Pequin Jerky

Jeptha was cold.He added a handful of dried grass on the embers of his cooking fire. Small tendrils of smoke rose as he blew on the ashes.

He added a handful of dried grass on the embers of his cooking fire. Small tendrils of smoke rose as he blew on the ashes.

A small flame emerged and he added a few twigs. The Heron had taught him how to make a fire from an ember. The bow and drill method eluded him. This would be a cooking fire made in a straight line for cooking strips of meat.

The Pequin were plentiful along Northwich Creek and Jeptha was focusing his efforts on stocking up on hides and jerky. The hides were washed thoroughly before they were scraped and staked. Penelope might be interested in purchasing them so he could make a few coins.

The bow and drill method eluded him. This would be a cooking fire made in a straight line for cooking strips of meat.

The Pequin were plentiful along Northwich Creek and Jeptha was focusing his efforts on stocking up on hides and jerky. The hides were washed thoroughly before they were scraped and staked. Penelope might be interested in purchasing them so he could make a few coins.
As he huddled in his blankets, he thought about how life had taken a turn for the better. He liked to sleep outdoors and outside of the city walls. He felt strong and unconfined. With the Herons’ help he had learned enough to survive on his own.

Wispy Sapling was a good friend. Her mother fed him when he came around. He was sure to be respectful as possible and bring truffles. They were so easy to smell. He did not understand why the Heron could not just dig them up. Ahusaka was teaching him the ways of the forest. They knew to find them near oak trees, but they were elusive to find without a discerning nose. He had made regular visits to the village and spent a lot of time seeing Wispy and her mother.

Beast thoughts trailed off in other directions and he laughed. It sounded like a growl and would have startled anyone who heard it.

It hurt his head, but he was learning vocabulary that was foreign to him from Shepherd’s Crook Man. It made him excited and happy inside.

It still cramped his hand to write but he was getting used to it. School work was difficult. It was mostly what he thought about nowadays. Learning how to read and write was something he had always wanted. There just was no way it could have happened when he was a child.

Shepherd’s Crook Man did not tolerate foolishness nor did his wife. They required that he wear proper clothing that impeded his movements. Using a button to close the top of a pull over shirt was something of a challenge, but he was getting it.

It felt to Jeptha as if his mind turned on and off. Things could become so confusing in the blink of an eye. Never his instincts, but names, places and what he was doing. He had been working hard to really focus.

Wispy Sapling was confusing.

He followed Brother’s rules when he met with her and stayed outside. It made him angry when other men would come to see her and he did not understand why. Her mother prepared Pequin stew for him when he came over and this made the other men angry because they were not offered any when they visited. Wispy was nice to Beast as was her mother. He always ate outside and suitors thought he did so to flaunt this privilege.

Jeptha placed a rack of meat on the fire and removed the jerked portions from a completed one. He was getting good at this process.

His thoughts trailed off.

Recently, he had decided to see the Heron and seated himself near Wispy Sapling at Ahusaka’s fire. A large number of warriors stood at the ready as if a fight were about to break out.

When he approached the Heron, he was limping after a fight with some brigands. He had been taken aback at the silver tipped spears they carried. Injuries from silver were the most painful. They had hunted him with purpose or for sport and they were prepared, but not prepared enough.

This was the second time he had been attacked with that awful metal.

He felt bad for breaking one of their legs, but the brigand would not stop trying to jab him with that spear. He screamed so pitifully it made him cringe when he thought about it.

The other man he got ahold of stopped moving as soon as he jerked him off the ground by his neck. Brigands were not durable to Beast.

The other brigands left their friends. He did not chase them because they were afraid and stopped hurting him.

Wispy Sapling noticed immediately and explained that she wanted to help him because he was hurt and help him feel better. He declined ferociously, scaring her. He apologized and told her he fights when he is touched. He wondered how people could not understand that.

She kept her distance. Ahusaka reminded her that Brother said never to touch Beast as it was dangerous.

Beast felt bad, and Ahusaka asked about the limp.

“THE BAD MEN POKED ME WITH METAL STICKS. I BROKE ONE’S LEG AND HE SCREAMED. THE OTHER STOPPED MOVING WHEN I LIFTED HIM OFF THE GROUND BY HIS NECK.”

Whenever Jeptha told a story like this, everything became silent. Beast did not like to tell these stories. The warriors eyed each other and seemed to size him up, making him uncomfortable. He did not want to hurt his Heron friends.

Wispy Sapling was looking at him like she was sad.

She turned a shiny object in her hand nervously.

Beast looked at it. He was mesmerized and fascinated.

She was holding a beautiful seashell. He was captivated and had never seen one despite La Longi being a harbor town.

Beast asked, “What is that?”

“It’s a shell. An animal used to live here and it was it’s home. It’s from the ocean far away.”

Beast growled and looked away. He could not resist and looked again. It was tiny and beautiful.

Under his breath he asked,

“Why do you steal animals homes?”

Ahusaka was silent. The warriors and Wispy laughed. It was such an innocent question.

Wispy replied,

“They left it before I found it, they leave them over the sands. Sometimes they are eaten.”

Beast understood that animals might leave home.

“Think of it like shells of acorns. You know animals are messy. Have you seen the ocean?”

“Yes, I am from La Longi. You made that shiny piece. It’s not real. You made this. It is too pretty to be from the sand.”

“No, a tiny creature made this. It took them years. You might like them, they are quite tasty”

Here, hold it.I couldn’t have made this, as skilled as I am.”

I couldn’t have made this, as skilled as I am.”

She extended the shell and dropped it in his open hand.

“Beast, I have to tell you something. I am going to a new home that is beautiful like this shell.”

“YOU ARE LEAVING?”

“Yes, Beast. You have been very helpful gathering and helping my mother. I am leaving and I will miss you.”

Beast spoke softly.

” I will come with you.”

Ahusaka and the warriors became alert and ready. Beast caught these movements and was ready as well. He could spring out of his seated position and protect himself with little effort.

Wispy Sapling looked Beast in the eyes and they held.

“You cannot, Jeptha.” She used his proper name for the first time since they had met.

“You see, what is a snail without his shell?

“Nothing.” Jeptha replied.

“Jeptha, then what is a Beast without his forest?”

Jeptha was confused, but resolute.

” I WILL NEVER LEAVE THE FOREST. IT IS MY HOME.”

Wispy Sapling smiled. “You are a good friend, Beast, but I must go to my new home.”

Ahusaka interrupted and was direct.

“Yenaldooshi, you are a Heron. You are strong and brought a young lion to our village. You provide meat to our people. It is time for you to make a decision.”

“Wispy Sapling will soon be married and her new husband will provide for her.

By our customs you may challenge him in combat to dispute his claim on her. It is time for you to claim her to be yours or look for another woman.”

A tall, strong warrior with many feathers attached to his spear stepped forward. He did not speak the tongue of those from Northwich.

It was apparent from his clothing that he was from another village.

He motioned for the other warriors to sit down.

Jeptha Berengar stood. The warrior looked grim and ready to die for his purpose. Their eyes locked and they evaluated each other. There was no fear in the warrior’s eyes. Jeptha was the first to speak.

“I AM BEAST. I AM BITTERNESS AND RAGE. I EAT THE FLESH OF PREDATOR.”

Wispy Sapling put her hands over her face in horror. The warrior lifted his spear.

Jeptha’s voice went soft. “and you are husband. Take care of Wispy.”

The fire needed more fuel and the Pequin meat was getting overcooked. Jeptha Berengar had done a good thing and was proud of himself. He had never cooked this well before.

Author: The Storyteller

Don't count the lions. It will make you afraid and slow you down.

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