The Wanderer’s Anamnesis
by Sean M. Foster
“Is that it? Down there?” wondered Suĥ, pointing at the village nestled within the broad valley below.
“Maybe,” replied Armuzat.
“It has to be. It’s certainly big enough,” said Ferą. A heavy snowflake settled onto his furred cheek; he brushed it away.
“I’ll agree that it looks big enough, but it still might not be it,” Suĥ countered.
“Well, if it isn’t Ehušaĥ, we’ll have to stop there anyway — we can’t risk getting lost again,” said Ferą. “Getting caught outside tonight means a speedy journey to the Otherworld. Let’s go.”
Suĥ and Armuzat nodded and plodded back to the sledges that they themselves drove; the deep blanket of snow creaked beneath their snowshoes. A moment later the train was sliding down the trail toward the distant village. The vağamžes yelped and grunted while they heaved forward the sledges, which were loaded with grain; as the beasts had grown colder so too had they grown more and more restless. Before long the last of the daylight failed, leaving the wilderness bathed in shadow. Evening promised further snow, further wind: midwinter had indeed arrived.
When they reached a steady pace Suĥ coiled his whip, tightened his scarf, and pulled his hood low. Although he still clutched the reins, he tucked his mittened hands into his greatcoat to fight off the bitter gusts. Four days they had traveled, and the cold and the damp had begun to test his will: his face was numb, his fingers were numb, his toes were numb, his heart was numb. He often glanced back to ensure that his brother Armuzat was following just as his father Ferą often glanced back to ensure that he himself was following. I do hope to meet a fire again soon, but we don’t arrive until we arrive, he said to himself, and focused on driving the sledge.
An hour later the forest opened, revealing a high wooden palisade silhouetted against the drab sky. Already the gate within the palisade was open. Drawing back the reins, the three travelers brought the train to a stop outside the gate; they then descended and swept the snow from their coats.
Quickly a crowd of tribesmen gathered in the gloom beyond the gate. One of the tribesmen, a brawny individual, marched forward to meet the newcomers. “Ferą? Ferą the Merchant?”
“I am,” said Ferą. “And these are my sons, Suĥ and Armuzat. Is this Ehušaĥ, belonging to the Tęci Tribe?”
The man clapped his hands together. “This is Ehušaĥ; I’m Voğmi. What a relief! I can’t express how pleased we are to finally see you; we were worried you might not make it. You’ve brought the gečįp, I trust?”
“We have. I’m sorry we’re late; I know we arranged with Mister Etįmeš to get here last night. Your mountains are… well, they’re rather cunning.”
Voğmi laughed. “No harm done; please, though, come inside. We need the gečįp immediately.”
“As you wish,” said Ferą, and he, Suĥ, and Armuzat climbed onto the sledges once more. Driving through the gate, they found themselves proceeding among halls, cabins, and huts blanketed in snow. Wisps of smoke crept from the many chimneys; said wisps remained only briefly, however, before being carried away by the wind.
“The center!” Voğmi yelled, waving them forward. “To the courtyard of the Great Hall!” He and the other tribesmen struggled to keep pace with the train; the sledges moved speedily, for the snow was packed hard.
Shouted summons filled the night. From the halls and cabins Tęcians emerged. Some carried flickering torches, some sacks, some earthenware jars, some drums, some ?nur-pipes, some whistles, some bundled children; most, however, simply shuffled forward with their coats drawn close. Soon the train arrived at the Great Hall, a towering wooden structure adorned with carvings. Before the hall numerous tribesmen had assembled; they circled a huge heap of timber, kindling, and straw and were cleaning snow from it.
“Mister Ferą? You’ve arrived!” said an old man, stepping toward the foremost of the sledges. “I knew you’d come! Bless you!”
“Mister Etįmeš!” Ferą said. He descended from his sledge. “I’m very sorry we’re late! We’ve brought the gečįp, as you instructed; it’s straight from the stores of Demandi.”
“Ah, thank you… thank you,” said Etįmeš. Facing his kinsmen, he then ordered, “Get that fire going!” The Tęcians gathered more thickly; they formed a wall around the heap of firewood.
“What’s going on, sir?” inquired Ferą. Joining their father, Suĥ and Armuzat unlaced their snowshoes.