[I have discovered that Thiyenn prefers not to speak in strict timelines. Because of this, I am going to continue posting her story in short pieces, with a non-linear format. I do apologize for any confusion this may cause, and will try my best to keep things as ordered as they need to be for the sake of coherence.]
Mama. It was all I would say, through the weeks we traveled over the sea, then through valleys and over mountains, through forests so dense we could hear rain above but never saw so much as a drip. Without mama, I was lost. I had no axis, no tether. I was a planet without orbit, flung out into the void. My shoa understood, but he did not pity. His goal was to make me strong.
There was no room for pity.
"Eat," he said. It was raining, but he had found shelter for us in a hollow in the base of the mountains that towered over us to the west. It was a shallow cave, full of spiders. These he burned away with a torch, and the vaguely meaty smell of roasting insects and smoke made our bellies growl. He depended on the world to feed us; we rarely ate what few rations he carried in his packs. Sometimes he conjured bread and water from nothing. This bread was dry and simple, the water flat. It sufficed to feed us when nothing remained.
"Mama." I wanted to be home. I wanted Mama, not bread; nor did I want the soup he made of herbs, grubs, and tubers he dug out of the rich, mineral-smelling earth. I refused most food, I had grown gaunt. His patience, too, wore thin.
"Eat," he said.
"Mama," I cried.
My tears angered him, and when he set aside my portion and took my chin in his hands, I wondered if he might harm me. My bones were twigs, my body small, and he, who in those days seemed so big I felt puny in his shadow, could have broken me into pieces if he so chose. Instead, he knelt before me where I sat leaning against the cool granite, and held my face so I could not look away. He filled my vision, I felt his warmth.
"You must give up such things as tears and sadness. Your family has given you over to accomplish great things. You must not disappoint them with weakness. I am your family now. I am your uncle, I am your father and mother. I am all the family you need." His hand tightened on my chin and his steel-grey eyes would not let mine go. "If you choose to wither and die, their hopes die with you, as do mine. Do you understand me, girl? Will you spite me with selfishness and take your blessings to a grave in the cold clay?"
"Will you allow me to guide you to a greater destiny than you can imagine? These are the days that will decide you. These are the trials that will temper you and show me your worth." Gravely, he released me and pressed the wooden bowl into my hands. "Now eat, little one, your bones are not yet finished growing."
I ate, though it was so much ash and dirt in my mouth. I ate, and it pleased him. I found that it pleased me to please him; his disapproval was a dagger in my chest, a weight on my soul. So began my studies, though I did not know it then. We had many years of training ahead of us.
As for my bones, they would finish their growth within the season. I was no more than fourteen years old.