Chapter 11: Training
The night was full of energy as it had been for the past two days. During that time, a dance was held to summon the spirit of the wolf so as he could be a guide for the tribe’s newest sister now called Nekang. Ashira-Li was dancing with the dancers, feeling rather out of place those last two nights since she hadn’t danced in a tribal dance since the year of the Sang. She kept looking at Moira and Lilah with a look that said, ‘I can’t do this.’ They both encouraged her to continue trying. Ashira was getting frustrated because she couldn’t connect and she was beginning to tense up which was a bad sign. It was Lilah who finally said, “Relax, remember the Jedi way: Calm, at peace.”
Upon hearing those words, Ashira focused on the rhythm and followed the other women dancers and began to concentrate on the rhythm. She reverted to a meditative exercise that old Petronius taught her long ago where she removed her mind from her physical body and imagined that she was in the room of a thousand fountains. She could hear the water pouring into itself and the calming lull it produced. The rhythm of the drums fell in sync with the lull of the water and she began to revert to her comfortable state when she practiced saber techniques. Her form and body began to flow and bend gracefully.
Moira was watching the change in her pose and movement. She was amazed at how quickly Ashira could adapt so quickly, much more quickly that her other warriors. Moira also watched her daughter’s face to discern her mood. She was all too well aware that Lilah didn’t believe in fairy tales, she never had since her brother died from a killing illness. Yet she hoped that Ashira would some how open Lilah’s eyes to see that it never hurts to have faith. She was thinking these thoughts when she heard the wolf call.
The wolf called again and Ashira turned around. She cocked her head to listen once more. When she heard the howl, she said, “That’s him.”
Moira then said, “Go then. Find him.”
Ashira then took off running into the forest. Running lightly she whistled her call for Daranka. She was stopped short when a wolf jumped out that was not Daranka. It stared at her with its yellow eyes and began to growl menacingly. Ashira kneeled to the ground and just looked it in the eye, showing no fear and not backing down. Moira had followed Ashira and saw from a distance the confrontation between the angry wolf and Ashira. Ashira was paying no mind except to the wolf and was whispering in her people’s language, “I am here, you are here. We don’t want to hurt each other. Back down, back down.”
She was saying this gently yet so firmly that the wolf backed down. It lay on the ground and whined slightly as if to say, “I surrender.” It was then Daranka showed up and walked up to Ashira and licked her on the face. The other wolf was shy about approaching but overcame it with Daranka’s eagerness to see his friend. When both wolves were near, she petted both of them and spoke soothing words in her language. She then stood up and both followed her back to where Moira was waiting. The second wolf ran away when she saw Moira. Ashira watched and nodded as if in understanding. She then turned to Moira and said, “Here is my friend, the wolf.”
Dragus was pacing back and forth pleased and yet angry at the turn of events that he had received from his point man Tarkus. He had anticipated that she would have come to the aid of her people but he never expected that she would walk amongst the very people that he was trying to destroy. Still this turn of events was not damaging enough to his carefully laid out plans to wipe out the effectiveness of the Avalonian people and get his revenge upon the family that had wronged him.
He walked to the balconies to watch as again the hassled herders tried to fight their way to the bulkheads that were sealing their herds in. He wondered why they were so persistent even though they ran the risk of death. It was something that would be discovered and his one weakness that would ultimately be his end. He watched with a bemused grin and chuckled as the kataran herds were getting worked into frenzy as some herders were trying to calm them down while others were trying to storm the bulkheads. He thought about how long will the herders last through this campaign. He then left to go give instruction to ground troops to begin their march to the capital, Xao Lin.
After Daranka arrived, training was relatively easier for Ashira. It was as if he made her happy. The truth of the matter was that she was close to him but also that he seemed to know her feelings and responded accordingly. The other wolf Ashira befriended would show up when she went on her romps through the forest to learn of the trails and practice. Lately, she had been paired with the nephew of Moira, Lardonis, as it was nearing his time to come of manhood.
Ashira found that many of the ways that they were teaching her were similar to what old Petronius and Shang-Li had taught her all along. She remembered when she joined the recruits to defend Belos when she was seventeen but as an ordinary Shi-Cho Handmaiden. She listened with the same attentiveness she gave to Petronius, Shang-Li and her Jedi masters and followed by example. Through this manner, she learned new ways and improved the old ones and in so doing, ended up looking nothing like the woman that arrived in the village.
Moira watched Ashira’s progress and noted the change in her demeanor and appearance. It was as if Ashira had allowed her newfound talents and strengths to change her. Her personality was there but it was masked by the face of Haida women. The other women of the tribe noticed it too. Ever since Ashira joined, they were willing to stay and fight. They believed that this little woman would help them just as much as Moira did and helped in whatever way they could.
The days passed into weeks and Ashira was nearly ready. The last thing that remained was for her to receive her symbol as a warrior and a huntress. It was a private affair so Moira used her hut to give Ashira her mother’s bow. Moira had Ashira sit across from her and said, “Nekang, in the tradition of our people, it is the woman of the house that gives the blessing of the hunt. Here I give you the bow of a great warrior,” and she handed Ashira the bow.
It was an exquisite one with the personal touch of animal fur on the wood. Ashira looked at it but said, “I can’t. It is not rightfully mine as I am not a part of your family.”
Moira was impressed with Ashira’s sense of honor and respect and responded, “I insist. When you go on the hunt, Lardonis will go with you.”