Telling Tales 233
I’ve Got Some Good News and I’ve Got Some Bad News
“Iron boots?” Kou Ke frowned. “I do not believe my beloved would ever don such footwear. Not that she is particularly vain – she is an eminently practical person in many regards – but iron boots are a step too far.”
Entendtout was not listening to him. “I cannot tell how heavy her footsteps would be without the boots – no, wait. I can. She is sighing because she has worn through the soles of these boots and they are the third pair so far. She aims her feet for a town with a smith in the distance, or so she hopes, someone who can make her a new set of shoes.”
“Why is she wearing such shoes at all?” asked Juleidah.
“She has not said. She is alone, so there is little reason to suppose she would volunteer such information to herself. Naturally, she already knows it.”
“How will we ever know if she is my wife?” asked Kou Ke. He kept his hopes down as best he could, but it was clear that was already excited. “How long must you listen before we know?”
“What is your wife’s name?” asked Haraka.
“Yi-Min, but – ”
The fleet-of-foot Haraka turned to sharp-eyed Ipiktokiyakovik. “Can you see her?”
“You wouldn’t – ” began Kou Ke.
“Not her – next to her,” answered the hunter, who understood Haraka’s idea. “One moment.” He consulted with Entendtout and trained his eyes on the distance. “Are you ready, Haraka?” He placed an arrow against his bow and drew back the string. Then he took a breath and drew back once more. Another breath and another pull, until they all thought that wood and bone would snap.
The release of the arrow sounded so loud that they all thought the bow had broken anyway. In the twinkling of an eye, the arrow was gone and before anyone could so much as utter an exclamation of surprise, Haraka was gone, too, chasing after the arrow as fast as he could.
Ivan turned to Entendtout, who smiled an apology. “The arrow has a rather long way to travel, I’m afraid,” he said.
“Game of cards?” asked Scrobarnach Armtha, but not even Ipiktokiyakovik thought it was a good idea, so she was left with creating seventeen soldiers from brushwood and playing against them, but whereas her army were fearsome soldiers, they were rather terrible card players and she grew bored quickly.
“There,” announced Entendtout, and they all jumped, for he had been quiet for some time. “The arrow startled her. Haraka has arrived. He is apologizing for the arrow and retrieved it from the ground.”
“Good thing, too,” said Ipiktokiyakovik, who liked to keep his supply steady and disliked a great deal of the new woods he had discovered since leaving home.
Juleidah and Scrobarnach Armtha shushed him quiet. Kou Ke was too polite to do so and Ivan was too slow. Juleidah, however wanted to assist their companion and calm him as much as possible. The wild girl was simply bored and wanted the whole episode to be over as quickly as possible.
“He is introducing himself. She is returning the greeting. Yi-Min!”
They all cheered and clapped Kou Ke on his back. Tears wet his eyes.
“Haraka will bring her here to you!” Entendtout announced.
Kou Ke gasped. “To think I should see her again!”
“Oh,” said Entendtout.
“Oh?” asked Ivan.
“This seems a bit awkward.”
“What is it?” Ivan pressed.
“She has refused.”