Tehri woke up screaming; a silent cry that no one could hear. Night terrors. She had been suffering from them for almost a year, ever since she had woken up in that strange room. They haunted her every single night and they would wake her without fail. She had nothing. Her family was gone and she was alone; at night at least. No one could hear her silent cries, so no one would come to comfort her. During the day at least, she wasn’t completely without company. She was still in the care of Hana and Byrden, who had saved her from the brink of death. They had found her broken body and brought her to a surgeon. They spent almost everything they had to give Tehri a chance. Now they did what they could to give her love and support while she recovered. It was all they could do other than abandon her and they weren’t about to do that when they had invested everything into her recovery.
Unfortunately, the trauma and her injuries had left her unable to speak. Try and try as she might, no sound would leave Tehri’s lips. She couldn’t even write. Not yet at least. Even painting was lost to her. The muscle strength in her arms just wasn’t there. The months waiting for her shattered bones to heal had taken its toll. Even walking was difficult, but she had come a lot further in that department. She was trying at least, so that one day she would be able to tell them her name and where she was from.
Why don’t they have a map? I could point out home if they just asked.
Alas, the sad truth was that they couldn’t really afford a map. Not until they had recouped some of their savings. It wasn’t easy for a young married couple with nothing to care for her and make a life for themselves. Tehri felt guilty for having put them in this position. If only she could ease the burden on them. She made a decision. She struggled out of the bed that they had graciously given her, she even had her own room, and made her way towards the door. It was easy enough; a simple ring latch.
Tehri had forgotten how loud the door could be and her attempts to open it slowly only made things worse. When it was finally open and she was convinced that she hadn’t woken anyone up, the exceptionally loud hooting of an owl sent her jumping out of her skin. She fell down with a loud crash from the surprise. Her muscles ached from shock and she could hear movement in the other room. A tired young woman tiptoed out of the room with only a linen sheet to cover her naked body.
“Sindri? Oh no. Are you okay?” Hana whispered to avoid waking up her husband. ‘Sindri’ was the name they had given her when it was apparent that she wouldn’t be able to tell them what her actual name was. It meant ‘River Hero’.
Tehri nodded in pain.
“Oh dear. Did you need to go to the toilet?”
Tehri shook her head this time. Right now, that was the limit of her ability to communicate.
“Hmm. Okay, well let’s get you some of your pain medication. The strong stuff, okay?” Hana asked. She was afraid that Tehri may have injured herself.
Tehri shook her head again. She hated the stronger medications. It made her feel weak for an entire day, sometimes longer.
“The weaker ones then?”
Tehri nodded reluctantly. She was in pain after all.
Hana walked over to the water barrel on the far side of the common room to fill a cup and mix it with a pale blue powder. Tehri was still getting used to the lack of plumbing in the house, or even how small it was. It was almost the exact opposite of her home in Næmyris.
“Here, drink this,” Hana said after returning with the water. She made sure that Tehri had a firm grip on the cup before letting go. Tehri drank the bitter medicine in one go. It was unpleasant, but it worked.
“Is there nothing we can do to help you talk?” Hana asked herself.
Tehri just looked at her wishfully. They hadn’t figured anything out yet.
“Anyway, let’s get you back to bed.“ Hana gently helped Tehri up and guided her back to the small bed. She stayed by Tehri’s side as she drifted off. When she was finally asleep, Hana returned to her husband’s side and pondered.
The following morning, Hana was walking through the village market when inspiration struck her. One of the stalls had a few novelties and toys for young children. None of them were suitable for someone of Tehri’s age, whatever that was. However, the collection included rounded blocks with letters, numbers and other symbols. It was an odd thing to see in a village. Most of the people didn’t really need to read and write particularly well for their jobs and they couldn’t really afford to learn. Hana had only learned because her father was a blacksmith and crafting families tended to have a better education. Still, it was enough to give her an idea. She just hoped that Tehri knew how to read and write.
She hurried to finish her chores around the market before rushing to Byrden’s forge. He was working on a horseshoe for the farrier when she barged in. “Byrden! I know how we can help Sindri talk.”
Byrden almost dropped his hammer in surprise as Hana practically shouted down his ear. “Heart of the Sun, Hana. Don’t startle me like that when I’m working the anvil or the forge.”
“Sorry, but I have an idea that you need to hear.”
“Can you at least let me finish this horseshoe?” he asked with some exasperation.
“Sure thing,” Hana responded, taking a seat away from the forge and flattening out her dress as she waited.
Byrden returned to his craft, hammering away at the horseshoe, taking care not to overwork the metal. His muscles rippled with each strike and he was dripping with sweat. Contrary to what a lot of her friends thought, Hana found it to be a rather attractive look. She loved to watch Byrden work. Even when he was apprenticed to her father, she would sneak into the smithy to watch him. Her father had been completely oblivious to the whole thing, as had Byrden. He was rather surprised at how bold Hana was when she took him to bed after her father promoted him from his status as an apprentice. Almost miraculously, Hana’s father hadn’t heard a thing as they romped the night away and was thoroughly shocked when she walked out of Byrden’s room and declared that they were getting married. That had been three years ago, and like the old times, she watched.
Byrden followed a template in the form of a blank horseshoe so that he could ensure consistency. The farrier would need to adjust later when it was actually fitted to a horse. No two horses were the same after all, but it helped to start from a standard baseline. He was also a proud smith and he valued good solid work. His consistency had helped him massively during his apprenticeship and in establishing his own business, but it also held him back with developing his own style. Even so, he was soon done with the horseshoe and it held up to his standards. After ensuring there were no flaws in the shoe, he turned to Hana who had been watching him with an excited smile that was half from watching him work and half from the idea she had. “So what is it that you need to tell me so bad that you are practically wetting yourself from excitement?” he asked.
“I figured out how we can give Sindri back her voice!” Hana replied, her smile glowing in the light of the forge.
“Okay?” Byrden responded hesitantly. “And what is this genius plan of yours?”
“We need a big wooden board with letters nailed to it. Her arms are still weak but she can point. Maybe she can spell things out.”
“You think she’s literate?”
“We can always ask, and I can teach her if I need to. I have some books lying around in the bedroom back from Dad’s house.”
“That could work. What do you need me to do?”
“Make the board of course. I’m sure you have enough scrap metal to put together an alphabet. It doesn’t need to be perfect.”
Byrden looked hurt at the suggestion, but he nodded. “I can work on it between projects, but we don’t have the money for me to put aside too much time for it.”
“Understood,” Hana smiled.
A few months later, the board was finished. It was rough, but hopefully functional. As it was nearing completion, Hana had asked Tehri if she could read and write, to which she nodded. Of course she could. That was normal wasn’t it? They revealed what they had planned a couple of days later. She was so excited that she didn’t have any night terrors in the nights that followed. Unfortunately, her excitement also came with mania and she still couldn’t get much sleep. It was her first true manic episode in what felt like years. Hana wasn’t equipped to deal with Tehri’s newfound energy or how she acted like pain was a non-issue.
“Sindri, please sit down,” Hana pleaded, “You’re going to get yourself hurt.”
Instead of heeding her request, Tehri jumped around the small room on legs that weren’t really equipped to deal with the strain yet. She didn’t care. It was the day that she would finally be able to put her thoughts out to the world. Calm was not in her vocabulary that day. She was as intense as the rapids that had almost killed her. Only when Byrden came in with the board did she sit down and even then, she was constantly moving.
“Easy there,” Byrden told Tehri as he placed the board down in front of her.
“Okay, how should we test this?” Hana asked no one in particular. “Let’s start with something easy. Can you spell my name?”
Tehri did so with ease.
“What about the name of the capital city?” Byrden asked.
Tehri spelt out ‘Midiris’ with ease, but too quick for the couple to follow.
“Easy there, Sindri,” Byrden cautioned, “This isn’t going to be helpful if we can’t follow what you’re trying to say.
She tried again, slower this time. It was difficult. She wanted to tell them everything already.
“That’s better,” Hana smiled. “Do you think it would be okay to tell us your name? We could keep calling you Sindri, but I’m sure you would rather us use your actual name.”
“Tehri,” she spelt out. “Tehri’aana Naliir, but Tehri is fine. Sindri is a nice name as well.”
The couple held their mouths agape. It was weird seeing her so full of words after so long. “Where are you from, Tehri?” Byrden asked.
“Næmyris. I wanted to show you on a map all this time. Can we go already? I don’t want to be a burden.”
“You’re not a burden, Tehri,” Hana assured her. She recognised the name of the town that Tehri had named. It had been the site of a tragic raid during the eclipse just before they had found her.
“I can’t believe we didn’t think of a map sooner!” Byrden exclaimed, looking at his wife,
“We would have needed to buy it back in Talaran.”
“True,” Byrden admitted before turning back to Tehri. “I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think we can afford a trip to Næmyris.” Tehri looked crestfallen at that, but Byrden continued, “However, we can send a letter if you have anyone in mind.”
“Ma and Da! They’ll still be there!” Tehri spelt excitedly.
“Can you tell us their names, sweetie?” Hana asked, trying to veil her growing concern with cheer.
“My Ma’s name is Hæra and my Da is Gyren.”
“That name sounds familiar,” Byrden remarked. “Gyren Naliir? Merchant?”
“Yes!” Tehri responded instantly.
“Hana’s father used to know someone that did business with an associate of his. We could try sending him a letter. We’ll draft it with your approval and input of course.”
Tehri nodded fervently.
Following that, the three of them drafted the letter.
“Dear Master Naliir,
Last year, my wife and I found your daughter, Tehri’aana washed up in our village and severely injured. We took it upon ourselves to have her treated by a surgeon in Talaran. She barely survived the ordeal, but she is now recovering quite well. She has unfortunately lost her voice and is yet to find it again, however doctors assure us that it is only a matter of time. She wants to return home to you and your wife. We would bring her to you, but we are unable to afford it due to the medical expenses. As such, we are hoping that you would be able to come here to Aran Village between the rivers Tanra and Karik.
Byrden and Hana Kaafast.”
They sent the letter off at the end of the week with the boat from Tærin city. Two months later, the response came. Not in the form of the man himself or his wife, but in a letter and a coffer filled with gold and silver.
“Dear Byrden and Hana Kaafast,
Thank you for rescuing my daughter and keeping her safe. I regret to say that I cannot come for her. There is no happiness for her left in Næmyris. My wife is dead, slaughtered by bandits. My eldest daughter is still missing. I cannot be the father Tehri needs. I know this is a lot to ask, but please give her the happiness that I cannot. The money with this letter should be enough to cover your losses and help in the future. I will continue to provide at regular intervals. In the coffer is also a bracelet. This is her older sister’s last gift to her. One last thing. Please break the news of her mother’s death gently. I don’t know how she doesn’t know already, but it is a small mercy that she didn’t see it.
A broken father.”
It was as Hana had feared. She did what she could to follow the last request, but there was no easy way to break that kind of news to a young girl who had already suffered so much. It might have even been impossible. Tehri ran into her room and cried for days when they told her. She held the bracelet close and grasped at the twin moon necklace as she screamed silently into her pillow. Such was the start of her new life with Hana and Byrden in earnest. In the years that followed, they did all in their power to give Tehri a happy life. It wasn’t much, but it was something and Tehri appreciated it in spite of her grief. In the small village of Aran, she found some happiness amongst all of the sadness.