TITLE: Tales of Sand and Stars
GENRE: YA Fantasy
The Sultan’s coins are stamped on one side with an image of his smiling, benevolent face. Stamped on the opposite side is an image of the palace executioner’s platform. Two conflicting images, one coin. I try to find the balance of these dualities in the tales I tell, tales of camels, sandcats, scorpion dragons, falcons. Really, they are tales of truth, tales of people.
Tonight, the tribe is under my spell before I even begin, their eyes on me, on my forearms swallowed by bracelets, my fingers layered in rings, my neck weighed down by chains of gold and silver.
Only one tribesmember is not focused on me. Six-year-old Chuka torments a scorpion hatchling with a palm leaf, until my friend Ilya steps to the side and squashes the scorpion under her sandal.
“Apologies, Nima Storyteller,” she says, using my formal name. It makes me sound like an old crone, not a girl of seventeen. “You may not like the death, but we know the young, harmless scorpions grow to become dangerous.”
I nod. Imperiously, maybe, because my stance on the platform, and the shadows and light dancing on a sea of faces around this fire, the jewelry, the discs of metal embroidered into my skirt—all of these things demand imperiousness.
The stone platform cools beneath my feet, which are bare as ritual dictates. I breathe in the collective hush of my tribe, holding it in my lungs like a prayer waiting for the stars’ acknowledgement. Then I begin.