Jayavanan’s expression soured at the thought of visiting Chanvatey. The old man was useless. He trailed at the very end of the clan as they moved, fumbled through useless supplies while mumbling to himself, and his so-called apprentice seemed worse. Still, if his friend and closest mentor suggested the visit, then he thought it would somehow be worthwhile.
Chief Jayavanan turned to his two closest friends and fellow warriors, Kiri and Ponle’ak, and motioned for them to follow him. None of the three said a word as they walked through the camp. Finally, Ponele’ak broke the silence. “Chanvatey?!! Do you really think he can help you build anything? He can barely wipe his own arse!”
With that, Kiri bellowed with laughter. “I hear the old women have to drag him along so he doesn’t get lost on the move.”
Ponle’ak continued, “And, that boy who straggles along after him is no better. It’s a wonder that boy is still alive. They are nothing but leopard bait.”
Kiri nodded in agreement his smile turning to a disapproving scowl. “Yes, best if they were left behind. They slow the entire clan.”
“No more of that!” Jayavanan barked. “The gods have seen fit to put every one of us here for a reason. The reason for some of us must be much more subtle.”
Finally, they neared the far side of the clan’s encampment. Some youngsters led them straightaway the last few hundred yards. The expression of puzzlement was clear on their face at the request.
The shelter was mere tatters over a few crooked sticks. An incredibly old man was squatted next to it. He was mumbling something to a scrawny boy who was seated in the mud next to him. Neither one of them looked up as the old man continued mumbling on; all the while fiddling with a length of knotted gut between his hands.
Kiri bellowed. “Chanvatey, acknowledge your Chief and kneel when he approaches you!”
Jayavanan waved Kiri off. “Chanvatey, I have come to speak with you about many things important to our clan,” the Chief said with as much of a polite expression as he could muster. The expressions on Kiri and Ponele’ak’s faces though were of clear disdain.
“Ah, so you’ve finally come to me, Jayavanan. I knew you would. I knew it would be you,” the old man said with a toothless grin. “You’ve had visions, and now you are ready to build a new great city for our people.”
A look of surprise briefly crossed, Jayavana’s face. Kiri and Ponele’ak’s scowls softened slightly.
“Did Phaekdei get word to you about that?” Jayavanan queried.
“Hmm? Huh? No… I haven’t heard from him in years. No, it’s you. I knew you would be the one, and so now you’re wondering how this feeble useless old fool can help you, eh? Well, most likely I can’t,” the old man said.
Kiri rolled his eyes. Ponele’ak threw his hands up. Jayavanan waved them both off this time. “Go on, Chanvatey.” the chief extolled.
“I do not have long on this earth. To me every waking morning is a gift. But my apprentice, he can help you.”
Jayavanan couldn’t restrain the expression of doubt that crossed his face. That boy had sat there this whole time wheezing and staring at them agape. “Chanvatey,” Jayavanan interjected, “perhaps you can train other apprentices.”
The old man nodded.
With that, Jayavanan turned to Kiri and Ponele’ak and said ,“You will both stay here and study everything he has to teach you for five days, and then return to me.”
Now it was their turn to both stare agape as their chief strode off.