Last time on Wild Born, Conor bonded with a wolf. Why is this Very Important? And why is a man from foreign lands interested in him? Find out after the cut.
Staying low, Abeke stalked through the tall grass, moving at a slow, steady pace. She stepped carefully, as her father had taught her, advancing in silence. Sudden motion or sounds would send her prey running. If this one got away, she wouldn’t have time to approach another.
Meet Abeke, a young girl from the village of Okaihee in
not!sub-Saharan Africa Nilo. She’s a great hunter — hell, she manages to shoot an antelope through the heart on her first try. However, it’s not traditional for women from Abeke’s village to hunt, so everyone thinks she’s weird.
Anyway, after making a ceremonial apology to the deceased antelope, Abeke hurries back home. Today is her 11th nameday, when she gets to present a gift to her village and drink the Nectar of Ninani as part of her coming of age. Abeke plans on presenting the antelope she hunted at the ceremony, and she’s totally stoked about it.
Things don’t quite go Abeke’s way when she returns, though. Soama, her older, prettier, and more talented sister, is worried over her. And Pojalo, their father, is pissed that Abeke went out hunting on her own. He forces Abeke to present an ugly handmade jar for her nameday instead of the antelope, since he considers the latter to symbolize her selfishness. And when Abeke argues against bringing the jar, Pojalo’s all like, “Why are you the weird daughter? Why can’t you be pretty and perfect like Soama?”
After Abeke allows Soama to bathe and dress her, she leaves home for her nameday ceremony. Basically there’s a lot of chanting in an ancient language, and Chinwe (the local Greencloak) lets Abeke take a sip of the Nectar of Ninani. Suddenly, Significant Shit goes down: the sky darkens, lightning flashes, rain falls, and suddenly a leopard appears! Obviously, this is Very Important, since a) nobody bonds with leopards, b) the leopard looks exactly like Uraza, the guardian beast of Nilo, and c) Abeke is a Rain Dancer, since she summoned rain.
As even more proof that something Very Important happened, Abeke and Pojalo return home to find a strange foreigner waiting inside. His name is Zerif, an expert on the Great Beasts who is unaffiliated with the Greencloaks, and he reveals that Yumaris the Inscrutable foretold what occurred today. Abeke’s leopard really is Uraza, the long lost guardian of Nilo, and her return (along with those of the other Fallen Beasts) will determine the course of a war that will soon involve the entire world. So far, the war is confined to an invasion of southern
Abeke realizes that Zerif wants something out of her, and that Pojalo wants to get rid of her. And it’s all because she got bonded to a godlike spirit animal.
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
Why did Abeke decide to present an antelope at her nameday ceremony? Well, Okaihee is in the middle of a drought and in desperate need of food. This is also why it’s Very Important that Abeke summoned rain during the ceremony.
Abeke lives in a rondavel, a type of dwelling typical in southern Africa.
Soama presented a beaded tapestry at her nameday ceremony. Abeke thought it was worthless because art doesn’t provide food or water during drought or famine.
Abeke’s mother died of sickness a couple of years earlier. Abeke thinks that her mother was the only one who understood her.
Nobody knows what any of the ancient chants sung during the nameday ceremony mean. Personally, I find that kind of stupid — what if the villagers are all unwittingly casting hexes or trying to summon an eldritch abomination?
As mentioned in the previous chapter, humans never bond with animals that are the same species as the Great Beasts. In the title drop quote below, Abeke recalls that humans don’t bond with lions. So I guess we know three species of Great Beast: wolves, leopards, and lions.
Why exactly are Uraza and Briggan considered “fallen” beasts? That will be explained later.
Pojalo isn’t sure if Abeke’s summoning of Uraza is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Which is probably one of the reasons why he wants to get rid of her.
Zerif refuses to divulge where he hails from. However, he is described as a dark-skinned
not!European Euran. For some reason I keep picturing him as Rafi from The League.
Humans bonded with a spirit animal are called “Marked,” since they possess a tattoo of their dormant spirit animal.
Abeke reminds me of Storm from X-Men: she’s a girl from fantasy counterpart Africa who can (kinda) control the weather. Unfortunately, we’re not going to see her use her weather powers again … unless they’re used after Book 4.
Real World Comparisons!
Nilo is obviously Africa.
“It looks like Uraza,” a child said, breaking the silence.
The comment started a wave of murmurs. The leopard prowled a few paces away from Abeke, almost as if uninterested, but then looked back. The cat did look like Uraza! She even had those legendary violet eyes, flashy as amethysts. But that was impossible. People didn’t summon leopards. Cheetahs maybe, but never leopards or lions, let alone leopards with violet eyes.
Next time: Foreign invaders crash a not!Chinese Female Protagonist’s coming of age ceremony.