When I was young, I grew up in a small village to the north and east of here, out on the northern edges of the Vine Towers, where the Sea of Ancients begins. I was just a boy then. My view of the world very narrow. As far as I knew, our village was safe. We were out of the way. Looking back to those times, it really was like we lived in our own little world, and as a boy, I felt safe. I never understood the stern looks of the older men, or the worried looks of the village wives. We paid our dues to the spirits as proper, no one ever bothered us in our little village. I was a carefree soul in my youth, always getting into trouble.
Then came the day everything changed. I remember the morning I lay in bed, just before light, a terrible shriek from our neighbors house. The boy there, named leebu, had gone missing, vanished right out of his bed sometime during the night. It was his mother’s scream I had heard when she realized she had no idea where her boy had gone.
Everyone in the village was besides themselves. The adults, the people we looked up too, looked as frightened as us children, which is why I think they kept us locked up in the houses…as much to hide their fear from us, as to keep us safe. They were a hardy folk. They tried, but we knew something was terribly wrong. A few nights later, another child disappeared. He was a boy I hated. He would always throw dirt clods at me when my father would send me across the village to draw water from the well and wash out the saki cups from the night before, but when I saw the sorrow of his parents, I felt it too. I wondered what happened. I imagined saving him some nights. Perhaps he had wondered out of the village and gotten lost in some bog, or fallen down an old hunters pit. Perhaps I could find him, and we could be friends.
My father owned the village saki house, and as such was a well liked man. After that 2nd boy had gone missing, the adults would come to the saki house and stay most of the night. The men, huddled around the tables by candle light talking in hushed whispers, while us kids were forced to stay down in the basement. We could hear them thumping around up there. It was like my father’s saki house was a place under siege, and the village kids were like refugees kept hidden in the basement.
No one would tell us what was going on. By day we were expected to do our chores and act normal, by night, we were crowded in that basement. Of course we imagined what kind of terrible monster was stalking our village…we did not feel safe.
Gill pours his glass full and splashes it on the floor. He regards the spilled saki for a long moment.
That is when my sister was taken. Chi lee.
He says her name with reverence, filling both cups again and raising a toast.
“To family who have gone before us!”