Fa Khaero

“They’re coming for us! We need to run!” Mako shoved Ari out of the little hollow she had made for herself to sleep in.


“Who-what? They? Who’s they?” Ari sat, her eyes vaguely staring in Mako’s direction as she waited for the world to start making sense again.


“People. With fire.” Did he really have to explain it all to her? She had to trust him! “I saw it all in my dream. Fire is bad.” Mako shuddered at the image of himself emerging form the blazing fire as a black demon. That had to be a bad sign, surely. And the girl with the harp…


“Mako,” Ari grabbed him with her two pale hands, hands that were showing the first signs of frostbite, skin rough from the cold and nails white as if frozen to the skin in a permanent ice glaze. “People may help. Don’t we want to see people? We haven’t seen anyone in days. We need people to help us. Help us restore the village. Help us find your father.”


The pleading in her voice was almost enough to convince him, but he couldn’t…he wouldn’t trust the fire. “Fire brings evil, Ari. We need to go,” he murmured quietly, firmly. There was no more room for discussion, but the ginger head bobbed and whizzed passed him suddenly to crawl through the bush thicket and out into the open. Mako hurried after her, cursing under his breath at her naïveté.


“Mako, storms, rains, clouds, snows – all these can bring evil. And they can bring beauty. And they can bring anything. And everything, that we don’t expect.” Ari stood, staring across the snowy plains to the nearing dots of red that flickered in the breeze.


For once, Mako could understand why Ari felt that way about the flames. There was an oddly charming sense to them as they flickered in and out of hollows and sparse vegetation, all the time nearing them.


Even if they had wanted to run, chosen to run, they were a far cry from any location worth running to, worth hiding in. The little clumps of bushes here and there did nothing to protect from keen eyes out on a search for other living beings. Was that what they were doing? Looking for prey? Had the winter driven a hungry storm through their village, too, ruining homes and fields, and killing family and livestock?


They won’t find anything here, not with that fire either. Nobody but us, Mako reasoned. Unless they are looking for us, for others like them. Unconsciously, he shuddered.


As the torchbearers neared them, Mako’s nightmarish visions came back at full throttle. His hands began shaking as he watched the men – six of them, he counted – emerge from behind the last snow mound separating them from the children. They were mounted on horses. No, on beasts, for these horses resembled nothing of the little tame creatures Mako remembered one of the villagers bringing back from a market he had attended in the valley a few years ago. These were tough black-and-brown stallions, their manes thick and wavy, their eyes rolling around in their sockets, wild and menacing. They could crush you like an ant if they wanted to.


Mako’s attention shifted from the horses to their riders, and he stood, mouth agape despite the cold, staring wide-eyed at the big, strong men that had lined up in front of them, their horses chomping at the bits, the men’s thick hands steady over their saddles, their right hands gripping the handle of the blazing torch in an iron grasp.


The first rider, the apparent leader, immediately took Mako’s attention. He sat tall in his saddle, long black hair stream down his shoulders and back, eyes dark under bushy eyebrows. He looked stern, but not angry. He appeared thoughtful more than anything, Mako realised, as if he didn’t quite know what to make of them.


The girl with the harp had indicated towards them, Mako remembered. Maybe it had been not a sign of danger but a direction for help. To get help.


“Fa Khaero,” one of the men closest to the leader spoke, angling his gaze towards the broad-shouldered, long-haired man in the centre of the line. “We did not come looking for these youngsters. Yet the winds are picking up again, the skies will soon shed snow once more. We must bring them back to where they can have shelter over their heads, food to eat, a fire to sit by. Then we can continue our quest for the village.”


Fa Khaero slowly swivelled his head to look at his man, then turned back to stare at the children, surveying their worried faces with his own impenetrable one. Yet Mako thought he could distinguish some sort of twitching of the lip, which could have indicated thought, or anger, or both.


“My dream showed me fire in the village of my wife’s and children’s birth,” Fa Khaero spoke. His voice was rough like his weather-beaten face, but it seeped kindness, too. “Children,” he looked first at Mako and then at Ari, “we have been riding since nightfall, our torches are almost out, which means we are probably within a day’s riding distance from the burning village. Yet I see no flame other than that of my and my men’s torches. Who are you? And are you from the burning village on the mountain?”


The way he spoke, the way he addressed them, staring right into the depths of their eyes, their souls it seemed, showed urgency, yet also instilled trust. Mako stepped forward, as he felt he should, to speak to this great man.


“I am Mako, and this is my friend Ari, and there was no burning village. A storm destroyed my home on the mountain-”


“Dreams can show events in different incarnations,” Ari interrupted, stepping forward too and staring, clear-eyed and dazzled, at the six warriors. “I believe ours was the village in your dream, Fa Khaero, yet the village is no more.”


As Mako stood marvelling at Ari’s boldness and adult words, the way she immediately adapted to phrasing her thoughts in the manner of these men of the valley, so different from their own kind up the mountain – who are no more, Mako had to remind himself – the dark-haired leader’s gaze shifted to him and he dismounted from his stallion, passing the reins skilfully to one of his men.


“You are Mako, the son of Eliza, the brother of Martha, and my son!” Fa Khaero’s voice shook as he spoke now, as if his own realisation was beyond comprehension. “You are he!”


“I am he.” Mako could not believe the joy or the fear, mixed with pain and at the same time trust, which he felt all at once as the tall, broad man brought his strong arms around him and enveloped him in a tight father-son embrace.


They looked different, Mako’s face pale and Khaero’s tanned, Mako skinny and small and Khaero tall and muscular, but there was no doubting the father-son bond when they hugged – a long-broken relationship now brought back together. Fastened. Sealed.


He hadn’t found his father at the end of the valley as he had hoped. His father had come to him. His long-gone father had found him.

Previous chapterNext chapter


This has excellent pace and a real sense of urgency. The descriptions of the horses is an example of showing not telling and the other thing about this chapter is that you explore the two sides of things - dark/light, good/bad like the yin and yang symbol.

I think the lead up to Fa Khaeor's revelation is a bit sudden. Surely he would look closely at his son, and his expression would change as he realised he was seeing his son. Give the reader more of the experience because it would something Mako says that  triggers the realisation and the realisation would dawn on Khaeor's face slowly and as it does his body language would change. How would it change do you think?

But what a lovely juxtaposition that his father finds him rather than Mako finding him as we have expected all along.