Song of the Brohoro

a work-in-progress

Here’s an excerpt from my current writing project, Song of the Brohoro.  It’s actually a rewrite of my manuscript Season of Betrayal, a story that I worked on for several years.  I tried to edit and rework it for along time, but couldn’t make it work, so I shelved it for awhile to work on other things.  But finally I’m ready to give it another go, and I wanted to share the exciting results with you!  Read on, Lizzie!

Chapter One - Mites

Minkhoy impatiently swept the mites off her map for what felt like the twentieth time that day.  Living in a cave had always sounded so romantic.  In all the chronicles of past crises, no one had ever mentioned the mites.  It seemed to her that they should have a whole page dedicated just to them, if not a whole chapter.  She tried to ignore the crusty little bodies stuck in the dried ink poking up everywhere on the beautiful paper.  Well, it used to be beautiful.
The radio crackled beside her and she bent close to the page, pen poised.  A few moments of broken static and then: ‘16:00 hours, national report—the Karysian army has broken through the Morkraydel Ridge and is sweeping west.”  Minkhoy followed the movements with her pen, sweeping a thin, slow line across the map.  “A few independent groups are impeding their progress, but the king is withdrawing the army to the north, fortifying their command base at Chomith.  The Karysians have set up camp two miles north of Shor-til and it is still unclear if they will angle north to engage him or continue west.”  She waited a few moments more, begging for more information, but the signal cut out with the familiar click.
She sat back and studied the path.  The Karysians were only twenty miles east of them now.  Too close for comfort, yet still too far to sound the alarm.  She chewed on the end of her pen.  Or was it?  The council was expecting a verdict tonight.  Should she counsel them to wait, see if the Karysians turned away, or get ready to move out at dawn?
Red meowed sharply on her left.  Minkhoy turned to her and the viper leopard immediately rolled over on her back, exposing her fluffy belly.  Her red eyes looked right into Minkhoy’s and she could have sworn the cat raised an eyebrow, as if to say: ‘Would you look at these mites?  How’s a girl to keep her fur soft and clean with all these critters crawling through it?’
“Don’t even get me started,” Minkhoy murmured, gently working the mites out of the thick fur.  She tried not to think of how many mites were in her hair right this moment—or how long it had been since she’d had a proper shower.  She couldn’t wait til they could move back into the village and live like civilized people again.  She scratched around the small, curled horns next to Red’s ears and the cat’s tail whipped back and forth with delight.
“So what’s the story, are we all going to be mowed down by Karys?”
She looked up; D’junehoy’s grubby face was poking over the canvas fence she had set up around her tent.
“We have a plan of defense if they should come before we have a chance to evacuate, but—”
He rolled his eyes.  “I was kidding, Mink.  Come on, we need a fifth for Zinla chase.”
She started ruffling through her papers.  “Not now.  I have work to do.”
“Oh, puh, you’ve been in here all day.  You need to get out, see the sunshine—get away from the mites!”  She made a face.  “No one’s going to miss you for a few hours.  Now come on.”
She put on her best older-sister face.  “D’june, I’m an adult now.  I have responsibilities.  I have received my brohoro.”  She touched the decorated rifle beside her and felt a thrill at the sensation of the bone along the barrel carved with her name.  “That means I have to put the village before everything else.  Yes, even before Zinla.  You’ll understand someday.”
He glowered at her and muttered as he walked away, “I’m not a kid just because I like to see the sun once and awhile.”
Before she could throw back a retort, the radio started to beep.  A blue light was flashing on channel 4.  She turned the dial and reached for her pen.
A man’s voice, thick with a South Senno accent, came on: “The plague continues to rage in Sal, cutting the slave population down another two percent in the last week.  Prices on slaves are sky-rocketing, forcing Karys and other markets to look elsewhere.  To fill the gap, Udolian civilians are being captured and sent to the capitol city.”  Minkhoy’s knuckles went white.  “Many slave bosses and freelancers are flocking to Udoli to get in on the opportunity.  With the Udolian army cleared out of the area, a large harvest is expected by Helmsvah.  This should help balance out the economic impact of the continuing famine and natural disasters in eastern Karys.”
There was a pause; then the voice continued: “South Senno is abuzz with the news of Erena Holk’s third pregnancy…”
Minkhoy rolled her eyes and turned down the volume, scribbling the last of her notes.  She now suspected that, whether the Karysian army came their way now, they would be in trouble.  A small, unprotected town… slave bosses would be descending like vultures to a battle field.
“Mink!”  Dirayar appeared on the other side of her fence.  He had his brohoro in hand.  “There’s a stranger skulking in town.”
“Looting?”  She jumped to her feet, reaching for her brohoro too.
He shook his head.  “Doesn’t seem to be.  Just sneaking around.  We don’t know what he’s doing.”
She grimaced.  “I bet I do.  Come on.”