The matriarch pulled out the fruit and the water jug.
Younger: Mom-mom, this is where your big gathering was, wasn’t it? And that’s when you taught us to quiet our minds, isn’t it? Are we doing those exercises again?
Older: Please. I hope not. Those exercises were useless. Too much time sitting, not enough time doing stuff.
Matriarch: Let’s sit and eat. Then we’ll talk. I have very hard things I need to share and ask.
This time, the older girl disgustedly crinkled her face while the younger dutifully sat down and began eating the fruit. Eventually, the older ate too.
The matriarch set her food aside and stared at the opposite shore. She wished her brown-eyed outlander warrior were here; he told amazing stories and she was thinking of one with a flat quarters made of wood that let you cross water. The faithful rocking of the waves would sooth her heart. As they finished eating, she began speaking.
Matriarch: We’ve had some hard times. The acolyte and her baby brought us into a place of knowing about DeadLife Nightmare. We’ve had to learn all kinds of wicked, evil things not done in our culture.
Younger: Is it over?
Matriarch: No, my little. It’s only just beginning, and it’s getting harder.
She sighed, preparing to tell an untruth. She hated to not tell the truth as that was prized by the War God, but she knew the girls had no tolerance for war’s secrecy.
Matriarch: I have some secret instructions I am going to get. I don’t know what they are, so I can’t tell you what they are. But life will change suddenly. When the scroll comes, you both need to do something very hard.
Both girls stopped chewing with eyes growing wide. The younger gulped while the older swallowed some water. Both waited.
Matriarch: I will say a phrase, probably, “It’s time.” Then I will draw in the air with my sword. You go outside and get as many of your friends together to play cat and mouse. Chase them out of town and here to the lake. You must do it quickly.
Younger: Why? How? What if they don’t come?
Older: What about their parents?
Matriarch: The only answer I have is I don’t know. Take the ones you can and go. No matter what you hear, don’t look back, don’t stop.
Younger: What if we don’t know what to do?
Matriarch: Little, I have it on good authority the War God will help.
Younger: I don’t know if I believe in him. What if he doesn’t?
Matriarch: Child, the times are such He won’t care who you serve; He’ll help.
Both girls were deeply troubled into complete silence for a few candle flickers. The screeching of a moon hawk as it splashed the surface to try to get a lake wiggle broke the spell.
Matriarch: Go bury the fruit remains. I’ll pack our journey sack with the cloaks and water jug.
The girls took off, and the matriarch refolded the cloaks into the journey sack. Setting the empty jug on top of the cloaks, she sealed the sack with cord. When the girls returned, they all grabbed branches and scratched paths into and around their picnic area. No one knew why this custom persisted, but everyone did it anyway.
They started back toward town. As the moon was rising, the family left the gully the way they entered.
Younger: I’m going to go sing with the minstrels in the bazaar stalls on the other side of town.
Older: I’m heading to the Temple of Peace to sing with the littles while their parents do whatever it is they do.
Matriarch: Remember: no words and secret.
Both girls took off like chasm hares. The warrior clan matriarch trudged silently and wearily past the Life Spice stalls. She just wanted to rest.