Sanctuary – Snippet 04
For them, so far as Njekwa had been able to determine, the Godhead was more in the way of a disembodied universal power than anything she or her shamans would call a deity at all. The Kororo even went so far as to claim that all the goddesses and gods — even mighty Huwute herself! — were illusions. Figments of the imagination; names given to a mystery so vast that no mortal mind could ever grasp more than a shard at a time. And that shard was more likely to be distorted than true.
Quite interesting concepts, actually. In certain moods — usually after one or another misfortune — Njekwa found herself half-agreeing with them.
Some of them. The notion of a genderless Godhead was preposterous, of course.
“So what should we do?” Litunga repeated.
Njekwa gave the usual answer. “For the moment, nothing.”
“Couldn’t I try first with a huddu?” asked Chello plaintively. “Or maybe a mavalore?” Squatting on her haunches with her hands splayed on the sand, the youngling stared apprehensively at the tritti sprawled a short distance away in the little arena. For its part, the horned lizard stared off to the side. To all outward appearances it seemed oblivious to Chello’s presence.
But tritti could move very quickly. And their fangs might be short but they were very sharp. As small as they were, their venom was not fatal to a Liskash, even a youngling. But it would hurt. It would really, really hurt. For a long time. And if it bit her in the wrong place, Chello might lose something like a finger.
Maybe even a foot. One of the older females, Kjat, had lost three toes because of a tritti’s bite — and that had happened in an arena just like this one. True, Kjat was pretty dim-witted and should probably never have tried to become a tekkutu in the first place.
“No, you can’t try first on a huddu or a mavalore,” said Meshwe. “It wouldn’t do any good. No animal whose life is guided by fear can serve your purpose. Only in a ferocious mind can you find the strength you need. You know all this, Chello. It has been explained to you often.”
His tone was patient. The mentor had been through this many times over the years. Most younglings trying to become tekkutu were afraid the first time they went into the arena — usually, many times thereafter too. Tritti bites hurt, sure enough, and the little predators were quite willing to attack creatures much larger than themselves if they felt threatened.
Which they did, of course, when they found themselves trapped in a small arena whose walls were too high for them to leap over and too smooth to scale.
“Now, concentrate,” commanded Meshwe. “Find the hunter’s mind and merge with it. From the hunter, take its fierce purpose. To the hunter, give your own serenity. Out of this exchange, surround your mind with impervious walls.”
Fierce purpose, the tritti surely had. Unfortunately, Chello’s serenity was as shaky as that of most six-year-old younglings. She started off rather well, but then got anxious and fumbled the exchange. The hunter reacted as such hunters are prone to do when their little minds are penetrated by strange and unsettling sensations. (You couldn’t call them thoughts, really; not even notions — a tritti’s brain is quite tiny.)
Strike out — and there was only one visible target.
“Aaaaah!” Chello began capering about, shaking her leg frantically. “Get it off me! Get it off!”
Tritti transmitted their venom down grooves in their teeth, not through hollow fangs like serpents. So they had to chew for a bit where a snake would strike and immediately withdraw. But not for all that long. By the time Meshwe could climb over the wall into the arena the horned lizard had already relinquished its hold and fallen back onto the sand.
The mentor lifted Chello over the barricade and passed her into the hands of a healer who’d been standing by. Then, drew the trident from its sheath on his back and turned to face the horned lizard.
The creatures were really very ferocious, given their size. The tritti leapt forward again and bit Meshwe on the ankle.
Or tried to. The mentor, unlike the youngling, was not clad in a light tunic. His upper body was unarmored, but his legs and feet were encased in thick boots that reached almost all the way up to his groin.
The fangs were unable to penetrate. Frustrated, the monster fell back and gathered itself for another leap. But the trident skewered it to the sand.
Meshwe waited for a while, as the tough little creature thrashed out its life. It was too bad, really. This tritti was fearless even by the standards of its kind. Had Chello’s attempt been successful, the hunter would have made a splendid familiar until she was ready to graduate to a greater challenge.
But, she’d failed. And now the tritti would be inured to any further such attempts, either by Chello or any other youngling. It would simply attack instantly if it found itself placed in the position again.
Chello was still wailing. She had a very unpleasant few days ahead.
Too bad also, of course. But the Kororo Krek had never found any other way to raise up tekkutu.
They’d been left in relative peace for years, here in their mountain sanctuary. But it wouldn’t last. Any attentive youngling could learn the basic precepts of the order. Only a few of them, however, would manage the task of achieving tekku. And only tekkutu could hope to withstand the mental domination of the nobility.