I was born without hands. My arms stop just above where my elbows would be if I had them. Despite this, my mother loved me. I don’t remember much of her face, but I can still remember her warmth as she hugged me. Sometimes, I think her scent still lingers in this shack I am hesitant to call home.
I cannot say the same for my father, however. I am cautious of him. As a large man, his hits crash down on me like mountains, and he is prone to drunken rages. I am careful when I move. He lies there on the ground surrounded by empty liquor bottles. If I wake him, I’ll earn a fist. If I talk back, I’ll earn a fist. If he sees me, I’ll earn a fist. For a man who can only stumble around in a spirit induced stupor, he has a surprising amount of accuracy. Not that I try and dodge. That will earn me a fist, too, but I used to, when I was younger and didn’t know better.
Quietly, I slip out the door and into the brisk morning air. I like waking up this early. There’s no one else around. It’s much better to avoid people. I don’t have to be reminded of what people think of me, of how much they hate. And they do hate, all because I’m different. Something, I am reminded of every time they say my name.
Av’ene. That is my name. Less of a name, it’s more of a derogatory term that literally means incomplete. The adults call me that. The kids just call me Armless.
I’m getting depressed now, though. Better to change that line of thought, especially since I went through the trouble of getting up just to enjoy a morning such as this. I look around the village. It sits silent, basking in the slow moving mists of predawn.
The village is called Yatomoan’e, which means “tree current” in the ancient language of the Sjaba’e. They weren’t known for their naming skills. Most outsiders just call the village Yato. We villagers don’t go out much. We’re surrounded on all sides by Sjayato’e, our name for the Banderlund, a massive forest of very old trees that divides Nagastako from Ibur. It means “many tree.” That’s literally about as creative as it gets with the Sjaba’e.
The funny thing is that we, Yatoians, don’t even speak Sjabajzid’e anymore. It’s pretty much a dead language. Our little village is one the few anywhere on the continent, and probably the world, too, that still even uses the Sjaba’e names for things. So, we give our kids Sjaba’e names and everything else too, but speak Common, the language of the continents. The reason is something like, “Only the Yatos are pure blooded Sjaba’e anymore, and that we can’t break tradition.” It’s stupid, I know.
If there is anything impressive about our village, it would be our wall. It dates back to the time the Sjaba’e lived here, around five hundred years ago. It looms over everything and is a good fifteen feet taller than any building in the village. No part of Yatomoan’e is outside those walls. The first rule that any child learns is not to go beyond the wall, and for the most part, everyone follows that rule.
Me? I broke it. Eight years ago, dad was having one of his rages. So, I ran away. The other villagers would send me back to dad if they caught me, so I hid in a cart of a Yatoba’e, sorry, a woodsman when he was leaving the walls. They’re about the only people that ever leave Yato. Well, them and me.
I walk to my special exit. It’s a section of the wall where a few bricks have crumbled, making nice footholds. A house sits nearby, and with a little effort using the footholds, it’s easy to climb to the roof and then over the top of the wall. It’s a ways to the ground, but I’ve found a trick to breaking my fall.
Don’t be so surprised. I can do most things. I’m actually pretty strong with what little arms I have. I often carry the trees that the woodsmen chop down by myself. Sure, the logs sometimes slip out of my grasp. It only leaves a few bruises or cuts, something I’m all too used to. I’d rather get bruises from logs than anywhere else. The woodsmen are about the only people to tolerate my company.
But, I’m not carrying logs today. No, I’m going to my favorite spot. It’s a clearing in the forest a bit away from the river Moan’e, or “current”, which runs through Yato. I break out into a jog and reach the clearing quickly. It’s small and centered around a little hill. I like it, because it’s quiet and no one ever comes here. There’s even a tree with thick, low lying branches on the hill that’s perfect for me to climb.
I pause at the top of the hill and take a deep breath. I am nervous. It’s an idea that’s been itching at me for months, but this is the first time I’ve gathered to the courage to try it. My own way of rune weaving.
You have to understand that the Sjaba’e were master rune weavers. Their ability to gather Ban, the energy of the universe, was unrivaled. It’s also hereditary. Most people descended from the Sjaba’e are rune weavers. Then, there’s me. Don’t get me wrong. I can feel Ban. I can even gather it just as well as anyone else. I’m one of the more talented ones of my generation. There’s only one problem. I don’t have hands.
To be able to weave runes, you have to have hands. It’s as simple as that. The exit of the runic currents is the palms. That’s why people shoot fireballs or water blades or even earth spears from their hands. I don’t have hands, and because of that, I have been told all my life that I will never be able to rune weave.
Well, screw this world. I have my own plans.
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