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Description The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon. In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law.
Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe. A child of the Hetawa has a thousand. Fear, first and foremost—and oh, he felt that in plenty, souring his mouth and slicking his palms. But along with the fear, and dread for the beating these men would almost certainly administer to him before they were done, he felt something new, and surprising: anticipation.
Lack of emotion is not the ideal. Control of emotion is. Even we Gatherers feel—and we savor those feelings, when they come, as the rare blessings they are. Nijiri grinned. He would meditate upon it later.
The Killing Moon (Dreamblood Series #1) by N. K. Jemisin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Sentinel Mekhi glanced at Sentinel Andat, his kohled eyes narrowing in amusement. He was grinning as well, turning his fighting stick in the fingers of one hand with careless expertise. With that, they came at him. He did not wait for their sticks. No one could deflect, or endure, blows from four armed Sentinels. Instead he dropped low, presenting a smaller target and slipping beneath the zone of their fastest response. That gave him a precious half-breath in which to formulate a strategy. He was dangerous; any Sentinel who survived his apprenticeship was dangerous. But Nijiri had observed Harakha in sparring matches several times, and noted that whenever his blows were deflected, he tended to flail for an instant before recovering, as if shocked by his failure.
He did not score, for Harakha realized what he was doing at the last instant and jerked back, retaliating with a furious kick that Nijiri bore with a grunt as he rolled away. This forced the other three Sentinels to move more , gracelessly, to avoid their clumsy younger brother. It was hard to find the soul from a limb, and harder for Nijiri to cool his thoughts enough for narcomancy, but perhaps—. Mekhi stumbled and fell to the ground, groaning. He was only groggy, but from an awake, aware man whose blood was fired for battle, Nijiri could expect nothing better.
Nijiri rose behind him like a shadow, and too late Harakha realized the danger. By that point Nijiri had touched two fingers to the nape of his neck, sending dreambile coursing along his spine like cold water to numb everything it touched. Harakha was unconscious even as his body whipped around.
The Killing Moon (The Dreamblood #1) (Paperback)
He kept spinning until he hit the ground, hard enough that he would no doubt curse Nijiri for his bruises when he woke. Delighted, Nijiri rounded on Mekhi, who was trying to stumble away until his sleep-mazed mind could clear. Forking his fingers and humming the song of his jungissa, Nijiri lunged after him—. Another stick, light as the touch of a lover, came to rest on the small of his back.
It was only a sparring match, he reminded himself in an effort to summon calm. It did not come. Only a test… but he had seen Sentinels impale men using sheer strength and angles to make their blunt sticks sharp as glass-tipped spears. And Andat liked to leave flesh wounds whenever he felt Nijiri had not fought to his fullest effort, as an encouragement to greater diligence. That meant the one behind him was Sentinel Inefer. He had bested two, but been caught by the two most experienced. Had that been enough to pass the test?
I should have left Mekhi; he was no threat. Should have gotten one of the others first, should have—. Beside the Superior stood two men in sleeveless, hooded robes of loose off-white linen. He could see nothing of their faces, and the angle was wrong to glimpse their shoulder tattoos, but he knew their builds well enough to guess which was which—and which, since a third man should have been among them, was missing. Suppressing a frown, Nijiri got to his feet so that he could raise his hands in proper salute toward his brethren.
Thank you, Andat.
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He was still out of breath, drenched in sweat and dressed only in a loincloth, and it felt as though his heart had made a dancing-drum of his sternum. But he had done well; he had no reason for shame. Then the Superior turned away, heading through the balcony hanging into his offices. Silently, the two hooded men flanking him followed.
He still moved stiffly, shaking his free arm as if the hand had gone to sleep. Nijiri lifted his hand, flat with palm down, and bowed over it in contrition; Mekhi waved this off. The word made it real. The bath restored his spirits, and the cool water was a balm after the sparring match in sweltering afternoon heat.
The Killing Moon by NK Jemisin
No one else was in the bathing chamber when Nijiri used it, though once he returned to the small cell that he shared with three other acolytes he found that word had somehow spread: a four of pathing gifts had been left on his pallet. Talipa had been claimed from a potter family. The second gift was a small set of finger-cuffs, engraved with formal prayer pictorals. Beautiful work, and probably that of Moramal, the acolyte-master.
Nijiri set this aside. As a Gatherer he would need some jewelry, for a Gatherer went disguised among the faithful—but it was still not a gift that would see much use. The third was a small jar of scented oil, which he sniffed and nearly dropped in amazement. Myrrh; could it be?
But there was no mistaking the fragrance. Such an expensive gift could only have come from his soon-to-be pathbrothers.
Nijiri grinned to himself. The fourth gift was a tiny statue of the Sun in his human form, carved in darkwood and polished to a fine gloss, right down to the prominent erect penis that any Sun statue bore. A popular gift between lovers. All his pleasure at passing the final test had soured, thanks to one tasteless, ill-considered gift.
What did the other acolytes think of that? But with the sunset hour coming, it was either go now or be late to his own oathtaking. So, fury banked if not fully extinguished, Nijiri hastily dressed in a plain loinskirt and sandals, though he also took the time to dab himself with the myrrh-oil and apply a bit of kohl to his eyes. The lesser business of the Hetawa was conducted elsewhere in the city: schools for teaching children dreaming, law and wisdom, writing, and figuring; storehouses where tithes of money or goods were tallied; more.
They offered their prayers and dreams to Hananja, submitted commissions for healing or the Gathering of relatives, or obtained healing themselves for illnesses or physical complaints. Thus did all Gujaareh find peace. Flanking him were the same two Gatherers—and behind them, above them, loomed the great nightstone statue of Hananja Herself. Nijiri fixed his gaze on the statue as he approached, trying to fill his heart with the sight: Her outstretched hands, Her white-flecked blackness, Her eyes perpetually shut as She dreamed the endless realm that was Ina-Karekh.
But where, he wondered again, was Gatherer Ehiru?
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