January drew to a close, and Kesia’s fifteenth birthday passed. Toran arrived one evening with a confusing account of the day’s events.
__The main text Toran laboured over was one of history—a dense volume written in an academic form of Gaeilge, made more difficult to decipher by its calligraphic script. It was, however, very beautiful. Writ on vellum, covered with gold-plated metal, and with ornately decorated borders, it seemed as ancient as the time it recorded: the era before the accession of the Dragon Monarchs, and the first century of their reign. It was his task to transcribe it onto parchment, translating what he could alongside. For weeks he copied the names of long-departed tribes, their territories, sacred places, and Chieftains; few dates accompanied these records, and their regions were unlisted. He constantly scoured the modern maps with faint hope of locating the areas mentioned—for the new tongue had given new names to these old places. His treasured bilingual dictionary was wearing from use. Yet his efforts were rewarded with insights into a forgotten time.
Toran told Kesia how the ancient tribes had sustained themselves as roaming farmers since before records began. Slowly many of the tribes began to settle, managing their crops better, establishing towns. Still the wilderness pressed upon them, taking lambs and calves in the night; and the untamed tribes raided often. Then the Stones—whatever that meant—gifted new technologies, and the settled tribes were better able to defend themselves. The towns expanded and the networks connecting them improved. The savage tribes retreated. The wild land was no longer king: triumphant were the wielders of fire, seed, and scythe. And so centuries passed.
__Toran had recently come to the segment covering the War of the Tribes. The war lasted almost twenty-three years, and immediately preceded the coming of the Dragon Monarchs. The record told how most of the major tribes had aligned themselves to one of the dragons and worshipped them with increasing fervour; differences in beliefs caused great offence. A summer of heavy rains birthed swarms of locusts and as crops were annihilated the Chieftains cast their gazes upon others’ lands and livestock: for what right did the blasphemers have to nourishment in the face of famine? Tensions spilled over; war erupted. Thirteen of these tribes were greatly feared, led by powerful Weaver-Chieftains. The Weaver-Chieftains, the Makers of Storms, carved the fates of thousands and were lords even over nature, shifting rivers and mountains when need arose. Fear quickly flew before their attacks, and they took whole swathes of land with ease, absorbing smaller tribes in their wake. Finally these great tribes collided and it was said the smoke of their battles thickened the air for years.
__Apprentice scribes commonly studied the War of the Tribes, and most people had some knowledge of it. The thirteen tribes were certainly remembered by history. But Toran—admittedly still a boy, at fourteen—had never heard of the Weaver-Chieftains. His curiosity was intensely piqued: what were their powers, names, ages? What became of them? He knew only seven tribes would survive the war.
__He had asked Tàvae if she had heard of them; she had not, and assumed he had mistranslated. She took the text from him. Her eyes began to speed across the pages, only occasionally stopping to lift a scroll or text from the rubble of her desk and check for something. Toran knew better than to ask anything.
__Tàvae seemed to remember his presence after half an hour. ‘Where have you translated to?’
__‘Here,’ he said, turning back to the end of the previous page. ‘“The mountains bowed, and the rivers submitted. The Weaver-Chieftains wielded their fearsome warriors and smoke blanketed on the lands.”’
__She flipped the pages and read the chapter again—staring at the blank space beneath its final paragraph for quite some time. ‘I have no idea who they were.’
__‘Is that not a little strange?’
__‘Yes. I think it is quite strange.’
__Then her eyes flickered past him, to the forest beyond the house. ‘Best not speak of this. Although you may mention it to Kesia.’ She went quiet in thought. She then placed a hand on Toran’s shoulder. ‘You have learnt Gaeilge at great speed. Your work is excellent. But, son, you’d better let this subject alone now. Alright?’
__And he had promised.
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