“Tin Hinan” Chapter 5


Our journey over that mountain tried our spirits and strength. We were amongst about thirty men, led by the large man called Immel Uzmir. They were mountain Berbers, and that accounted for the difference in language. Their voices had a flat sound, not the pleasant, musical tone of our desert tribes. Perhaps the fact their lives were so violent made for the difference in speech.

Takama and I got used to their brusque ways, they were men after all. Without the soothing nature of women around, what could one expect? Men left to their own devices revert to savages, more like wild beasts than human. These men were a rough bunch, and if it weren’t for the respect they held for Immel Uzmir, Takama and I would have been plunder.

They must have come from a successful raid somewhere in the desert, for their mules and pack horses were loaded with bags of spices and bales of cloth woven and dyed with expensive dyes.

“Look at the colors, Aicha”, said Takama in wonder. We could see the difference for some of these cloths were even woven with gold thread.

“They must have robbed a very rich merchant”, I said in a whisper. Our women of the tribe did various forms of embroidery, but nothing like the sumptuousness of these pieces.

Caravans crossing from the east are loaded with spices, gold and gold dust, cloths, and precious salt, which they trade further south of the desert for slaves. Since there were no slaves amongst them, we supposed they had raided some rich merchant’s caravan before it had crossed into the southern reaches of the desert. Slave trade was very common, and women and their children were sold off to different tribes and taken afar from the lives they knew.

We were the only women amongst these raiders.

Takama and I were treated well enough, and given warm blankets and food from their fires. We knew our safety was still in question, for we were women amongst men.
Each night, when we wrapped ourselves in the blankets and settled ourselves against Niefa, for Immel Uzmir allowed me to keep her. A guard was set near us. We never were sure if it was because Immel Uzmir thought we might try to escape, or if a man would force himself upon us. We slept safely enough, though the weather was colder and the air thinner the higher we climbed.

One night, after the evening meal of snared rabbits, Immel Uzmir came and sat near me, a gourd of camel’s milk in his hand.

“You eat little food, Tin Hinan. Is our tribes cooking that bad to your mouth?” He was smiling and held out the milk to me.

I bowed my head in thanks. Camel’s milk was like mother’s milk to me, and I had not had the taste of it since I had left my tribe now so long ago. Drinking deeply, I could have cried for it reminded me of all I had thrown away.

In truth, my liver was nervous, and I was uneasy. It is not peaceful to be amongst men without the presence of women. Many times I caught the eyes of a man looking at me with that particular hunger. I adopted a veil to keep the cold from my face, but also to keep obscured from curious glances.

“Your food fills the belly, but could use some salt. All in all, women cook better than men. But I imagine you will be home soon and the women of your tribe will rejoice with a feast.”

Immel Uzmir laughed softly and shook his head. “You are of the age, Tin Hinan, to be married. Why are you not so?”

I can be stubborn and when I am, I retreat into silence. It would take a donkey pulling hard to open my mouth and pry out my voice. These many weeks alone, with only the company of Takama, had taken its toll on my solitude and nature. I was, if the truth be known, lonely and miserable. Perhaps this trek up the mountain had taken more than my strength. I was tired and out of my element. The mountains were beautiful, but this relentless climb upwards challenged more than my stamina. I was a desert woman, and out of my element. I felt as alien as if a star had dropped to earth and could not fly back to the heavens.

I was silent with my thoughts. What should I tell him? His name, Immel Uzmir, meant ‘powerful, constant one’ and he certainly had the respect of these men. To be able to control a score and a half again of Berber men meant that he was a powerful man in his tribe. The Goddesses had been silent to my demands and I had little else for comfort. I must be grateful.

Sighing, and casting my eyes on the ground, I spoke in a low voice. Low, not because I was worried that others would hear my tale, but because I was almost overcome with sorrow. My heart and liver ached and our people say that it is better to let out demons than to trap them inward where they multiply day after day.

“I was to be married. There is not much to tell. My intended broke the contract and the wedding gifts were returned to my parent’s tent. We heard then he had married and left his tribe.”

I kept my eyes on the ground, feeling shame before this stranger. His own voice was low and I struggled not to let foolish woman’s tears fall down my cheeks.

“Ah, Tin Hinan. You blame yourself for a man’s inconstancy? He knew what he risked in doing so. He would not be able to do what he wanted if he was not backed by his parent’s agreement. You are comely and brave for a woman. There is no need to feel shame. Did your tribe prepare to war with his?”

I looked up at him, glancing quickly into his eyes.

“Our tribe is small. If we did, over this broken promise, many of my kin would be killed. Hasim’s tribe was much stronger.”

In speaking his name, I could not hold back the tears. They fell down my cheeks, though I tried to pull my veil across my face to hide. Immel Uzmir reached out from where he was sitting and raised my face with his hand. He looked closely at me, his eyes searching. I pulled my head back with a grimace.

“So, you cut off your hair and took your slave and went into the desert? Did you think of the risks? Foolish girl, you could have easily died out there, or be taken prisoner by Arabs.”

“Hah! Instead I lived to be taken by Berbers, my own tribemen! What difference has it meant? I am still a prisoner, probably a slave now like Takama.”

My voice was bitter and my eyes flashed through my tears.

Immel Uzmir had his own temper.

“Are you bound like a slave? Do we starve you? Are you made to bear burdens like the pack beasts? Ungrateful girl, if we left you in the mountains, you would be bones by now. There are black bears and wolves up here and you and your slave would not have survived more than a few nights.”

My eyes grew wide. Bears and wolves are not a problem in the desert. Poisonous snakes and scorpions are.

“What do you plan to do with us when you get home? Are we to be slaves to your tribe?”

He shifted his weight and looked around at a noise from the men. “ I don’t know what your fate will be, the Gods are silent on that score.”

He scowled at me, trying to scare me, and he was succeeding.

“ It’s not my decision. When we get to our tribe I will turn you over to our elders and they will decide what to do with you. We are Berbers, not monsters, we do not harm women. They usually find a place at our fire, and sometimes a husband. Your luck could change.” He tossed me a smile and a wink and rose to his feet.

Standing over me, with my head craned back looking at him, he was an impressive man. He was named correctly, and his appearance seemed to bear it out. I was still prisoner, but it could have been worse.

Our travel across the mountain became a constant journey, for we were trying to avoid the start of the snow season. Already the nights were freezing, and frost made the ground stiff and brittle at dawn. We slept only a few hours and rose before the sun and still we climbed upward. We reached the top, walked across a plateau and started to descend, the snow already falling. Immel Uzmir pushed the men and beasts as much as he could. To be stranded in a blizzard, even an early one, could mean death. We did not stop to cook or make fires, and ate what could be eaten raw, mostly dried dates and camel milk. It was another rise of a moon before we came in sight of a valley, and on the other side of that was the settlement of where Immel Urzim and his men lived.

I was glad to leave that mountain, and so was Niefa. She had a hard time with her feet on that mountain, for camels get sore pads with the rocks and stones. She was born in the desert and the soft sands were hot but did not cut her pads like the mountain terrain. On the descent, she talked and bellowed, and I realized that even at this distance, she could smell other camels in the valley below us. She was young, and was coming into heat. A camel in estrus has her mind on only one thing. She was becoming a handful, and her gait suffered from the descent. Immel Uzmir saw that she was giving me trouble, and tied her behind another bigger camel to make her slow down. He placed me behind him on his large horse, and I was forced to hold on to him as we hit rock slides and uneven terrain.

We are a clean people, and ablutions are important to our culture, but the smell of a man so close was new to me. Given the fact that he had not bathed in the mountains, the smell of male sweat and robes that had not seen a good washing was a bit ripe to my nose. Perhaps I smelled the same to him, but men seem to tolerate these things better than women.

We came out of the forest and into a large valley. His settlement was across the wide valley and clinging to another mountain range. We would make camp in the valley to give the pack animals, horses and camels a good feeding on the grasses. That evening, before the sun dipped completely under the horizon, I looked over to the next mountain where he pointed out his tribe’s ksar. I had never seen one before and was curious. My tribe was from the desert. We lived in large tents, woven from the hair of camels. The trees, oaks, twisted olives and walnut groves obscured the actual buildings, but the purple cast of the mountains before us and long shadows thrown upon the valley was beautiful to eyes that up to now, had only seen sand and hot sun.

That night, Takama and I walked down from the men to a stream where we tried to bathe ourselves, but of course we did not strip off our clothing. The water was cold, at least we were refreshed, exchanging our robes for the last of clean clothes. I was nervous what the next day would bring, for we would be able to cross the wide valley and appear in the mountain village before sundown. I had no idea of how we would be received, but we both knew our lives now were not our own. We were at the mercy of a mountain tribe, and though we spoke the same tongue, we were strangers in a very strange land.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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5 Responses to ““Tin Hinan” Chapter 5”

  1. Margie Says:

    All right, so now I’m hooked on this story, these people, who seem so real. Can’t wait to read the next installment!

    Oh, and as far as the tattoo goes, go for it. The scimitar sounds like a well thought out design, with some meaning to you. Athene’s advice was right on the money — the closer to bone the more it hurts, but it does depend on your tolerance for pain. I am also a big wimp, but have a pretty high tolerance for pain – so it’s more the idea of the pain that scares me, rather than the actual pain.

    Keep writing!


  2. ladynyo Says:


    Hello and thank you. I am glad they breathe for you!

    I wrote this in July, 2007 and then the shit hit the fan in my personal life….detours! I got 12 chapters….Book II…The Wedding…..

    and life got sticky.

    There’s a LOT wrong with this novel…but it does have a certain appeal.

    I like the camels…LOL!

    Tattoo: WEll, do you think at our age we should do this???

    LOL!…pain…only when it turns to pleasure. I was thinking of putting it somewhere on my bod where I could see it.

    Without a mirror. But then again…I can’t think of the good for a 80 year old woman with a sword above her belly button..

    Something rather wrong there…




  3. Margie Says:

    I know what you mean! I’ve had nightmares of nurses in the “home” try to guess what the wrinkled symbol on my boob might mean! LOL! That is, if I were ever brave enough to do it!

    I used to feel that when I turned 60 I would want a beautiful, meaningful tat — my niece conveniently married a tattoo artist, but here it is, two years later and still no tat. We’ll see, we’ll see…


  4. shia1 Says:

    Great writing Jane! I love the way you write, so descriptive. You take me to these places. You have a great talent. You are a fine Story teller!



  5. ladynyo Says:

    thank you, shia.\

    As you know, I am struggling with this crit of ‘exposition’.

    How it slows down the narrative drama and action…(whatever that is…)

    Bill Penrose on Not Dead Yet really explained it for me.

    I am just writing from the hip…with a little bit of Hyperarousal Trance thrown in to sweeten the pot.

    What Bill explained was this: Exposition is Infodump.

    He didn’t see a problem with this in “Tin” because Berber culture is so strange to us…we would be stranded in the story…it needs a certain amount of infodump to set the stage.

    I never was aware what it was that was different here..I just thought it was an example of a writer who didn’t know how to write…and now I think it’s ok..

    I think the bottom line is that we are storytellers….or want to be. I also think that writerly things can get in the way of telling a good story.

    “Show don’t tell” is one of these issues. So learn the ‘rules’ and break them when they can be…or need to be.

    That’ my justification, and I’m sticking with it.


    Lady Nyo


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