The Girl Who Gazes At Hills
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By Kevin Limiti
Krillia gave a bitter sweet sigh as she gazed out at the green hills from atop the stockade. They were rich, green, rolling hills that pleased the eye, giving her an unexplainable longing to set out over them and discover the mysteries of what might possibly lay beyond. Though they were not terribly far away from where she stood, she felt a sense of sentimentality as she resigned herself to the fate that she would probably never set foot beyond those purple linings in the distance. What Krillia didn’t know, however, was that not only would she able to go beyond those hills, but that one day she would become legendary for it.
Her small hands gripped the wood tightly, its rough surface scratching her skin. Her long black hair, which was a stark contrast to her simple white dress, blew silently in the wind. She noticed the clouds began to have a tint of pink in them. It was evening.
‘Time to go home,’ she thought, regretfully. With a great will of effort, she turned herself from the hills and stepped down from the stockade, whistling in an attempt to keep herself cheerful.
Though it was near evening, the villagers were still working, and Krillia heard the constant sound of hammer hitting stone, the sound of women nursing babies, and the occasional work hymn, sung as a complement to these tasks. She knew many of the villagers there by name and she smiled cheerfully at them as she passed and they would grin and wave back. They all loved her in their own little way, for she always had a cheerful demeanor and a seemingly fearless disposition. Due to this, she was a welcome companion to the wild ones of the village, who would often be out on adventures in the forest. Still, she was not discriminated against by the more placid of them. Oftentimes, she spent evenings with the poets, who recited and applauded each others simple verses and stagnant rhymes. Everyone loved her and considered her a part of their daily life. She was a petite girl but her courageous nature made her seem a lot taller. Being about 13 summers old, she had not blossomed fully into a woman yet but her face was a perfect oval which lent to her beauty and her hair ran down past her shoulders, hanging down, carelessly neat to the jealousy of the other girls and to some of the women as well.
Krillia did not have to walk very far to come to the home of her parents. They lived in the center of Krikadoriska, only a short while away from the stockade. The village, being small, made walking toward the center easy. Their house was modest, but comfortable. It was built from wood, like all the other houses in the village. There was no door but it did have a small opening which people could go through. On the roof, there was a tiny hole for fires. It was sufficient for their purposes.
Rita, Krillia’s mother, was alone knitting at home while her husband was away hunting. She sat on the floor upon a beautiful red rug, skillfully designed by Rita herself. It was interwoven with patterns of golden threads and complicated designs.
Rita was a cheerful, easy going woman. She was slightly plump, but her hair was black, and was pretty in the same ways as Krillia was. Though she looked aged by the linings in her face, she had an air of wisdom because of it that not many possessed. She was a fair hand at weaving and it showed in her work. She was currently hard at work on a new mantle which she was making for her daughter. It had a light blue color, outlined with white which made it look rather like a summer sky. This is what Krillia had requested and her mother worked doubly hard at anything her daughter appreciated. As Krillia walked in she gave a jovial shout, putting down her work and saying, “My dear, I was worried about you.”
“Why worry mother?” Krillia asked, receiving her mother’s hug with grace and giving her a tender kiss on the cheek “I have been home at the same time every evening. There really is no need for it.“
“I know but it is a tad peculiar,” she said, voicing the concerns of both herself and her husband’s at her frequent viewing of the hills, “I’ve never known a child to be so interested in the outside world. You might want to be going to bed soon. It’s getting quite late as it is.”
“Yes mother,” she responded affirmatively.
Krillia’s feet echoed on the wooden floor as she ran towards her room and hopped down on the bed mat. Her room was small and nearly identical to the one her mother was in. It was decorated with one of Rita’s excellent rugs, and there was a small opening in the wall which allowed light in at daybreak. Out of respect for each other’s privacy, the villagers usually went directly home once their work was done. They were quite content to sit at home with family and friends, listening to tales of mystery and intrigue from far away lands. These tales fueled curiosity but it was never acted upon. Usually they simply abandoned the very idea of crossing over those purple hills the second that they thought of it. If you suggested the idea to one of them, they would laugh and perhaps respond, in not at all a regretful way, “Why should I leave?”
Krillia was different though. Gazing out at hills was nothing new to her. It was a habit that she committed herself to every evening. As she did so, she would often wonder about what was out there. Her imagination ran wild during this time. She imagined towering cities, and great fields, more beautiful then even the ones around Krikadoriska, with smiling, happy people. The other villagers did not understand her fascination for the hills, but they didn’t care very much either. Even her parents tolerated this odd behavior.
There was, however, an earlier time when her father, Kron, was deeply troubled by this habit of hers. Kron was a hunter who went out every day from morning to mid-afternoon hunting game for the village. He was a tall, well built man with robust features. He had blonde hair and a wavy mustache that he was very proud of. He wore rawhide leather pants, made from the skin of an animal which he had killed and a white linen shirt, usually marked with dirt and other things on account of his hunting. He was a stubborn but generally good natured man.
One morning, he went to visit the village prophet. The prophet lived in a small hut at the edge of the village. He was an old fellow, nearing death and quite sick but happy nonetheless. He was respected in the village not just for his powers which, it was told came from being a descendant of the founder, but for his advice, which he gave out only too eagerly. Both Kron and Rita went to him often and queried advice for this and that and sometimes even asked for a blessing or prayer.
His face showed no concern or worry on his face as he was told of this behavior. Indeed he cackled a bit to himself until he began coughing madly. This happened often now, but it was only a result of his sickness.
“It is not entirely unusual,” he said, pacing slowly with his hands behind his back. The hut was small and rather cramped but Kron managed to slide his way into a chair, though he felt quite uncomfortable. It was wooded on the inside and smelled strongly of onions, which the villagers suspected might be because of his spells. “As far back as 200 years, travelers have set out in search of lands to explore. Perhaps your daughter is getting the same desires.”
“Set out?” he responded as though unfamiliar with the phrase, “Why should anyone want to ‘set out’ anywhere?”
At this, the prophet chuckled. “You cannot understand. You are not your daughter.” He gave a large cough and continued, “Throughout the history of this village, people have set out and discovered new lands and people. Go ahead and ask the village historian. He will tell you the same thing. Granted, it does not happen very often, but the point is that it does happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if your daughter is one of those people.”
Her father wasn’t altogether pleased by this. “But she can’t leave,” he protested, aware that his objections were meaningless, “She has to stay here and make a family!”
The prophet chuckled again, “Do you really believe you can make her do that? It is her choice and you have no right to interfere. Everyone has the right to their own destiny. You cannot choose her life for her. All you have to do is guide her in the right direction and then see what path she takes. However you cannot take the barrel from her, so to speak.”
The prophet became a bit more serious after this and said to him, looking him into the eyes, “If this is truly what she desires, then you have an obligation to teach her about the dangers of setting off before she is 14. You must teach her how to use a weapon, for who knows what lies outside the walls? Send her to me also, when you get a chance,” he added.
Kron could not deny the truth of his words. “Of course, you’re correct. I just wonder why our daughter is leaning in this direction. What could possibly make her do this, of all the people in the village?”
“Hmm. . .” the wizard responded, but offered no other advice. A small smile played at his lips, but it went unnoticed.
Kron felt slightly frustrated that ‘hmm’ was all the prophet could offer. However, keeping his temper in tact, he got up from where he sat, careful not to bang his head on the hut’s ceiling and said to him, “Thank you, Wise Prophet. I will of course take your advice.” And with that, he gave a small bow and turned to leave.
“Wait a moment,” the prophet said sharply.
Krion turned towards the wizard slightly taken aback and responded, “Yes?”
“Just remember,” he said seriously, “train her in weapons and then bring her to me. That is very important.”
“I will do so,” Kron responded readily enough. Finally, he turned directly opposite of the wizard and walked out the door.
Lying down on her bed mat, Krillia cupped her hands across her stomach and gazed at the ceiling. It was dark now. She stared up into the blackness waiting for the moment when her eyes would absorb the dark and so let her see. She was too plagued with thoughts of the outside world to even attempt to fall asleep. She tried humming a song softly to get her in the mood, but this failed.
Sighing hopelessly she turned over on her side, holding her head up with her hand. The night was restless. She heard sounds of animal life and whispered talk outside her home. She wondered vaguely when her father would come back from hunting. Normally at this time, he would be coming in the door about now. He seemed to be a bit late this evening.
Suddenly, Krillia heard footsteps coming from downstairs. With a start, she rolled on to the opposite side of the mat, lying flat on her stomach. The thudding of boots hitting dirt floor was a sure sign of her fathers return. The footsteps seemed to be drawing nearer, which was unusual considering he usually went to his wife when he got home.
As the steps drew nearer, Krillia laid herself flat upon the bed mat in pretend sleep, fearing a reprimand. Her father walked into the room and said in a voice just barely above a whisper, “Krilla, are you awake?”
His voice showed no hints of any kind of malcontent that a parent would often utilize when reprimanding a child. This, and the fact that her father would choose to wake up in the middle of the night, startled her into responding instantaneously, “Yes, father.”
Silence; Krillia turned over on her side and saw the dark silhouette of her father staring at her about five feet away. “Good,” he said. “I need to talk to you. I know it’s late but I would rather not be overheard. Come quickly but quietly. I don’t want you waking up your mother.”
With this, Kron walked back into the main room, hardly believing what he was doing. Krillia emerged from her room after a minute, looking not in the least tired. Indeed, she looked rather indifferent to being woken up in the middle of the night. ‘Good,’ he thought. ‘It will make this a lot easier.’
Krillia opened her mouth but Krillius interrupted, “Hush!” He pressed a finger to his lips, “We’ll talk outside. Come on.” He led her outside the door. Krilla had never been out this late and she noted how quiet and empty the village seemed without the rest of the villagers. Apart from the faint chirping of crickets and the calls of night birds, there was nothing so loud as the silence and Krillus’ footsteps.
Krillia took his hand as he offered it out to her. They walked silently for a moment down the main road, which would’ve normally been populated by villagers if it was morning. She noted that all the houses looked the same. She glimpsed a few men sleeping from the tiny cracks of windows which were built along the huts. Other then that, no other villager could be seen. ‘How curious,’ she thought.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Krillius spoke saying, “I had a talk with the prophet.”
Krillia’s eyes widened at this. She gazed up at her father, unable to make out his expression, which was covered by the night’s darkness. When Krillus didn’t continue, she said with some hesitancy, “Okay.”
Krillius coughed distractedly. “Yes well I’ve been doing some thinking—that is your mother and I have been doing some thinking and—well—to be completely honest, you’ve seemed to us to be somewhat. . .different.” Kron didn’t dare look at his daughter, for fear of the utter disgust he would feel at her expression. He waited patiently for a response.
Finally she answered saying, “I know . . .father.”
Unable to help himself, he gazed over at his daughter. Her demeanor was that of gentle understanding and grim determination. Her features were rigid, eyes betrayed no feeling of fear. He couldn’t help but feel pride in his daughter at that moment. At the same time, he couldn’t help asking, “How do you know?”
Krillia didn’t waste a second answering. “What I know is that I am the only one with a longing to travel. . .outside the village I mean. No one has ever done that before, or at least none that I know of.”
“Well now,” her father responded, turning his head once more to stare straight down the road which they were walking on, “it is not completely true to say you are the only one who has done that before—but anyways let me get right to it.” He sighed deeply, fighting his own nature as a parent to forbid her to do as she wished. “You are going to be a grown woman soon. This means that you will be able to go off on your own and we will have no right to stop you. It is my duty to tell you as a parent that if your true nature is to travel away from here then—well—you should go ahead and do it.”
A heavy weight lifted from his heart as he realized that the worst of this unpleasant duty had ended. He continued less grimly, “However, before you do this, I feel that you need to take certain . . . precautions before setting out. Your life here has left you in relative peace and harmony. You do not know the dangers that the outside world has to offer; indeed none of us do. Because of this, I have to insure that you will be safe on your trip.”
Krillia felt the most curious sensation she had ever felt. It was relief, mixed with heart-warming excitement. She felt it swell up inside her, and she laughed with joy and flung herself onto her father. “Thank you so much.”
As she gave him a hug, Kron patted her awkwardly on the back. He was a bit flustered by this sudden show of affection, but he couldn’t help but feel a glowing sense of pride in himself. The stockade fence on the North side of the Krikadoriska drew nearer as they broke apart, and continued walking down the road. “Anyways what I was trying to say before was that if you’re going to take a journey outside of the village, then you need to be prepared. As you know, I am a hunter and I have skills with a bow and spear. You might need these skills if you’re going outside the village. From now on, I will wake you up every morning and spend two hours teaching you these skills until I am satisfied that you are ready. Once that is done, you will see the prophet. After that, you are free to leave the village. Do you understand?”
“Yes father,” she responded, readily enough.
“Good.” He stopped and placed an arm upon her shoulder. “You know, regardless of what you might do, I’ll always be very proud of you. You know that, do you not?”
“I do father,” she said, struggling to hold back her tears.
For the first time the whole day, Kron smiled, glowingly, “That’s good. I think it’s about time we got back now. Come Krillia, let’s go.”
It took only five minutes to walk back to their home. When they got inside, Krillia bid her father good night and went straight to her bed mat. She closed her eyes as a deep happiness engulfed her. I’ll soon be able to leave,’ she thought and with that, she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
Insert amusing anecdote here.