Fantasy Adventure, 292 Pages
Cover art by Pat Evans, original design by DB Dakota
Born on harvest day, he’s blamed for starvation, declared a curse by the priestess who’s scheming for control. He suffers brutality and scorn, but his family steels him against ignorance and giving up.
An outcast mentalist, he sidesteps superstition, invents revolutionary trappings, discovers a lush homeland and rescues the tribe.
Ummbl assigned her son the job of lookout for the traders. By and by the two men showed up and were directed to the doctor’s house. She led them outside, away from eavesdroppers, told them the O-marked boy was theirs for a handful of gemstones, and walked with the men to the house where he lived.
“I hear him and his pets inside,” she said, and pointed toward the mouth facade gracing the cavern. “But at Passa we must meet; do you know where Passa is?” They nodded.
“Go then to the chamber, and inside wait for me and the boy. You will pay me eleven turquoises, one for each of his seasons. When darkness falls, you will carry the boy away and flee. With you he will be safer than here, or on the trail by himself. Good care of him you must take and promise no harm to him will come.”
Indicating approval of the conditions, one trader said, “We always care for our goods. What value is property abused or sick?” They stepped off toward the grotto.
Ummbl scurried into the Bearuff wickiup and motioned for the boy to follow. “Must I, O, Priestess?” he exclaimed. “Only suns ago I did a call-down, long and tiresome on the drum. Why another?”
“The time is here for this moon’s atonement for the curse. Come.” Boy stroked the pets, fed them a morsel, secured them in the cage and followed the priestess. At the Passa, he straddled the log drum, took up heavy clubs and, like a loud woodpecker, began beating and mumbling, “I am a no-moon, I am a demon.”
“Louder!” Ummbl scolded, squatted in front of the drum, facing him with her back to the village. “Make the people hear you!”
“I was on a wrong sun born!”
“Why do you live?”
“Through the grace of Tungsee I live!” he shouted.
“Why should you live?”
“I should not live; I should die!”
“Why should you die?” she jabbed.
“Because my people I cursed and starved them of grain.”
“Keep saying it!”
He closed his eyes, kept drumming and, over and over, repeated his confession. “I am of the devil born, wicked and damned! I am hollow and wrong and vain and a danger to my people.” He flared his eyes wide as two men crept out of the darkness and stood on either side of him. One carried a leather rope; the other held a wadded pelt. They knelt, reached forward, ready to grab, tie, and gag him—then they noticed the O on his brow.
“Pious-head!” the lead trader bellowed to Ummbl as he jumped to his feet. “The O birth-sign! He is a vile messenger of Tungsee! Not at any price can we sell him. High born! You tricked us!”
“No, no!” Priestess cried, panic stricken. “A birthmark, his O is not. The O is a tattoo. It tells the story of an ancestry of grit; even the owl says so. This boy’s parents are of high blood and stouthearted.”
“Ummbl, you lie, lie, lie.” Turning to the boy on the drum, the trader asked, “Who are you?”
“Scarface!” The boy realized he was being sold into slavery. “I have no name other!” He leapt off the log, knocked Ummbl aside, splattering her to the ground, and ran toward the village.
The trader bristled, stood over Ummbl, and shook his finger at her. “You concealed Scarface, waiting to trade him for valuables.”
“That O, I myself tattooed long ago!” the doctor erupted. “Birth-blotched with it, he was not.”
“Not that you are to be believed, but why is he a convicted demon?”
“He is not. His confession is practice for a make-believe part in the Pageant of the Husks.”
“Again you lie. Nullifs have no tolerance for blotchy faces. They are deformed god-beings out to control what we think and what the earth brings forth. Nullifs are ordained earth-beings. It is our duty to banish gods. That scarface yonder running is a pious-head. He will be removed from the face of the earth.
“As for you, Priestess, lies and deceit Nullifs suffer not. You will be reported to Javvaluk.” The traders hurried away, leaving the priestess in regret for having created a bogey paradox. The O was a curse from Tungsee—a god. But Nullifs opposed all gods. Ummbl had stirred up a religious war.