice, "They do not live with the danger of the surface beasts that make their way into the canyon on occasion like we do, and they have devised a system of being able to predict when the acid rivers will flow next."

"demons!" "villains" murmured the crowd.

Teone gestured impatiently, this was precisely the reaction she was expecting. One of the group elders stepped forward.

"Silence!" he demanded. "This is very important news. We will go to committee and discuss this immediately. Teone, you come with us. The rest of you go about your usual routine."

At the dreaded word ‘committee' Teone rounded her shoulders, but she went forward with the hope that it would be easier to convince a smaller group than the whole collective.

When the committee had gathered she told them of all of the happenings and discoveries of the day, and that Jared wanted respective delegations to meet at a middle distance of the canyon tomorrow morning. The committee members asked her a few questions and mumbled amongst themselves, then sent her off to have dinner as they made their decision. She was still eating when she was surprised to be told that the committee had agreed to send a delegation, and was in the process of selecting which five members of their community would go in the morning.

Her heart soared at the thought; this was the first time in her life that there was something more going on that just taking care of basic survival! To think, there was something new and different just ahead; explorations, discoveries, adventures! Teone's mind raced towards ideas that she had never entertained before .. . what would it be like to meet and talk with brand-new people that she had never known? How would her life change, now that there was more of them to overcome the danger of the hulking beasts, and they would have warning before the acid river came? She looked towards the other members of her dwelling, those which she had never found particularly interesting; most of them were huddled together in their usual groups, chatting excitedly or rocking back and forth in fear. She knew that alot of them feared change, feared anything really, and would not take well to having their pitiful routines disturbed. Others instantly judged that, if there was something new, it must obviously be bad. They did not agree with the decision of the committee, and often their voices were raised in dissent as they hoped to change The Elder's minds before it was too late.

Teone just shrugged and turned her back on them. She knew they were dull and foolish, and she realized that she had felt more connection with Jared in their short meetings than she had in her lifetime spent with these people. To her, it seemed obvious that this life they were leading was getting them nowhere, and if something wasn't done soon their group would perish. Already in her time Teone had seen more people die than were born, and those her age didn't seem to have the ability or desire to procreate. She kind of startled in herself at this thought; she didn't realize that she had already considered such things!

When Teone was foraging in the canyon, to herself she seemed very focused and single minded. To keep a sharp eye out for any movement of rodents or growth of roots, while being aware of her surroundings in case some danger might arise. But as she considered it now, she realized that a whole other part of her thoughts were racing away all the while, sort of without her immediate attention. It was difficult to focus now, especially with her anticipation of the new things to come tomorrow, but she tried to put herself back in her routine before the chance meeting. To see what was on her mind in those long hours of walking and looking for food. She couldn't really pinpoint any particular thoughts, but she had a sense that her consciousness was concerned with other things than the task immediately before her. As she yawned, she kind of laughed to herself; funny that in all the time previous, all the boredom and tedium she wasn't even aware of the thoughts her mind was taking, and now that she realized it she didn't have time to pursue because there was other, more interesting things going on! With thoughts of excitement and a more pleasant future just ahead, Teone retired to an early sleep.

Teone awakened as usual in the early morning, only to discover that this time some of the others were up even before her! The selected delegation was preparing to go out and meet with Jared's people. None of the elders were coming, preferring to have chosen those that were young and spry and better equipped to face the many dangers to go. The leader was Joshua, a medium-aged, reasonably clear-minded man, with Teone as the second-in-command. Then there was Sally; younger, agile and strong. George was kind of weak in body but quick of mind, so the others were charged with the duty of protecting him if need be. Sidney and Patricia, the twins, were selected to round out the group because they were good climbers, had sharp eyes and excellent aim when it came to pitching rocks at an adversary.

By the time the delegation had been briefed by the elders and was ready to go, the rest of the community had roused and were silently milling about. Most of them were either so traumatized by past experiences, or addled of mind from the constant hunger and exposure to the harsh elements that they couldn't even properly conceive of what was going on. The group received their well-wishes, said their goodbyes and went on their way. They had to help George climb down the stalagmite wall, but other than that they made it to the canyon surface without difficulty. When they reached the bottom Teone started marching off to their meeting place immediately, but Joshua stopped her with his quiet voice.

"I just want to take a minute to regroup and make sure that all of us know exactly what we are doing. Don't roll your eyes, Teone; always impatient. It's very important our approach to the other delegation. We have to make sure we come across as capable and in our strength, so that when it comes time to make decisions we have an equal voice to them."

Teone conceded that this was a good point.

Joshua continued, "They might think that they are somehow ahead of us or superior to us since they have lived with one less danger than we have. But we hold the key to the information that they want, and they will not be able to take on the challenge of the beasts down here without us."

He sternly looked at each of the delegates in turn. "When we come within sight of their group, I want you to all walk straight and tall and bear yourselves with dignity and honour. Let me speak and do not interrupt. However when it comes time to introduce yourselves speak in a loud and clear voice. Be brief and to the point. We will have much to discuss and I want to get back here well before nightfall." Joshua looked about himself nervously, and George had gone quite pale.

The group set out, with Teone at the front, Joshua and George clustered in the middle with the twins, Sidney and Patricia flanking them, and Sally bringing up the rear. They walked steadily and quickly forward, and in a short time reached the designated meeting-place which was approximately half-way between the respective dwellings. Teone was surprised to find that there was noone there to meet them. "Perhaps we're early," she said nervously as she glanced about quickly.

The twins were carefully scouring the surface of the canyon, looking for signs of movement or a possible ambush.

"I'm going off ahead to check things out." Teone said, and started to march forward.

Again Joshua's voice stopped her, this time louder, "NO! we stay here as a group. They will come shortly and we will meet them with dignity."

This time Teone thought she knew better, but acquiesced in the interests of group morale. Almost immediately they could hear voices approaching and they stationed themselves according to the pre-decided arrangement. Joshua to the front slightly ahead of them, with George behind him to his right, and the rest of them standing in a solid line behind them. What they saw coming towards them surprised them all.

The other delegation was dressed, not in rags and pelts as they were, but in some finery and colours that they had never seen before. It's true that the robes and garments they wore had seen better days; worn and ripped in places and faded. But it was a clear indication of some former glory. They also carried a banner with some symbols on it that Teone could not understand, but which clearly must have conveyed some meaning in times past. She almost did not recognize Jared when she saw him, so tall and formal in his robes and at the centre of the group that moved towards them.

When they came within speaking distance the delegation stopped and Jared stepped forward. As did Joshua to meet him. They exchanged greetings and pleasantries and some murmured words that Teone could not hear. She strained forward to get a better view but Sally's arm on her sleeve held her back to her place. Then George stepped forward and produced from his pouch some things that Teone had never seen before; she could not tell what it was from her position but it glinted and glittered, even in the dim daylight, and seemed to shine out of George's palm with a light of it's own. Joshua and Jared spoke for quite some time between themselves, with much nodding and some frowning going on. Teone was becoming very impatient to know what was going on! Then finally they stepped back from each other and began to introduce their respective groups to each other. When it was her turn Teone quickly stepped forward and loudly said her name and the duties she performed for her group. Briefly the two groups intermingled and spoke some polite words to each other. Then Jared and Joshua announced it was time to be getting back to their dwellings. Another time and place was selected for a future meeting, but there was much work to be done in the meantime.

CONTINUED . . .