“Tin Hinan” Chapter 5, Part 1

I started writing this novella two years ago, and put it down.  There are  around 12 chapters but it’s not finished.  Life and other writing got in the way, as usually happens to most of us who pick up the pen.  But I liked the story then, and rediscovering it now, I like it still.

Though, I have forgotten a lot of it.  So it’s a bit new to me as to other readers.

I have no idea how this story finishes but I think that is some of the fun and expectation of writing stories, novels, books. We get caught up in the story, and are as much a spectator as another reader, until we get to a place where the story has sputtered, stopped, fallen into a hole.  Then we  put on a different hat and get out the winch and try to pull it out into daylight, again.

I have come to know that writing stories, etc. as an adult is a bit like playing with trucks, blocks and dolls as a child.  We entertain ourselves, and if we do the same for others, that’s a boon.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 5,  Part 1

Our journey over that last mountain tried body and soul.  We were amongst about thirty men, led by the large man, called Immel Uzmir.   They were mountain Berbers, perhaps that accounted for the difference in language.  Their voices had a flat, windy sound, not the pleasant, musical tone of our desert tribes.  That their lives were so violent maybe made for the difference in speech. Perhaps they whispered to each other behind trees before raids and this formed their speech differently. But of course that couldn’t be it.  They would raid from the desert, not from the mountains.  They only stole away to the mountains, back to their homes, loaded with the loot of bandits.

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 reverted to savages, more like wild beasts than men.  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 various and seemingly rare dyes.

“Look at the colors, Aicha”! Takama’s voice expressed her wonder.

We could see the great difference. Some of these cloths were woven with gold thread.

“They must have robbed a very rich merchant”, I whispered.

Our women of the tribe did various forms of embroidery, but nothing like the sumptuousness of these pieces.

Caravans crossing from the east were loaded with spices, gold and gold dust, cloths, and precious salt, which they traded 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 their lives.

We were the only women amongst these raiders.

Takama and I were treated well enough, given warm blankets and food from their fires.  We knew our safety was still in question, for we were only women amongst men.
Each night we wrapped ourselves in the blankets and settled 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, a gourd of camel’s milk in his hand.

“You eat little food, Tin Hinan.  Is our 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 with only the company of Takama, had taken its toll on my nature.  I was, if the truth were known, lonely and miserable. Perhaps this trek up the mountain had taken more than my strength.  I was tired and sore in legs.  The mountains were beautiful, but this relentless climb upwards challenged more than my stamina.  I was a desert woman, out of my element.  I felt as alien as a star dropping to earth and could not get back to the heavens.

I was silent.  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 he was well respected.  The Goddesses had been silent to my demands and I had little else for comfort. I must be grateful.

Sighing, 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, frolicking in the flesh.

“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, my voice bitter.

“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, 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 hard 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.  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 were.

“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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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2 Responses to ““Tin Hinan” Chapter 5, Part 1”

  1. Berowne Says:

    I’m enjoying the story and I look forward to more. I wonder a little about the diction of Uzmir’s and possibly Takama’s speech; do you think it sounds colloquial, or is it maybe a bit archaic in places? Not a major issue, but if you go back to polish the draft it might be something to consider.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Berowne!

    I am glad you are enjoying this story, and I have just rewritten Chapter 6 tonight. I am laughing because I forgot how funny it actually is. This scene of village women and their love of gossip! LOL!..

    Well, considering the story is set in the 6th century, I would think archaic applies. As for colloquial, well, I don’t know exactly. As to less formal, yes, from Takama to her Mistress….that would be ok because of the situation they find themselves in,…and that they are two young women only two years apart in age. As to Uzmir’s? I will look at this again. He would, by rights, be more formal, but then again, he would also be a bit condescending to Tin because she is a woman. His social position as chieftain of the raiders, leader of the raiders, etc…and son of a tribal elder would give him some ‘lift’ here. But then again, as you can imagine already, this is developing into a love story….and I think barriers are broken. Certainly two women found on a mountain have little status for these men, and that they are not raped or plundered says something. However, even though we modern people are horrified at the behavior of Muslim men today, women in the 6th century who were Berbers had a lot of freedom and also power. They were the poets, and actually the only literate members of the tribe. They were the scribes and the holders of the written history. The men were raised by the women until the age of 10=12 and during this time they learned the written script and poems, the alphabet, but then they were excluded from the women’s company and sent to the men for weapons and hunting training.

    That is to say that Berber women had power and status until Islam became entrenched. But that is another interesting issue: Amongst the mountainous Berbers in Algeria especially, there were holdouts until the early 20th century. They practiced a more ….early Egyptian religion, of Isis and Ammon, and war gods and goddesses. Of course, the Arabs swept through the majority of Berbers, and mostly from the 9th century, the majority of them were Muslim. But, I find it very interesting that they did , in places…hold out. They also gave the modern Algerian government fits because of their traditional cultural behaviors.

    I based the rhythms of the dialogue (and my own writing…that was a chore..) on the speech patterns of the Berbers I knew when I danced. They were of course, modern Berbers, from Algeria and Morocco, and of course they are speaking English, but then, I’m writing in English! LOL!

    Not to stereotype too much, but I find the Tifinagh language to be expansive, emotional, very poetic in description. I have been around it only about 4 years, and I only have about 20 words in my mouth, (this description “in my mouth” is very Tifinagh!) but it is almost the opposite of Japanese to my mind. (or mouth) There is more a constriction, a shortening of sentence, a preciseness to patterns. I can’t explain it well, but it takes a bit of a turnaround to write fiction in both cultures.

    But I take all the suggestions I can on this story, Berowne.

    And thank you for reading and enjoying it. I take nothing here for granted.



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