The word ‘mentor’ does not appear in The Grey House. It does appear in a novel I have not finished called “Journey of the Gods” (working title). That novel is the second part to a novel called “Lost Sister” which is done. I decided to post the chapter in which the word ‘mentor’ exists, as I really like it, and I really like sharing my works with you. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I like sharing them.
From Journey of the Gods:
“Father? May I have a word with you?”
Ichik smiled as he looked to Yochi. “Of course.”
Chief Ichik closed his eyes and nodded his head slowly. He knew what was coming. Nikki warned him of his son’s indecision. He looked to Yochi, nodded again and both set off to find a quieter spot.
It was nearly time for sleep, and everyone else in the camp was settling down. Most were sharing the stories of the hunt. Everyone had heard Oyama’s story of capturing an uulum with her bare hands. It was easily the best story of this hunt. Her stories usually were.
When father and son were far enough away from the camp, Yochi stopped and turned to his father. Ichik held up his hand and stopped his son’s words.
“Your mother told me your worries. They’re unnecessary, Yochi. You’re ready to be a man. You’re already a man in my eyes.”
With those words, Yochi understood his father wasn’t going to listen. He tried anyway. “What if I’m not ready? I read the words to the ritual; I try and say them, and I can’t feel them in my heart. You’re the one who taught me that we must feel the words of prayers and rituals in our hearts in order to truly understand them.”
Ichik’s jaw clenched. He had stated that, but his son was ready. He took a deep breath. He wanted to understand his son. “What’s stopping you?”
“I…” He hung his head. “I don’t feel ready. I can’t explain it any better. If I go through the ritual, my heart won’t be in it.”
“You have another few days. Go to Kisin. You can leave from here. Spend the time you need, but when we have the ritual, you will be there.”
Ichik turned and left without another word. Yochi shook his head and sighed when he felt soft fur winding around his legs.
“Listen to your father. Go to Kisin. Spend the next four days there. On the eve of the ritual, go home.”
He pet Ix Chel and nodded. Yochi turned away from camp and started running further into the forest, toward Kisin. As he increased his speed, he recited a prayer in his mind. As the words formed, he changed. By the time Yochi finished the prayer, two panthers ran side by side toward Kisin.
Silence. It was all he encountered on his run to Kisin, at Kisin and on his way home. Yochi kept asking Kan-U-Uayeyab what he was missing, but the god kept silent. Now, on the eve of his coming of age ritual, Yochi knew without a doubt that he could not go through with it.
Upon arrival home, he asked for his father, but was told the chief was already asleep. Yochi thanked the guard and went to his own bed. He fell asleep fairly quickly, but woke throughout the night. He tossed and turned endlessly, finally throwing back the covers in the early morning hours. Frustrated, he pulled on a pair of pants and made his way to the temple garden.
Yochi walked without seeing into the garden then stopped short when he realized he was not alone. Oyama turned and smiled to him.
“Hello. Did your trip go well?” She sounded as if she were very happy to see him.
Yochi shook his head, sighed and pulled her into his arms. He kissed her passionately. She wasn’t expecting the kiss, but took it. Nikki spoke to her at length about keeping away from Yochi, but Oyama didn’t want to listen. She felt best when in this man’s arms.
He moved away right before he decided to pull her to the ground. “My father will be very disappointed in me.”
She placed her hand on his cheek. “No, he won’t. He loves you, Yochi.”
He gave a small laugh. “That won’t stop him from being disappointed, Oyama.” He fought a small battle with himself and lost. Yochi pulled Oyama closer and kissed her gently. “You should have come with me. We could have been alone for many days.”
A half-remembered dream came back. “We may yet have our chance.”
He pulled back and gave her a quizzical look. “What have you seen?”
She opened her mouth to speak then shook her head. “I don’t remember all of it. I think we went on a journey, but I don’t remember.”
He pulled her close again, held her tight, but didn’t kiss her. Yochi let Oyama go and smiled sadly. “Tomorrow won’t go well.”
She placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’m here for you, as a friend and as your second in command. I will stand with you, no matter what happens.”
Yochi shook slightly at her words, then pulled her close again. He stared down into her eyes. “Say it. Say it as you really want to say it.”
She smiled, caressed his cheek. “I will be your strength when you have none, and you will be my strength when I have none.”
The kiss he gave her was passionate. She accepted it and understood how much she wanted him as her husband. He pulled away as if reading her mind and stared down into her eyes.
“You should be my wife. I need a woman to stand beside me, who will fight beside me. Who will keep me grounded when I feel like wandering.”
“We are not for each other.”
“Your eyes betray your lie.”
Though his hair was tied in a braid, she still managed to sink her hand into his hair. “Your mother asked me to stay away from you.”
“Why would she do that?”
Oyama laughed softly. “She reminded me that it would not do for a man that was not my intended to impregnate me.”
“It would be one way to stop your wedding. As I believe we have said to each other before.”
She shook her head and pulled away. “It seemed as if there was something she was leaving out. We should listen to your mother. She’s a powerful woman.”
He laughed. “When I told my mother I wanted to be with you, but told her you were to marry Anoke, she told me to stop pursuing you. Since you were both from powerful families it wouldn’t do to break you two up. It’s only now that I realized there must be something else. My parents are the rulers of this continent and the people on it. Are we not powerful as well?”
Oyama caressed Yochi’s cheek. “Then there is another reason.”
He smiled and resisted the urge to take her in his arms. “There must be.”
“Then we give it time.”
She gave an oddly sad smile. “The only time I’m patient is when I’m hunting.”
He grinned. “You are hunting. Me.”
Oyama laughed loudly, kissed Yochi on the mouth quickly and broke away. “I guess I am.”
He grinned again and stifled a yawn. “I feel like I may be able to sleep now.”
Yochi raised an eyebrow. “Care to join me?”
She groaned at the thought of Yochi holding her tight as she slept. “Leave now before you can tempt me further.”
Yochi grinned then did as told. Oyama watched him leave, feeling better than she had in a long time.
As the chief’s first son, Yochi would perform the ritual last. He watched as all the other men and women came forward and told their dreams. Then, their mentor or mentors would step forward and speak highly of them, allowing the chief to know that the person was in fact ready to be seen as an adult.
Yochi watched with pleasure as Oyama came forward. She was second to last to speak. She spoke of her dreams, of being a warrior for the chief. Yochi looked sharply to the crowd when someone made a disapproving noise. Anoke was in the crowd, apparently not happy that his soon to be wife wanted to be a warrior. Yochi shook his head. Oyama would continue to be a warrior, of that he was sure.
When her mentors stepped forward, there were uneasy gasps from the crowd. Istas was there, as was Kan-U-Uayeyab. Oyama’s human trainer was there as well, but the panther’s words, heard by all, made it clear that Oyama was ready.
“Oyama,” Kan-U-Uayeyab stated in a plain voice, “you have proven to me that you deserve to be called, not only an adult, but a warrior for this great nation. You will continue to protect us for many years to come.”
Oyama bowed low before the panther. “Thank you, great panther, god of guarding citizens. I will do my best to show you that you weren’t wrong in choosing me. I am forever your servant, and protector.”
The words rang in Yochi’s mind. Oyama was Kan-U-Uayeyab’s protector? His eyes landed on her left shoulder and he nearly gasped. She had a mark on her shoulder. It was very similar to the one on his right one. He never saw it before today and realized Oyama was in a dress. She usually dressed as a warrior: shirt and pants.
Heart pounding in his chest, Yochi knew for certain why this woman had to be his wife. He took a step toward her, then stopped when his name as announced. He took a deep breath then walked forward. Oyama would have to wait. It was his turn to explain why he was ready to be a man.
Yochi walked forward to stand in front of the dais and bowed to his father and mother. He looked to his mother first, holding her gaze for a fraction of a second longer than he should. She closed her eyes and nodded minutely. She understood what was about to happen. Yochi then looked to his father, the great chief of all Nayians, one of the greatest warriors they had seen in a while and took a deep breath.
“I dreamt of nothing last night.”
It was the truth. After leaving Oyama in the temple, he returned to his room, only to toss and turn until the sun came up. He then got up and wandered around until it was time to get ready for the ritual.
“My journey to Kisin the past few days revealed nothing more to me than my absent dreams of last night. I stand before you, father, an empty vessel, knowing only that I am not ready for this ritual.”
There were some gasps from the crowd, but with a look from Ichik, all fell silent. Before he could speak, Nikki stepped to him and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. She spoke to her son in a calm voice.
“Tell the room what you have already told me, Yochi.”
He took a deep breath. “I have read and recited the words to the ritual over and over again. The words that Oyama stated so easily do not come to my heart. I do not feel them as I do other prayers and rituals.”
“Ichik, tell your son how you met Shadow and why you went hunting with her the first time.”
The great warrior’s expression broke as he remembered the first panther to hunt with him. She died a year after they met during a hunt. Keeh weren’t usually dangerous, but in a stampede, they could be. Shadow was trampled underfoot trying to protect Ichik. He mourned her death as one would a fellow warrior.
His jaw twitched as he looked to Nikki. “This isn’t the time.”
“When is the time? He tried to talk to you about this before, Ichik. You wouldn’t look into your heart and see your past then, therefore you must confront it now. Tell him.”
Ichik glared at his wife but stood taller as he looked to his son. “There was a time that I didn’t feel the rituals of hunt in my heart. Kan-U-Uayeyab sent me Shadow to learn again what the rituals and prayers meant to me.”
Yochi looked to his father with renewed respect.
Ichik looked his son dead in the eye. “What will you do to regain your understanding?”
“I have been asking Kan-U-Uayeyab what I’m missing, but he has been silent.” He blinked as he understood. “That is the question though. I am missing something. That’s why I don’t feel ready.”
Ichik nodded and again wondered why his son didn’t feel ready to be called a man. Everything he did and said made Ichik very aware that Yochi was, in fact, ready, and had been ready since he was sixteen.
“What will you do son?”
Yochi looked away from his father and shook his head. “I…”
“Journey of the gods.”
Everyone turned to Oyama. She looked to Yochi, stepped to his left side and looked to her chief. “I dreamt of it last night. He needs to go on the journey of the gods.”
Yochi’s eyes went wide. “Yes.”
Oyama placed her hand on Yochi’s shoulder. “And I shall go with him.”
“Yes!” Yochi’s excited voice filled the room.
“NO!” Came the angry cry from nearby.
Yochi and Oyama turned to face their naysayer. Anoke pushed his way forward and scowled at Oyama.
“I refuse to allow my wife to go on this journey.”
Nikki’s voice was just as loud as Yochi’s had been. Everyone in the room looked to her, reminding Ichik again that he wasn’t truly the chief. As he looked at his wife, he barely hid the smile that told her how much he loved her. Nikki saw it, smiled back and looked to Anoke.
“Oyama is of age, and she isn’t your wife yet. As a warrior of Naya, she can assign herself as protector to anyone she sees fit. And as Yochi is going on a long journey, one that can take up to a year, I believe he needs a protector.”
Anoke looked about to protest, but Nikki silenced him with a look.
“Yochi, Oyama.” Yochi and Oyama looked to Nikki and both knelt before her. She stepped to them. “Ichik, do you grant your son permission to go on this journey?”
Ichik stepped forward and looked to the couple. He glanced quickly to Nikki though, as if trying to puzzle her out. She had expressed interest in keeping the two apart. What was she up too? He would ask later but would also do as she felt best.
Chief Ichik cleared his throat and addressed his son. “The journey of the gods is an old ritual. Do you even know what it entails?”
“Tell the room, as there are some that may not have paid as much attention in their studies.”
“The journey of the gods is a journey around Naya to the different cultures that reside on this continent. I would spend a few weeks with each, learn of them and when I felt ready, would talk to two of their gods, at the gods’ temple. It is in the hope of finding the answer to my question that I seek this journey.”
“The gods of life and death.”
Ichik nodded. “I grant you permission to go on this journey. You will speak to the diplomats of each civilization before you leave here. They will tell you how to approach their people.”
“And Oyama will go as your protector.” There was a slight roar from behind him reminding Ichik of Kan-U-Uayeyab’s presence. “Your panthers will accompany you as well. Make sure to include them in your discussions with the diplomats. Make sure their people will not harm your animals.”
Yochi looked to his father, then bowed low. “Thank you, Chief Ichik, Chieftess Nikki. I will go prepare for my journey.”
Ichik nodded and Yochi left. Oyama looked about to follow, but Nikki stopped her.
“Oyama. Come with me.”
Oyama looked to the Chieftess then nodded and followed Nikki out of the room. She easily ignored Anoke who kept calling out to her in an angry tone.