Storytime with Erika
Sometimes I’m amazed at the stories my imagination creates when I let it fly freely. This is a story of an unusual wedding that plays out in 426 in the Carpathian Basin, in a Hun village. Of course, I couldn’t time travel to witness the ceremony myself, I had had to rely on my imagination. I hope you will enjoy this short story in four parts as I'm writing it.
Kira was about halfway completing the second circle when suddenly, her horse reared. She grabbed his mane with both hands and tried to hold on. The horse neighed, kicked out with his hind legs, wildly shaking his head. Kira tried to soothe the frightened animal, cooing, and hugging his neck, to no avail. As she leaned forward squeezing the horse’s shoulders with her knees, she felt a sharp, stabbing pain in her left knee and searing pain shooting up to her thigh that continued spreading to her entire body. The horse neighed in fright and stood still, his body trembling.
Kira felt extremely hot as if her body had been immersed in boiling water. Her vision blurred and her body felt weak. Shaking her head and tensing her muscles, she willed her body to overcome the feeling. She held onto the horse’s body as best as she could to stay in the saddle.
After a few minutes as Kira’s vision started to clear and the searing pain slowly decreased, she took deep breaths and focused her attention on the swaying animal. The horse regained his strength gradually, feeling her touch on his neck and listening to her calming voice. “I know you’re terrified. I am too. But we must complete the circle,” she whispered.
She felt warm wetness trickling down her left leg. She pulled the corner of her tunic and saw a long, sharp thorn broken into the inside of her knee. She pulled it out and put it in her pocket, and then lifted the saddle and found a broken thorn sticking out of the horse’s side. “Palia!” she screamed in frustration. “The thorn of the Bilao tree. I know you want me to fail, but I’m not going to let you win! I’m stronger than you are!” The anger and hate she felt gave her the strength to overcome the poison in her body.
Tula reached the circle and guided his horse to the totem pole where King Rua waited with the Shaman by his side. People from the two clans formed a circle farther away, cheering, singing, and drinking the strong, fermented horse milk.
Tula searched for Kira, and when he spotted her swaying on her unmoving horse at the edge of the village, he turned his horse ready to go to her. “No!” his father shouted grabbing his saddle. “If you help her, the marriage will be invalidated.”
“I don’t care!” Tula resisted. “Something is wrong with her. Look!” trying to push his father’s hand away. “I must help her.”
“We’ve been watching her, son,” The shaman said reaching up and touched his arm. “It must be poison, but Kira is a strong warrior. She will overcome it.”
Kira’s horse took a few shaky steps, and feeling a little stronger, he started walking faster. Kira held on, still swaying, and feeling weak, but gently stroking the animal’s neck. Finally, she reached the circle and rode next to Tula who was ready to jump off his horse.
“What happened?” he asked, reaching out to steady Kira on her horse. “You’re as white as your horse.”
Kira pulled the thorn from her pocket and showed it to them concealed from the people cheering and shouting around them. “Someone put the thorns of the Bilao tree on my saddle,” she whispered.
Tula took a sharp breath. “You must be in excruciating pain!” his handsome face contorted by worry. “We must stop the ceremony, you’re in no shape to continue.”
“It’s better now, and my horse is feeling stronger too. Let’s complete the third circle.”
“Wait!” the shaman reached into a pouch hanging on his belt. “The thorn of the Bilao tree contains a poison that not only causes initial pain but long-lasting muscle weakness. I have the antidote.” He pulled a small clay pot from his pouch and sprinkled a pinch of brown powder into his palm. “Here, take this and drink some water to wash it down.” He instructed Kira.
Kira complied, took the cup from King Rua, and drank. The Shaman sprinkled some more powder into his palm, poured water over it, and gave it to the horse. The animal licked it and shook its head. “I know it doesn’t taste good, but you have to swallow it,” he whispered to the horse and gave him more water.
Kira felt the medicine’s effect within a few moments. “I feel much better already. Thank you!” she smiled at the shaman. Her eyes fell onto the shaman’s apprentice who was cowering behind people in the circle. “Only your apprentice had access to my horse. Watch him closely.” She advised the shaman.
“He will get his well-deserved punishment!” the shaman promised.
“Are you sure you’re feeling strong enough to continue?” Tula asked with deep worry in his voice.
“I’m sure,” Kira assured him. “The poison is gone, and I feel strong.”
They separated and Kira focused all her attention on the ride.
Part 4 is coming soon...
© Erika M Szabo, 2021
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission by the author, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles.
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Erika M Szabo
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