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Reunions are bittersweet

Finding a lost loved one is not always a good thing

By Lisa VanGalenPublished 9 months ago 6 min read
Reunions are bittersweet
Photo by Darryl Brian on Unsplash

“Often, the very first thing you learn about a person is their name. Maybe you get a sense of their personality from their choice of clothing, or how they style their hair. But the initial telling tidbit of an intimate nature is their title, that identifying word pronounced at the time of their birth. In fact, conversations revolve around asking and telling that very thing to as many people as possible.”

Stopping his lecture mid-stride, Professor Reed peered over his glasses into the glazed eyes of his students. Ten years of teaching anthropology to bored teenagers hadn't dampened his enthusiasm. It was time to give them something new to think about.

“This modern societal norm is a contradiction to the customs of the ancient civilizations. In times past, to share one's name was to give the gift of power to the recipient, a key if you will, into the very soul of the giver. It was a sacred act to speak the secret word aloud.”

The professor paced like a caged lion as he spoke, his timbre dropping a octave, the tempo slowed to stalking speed. One step per word, he drew them into his tale.

“Imagine a mighty warrior standing upon the ragged edge of a cliff. Dust coats his tunic, his weapons, his skin. The land he has crossed is desolate and barren, the air as dry and sharp as a flint. Below him lies a turbulent river, the first water he has seen in weeks. On the other side of the rushing water is a lush valley, so green the colour hurts his eyes to look upon it. Hunger and thirst propel him to move quickly. Experience warns him to slow down. ”

Still walking the stage, Professor Reed slouches as if he were scanning the room for enemies.

“Time has been an excellent teacher. Most of his companions have suffered death at the hands of inattention. The slightest shift in the breeze could carry your scent to the predator lurking in the tall grass. Movement alerts the snake, basking on a sunbaked stone. The months alone have honed the warrior's skills, yet dulled his perception. His tribe was many valleys behind him and the urge to be with other people is a strong pull against reason.”

Moving up the aisles, the professor peers down the rows. His steely eyes focus on each student in turn, often until they squirmed, uncomfortable with the direct attention. Returning to the lectern, he resumes the tale.

“Our hero crouches in the shade of a mesquite tree, cautious of scorpions and other venomous creatures that have the same thought as he. His salvation from hunger and dehydration lies at the base of the cliff. But to climb down puts him in full view of any warriors in the valley. There is no hiding from attack, no protection from flying arrows or piercing lead. Nightfall offers the best protection for a stealthy descent, with a higher risk of a speedy fall as the cliff will not reveal its dangers until he is upon them.”

“As he contemplates the best approach, a voice lifts from the valley floor.”

“'This valley is not welcoming to you, old friend.' Tinged with contempt, the statement carves deep into the warrior's heart, as they were intended to do. Fear leads to panic, panic to rash decisions. It is those decisions which will be the death of even the most careful man. And the man below knows our hero well, knows what might send him into a frantic flight.”

“'There is no point in running away now. That is an old pattern of yours, is it not? To leave others to their doom while you save your worthless hide?'”

“Icy fingers grip his muscles, and now he must now assess his chances of escape. With nowhere to run, save back to the sunbaked desert, the remaining course is forward–directly into the arms of the one man he thought to never see again.”

“'Sleep well, old friend. May the night bring you solace for the dawn will bring your death.' ”

A quick scan of the room confirms the professor has finally gathered his students attention. Nothing like an old friend turned enemy to perk up a room.

Returning to his tale, the professor wanders aimlessly, mimicking the actions of his mythical hero.

“This might be a good time to introduce our hero. Until now, it has been unimportant to the story, for it could be about any warrior at any time. To understand the significance, I now present Lanoka, warrior and main character of our tale.”

“Exhaustion nibbles at the fringe of Lanoka's awareness. The weeks of travel and lack of good food have weakened him to the point of unconsciousness. The decree from below haunts him and he dares not sleep, instead Lanoka notches an arrow and prepares his bow. Fatigue nibbles at his senses, the chill from desert air buried deep in his bones as he awaits the arrival of morning. Soon enough, and too early, sunrise begins to paint the sky on the far side of the valley. Sparkles on treetops highlight the beauty of the trees and enhance the shadows on the riverbank. Somewhere beneath him waits his fate.”

“'Is this how you greet an old friend, Lanoka?'”

“The sudden presence of his target brought the warrior about with a rushed aim and a missed opportunity. It was impressive that the man had been able to approach him without making a sound and Lanoka acknowledged the skill of his declared enemy.”

“'An old friend would not name himself as my executioner before sneaking up on me,' Lanoka answered as he slid another arrow into place.”

“'But you left me little choice. And the opportunity was too sweet to pass up. After all these years, I got the drop on you. Feels pretty good. Since you were so good at sneaking away, I thought I would show you how to reverse that process.'”

“Lanoka tensed as the man before him raised his own bow. The tip of the arrow glistened with poison, a sure death if he hit true.”

“'How can I make you believe that I did not desert you? That I did not run away?' Lanoka pleaded, staring at the scarred face of the man who could be his twin. The obvious damage from an arrow strike puckered the man's cheek and Lanoka raised a hand to stroke his own scarred skin.”

“'There is nothing you could tell me that I would believe. Watching your horse pounding sand in its haste to leave the battle told me everything I needed to know about you. And what I would do if our paths should ever cross again.'”

“The bow string hissed as the arrow was released. Self-preservation kept Lanoka from standing still and accepting the fate his old friend had planned. Turning his face into the warming sunlight, Lanoka stood in clear view of his former companion.”

“'This is my souvenir from that same battle. Yes, my horse beat a trail for safety with me struggling to stay upright upon its back. When I woke up in a pool of my own blood, miles from the battleground, I wept for you. Grief has been my constant companion since that day.' Giving his friend one last chance to stand down, Lanoka held his position until he heard an arrow being pulled from its resting place.”

“'Brother, I ask that you do not do this.' His plea went unanswered, save for a flurry of shafts singing through the air.”

“'So be it,' he said softly, smoothing the fletchings one last time. With precision, Lanoka pulled the string back and let fly his final arrow. It sunk itself deep in the man's chest, the blow marginally less painful to Lanoka than the knowledge that his trusted friend had chosen to walk the path of revenge. And in the end, he had caused the death of which he had been accused.”

“The first full ray of sunshine touched upon the prone body as Lanoka offered a prayer for the soul of his brother.”

“'May you be blessed upon your homeward journey, Machenito. Fate made us family, brothers, and friends. It also pulled us apart, tore our hearts from our chests. In time, may we meet again and walk the sacred fields together.'”

Short Storyfamily

About the Creator

Lisa VanGalen

I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  • Flamance @ lit.2 months ago

    Great story nice I like it

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