This flash fiction story is about a character from the novella, "Drums Of The Makai."
Hyee watched with a group from their village as her brother jogged away from them, into the desert. Taye wore his long golden hair in double tails tied with rawhide in the traditional Pyean warrior fashion. He was tall and sturdy built, like father.
Taye must return within 10 sleeps with a Matiki or he would again miss the opportunity to become a senior Pyean warrior until next season. He had tried and failed three times already this season.
At 15 summers, Taye was the strongest and fastest warrior. He was the best with a spear, too. Still, other junior warriors laughed at him because he hesitated to kill a yaki. It would be difficult to kill such an animal. Yakis looked so majestic when they lifted their heads up high, antlers curving above their heads like a magnificent headdress.
It wasn't only his reluctance to kill that made the other boys laugh at him, though. Taye dared to be different. Mother said he was destined for greatness, like his father. Father was the best hunter in the village. No one laughed at father.
Taye was determined to succeed this time. Hyee was afraid for him. Dressed in only a brief Wetzel fur and the straw sandals mother had made him for this occasion, Taye had nothing but a sack of food and his tri-pointed spear. The cold season was barely past on the edge of the grassland, but it was more than that. Taye said he would go out into the grassland if he needed to. It was not safe to go there with a hunting party, much less alone. She glanced at mother, wondering if she should tell, but didn't want to betray her brother.
Mother smiled, as if she knew what her daughter was thinking.
"He will bring a Matiki back this time," she said, patting Hyee on the shoulder. "I saw it in a dream."
Mother's words were confident, but when she shaded her eyes to watch Taye as he disappeared into the horizon, she frowned. There was more than she was telling. Mother had the gift of sight. Did she already know Taye would go into the grasslands?
The Zackets lived in the grassland. Father said a person might go out there for days and not see one, for there were few of them, but if the renegades did catch a Pyean, they would exact horrible punishment. As if that were not enough, there were the Makai, the people of the mountains. Uncle Jaka had been captured by them years ago, and like others before, he was never seen again. Father and the others in the rescue party followed until they were close enough to hear their drums. At that point they knew there was nothing they could do but turn back and save their own lives.
Hyee shivered in the warm day at the thought of what might happen to Taye. She might never see him again. For 13 summers he had been there for her. It was Taye who had saved her from the Keya. She had surprised the Keya while it was feeding on berries beside the path. It plunged out of the brush, growling at her. She froze as it stood on its hind legs, mouth gaping open, showing huge teeth. Taye had yelled to get its attention and then turned to run. The Keya dropped down on all fours and gave chase, its brown fur bouncing with the rolls of fat under its skin. The moment the Keya began chasing Taye, he yelled for Hyee to run for help. Help arrived to find the Keya had Taye trapped behind a log in a small cave. The Keya ran away when the hunters approached. Hyee was proud to call Taye brother.
Hyee's gaze fixed on a tall figure striding toward them, long golden hair flowing over his wide bronze shoulders. Father had not returned from the hunt in time to see Taye off on his quest. That was a bad omen.
Father followed their gaze and then looked into mother's eyes. He put an arm around her shoulder.
"If he does not return in 5 sleeps, I will follow him and see that he comes to no harm."
Hyee breathed a sigh of relief. Taye might get lucky and be back by then. But if he did not, she would tell Father where to look for Taye - for his own good.