Thursday, December 29, 2016

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learning to burn, part 17

The table is full and most of the other farm hands are finishing their plates when Eminghare and Ofonode arrive. Primina stands and points to one of the two places available, “You will sit there, Ofonode.”

“Yes, ma'am.” He can see quite readily that his place has more food than Eminghare's and at least more dishes than the others. His cheeks grow hot as he wonders what the others think about the favor Primina is obviously showing him.
“Have you found that you can do the work, girl? What is your name, anyway?”
“I am called Eminghare. And, yes. I can do the work.” Eminghare is sitting up straight in her chair, looking directly into Primina's face. Ofonode wonders if she is feeling challenged. He would if someone asked him such a question.
Primina's eyebrows lift. Without looking away from the girl, “How is she doing, Ofonode?”
“Very well. I have been pleasantly surprised.”
The surprise in Primina's expression seems to deepen, “Have you finished the hay, then?”
“Not yet. Yesterday we had the same amount to do and it took all day. Today, we'll probably finish soon after lunch.”
“Good. Take Eminghare to work with Boarch when you've finished with the hay.”
A surge of disappointment surges through Ofonode, “Yes, ma'am. And I'll finish the barn on my own, then?”
“Yes. I'm sure you can handle it, right?”
“I will.” Ofonode wonders if Os will be willing to help him for a little while right after lunch. He glances at Eminghare and realizes she's been staring at him. She quickly looks away, though, as he looks over at her. What was she thinking? Why was she watching me? Is she worried about work with others? Ofonode wishes he could just ask her direct questions. But he feels sure, based on their interactions thus far, that she wouldn't answer him, so he decides he won't ask. He'll wait for her to tell him what she's comfortable telling him.
“I have the napkin from breakfast, Primina. May I return it and use my lunch napkin to take some food with me. I can't eat everything right now, but it can really help to have to it along.”
“Sure. Just make sure you return it at dinner.”
“Yes, ma'am.” He packs the napkin full plaintain mosa and sinasir. He hopes Eminghare will be happy with these. The main dish was a sweet potato curry, which he ate all of because it wouldn't have transported well by napkin. The other guys at the table are looking at him with various expressions most readily interpreted as jealously. Well, I'm not going to waste it by just leaving it on the plate.
Ofonode waits outside of the dining room for Eminghare. He walks with her and they leave the house. About half-way to the barn, Ofonode hands her the napkin, “I thought you'd like to take it to your friend. I'll get to work in the barn and when you're finished, come and we'll get the rest of the hay into the loft.”
Eminghare's pale cheeks bloom with bright red spots right in the middle, “Thank you, Ofonode. That's very thoughtful and kind of you.”
“You're welcome. I hope you'll tell me about your friend sometime. But even if you don't, maybe it would be a good idea if you only disappear with food when we're able to work together. Unless, of course, you want others to know you're feeding someone out there.”
She nods her head. “Thank you for keeping my secret. I really appreciate it.”
“Sure.” Ofonode walks to the barn and Eminghare moves off into the field. As soon as he's sure she's gone, Ofonode talks to the air, “I know you're there, Os. What do you think about helping me out around here when I come back from bringing Eminghare to work with Boarch later?”
“I think you should ask me when you come back alone. Boarch might have you do something else.”
“That's true.”
The invisian can feel another question, but refuses to help the boy ask it.
“What do you think of her?”
“I think she could be dangerous. As much as she won't talk. She is a secret keeper. They can be good, but also bad. Tread carefully in your interactions with her, Ofonode.”
“Your answer is what I was expecting. I have been careful, haven't I?”
“Revealing that you knew why she wanted the food was potentially a bad move. If she is on the dark side of secret keeping. If she's on the light side, you've given her greater reason to trust you with her secrets. Just don't give her any of your private information. Because she's so untrusting, perhaps that's a good reason not to trust her.”
“You're right. She should be back any minute.”
“Who are you talking to, Ofonode?”
“My friend.”
“Do you talk to any lizard? Or just the one you travel with?”
“Well, if I knew all lizards as well as I know my friend, I might talk to all of them.”
Eminghare laughs and Ofonode wishes he could think of something else that might make her laugh more.
“If I told you I talk to some lizards, too, would that surprise you?”
“I don't know. I guess I'd have to know the lizard.”
Eminghare smiles, “I might introduce you to one tomorrow if you'd like.”
“I would like that a lot.”
She nods her head. “Maybe I should catch this time.” Eminghare says this as she begins to climb the ladder to the loft.
Ofonode grabs a bale of hay and tosses it to her as soon as she tells him she's ready. The two work together steadily. Ofonode feels sadness grow in him as the stacks of hay diminish. This isn't the kind of work that is conducive to having a conversation, so he just tosses her a new bale each time she says the word.
Eminghare joins him at the door to the barn and hands him the napkin, “Thank you, again.”
Ofonode smiles and nods. The two walk out, Eminghare walks beside him, watching him carefully so she'll know where to go. Ofonode stops suddenly, turns, and looks at her for a moment. Eminghare looks up into his face and waits.
“Would you sit next to me at dinner?”
“Uh, sure. I guess I can. I mean, if there's a place next to you, I will.”
“I'll make sure there is.” They continue walking together in silence. I wish I knew what I could ask her that would get her to open up and talk to me. It's too late for now, we're almost to the field Boarch is working. Or probably just watching.
Ofonode stops and points off to the field and a small shed sort of building, “That's where Boarch is with a few guys. Don't work too hard or they'll wonder what kind of being you are. It's better if you don't surprise them as much as you did me. Please tell me you'll work a little more like a girl while you're with them?”
“A little, maybe.”
“Good. Okay. I'll see you at dinner.”
Eminghare just nods her head while chewing lightly on her lower lip.
Why are they so late for dinner? Prayer has already been said and the others are eating quietly.
Ofonode can't help but notice that he doesn't have quite as much food in front of him as he did for the past three meals, but still he has more than any of the other hands do.
A clomp of many feet indicate the arrival of the workers from the field. He's sure they've just come from the bathhouse because Primina wouldn't tolerate anything else.
When they come in, Eminghare is not with them. Ofonode stands and is just about to speak when she comes through the door. She looks very small after all the big guys that are already settled at the table. Already standing, Ofonode pulls Eminghare's chair out from the table and whispers, “Are you okay?”
She nods slightly and whispers back, “Later.”
The two sit and eat without another word between them. Ofonode reaches down to share his food and with Os throughout the meal. Ofonode watches Eminghare carefully and eats so that he's finishing when she does. “I'm leaving the extra napkin at my place, Primina. Thank you again for letting me use it. Dinner was wonderful. I'll take Eminghare to the women's rooms. She can stay in any room that doesn't have anything in it, right?”
“Good. You're welcome. That's fine. You can walk the hall, but don't go in any of the rooms, Ofonode.”
“Yes, ma'am.”
Eminghare rises and Ofonode does as well.
As soon as they are outside, “Are you okay. You look… I don't know, different.”
“Sure. I'm fine. That work was very different. What are we doing on this farm?”
“I'm not sure what you mean?”
“Well, I was expecting to do some sort of regular field work. But we didn't do that at all. They guys were digging and Boarch was watching. So, I started digging, too. Apparently the others already know how deep to go because after a few tries Boarch was only standing near me and he was very particular about the depth. I don't know. I felt like I was about to do something horribly wrong the whole time. It was worse than any physically strenuous work would've been.”
“I don't know. I haven't worked in the field. I guess no one really spoke about it at all, then?”
“Not a word. I mean, Boarch was fussing at me almost the whole time. But the guys didn't even say a single word to each other. It was really weird. I'm not going to stay longer than tomorrow. I was hoping to stay a few more days. But not because of this place, honestly. I was hoping to stay…”
Eminghare sighs in exasperation. “This way… not talking and being very secretive is not natural for me. I don't like it. I was going to wait until tomorrow, but would you come to the field behind the barn with me tonight?”
Feeling suddenly on alter, Ofonode works hard to carefully modulate excitement out of his voice and hopes Os is following as he usually does, “Sure.”
Eminghare nods to herself and leads the way. When she stops, Ofonode doesn't see anything out of the ordinary. Eminghare whispers into the air for a few minutes. Nothing she says is anything Ofonode can understand. A moment of silence and then a large dragon, very much like Os's dragon form appears almost immediately in front of Eminghare.
Ofonode grabs her shoulders and pulls her behind him, “Oseratin!” he shouts, “I need you now!”
Os wraps himself around the front of Ofonode's ankles and lays himself across his feet. Ofonode looks down, “That's not exactly what I was thinking.”
The dragon has moved only enough to land and in the process shifts into a small lizard form, just smaller than Os. Ofonode's mouth drops open.
Eminghare steps next to him and whispers, “She almost never takes this form. I've only seen her like this twice in the year we've been together. I think she really likes you!”
When the small lizard moves very close to Os, Eminghare's eyes open wide. The smaller lizard touches Os and the two disappear. Eminghare looks at Ofonode. “Why did they disappear?” Ofonode asks, “My friend has never disappeared like that before.”
“Just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean he hasn't.”
“You mean, your friend disappears like that regularly?”
“Pretty often. When it's just the two of us, she doesn't, but if anyone else approaches or whatever, then, yes. I think she might be shy or just very careful.”
Has Os been able to do the same thing and I just didn't know it? Feeling very wary and nervous, Ofonode wants to speak to ease the tension he's feeling, “What is your friend's name?”
“I call her Binbin. But I don't know if she has a name she calls herself. She doesn't speak or anything. At least… not that I know of. Isn't Oseratin the name you've given your friend?”
“Uh… well, no.”
“How do you know to call him that?” Eminghare is looking intensely into Ofonode's face.
She hasn't really looked at him for long and never so directly, so Ofonode feels a bit uncomfortable and answers without thinking, “He told me.”
“Hasn't your friend ever talked to you?” he asks starting to wonder if he shouldn't have answered her question so directly.
“No… Not that I'm aware of. I mean, what do you mean by 'talk to'?”
“You know… talk. Like we're talking.”
“Then, no. Definitely not. She's never talked to me. Why would she not talk to me is she can? We've been together so long! Do you think she doesn't trust me?”
“I'm not sure why she wouldn't after so long… I'm sure there's a good reason for it, though. I just think it's amazing that you have an invisian with you, too!”
“Okay, right. You wouldn't know that's what she is because she hasn't spoken. How about we talk about something else until they come back so she can tell you what she'll tell you and we'll go from there.”
Eminghare looks away as Ofonode makes the suggestion. She looks at everything around him and them unwilling or unable to let her eyes settle anywhere.
Ofodnode waits in silence. Does she still not trust me? Even though we both have the same sort of friend? Maybe it's just that she's scared, generally these days. I can't imagine what she's been through.
Slowly, Eminghare's eyes slow in their scanning of the area and eventually settle on Ofonde's chest. “Sure. What should be talk about?”
“Well, I'd like to know why you wanted me to meet your friend.”
“Oh.” Eminghare sags in what looks like relief to Ofonode. “I was hoping we might travel together. Since you've already been to Trebukenan, I'm guessing, you aren't going north, so we're headed in the same direction. It would be nice to have someone to talk to and safety in numbers and all that. I guess Binbin might talk now, but it's been a little difficult to travel alone in the sort of forced silence that comes with traveling with someone I thought couldn't speak.”
She is relieved! This is why she brought me out here anyway. “Without talking to Os, my first reaction would have been to say no if you'd asked me before now. But since I know you travel with an invisian, I think he'll be willing to have you two join us.”
“But what about you? Are you willing to have us join you?”
“Sure.” he tries to say keeping the excitement out of his voice. “It would be nice to feel like I'm helping you travel more safely. I have to tell you, though, funny things sometimes happen while we're traveling.”
“You, too?” Eminghare's eyebrows are high and her eyes wide.
“Yeah. What weirdness have you experienced?”
“You first.”
“Eminghare, if we're going to travel together, you've really got to try to trust me. I think I am a trustworthy sort of person.”
She sighs. “Well, you saw that Binbin can fly. And boy am I glad. She saved me from huge snake-like things. One of those crazy-creepy things even flew, but couldn't get very high.” Ofonode is leaning toward her, intently listening to everything she's saying. “She can also breathe fire, but not easily. After she does, she has to sleep for a long time. So she's only done that once. And once…”
Before she can continue, the two small lizards reappear.
“It has been so long since I've seen another invisian friendly with humans. It has been a pleasure to see and become aquainted with Bineenia. You are, Eminghare, a very fortunate young lady. I want to convey my deepest sympathy for your silent travels. Binia, here, never learned to speak in your language. She has been trying to communicate with you for the whole of your journey, but has only been successful in a few instances. And she's unsure whether you understood that it was she who you heard in your mind.”
“Oh! I'm so glad! I thought she was unhappy with me for some reason!”
“Let me continue, my dear. I have much to share with you.” Eminghare nods and listens closely as Oseratin continues, “Binia, as she prefers to be called by anyone other than you, she has grown very fond of your name for her, but would prefer if Ofonode would please call her Binia, is an invisian. We know Ofonode has told you this. Since we will travel together, as you two have arranged, Binia and I believe we should communicate some specifics with the two of you and make plans together.”
Ofonode and Eminghare nod their heads and drop into squats.
“Okay. To begin, Ofonode you will know much of this, but I have not told you all, so please pay close attention. Invisians are alien to this planet. You have encountered a few of our kind who desire to overtake the planet and consume, use as slaves, or simply kill those like you. Binia and I are not like them. Unfortunately, those like us are the minority and we were scattered very early in our time on the planet because most of us are scientists of the Holy Order.
“You might find it difficult to believe when you simply hear the words, my dear, but after you see what we will show you in a little while, you may more easily believe that we, invisian, were created by the same God you call Father. We also worship him and call him Father.”
Os pauses for a few moments after Eminghare sucks in a deep breath of shock. Her face is very still and she seems to be trying to process what she's heard. “Please continue Oseratin.” She says in a whisper full of air, like she's having a difficult time catching her breath.

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