This is the 7th in a series of pieces on characters and places featured in Joinings: A Seared Sky. This background information, isn’t covered in the book, but should enhance the reading experience. For some of my people, there’ll be a character drawing, supplied by Alice Taylor, maybe a video interview, and accompanying script. I may do short pieces of fiction, deepening knowledge of certain minor characters as well.
For the places, I may use sections of the map, to indicate location, along with a description of the place, as I see it, and, where appropriate, links with characters. Perhaps I’ll indicate the way of life there with a short anecdote or story. I won’t reveal any of the main story, either as already published or as written in the series, merely enhance readers’ enjoyment of the trilogy by providing more information. I hope this will give pleasure to those who’ve bought the book and, perhaps, persuade others to take that step.
Dilanthas – di-lan-thass
Krohtl – krow-tul
Muhnilahm – mew-nee-larm
Ytraa – eet-rah
Names are pronounced phonetically. But this is my take on them; how I hear them in my head. You may pronounce them as you wish, of course; reading is, after all, active rather than passive.
Dilanthas, from Krohtl, Muhnilahm, is a shy girl Chosen to go on the pilgrimage as a Virgin Gift. Here is a short piece about her initiation into womanhood.
All her life, Dilanthas had lived under Ytraa’s Peak, rising tall and dark to the southwest of her home. Her father urged the whole family to make their prayers at the back of the house, so they could see the craggy mountain before and after their acts of worship.
Tomorrow, she must make the journey up to the Plain of Ytraa, surrounding the high peak, and spend a whole sixday with other girls her age. Under strict instruction by the Holy Ones, she’d learn discipline and devotion, earning hard smacks for every failure to do exactly as they demanded.
It wasn’t the prospect of punishment she most feared, though she was certain she wouldn’t pass the sixday without pain and humiliation; it was the way she must leave the town. To walk the entire length of the main road and allow all to see the butterfly tattoo adorning her left breast and, worse, the hummingbird pointing its long sharp beak at the very centre of her womanhood. These were things only her betrothed and Ytraa should see and this exposure was what she most dreaded. After all, naked was sacred.
‘You’ll no be on yer own, lass.’ Her father’s words were intended to hold comfort.
She wanted to make him proud, make that walk with head held high and her whole body declaring her love of Ytraa. Shyness and modesty warred with her desire to do her best for her family and her beloved, as she made her way to the ceremony that would end her life as a daughter and announce her readiness to join and become a wife.
‘All t’other girls your age ‘ave to do same, Dilanthas. Me an’ your father did it when we was gettin’ ready to marry. Think on your pride as a Follower an’ go to yon Peak like our founder did all those ‘undreds of cycles ago.’ Her mother’s words were encouraging; she seemed happy with her life, and she and Father got on well.
It was true that Dilanthas looked forward to the ceremony that would come a few sixdays later. She and her betrothed would take the same route together, leading their families to the Plain of Ytraa, there to join before Ytraa and become as one.
She’d talked with the other girls, of course. They’d be fourteen in total. One by one they’d leave town and head into the hills. They were supposed to go to the Peak alone, but most intended to wait on the edge of the olive grove above the river and travel together.
Dilanthas would be sixth to leave and she’d vowed to follow the rules and make her way on her own. But she’d have to pass the place where they were due to collect and she wondered if she’d have the courage to leave them behind. There’d be safety in numbers. Should they pass an isolated farm, or come upon travellers, she’d be one of a group rather than a girl alone.
She could see the attraction of their intended disobedience. But would she be bad, or would she do as she’d been told, and make a solitary journey? It was considered part of the test.
For now, evening prayers were over and she’d had her last meal with them. Mother had prepared Father’s freshly caught fish with wine, something they rarely had in the house, and the tangy flavour lingered in her mouth. She’d placed her few needs in the rush bag she’d hang from her shoulders at her back. Now, all she needed was a good night’s sleep to be ready for the morning.
The family would take the short walk to the beach. There she’d remove her tabard and present it to her father as a sign of her independence. She’d step into the sea until her whole body was submerged. Then she’d turn and walk past the townspeople to the initiation on the Plain, following the tradition set by the first Follower, as he set out to explore their new home on this island. If she kept that thought in her mind, she might get through the ordeal with less anxiety. She might even feel the pride and joy her father expected her to show.
And, of course, her betrothed would be there, watching. On her return, he’d make the same trip, with the other bucks of his age, and she’d watch them. That was something to look forward to, after all.