Slow roasted turkey, mashed potatoes drenched in gravy, pumpkin pie with sweet whipped cream; we all have our favorite thanksgiving dish. So many of us cook enough food to feed half the neighborhood. We stuff ourselves on aunt Lulu’s green bean casserole and mom’s homemade giblet dressing. After the big dinner there may be an exciting football game or relaxing social time shared around a cozy fire. Family memories are made from the holiday traditions we share.
As the holiday nears, be thankful for what you have, but remember those who may have fallen on hard times.
Collin and Kairma backtracked about a quarter-mile to find Ris under his suede leather blanket, hiding from the sun. His skin was pale with faint blue veins showing through, and his face and arms were slightly pink from too much sun.
Sitting down next to the pale young boy, Collin offered Ris his waterskin. “Are you able to go any farther?”
Ris gladly took a drink. “Thank you, Master.” Collin and Kairma looked at each other, perplexed. Master? But Ris didn’t notice as he continued speaking. “I seem to have lost my waterskin sometime yesterday and I didn’t have time to pack any food before I came to find you. I only have my daily pack and blanket with me, and the sun is really hard on my skin. Too much sun and I turn bright red and blister.”
“Are you hungry?” Kairma asked.
“I’ll be okay, Master Kairma. I just need to rest for a while. I have a few things in my pack. I have my knife, a small bow, a sling, and my blanket, but I’m out of water now. I had some when we passed the lake, but that was some time ago.”
Kairma’s pale blue eyes blinked. “Why do you keep calling us master?”
“Because you’re a Master.” It was Ris’s turn to look confused.
“What’re you talking about?”
“The men and women of Survin are our Masters. We provide security for you, and you provide food for us, Master.”
Kairma bristled. “Don’t call me master.”
“Whatever you ask.”
“Don’t stop calling me master because I told you to stop, do it because I’m not your master.”
Ris looked a little hurt. “But you are my Master. You’re the reason we exist.”
Kairma crossed her arms over her chest, and Collin chose that moment to change the subject giving her time to process Ris’s words. He pulled out some fruit and nuts from his pack and offered them to Ris. “Here, I know you haven’t eaten yet. We’ll break for an hour or so, and then we need to move again. If Narvin is behind us, he has horses and he can move much faster than us.”
“Thank you, Master.” Seeing Kairma’s intense glare he amended his words. “I mean, Collin.” Ris munched on the dried fruit and looked back the way they had come. “Narvin can move faster, but he’ll have to find our trail first. I led you over hard rock scrabble most of the night. We didn’t leave him much to follow, and horses can’t climb down mountains.”
As they talked, Kairma sat down next to Collin. Her mind tried to make sense of the claims this White One was making. She had been uncomfortable when Collin first proposed the idea that the White Ones came for the tributes each month. The mind has a way of trying to hold onto well-established beliefs, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. “How do you know so much about hiding trails?” she asked.
Ris smiled. His pale eyes sparkled. “I’m a great hunter for my brothers and sisters and my hunting ground was often Survin, sometimes even a Master’s home.”
Kairma leaned back. “You came into our homes?”
“Sometimes. When we were really hungry and there wasn’t anything else available. The food you gave us each month went a long way to keep us fed, but sometimes we ran out before the next tribute was due, so I would be sent out to acquire food and sometimes medicine.”
Kairma’s mind began to whirl. Last spring they had come home late after taking the monthly tribute to the Godstones. Many Whitish had surrounded them, and when one of them had tried to touch her, Zedic kicked him. She had been so frightened. “Have you always taken the tribute food?”
“Of course. That’s why you brought it, isn’t it?”
Kairma shook her head. This was all wrong. “I thought it was for the gods. We were saying thank-you to the gods for protecting us.”
Ris’s smile was sly and his eyes were much older than his fourteen annums would belie. “And what do you think the gods were protecting you from?”
Chewing her lower lip, Kairma said, “I’m not sure. I guess from things like disease, famine, hostile strangers.” Her voice lowered in embarrassment. “Maybe the White Ones?”
Ris took off his moccasin and rubbed his sore foot. “If you think about it, maybe the tributes did protect you from us. Since you were feeding us, we didn’t fight with you.” He looked up at Kairma. “Not to mention that most Madics that came through the area ended up living with us or dead. You never saw them, so I guess that kept most of the strangers away. That’s our duty. We protect the Crystal by protecting you.”
Collin shook his head. He seemed disconcerted by this more than the thought of the White Ones calling him master. “What about Tamron and his parents? They were strangers.”
Ris put his moccasin back on. “They were Masters. It was before I was born, but I’m told, they knew by looking at them. Like you, they were tall, dark skinned and had no facial hair.”
“And the men who killed my sister and brother?” An ancient pain laced his words.
Ris swallowed hard. “I was only a baby, but I heard the story. Those men were tall, much like Trep. He has the Masters blood in him, but he had hair on his face so we argued about whether we should let him come through.”
Collin stood suddenly, his dark eyes flashing. “Why did you let those men kill Ellen and Cody? If you’re supposed to protect us, why didn’t you?”
“We protect the Crystal from those who are not Masters. We don’t protect the Masters from each other. We only enforce the laws you create.”
Collin cursed. “So you just let them walk away? After what they had done!”
Shaking his head, Ris stated emphatically, “Your laws do not allow Masters to leave the mountain.”
Collin frowned as he considered Ris’s unspoken words.
After a moment, Kairma asked, “Is that why you attacked Grimly and Efram when they went after Naturi?”
“Yes, they were trying to leave the village.”
“But you let Naturi and Collin go?” She knew she was missing something important, something obvious to Ris.
“Of course. You told them to go. I was there when you bid them good-bye.”
She could feel her flesh crawl as she remembered walking home that morning, feeling the eyes on her, afraid they were going to attack her at any moment. But they hadn’t attacked and she was slowly putting the pieces together. “Because I said they could leave, it was okay?”
“Yes, you’re the Master’s Master, the heir to the Crystal. We serve and protect you above all others. I’m really quite proud to serve you. Kairma, you are a messiah to the White Ones, the first White Master.”
Excerpt: Fall of Eden, The Healing Crystal, Book Two
Anytime is a great time to reach out and share your good fortune.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!