The Story – Part 2

Mishka galloped back alone to the village, where the shepherds gathered waiting to be led to the grazing grounds. The place was teeming with flocks of sheep and goats – young, lively ones amidst the slow and old sheep which by years of experience in grazing, knew well where they ought to go at this time of the year. The men paid little attention to such details; The wisest of them always felt that it was a fools job to keep in memory the places and the times where the grass would be idle for grazing. It was a tradition that had been passed down by several generations, and the shepherds did not want to break it. When the kids, new to herding, would ask them why they would deliberately not remember the places, as was quite common to kids of that age, the men often said that they did not want to trade off tradition for reason. They were proud of their traditions, and felt that it was their duty to inculcate it in their kids. Rearing sheep was in their blood, and so was following their forefathers.

The horse was first greeted by Munuu, who with two other children, was gathering pebbles. Mishka, like always, gave a snort and slowed down his pace, seeing the gathering. The men stood up, ready to go where the horse would take them. It took them many days to trust its judgement, and now they were not hesitant any more. The goats and sheep followed their masters, in an attempt to not subject them to humiliation by leading the way along with Mishka. The masters fetched them food and gave them shelter, and they would give them their wool and their milk – there was an unexpressed understanding that bound the animals to the men. The entire moving canopy looked like a swarm of white and black bees, sparsely dotted with brown. The men rode on their horses, moving in groups of two, talking about the weather and the shrubs, rather distastefully. The flat lands were vast with tall shining grass. But the men did not stop there. They followed the horse. An eagle flew above them; “Eagles fly west and sheep walk east”, said a father to his son, “and we all walk east”.

‘They are strange people’, thought Arkan, lying in the grass and staring at the distant herd of people and animals slowly approaching him, ‘the people of the west’. He had heard tales of them, folklores, which described them to be as fierce as their eagles, as exotic as their artistic motifs, and as distinct as their yurts. ‘They must be fearsome’, he thought, and longing to see them, he looked at his own men with difficulty. They let their animals aside to choose the grass of their choice, and sat down wearily. It was still morning, and Arkan scorned seeing the weighed down faces. Gently patting Mishka’s muzzle, he said, ‘The men walk towards the sunrise, but they are as hopeless as the darkness after sunset’.

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The Story – Part 1

The boy’s name was Arkan. He was careful not to slip, as he jumped onto the slender horseback, barely adorned with a worn saddle. He did not complain. He was glad he had a saddle beneath. He knew the pain when the horse’s bones would grind against his own as they galloped as one. Mishka was the horse’s name. The boy heard it from a group of travelers from the north, and fancied a liking towards it, just as his parents had towards his own. The plateau was vast and golden, where he lived, and he rode his horse – his Mishka, he would call it, all around under the sun and the rain, in the face of the winds and the snow, he would ride it, and the people knew him not as Arkan, but as the boy on the horseback. The others lads of his age helped with household chores and rested while he explored the grasslands.

Today Arkan wanted to spend some time with himself far away from the village, and as he adjusted himself on the saddle, he patted his horse, acknowledging that he didn’t wear spurs like the others – not just that he didn’t want to pain his horse, but he didn’t really need them. He whispered something into his ears as he leaned forward, and the beast started to trot. It was still cold and dry, and the grass twinkled as the first light of sun hit it sparse dew drops. Arkan drew a deep breath of the cold air and shivered a little. He had always enjoyed this morning rides. Mishka was lean, but carried Arkan’s slender frame with ease. They were shepherds, his family, his neighbours, his friends. It was on him to suggest a place of grazing for the day.

The grass came up to his calves, as he rode amidst it, and he had to bend slightly to touch it, which he liked doing, wetting his hands with the morning dew, his breath filled with the freshnesss and the lingering scent of the grass. As he did this, he thought about the foreigners. They would pass by his village often and he would escort them as far as he could, and would listen to their tales, each unique and fascinating to him – of the people, the roads, the food, the previous town, the country they’re headed, their women, their languages, and how they all treated him. He remembered them not by their names or faces, but by their stories. We are all stories, he thought, and with the tenderness of a seventeen year old, bathing in the morning sun, drew in a heavy breath, wondering how his story would be.