Songs of the Sunya: Tales from the Sands of Time Volume I is a collection of short stories from the ancient history of the Sunya. These stories are told and retold by the people of the Sunya in their sacred houses, before the fireplace, and to their children at bedtime. Poems have been written by the great poets of the Sunya to honour the legacies left behind by the protagonists of these tales. This book tells three such stories: The Ballad of Bhagir, The Great Divide, and The Lioness of the Green Sea.
Sample Chapter: First Blood
(11,000 years before the War of Banishment)
Sun had not yet come up to paint the sky. All the world seemed to slumber, save the bloodthirsty. Silent as stalking cats they sought their quarry. The recompense they came to claim was a long time coming. The brood of Jahi had sent one too many raiding parties, and it was time they got their due. The last time they attacked, the Jahisha took with them many good hides, dried meat, precious stones, children and women: the spoils of war. In truth, the Jahisha attack was reprisal for an attack from the Rahmineen clan, whose attack was a response to an attack by the Jahisha. The feud between the two clans had endured for so many generations, none of the current combatants were alive to see or even remember the insult that was the genesis of their enmity. The only thing that mattered was revenge, an interminable cycle that begat itself anew with each act of sanguineous barbarism. This morning was no different.
“Are we there yet?” Asaburat whispered. “I can’t see a damned thing.”
“Shut your idiot mouth” Shadiyouni rasped. “You may not see but they will certainly hear your flapping gob.”
“Both of you shut up” whispered Rahi. “You are going to spook Wild Cat, this is his first raiding party and I would like for it not to be his last, or mine for that matter. So be quiet.”
Bhagir only half listened to his friends’ exchange before it was drowned out by the drums of war pounding in his chest. Rahi spoke truth; this was Bhagir’s first raiding party, and that fact riddled him with anxiety. Despite being among the most adept hunters in his village, he was no killer of men. Once Bhagir had run down a golden deer and brought it down with his bare hands. The ivory tip if his javelin had broken in the chase. Bhagir had little recourse but to throw himself at his prey and grab him by the hind legs. The golden buck tumbled down and knife in hand, Bhagir finished the deed with the efficiency of an apex predator. His fellow hunters were so impressed that they started to call him “Wild Cat”.
When the chiefs of the twelve Rahmineen villages came calling for men to go on a raiding party, Bhagir volunteered. His objective was vengeance for the injury done to his parents during the last dry season. In seasons past, Bhagir’s father had done his part in fighting the Jahisha. When he lost almost half of his arm in a Jahisha attack last dry season, he was forced to put his raiding days behind him. Now a man at fifteen, Bhagir was ready to take his place and avenge the insult.
Bhagir’s skulking was stopped by a hand to the chest. Shadiyouni tapped Bhagir’s shoulder and pointed to the forest canopy with his lips. Sun was painting the sky, and the Jahisha village was in sight. Bhagir scanned the area, looking over the simple fence of dry thorny bushes erected around the perimeter. In the early dawn, there were few signs of life in the village, save the odd mongrel pacing between the conical mud huts, proudly carrying the bones left over from last night’s dinner. Bhagir watched the eerie foreshadowing of the aftermath of the impending violence.
The dogs were too engrossed in their attempts to break through to the marrow of the bones they claimed to notice their approach. Y’arit5 Ayoub, the chief of Bhagir’s village advanced slowly, waving a thick and heavily scarred midnight arm to his chosen men to come forward. They slinked ahead of the band of warriors carrying a heavy log. He pointed to the gate which was an assemblage of sticks tied together with bark cord. The leader of the group nodded and directed his team towards the gate. Y’arit Ayoub motioned to the rest of the men to ready their weapons. Men with shields in the front, men with bows and slings in the back, everyone else stood in the middle and readied themselves for the charge. The men with the log worked themselves into position and awaited their orders.
Y’arit Ayoub counted down from five with his fingers, balling them into a fist one at a time. When he curled his thumb, a battle cry followed. “BLOOOD FIRE!”
Bhagir and the others whooped and roared ferociously as those bearing the great log charged forward and beat down the gate with a single strike. They threw the log to the side and the warriors rushed in. Bhagir was placed in front with the other shield bearers, his small rawhide shield and antler-tipped spear his only protection. As the men raged into the village like an angry black flood, the Jahisha villagers scrambled from their sleeping furs and out of their huts to meet their attackers. There was no contest, for the element of surprise was with the Rahmineen. Frozen with horror and disbelief, Bhagir witnessed his kin stab, hack, and bludgeon their way through their victims. His spear point remained dry.
“Bhagir!” A familiar voice called him out of his trance.
Bhagir looked to the direction of the voice. There came Asaburat and Rahi dragging one of the Jahisha men by his ruddy arms and matted afro.
“No!” he protested in terror while he kicked his legs before being thrown at Bhagir’s feet.
“What is this?” Bhagir asked his friends.
“Do you not recognize the man?” Asaburat yanked the Jahisha’s head up by his hair to show his face. “Look at the scar across his nose.”
Bhagir looked closer. He did know the man. The memory flashed in his head as clearly as the moment itself. He remembered the scarred man. Bhagir was on his knees, bound by the hands to his sisters and brothers. His mother lay on her stomach, weeping and bleeding from between her legs while his father lay on his stomach with a Jahisha foot holding his head in place, forcing him to watch their crime against his wife’s honour. The man with the scarred nose stood over his mother, fixing his loincloth and waving his stone axe over her head. He taunted Bhagir’s parents, telling Bhagir’s mother that she should be proud to have known the touch of a real man. The scarred man and his comrades laughed while Bhagir’s village burned and his father screamed threats of revenge. The laughing stopped, and then the axe came down. Three cuts later Bhagir’s father was short half an arm. Bhagir felt the ropes squeeze his wrist. Had more Rahmineen not come from the other villages to save them, Bhagir was sure the scarred man would have cut his father apart, one piece at a time. Now that same man lay before him, a quivering heap of cowardice.
Anger welled up inside of him. Bhagir’s wrists still remembered the tightness of the rope that bound them when the Jahisha attacked. He felt it every time he remembered scarred man and what he had done. “You were brave last dry season when you ravaged my mother and took my father’s hand. Where is your bravery now?”
The man did not answer.
“ANSWER ME!” Bhagir trembled with anger, his heart pounding in his chest. This was what he came for.
“Here is his axe.” Asaburat placed the weapon in his hand.
It was finely made. The stone head was slender and sharp; the leather thong used to fasten it to the smooth, curved haft was discoloured by the blood it had shed in its years of use. A darkness that shall not be named overtook him and with a shout of vengeance satisfied the axe came down. Then it came down again, and again, and again, and then the scarred man was no more…