The Lion Hunter by Elizabeth Wein

The Lion Hunter by Elizabeth Wein

Author:Elizabeth Wein [Wein, Elizabeth]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Published: 2013-11-21T22:27:00+00:00


XI

STAIRWAYS

TELEMAKOS SPENT MOST OF the next day sitting in the shade of the colonnaded courtyard and composing a letter to his mother. The first part was easy, telling of his journey and Athena’s adventures on the ship. He drew a sketch of Athena sitting in a boat, smiling and waving her wooden giraffe, which he hoped would make his mother laugh. He assured Turunesh that Abreha Anbessa was happy to accept both children into his household.

It was more difficult to word the cryptic information Telemakos wanted to embed in this bland report. He practiced his message to Goewin in wax and let Athena rub it out with her fist, until he had what he wanted to say by heart and could transcribe it directly onto a palm strip without leaving any legible trace of his false starts:

Please send my love also to my father and my aunt. My father should be thankful I am here with the lion, for I have seen it kill a scorpion. I am glad it is bold but I hope it does not happen again.

Telemakos had no doubt that Goewin would decipher this the first time she heard it. The meaning seemed so plain to him he had misgivings about letting it go, but no one questioned that he should let his mother know he had arrived safely. No one even asked to look at the letter, let alone censor it. Abreha sealed it with his own mark, to speed its passage.

Two days later they started for San’a. The najashi traveled modestly, on foot, with an entourage of half a dozen men and three camels, and Telemakos carried Athena. She was a good traveler. Medraut had sewn several pockets into the side of her harness, and she would spend most of a march fitting a stalk of sugar cane into each of these by turns before she finally decided to teethe on it. She switched at flies with an ostrich feather, for Telemakos as well as herself.

“How many weeks has it been since either one of you used a comb, boy?” Abreha asked him. It was after sundown; the worst of the low-lying Hot Lands were behind them, and they were about to enter the wadi valley that channeled the mountain rainwater. They had found grazing for the camels and set snares for sandgrouse to feed the lion. Now they sat in firelight over the evening meal. “You’ll soon find things nesting in your hair.”

“We’re both perfectly nit free just now,” Telemakos answered defensively.

“I mean mice, or birds.”

Telemakos laughed.

“Give me your comb, Boulos,” the najashi said to one of his companions. The soldiers wore their long hair plaited and buttered sleekly against their scalps. “Now, will the young princess Emebet Athena let me untangle her bright hair? Come here, my honey badger.”

Telemakos had never seen her so indulgent of a stranger. She steadied herself against the najashi and pulled at his bushy eyebrows and chewed on the signet ring that was said to have belonged to King Solomon.



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