The Dragon Star: Episode 1 – Chapter 2
STONE-SHARPENED STEEL bit into oak, the log halves falling from the tree stump as the sound of the splitting rolled across the gently swaying, dew-stained stalks of barley. The cloud-draped night sky provided little light to illuminate the small farmhouse by the field and the man who stood chopping wood in the darkness.
Sha-Kutan placed another log on the weathered stump and hefted the well-worn ax handle above his shoulder. He did not need light to see the timber. He sensed the placement of the firewood without benefit of sight. He knew the ax blade would slide deep into its fibrous flesh with the same certainty he perceived his breath gliding in and out of his lungs while silently reciting the mantra of Kana Joshi, bestower of peaceful minds.
“My mind is a clear sky — a brilliant sun blazing — illuminating All.”
The ash wood handle of the ax slid through the crook of his palm, guiding the edge of the metal head effortlessly through the air, the blade singing softly on its way toward its inevitable destination — a terminus it did not meet.
The ax blade hovered a fraction of a finger’s width above the rough-cut edge of the log, its descent arrested in a moment by the powerful arms of the man wielding it. Sha-Kutan slowly lowered the ax to the damp grass surrounding his feet.
He turned and looked into the blackness of the night, perceiving the imperceptible with senses extending beyond the fivefold physical conduits of human apprehension. Someone walked in the woods bordering the fields. More than one person. One closer than the others. No, two. A woman and a child. A girl. And many behind them. Men. In pursuit.
They come this way.
They cannot come here.
They come this way, nonetheless.
What will we do?
We could hide.
Yes. Hide until they pass.
But why do they pursue the woman?
We cannot become entangled.
No. No, we must not become entangled.
We should hide.
Yes. Conceal ourselves and let them pass.
And if they find us?
Then we should pray.
Yes, we should pray. Pray that we will not need to kill them.
Sha-Kutan flipped the ax handle up to fall against the tightly wound muscles of his shoulder, looking once more toward the interlopers rapidly approaching his home — his sanctuary against the past. Where might he hide that no one would find him? Years and years had passed as he attempted to answer that question, and there he stood, waiting for strangers to infect his solitude.
He walked away from the small farmhouse and its adjacent barn, carrying the ax with him, hoping against all hope that he would not find need of it that night.