This is a short story about a Tosi guy named Kel whose older sister Koma decides to leave and join the war with the Ríli. Because Tosi society is a matriarchy, it’s not common for young men to be living on their own (especially in middle class homes like this one), and he feels abandoned by his sister and worried for her safety. Soon, he finds that the strain of being left alone is aggravating some mental problems he’d had in the past. Problems increase for Kel when he starts to discover some unsettling facts about his family’s past, and discovers that his ancestral home may be haunted by secrets unknown, both figuratively, and maybe literally.
Genre will be fantasy/scifi/paranormal with tinges of romance and adventure. Rating is at M for now just to be safe. Nothing to warrant the rating so far though. CWs for mental illness, mild violence, mentions of death, mild sexual themes, and paranormal scariness.
Feedback is welcome if you feel like reading!
If you asked his sister, there was always something to be angry about. Frankly, it scared him sometimes. Sometimes shescared him. Just like Māha had. But Koma was not their mother. She was just as fierce but her fierceness was driven by a stark ambition, an ever-present desire to climb higher andhigher. Māha had been content with her life, a bookkeeper for an agricultural family. Koma was not content. Koma was never content with what she had, always she had to have more and more.
If there was one thing he knew in his life, it was that Koma would be like this until the day she died. No amount of success or power was sufficient for her. It was tiring to him. Why couldn’t she just be happy with what she had achieved? Why did it always have to be more? Why couldn’t she have been endowed with their mother’s wisdom as well as her temper?
“Kel!” her voice rang out in the large, mostly empty foyer. “I thought you were buying more wine? Where is it?”
Kel peered around the wall from the darkness of the sitting room. “I was about to go into town.”
“Well hurry up. I have been working all day and I need my goddess-damned wine!”
“I know, I’m going now,” he replied, and went to the cloakroom to get his shoes and scarf. Not cold enough for a coat, not warm enough for no outer layers. Autumn was starting to turn towards winter, and living in the northern-most of the larger Tosi cities meant winter actually didsomething except make it rain a whole lot, such as it did in the Capital City.
She reallyshould stop drinking so much, this much he certainly knew. But it was so tiring to try to stop her—to try to stop her from doing anything. His sister seemed to have endless fight in her, and she didn’t choose her battles—everything was a battle with her. He had partially given up trying to fight her—on most things anyway. He couldn’t give up on other fronts. He still loved her too much. It was impossible for him not too—his only sister, who had practically raised him and his brothers since Māha’s untimely death. He owed her much, and his life revolved around her. He could no more help loving her than he could breathing. She was his older sister, his nas, and they were tied inextricably together. It was their nature.
Kel lifted the gezil weaving as he exited the front door. It was getting frayed and faded—possibly time for a new one. He shouldn’t feel excited about having to replace an old gezil—they were rather costly after all. But he couldn’t shake the feeling when he thought of who he wanted to commission a new one from. Hopefully, she would be at the market that day.
The sun was low in the sky in the late afternoon, filtering through the colored tarps and tents of the marketplace. Kel held his hand up to shade his eyes from the orange fire in the sky as he scanned the main square for a familiar face. Her stall was not always in the same spot since she didn’t always come to market. At last he spied the telltale golden braids wrapped around her head. She wore a long deep purple robe and blue sash around her waist. Mīve, the best gezil mol, or weaver of geziltapestries, that the city could offer. She was not well known outside the south quarter at this point in her career, probably owing to her relative youth, but Kel knew her, and he knew her talent.
He approached the stall and bowed politely, his hand over his heart and his eyes briefly closed, as was the custom for men to show deference to women among the Tosi. She smiled sweetly and waved her hand back and forth in front of her face, signaling “no need” for such formalities, though this itself was a formality. Kel raised his gaze and smiled back. She was stunningly beautiful in the lowering sunlight, the warm hues lighting up her golden hair like fire, gleaming like mica in a river rock. He felt a surge of warmth through his cheeks and realized he didn’t know what he was going to say. I need a new gezil? How are you? I’m glad to see you again? No, he thought, these were all supremely stupid options, and he started to panic.
Fortunately, Mīze’s innate politeness kicked in and saved him the terror of having to choose the right greeting.
“Kel! I haven’t seen you here in months. Does your sister not let you out of the house much?”
She winked to indicate her joking manner, but Kel did not want to tell her how this was almost close to the truth. Besides when she had him running errands for her, Koma frowned on her brother wandering around the city unaccompanied. Sometimes she sent a servant or roped one of her friends into going with him, but this “monitoring” removed so much of the joy he had in simply walking and exploring by himself. He often took to the next best thing—taking advantage of the extensive and largely unused collections of books in his sister’s house.
“It’s, well,” he faltered. “I’ve been…busy.” This wasn’t remotely true—he’d been more bored than ever, but he felt he was slowly turning into a shut-in.
“I’m glad you finally made it out then. Are you in the market for a gezil?” she asked.
“Yes, actually. I noticed ours is fraying terribly—it is pretty old. Koma will be irritated if she spots it before I replace it.”
“Well I am glad to serve you!” she gave him an exaggerated bow with a flourish of her silver-ringed fingers. Kel nervously glanced up upon noticing how the movement exposed the tops of her pale breasts—white as eggs, he thought, hoping his blush was not evident.
“What design does she want? I have ez, kista, nazelu, ek kos…maybe even some with gold thread in here.” She started to pull out troves of carefully folded gezil, in a myriad of dizzying designs and colors, some embellished with glass beads, precious gems, pearls, silver amulets, and other finely made trinkets. Mīze was a truly gifted artisan. Kel wished he could buy them all.
“My sister’s tastes are more subdued than mine, I’m afraid,” he said.
“Now that surprises me,” Mīze replied, her eyes twinkling. “She doesn’t have taste in craftwork that matches her personality?”
“She likes muted colors: olive, mauve, brown, maroon.”
She narrowed her eyes. “A bit ironic. Surely she wouldn’t punish you for getting something a littlemore interesting?”
“To be honest, she probably won’t notice the design much. But she hates things getting old or messy, so I have to buy one.”
“Hmm, in that case, I’d say you could probably get away with something more festive than mauve, for Tek’s sake!” She shuffled the tapestries around and pulled out a few in deep crimson and vermillion hues, bejeweled with gold bells and glossy dark blue glass beads that glimmered like drops of oil in the sunlight.
“That one,” said Kel decisively, pointing toward the brightest of the bunch. Mīze smiled brightly and pulled it out for him to inspect more closely.
“A very good choice,” she said with practiced ease. She was so charming, Kel was sure her sales had to be through the roof. From the looks of her fine clothing, she was in no way hurting for money. Still, he loved seeing her so much, he felt sincerely happy to give her business.
“I’ll give you a discount too,” she added. “If you promise to come out more often! Surely your sister doesn’t mind? You should come with me to the new bar on Gasti Street, it just opened! I know you like opol ale.”
Kel felt his lips twitch with a smile. “How did you know that?” He had never told her any such thing.
“You’d be surprised the things I come to know around the marketplace. Everyone knows something interesting.” Still her ever-present, gleaming smile. Her teeth were far too white. Her eyes shone and a tiny dimple indented her right cheek. Kel felt he couldn’t stand to look into her eyes for too long at once.
“Well, if you insist, I’m sure I can find a way to get out. What time did you have in mind?”
“Right after the market closes, if you can!” She started to fold the gezilup and wrap it in burlap, placing it in a sack for him.
Kel felt a wave of apprehension. It would be difficult to get away. He’d have to make up some excuse. But he was nothing if not clever, and he knew it—he would figure out a way to leave and meet her. He couldn’t miss this chance.
He turned and paid her the amount she indicated—a good twenty percent less than her ticketed price, he noticed. He thanked her, took the gezil, and started off toward home. He was so distracted by his wandering (and admittedly somewhat frenetic) thoughts that he almost forgot his sister’s wine.