Authority Weighs In: part two
Authority Weighs In
A lot of carry-on, involving a degree of weapons-clashing. Now, after repeated salvos of horn blasts, and one or two rifle shots that found no audible marks, had simmered down into mumbling, orders were given sharply. Then came a multi-voiced hail.
“There! He’s with them!” Mary said.
A leader must show himself at such a moment, and so Herward ripped the velcroed flap. Because awkwardness here was unavoidable, he dug out with expedience, not grace, and tottered onto his feet. He had seen the Ftheorde on televised news, never in person. There was no great ceremony to mark him. Faces were bare, ringed alike in fleece, costumes unmarked by color or trim, to distinguish the Father herdsman from his lieutenants.
He had, to prove his power, only that mien of power-holders…and Herward understood that if he had this himself, he would not have glanced at the women, climbing from the tent; he would not have signaled to Byrnes to keep her seat, and Mary to hold her tongue, and offered byplay with an eyebrow, when respectively his companions grimaced.
A strong man of authority moves alone.
They had, even when their territory had extended all along the lowlands skirting the mountains, been herdsmen, making no other living; the homes the Hidtha erected for themselves encampments, houses whose frames oftentimes were bone fitted together by carved joints, intricately counterpoised, their patient construction a sort of genius, as Swisshelm said…skins used for walls, for blankets, rugs, clothing, more often than the cloth Hidtha women wove from marsh grasses.
Swisshelm had it that these primativisms were the pragmatic concession to a nomadic culture; that the Hidtha were not, by some racial inferiority, an unlettered people—singers, but rarely musicians; storytellers, but rarely poets—rather that, for every waking moment, Hidtha life was unforgiving labor.
“And were we to go back two millennia, we would find all of Europe in this state. Only when the Roman roads permitted trade; when one tribe’s commonplace was another’s marvel; when one might have a thing, thus, without making it oneself, did the leisure to make additional things become possible.”
Swisshelm was probably right. That the Hidtha were not cherishable, as in Mary’s view; that they were groping towards ordinariness, and had been, as long as Herward had been alive.
It was well back, in the royalist period, when the Aae-Ftheorde, grandfather, or great-grandfather, of this present one, had yielded, allowed that his people had only blood to spill for machine guns and landmines, and withdrawn their remnants to the peninsula.
A law among the Hidtha required every father have three sons. This was a sort of minimal citizenship, and those who did not, had no say in counsels, their wives disgraced. There was a sort of death by retreat into the mountains, and slow starvation, that—to Palma’s scorn, and Mary’s pitying wonder—Hidtha women inflicted on themselves.
The phenomenon began with this suffering, the tribe hemmed in, without the marshlands they’d driven their herds to for winter grazing; younger sons now forced to servitude under elder brothers, unable to marry. At first there’d been a series of fratricides, then defiant guerilla fighting conducted from mountain caves. Some young Hidtha had gone away on their own, taking work under the Jocelyn regime on road crews, on his projects to drain the marshes. Their language barrier had been immaterial.
And these new workers had money. Small wages Mary’s social justice group would deplore, but to the Utdrife unprecedented freedom. Officially, only those banished by the Ftheorde were so designated, given this name for a lost sheep. But traffic among voluntary and involuntary exiles took away the distinction.
Under Jocelyn, the Utdrife had discovered their strange calling.
Many became mercenary soldiers. The wartime use Jocelyn’s army had for Utdrife fighters was that professional soldiers would not be spared for—sentry duty in the occupied towns, guarding of prisoners.
Prisoners, thousands as the war progressed, had presented the usual problem. No one among Jocelyn’s general staff nor his governors found it fair, once feeling the G.R.A.’s noose tighten, to feed and house them, provide doctors for them. Many were allowed to die.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)