A Thank You, and a beginning to Chapter 3, “Tin Hinan”.

I want to thank people who read this blog yesterday and either wrote or called me about that surprising royalty check for “A Seasoning of Lust”.

Writing seems like a solitary venture, but really, the formulation of this book  was a long slog through a couple of years and a lot of friendships.  I was guided by many people, and some actually remained as friends! Actually, the majority of them have.  And besides their congratulations, there is also the fact that this book was born in a cauldron of a lot of doubt and angst.  That came about because of a particular situation I entered freely.  But that has its  legitimacy as to the development of some of the works of the period and some them  made it into the book.  These mental and emotional ‘spurs’ were as viable as all the other influences. They should be acknowledged.

I believe  good lessons, strong lessons can come  from adversity and also, can come some special creativity.  It might take a while to sort out the lessons and the people, but one should,…..ultimately, be grateful in some important way.

To them, the friends and the irritants, I am.  They were all part of the mix that made this book, and it wouldn’t necessarily exist without their presence.

Lady Nyo

TIN HINAN

CHAPTER 3

As I think back to those times, so long buried in memory, I wonder what I was doing.  Only eighteen years old, such a tender age, and Takama even younger.  We were two maidens driven by Zar-induced madness. There was no other accounting for what I did. Vigorously consulting the goddesses every night I never got an answer.  False goddesses they were, or silent to my pleas.  Safi. (enough)

The first few nights in the desert were sleepless with grief and anger.  I didn’t think of the future danger.  I didn’t dare.  If I did, I would have turned back and then what face would I have?  Our men were known warriors, but our women were just as strong.

Takama made the fire each night, bending over the fire bow and feeding our tiny blazes with twigs and dried camel dung from a sack. She drew precious water from the skins, threw in millet, salt, and we ate some of the dates.  There was no variety in our diet, but I made sure Takama had packed my jewelry.  Sold in a market town or oasis, this silver would bring a different food for our bellies.

Niefa and the donkey fed sparsely on the brush and wild grasses that pockmarked the desert.  We had to be careful with our water, but Niefa was afterall, a camel and she could manage without much water.  Takama’s donkey was another problem.

The first few days had the nature of adventure, and except some expeditions with my father and mother over the mountains, I had never been on my own.  Takama, being a slave, had not even that knowledge. She never left the oasis.

I followed the sun to the east as it rose, and the desert still stretched out before us, endless and unbroken to the horizon.  Some days I wondered if we would die here, the four of us, bleached bones in the desert.  There was little shade except for crouching beside Niefa when we stopped to stretch our legs and squat in the desert.  Takama laughed at me, for I still carried the behaviors of a woman.  I squatted down to pass water, instead of standing.  I would have to remember when we came close to an encampment.

Since we expected to meet others, Takama would be my ‘wife’, and I her young husband.  That would give us at least some sort of story.  But our biggest problem would be explaining why we were out in the desert away from our tribe, and traveling alone.  This was foolhardy at best and dangerous in any case.  A young couple travelling without the cover and protection of at least a small caravan could be runaway slaves. If we were perceived to be such, we would be slaves fast enough.

We talked around our pitiful fire at night, when the stars stretched from horizon to horizon, a blanket of diamonds over us. There was only the sound of the desert wind moaning in the nighttime air.  It got cool as soon as the sun dropped to the horizon and cold when the stars and moon rose into the dark bowl of heaven.

“Aicha, do you think we will soon fine an oasis?”  I heard the worry in her voice.

“Do I look like one of those old, smelly fortune women? Do I look like even a Sheikha? How do I know?”  I was cross with her, for I was fearful myself.  I hide me fear with my fierce words to my slave.

“What if the Arab raiders catch up with us here in the desert?  What will we do?”  Her eyes were wide with her thoughts.

“Ah, Takama, you can dance for them and I will hold them off with my sword.”

Stupid girl, I thought.

“A quick slash of a takouba (sword) and all our problems will be over.  But I would bet even the hated Arabs aren’t stupid enough to kill women. If they guess at my sex I will be raped along with you and sold as a slave.  In fact, from what I hear, even if they didn’t know my sex for sure, they would still rape me.”

Takama’s lip started quivering, and soon her childish tears would fall.

“Takama”, I said in a softer voice, “Soon we will find an oasis and good bread and salt will be offered.  You know our traditions.  The desert tribes are the most generous on earth! We will find a safe haven around their fire and protection from all else.”

Suddenly, Takama screamed and jumped up.  A big desert scorpion, as big as a clay bowl, was crossing towards the fire.  I took my takouba from my girdle and sliced it in half.  It was a lucky blow for these creatures were fast.

After a week, the indigo-blue dye had stained my face, and I had the look of a young man.  Takama tried to line my veil with white cotton, for she did not want to see her mistress degraded in such a way.  I fought with her over this, and threatened to pummel her with my fists like a man would, but we only ended up laughing and rolling in the sand.  I was glad for company, but felt guilty I had taken her from everything she had known for my own selfish reasons. She was a slave, and bound to follow my whims, but she now was also a friend.  Throwing destinies together out in the desert is a great equalizer.

We rose early with the sun, and plodded slowly to the east. After a week, we began to see a change in the dunes.  Off far to the east and north were mountains, and although our steps seemed not to bring us closer, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we would reach some oasis.  Our water was low, and we rationed it out carefully, making sure that the donkey first, then Niefa, had a drink.  Soon we saw shrubs, and more and more grasses.  We pulled up the tough grasses to bite at the tender stalks where they joined the roots, but there was little moisture in this desert grass.

Finally we saw the faint glimpse of palm trees and we knew soon we would arrive at an oasis.  We were coming up to the foot of the mountains and like our own oasis back home, the runoff from the mountains would give some water and pasture.  That was where tribes would gather, and not all of the tribes were nomadic. Most were sheepherders, tied to the land until it was used up by the herds of goats, sheep and camels. Then they would move on, over the mountain passes until they found more pasture.  This was the life of herders back into history.  This was our history.

Winter was coming on, and already the nights were colder.  Takama had brought enough heavy blankets for us, and we had the heat of Niefa to warm us as we huddled together under the covers. A stop at an oasis where we could obtain food, water and shelter was becoming urgent.

I don’t remember all the events of this journey, but I do recall the strong urge to keep running away from the scene of my shame.  Hasim had found me wanting in some way, or had found another more desirable.  Each time I thought of this, my heart overflowed and bitterness and shame rose up like a ghost before me.  I could not quell my liver.  I was single purpose in my need to put as far a distance from my memories as possible.  Running was the only way I knew to change what had happened back there.

As we came closer to the oasis, we saw green grass and date palms.  It was a big oasis, and soon we could see the black tents of nomads.  Niefa bellowed as she smelled fresh water, and even Takama’s donkey picked up his hooves.

It was early evening, the star called Venus had risen when we plodded into the encampment.  They saw us off in the distance, but since we were only two, no general alarm was sounded.  Children ran out, curious as children are, and shyly made a ring around our beasts.  They wanted to know where we came from, but knew those questions would be rude from children, and anyway, desert tribes did not ask.  Hospitality was given first, and what a man wanted to reveal was all that was expected.

We proceeded to the middle of the camp, where men were assembled, and the women behind them.  Now several boys came and grabbed the bridles of both Niefa and the donkey, and I slipped off her back and stood there, my good ‘wife’ Takama coming up behind me.

“Welcome, welcome, come and eat and drink with us”.  A tall man, obviously a chieftain, came up to me, and touching the tips of my outstretched fingers to his, he then clasped together his hands in the traditional desert greeting.

I remembered to keep my veil around my face.  No man would remove his veil from across his mouth in the presence of authority, and this man looked like he was fully invested with the leadership of the tribe.  He carried a dagger in his girdle and the takouba, at his side.

Bowing to him, placing my hands crossed over my chest I answered.

“We have come a long way over the desert, and seek water and supplies.  We have need of rest and a safe place to recover our spirits, praise the Gods and Goddesses.” I remembered to pitch my voice low, and tried to make my eyes look fierce.

“My wife is in need of sleep. The desert is hard on one so young and this is the first time she crosses it.”

I caught a slight flicker of a smile in the eyes of the man before me.  We nomadic people are versed in reading the eyes, for they are the gateways of the soul. The soul resides in the liver, but the eyes are the portals.

“We welcome you to our camp. Come and sit with us, and tell us how you found the desert, the mother of us all.  Your wife will be refreshed by the women.”

I didn’t look at Takama, for to do so would give too much regard for her welfare.  Only if she were sick or breeding would a man publicly show his concern, and then in a very small way before strangers.

I sat and ate good mutton stew, and was grateful that darkness was falling fast, for when I lowered my veil to eat, perhaps my features would appear as that of a woman.  But the blue dye had soaked into my face, and I thought I passed for a young man.  Young I would appear to all, and there was nothing I could do about it.

There would be no questions, for this is not our way, and I offered little about our journey, except to say the desert was a wide sea indeed, and we had come from afar.  What I didn’t then realize was anything I said about the journey, these nomads would already know. If I said we had been journeying for two weeks, they could probably pinpoint our tribe’s oasis.    If I said a month, they would know I was lying, for there was only this oasis and we would have passed by two weeks ago. Stuffing my mouth with mutton and washing it down with goat’s milk, I was grateful for the hospitality and the few questions.

(END OF PART ONE, CHAPTER 3 OF TIN HINAN)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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6 Responses to “A Thank You, and a beginning to Chapter 3, “Tin Hinan”.”

  1. katiewritesagain Says:

    Janie
    This is good. Good. I’m already into it and see the endless desert landscape, feel the hot breeze and the fear underneath every word and movement. You have captured the world of women in a culture where they must never step outside their prescribed and approved roles-even if those roles are taken from them and they are left with nothing! Keep writing. This is wonderful.

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    LOL, Katie!

    Thank you! I just hope you have read Chapters 1 and 2 or it doesn’t make too much sense.

    I should have never put this novella aside, but you know what happens…shit. LOL!

    Lots of it. And that is the problem for many of us women writers…hell, most of us if we feel as women do. We put aside our work to attend to so much other stuff, fluff, men that aren’t worth it, etc…you get the picture…Hell, you KNOW the picture.

    What’s ‘tense’ in this novella is until she is ‘outed’ she functions as a man…or adopts the trappings of a man, but it’s also funny what happens. She can’t do the ‘normal’ things a man does, like stand up and pee, she has such duality here: inners a woman, outers a man. And her relationship with Takama grows….I hope. The class divisions are very apparent in her behavior towards Takama, after all, Takama is just a slave, but things start to change as they are pitted against all that is outside their tribe.

    What happens soon to come is I hope, of continuing interest. When I wrote this 2 years ago, I had done a little research, but damn it if this issue of Hyperarousal Trance didn’t kick in. That made it easier. Being around the Berber drummers and waiters made all the different, if just for their attitudes culturally.

    I learned a lot from them. LOL! Especially the mountainous Berbers from Algeria. Seems like a lot didn’t change from the 6th century. And, this story settles in Algeria.

    Thanks, Katie, for reading this, and for your continued interest. We are just story tellers, entertainers after all, and we live for the joy of readers.

    Jane

    Like

  3. Fantasia Lillith Says:

    I look forward to following the rest of the journey.

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Why, thank you!

    And it’s good to hear from new readers.

    This novella isn’t quite finished…but I post it here because, well….readers write me and tell me what interests them, or not. And I love it when people are critical. When I know that they are doing so because they are interested in the story, that makes it a lot more fun for me. Having others get excited about the ‘journey’ of a story makes writing not such a lonely profession.

    Thank you, Fantasia Lillith. Good to have you here.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  5. Fantasia Lillith Says:

    Glad to be here!! and yes … i love that too. It’s funny but on my blog people tend to comment on the content rather than the writting! but that’s ok … I like that too.

    Like

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Fantasia,

    Glad you are here, and I went to your blog. I like your writing and your themes very much. You are a good writer.

    Writers need the support of each other. The world is a better place for all that, too.

    Lady Nyo.

    Like

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