Barrand smoothed out the clay of his pot until the last of its contours became sleek and felt like silk.
“Another good one!”
He expected no less. It was said that he was the best potter in the land, but then he wasn’t hindered like others. His hands smeared the moist clay from his fingers against his blindfold, making scuffing sounds from his calluses. Without relying on sight, his pots were said to be of the finest quality in Nusalle.
He smiled as he felt the coolness of dusk descended on his shoulders, like a damp gossamer shift. He had already felt the tremor in the ground of his son’s approach.
“Come to train at swords again, have you Iloku?”
Although out of earshot, Barrand could feel, more than hear the distortions in the air. The village had come to watch and whispered who would win. His boot nudged the cane leaning against the side of the veranda and kicked it into his hand. A cheer arose across the square. A rapid shuffle of his foot found the edge of the top step and bounded. The spongy earth met the soles of his feet.
The cane felt more solid in his hand as his grip tightened.
“Ready my son?”
“Aye father, are you?”
Barrand nodded. He suddenly felt a distortion of the air; low and swiftly approaching. He twisted aside. His shirt tugged slightly where Iloku’s stick brushed it.
“You are as fast as a striking snake now. I actually felt you that time. I think that I will try my best.” He laughed.
“Thinking, were you father? I was wondering what that noise was.”
The sticks clacked like a drum roll. Each frantically circled the other for the advantage, under the howl of the village. Barrand’s hand jarred under the latest barrage. He deflected the next rush of air to brush his face, and reposted. The cane felt something which yielded.
Iloku leapt back to allow the pain in his fingers to subside. It was the moment he needed to collect his thoughts.
It was impossible to hear Iloku over the excitement of the crowd. He had to continue to rely solely on his sense of touch. The ground beneath his feet was cooler and softer. He was close to the well. His hand slapped down on the sandstone retaining wall and wrenched. Its gritty surface stung the palm of his hand as he stepped to one side. He deflected another rush of wind just above the wall; something followed the stroke.
Barrand snatched the wooden pail swung at him and ran his fingertips over the surface. He marvelled how closely the slats had been joined. He tipped it into his mouth out of reach of the next thrust. The water felt gelid over his scalp, but cooled his system on the trail down to his stomach.
“Thank you.” He said, swinging it back and meeting the next rush of wind from the side.
They shuffled somewhere warmer, next to the smith’s shop now. The fence brushed Barrand’s hip. He deflected another stroke and reached aside. The rough sawn walls were there to greet his fingers. He threw his cane against it and snatched it again, but something nudged his throat. The cane fell from his fingers and he immediately felt the warmth of his son in a crushing embrace.
“You have won!” He laughed.
Two patches of heat, radiated around his eyes, beneath his bandage. It was a day of both great happiness and sorrow. He had taught his son to defend himself, but on the morrow he would leave to for the city of Caliet.
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