U Methrah Thlayli
The sun was shining down on Cappadocia, the homeland of the Efrafan hares. One such hare was Thlayli, a burly animal so named for the unruly mop of fur on top of his head. He sat tall in the saddle while his Asian Ostrich, Nildhristhol, fidgeted as the herd rested on the plains outside Goreme. He was Hrair-lot , a peasant born ostrich farmer serving under the Marli-fa Natal Banu Vreka, who was the local Efrafan Lord. Despite his station, she had chosen him to lead the drove of 100 head of her herd to the great market city of Ankyra. Her own Owsla Hrair-lion, who were the warrior elite of the Efrafan people, were currently marching under Owsla-fa Adama Zethin Rautha against the Ottoman incursions. None could be spared to protect the herd.
He chose his two brothers Maythennion and Cemil to ride with him, as well as his twin cousins: the ever jocular Baris and wide-eyed Syrienpreen, to manage the supply wagon and spare mounts on this, their first drove. While he and his brothers had participated in a drive before, he had never lead one, and certainly never this far. He hoped that this trip would mean his request to join Marli-fa Vreka’s Hrayfa, her Owsla Cavalry, was being considered. He would much rather that than spend the rest of his life as a Hrair-lot Ostrich farmer, despite his family’s opinion on the matter. At the very least, he hoped the change in scenery would disrupt the strange dreams he’d been having of late: red and grey fur framing soft brown eyes looking out from tall grass, while strange animal noises pressed in around them.
Shaking his head, he focused on his task: he had a fortnight to make the 50 league journey, so he needed to get started. He tapped Nildhristhol with his Nild-pezel, a herding axe crafted from an ostrich leg bone, eliciting a hiss and boom. This roused the herd, as well as his siblings, and they began the trek. By the end of the first day of travel west, following the southern bank of the Red River, they had reached their first camping site; a rise overlooking Elm Creek, which was halfway between the cities of Avanos and Gulsehir. Thlayli, Maythennion and Cemil moved the herd to the creek to feed in small units of ten, while Baris and Syrienpreen set up the Ger and prepared the camp. Thlayli and Cemil were on the rise overlooking Mythennion and a tenth of the herd, their red linen sashes and off white linen shirts and pantaloons dulled with the dust of the days ride.
“I’m getting my pay in silver Dirham,” mused Cemil as he rested in his saddle with a far off look, “...then I’ll have a craftsmam in Efrafa make it into a belt for Hypahyt.”
“You’ll have to work up the nerve to ask her Marli before you give her a gift like that, little brother.” Thlayli smiled as he glanced at the taller jack.
Cemil snorted. “Easy for you to say. Not everyone can be born owsla brave. You’re getting paid as much as the rest of us combined. Let me guess: you’re going to get your pay in bronze Nummis, then have the whole sum woven together as a suit of armor!”
Thlayli barked out a short laugh. “Wouldn’t that be a sight! But no, I’m using my share so I can take the Pilgrimage to Iskanderun.”
Cemil turned fully towards his brother. “To Woundwart’s Battlefield on the Plain of Issus? You’re really serious about joining Marli-fa Vreka’s Owsla, aren’t you.”
Thlayli’s response was cut off by a startled cry from their brother Maythennion down by the creek. Kimthilekyt , Maythennion’s ostrich, came thundering out of the group with a strange black hare clinging to her back. Cemil immediately wheeled around in alarm and began guiding the rest of the herd back to camp, while screaming “ Inle-roo! ” Thlayli didn’t care if they were spirits of the dead or not: his family and Marli-fa Vreka were depending on the income from this drive while the Owsla were away. He unlimbered his nild-pezel and charged Nildhristhol towards the creek. As he passed Kimthilekyt he stabbed the stranger with the spike on the base of the haft, dumping the rider into the muddy creek bank.
Once into the herd, he saw two more black colored hares trying to wrangle the obstreperous birds. He rode up and had Nildhristhol kick one of the rustlers, who soon disappeared under the feet and claws of the herd. The third finally noticed his plight and began running south. Thlayli gave chase, and once he had caught up he struck the black jack with the hammer head of his pezel . The would-be robber was launched into the creek with an agonized squeak, where the late spring melt waters washed him away face down. Wheeling around, he saw two riders speeding away southwest, though their mounts were too scrawny to belong to Vreka’s herd.
He returned to the demi-herd and began calling for his brother. “ Ennion-roo ! Are you in there?” The herd was still agitated, and the last thing he wanted was to spook the birds into trampling his kin. He saw another pezel hook Kimthilekyt’s neck, and soon Mythennion’s dark brown ears could be seen peeking up. “Are you okay brother? Are you injured?”
“Only my pride, rusati .” The stocky brown jack hobbled out of the herd, leaning on his ostrich and using his nild-pezel as a walking stick. “The Nalnayilfil jumped out of a tree and knocked me off Kimthilekyt’s back. The landing knocked the wind out of me.” When he arrived at the fallen rustler the jack was laying face down at the end of a trail of black stained grass. “They colored their fur black, to try and trick us into thinking they were evil spirits. Do you think they are Il Bralrahai Kehaar ?”
Thlayli dismounted and turned the black colored hare over. “No, just silfessil. Death Worshipers haven’t been seen in many years, you know that. Besides, they would not have run from a fight.” He wiped his paw in the grass and stood up. “Still, best to thin their numbers before they become over confident and attack someone else.”
There was a weak rattling gasp from the hare at their feet. Mythennion shivered for a moment, then saw Thlayli ready to deliver a mercy blow. “No brother, I’ll do it; I’ll not have your soul overburdened with death. You are not Owsla yet, and Inle-Ra has not been sung your name: he could take you by mistake on his next moon.” Mythennion then swung his pezel about and caved in the jack’s skull. He turned from the gruesome sight and looked at Thlayli. “Did we lose any birds?”
Thlayli looked back at the group of ostriches taking a quick count, then up the rise to the camp. Cemil’s ostrich Nildzyzay gave out two quick booms. “Looks like the whole herd is good, if somewhat out of sorts. I saw two riders heading southwest at a gallop; maybe to Sulusaray, but even if they rode through the night they wouldn’t get there until dawn. We’d be in Gulsehir before they could catch up.” Once his brother was mounted again they began gathering the distressed birds while avoiding the trampled remains of the second rustler. “If they try anything, it’ll be tonight. But I doubt these vagabonds have anymore fight in them. Come on, let’s get the herd back to camp before Keharr comes for his due.”