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Monday, January 30, 2012

An Awful Day

Mtumbu and I had been traveling to the Ma'at city of Riverspire with his trade goods when the path took us into the territory of a leopard. Mtumbu's sharp hearing saved us from a clawed death, and we swam a nearby river to escape the hunting cat. However, that part of the river was the dwelling of hippos, and while they didn't attack us -- they were too busy chasing the leopard -- we dare not go back that way to retrieve the goods and clothes we lost in the river. Now we're wandering the jungle in a strange land, wet and hungry and dressed only in loincloths, with no food or possessions. The heavy clouds and rumble of thunder above us promise heavy rain, making it pointless to even dry off. What an awful day!

Why could I have not been apprenticed to a hunter, or a soldier? Why a tailor of all things? I ask Mtumbu what we should do as we wander about, but he hushes me with a dismissive gesture. He is intently looking for something, I do not know what. When we crest a hill I see signs of a village not far from here, and I excitedly point it out. Food and shelter! Mtumbu does not answer me, and instead leads us further into the jungle. I begin to tell him what I think of him, but I bite my lip. He is my elder, and more importantly, I don't want to be stuck out here by myself. I swat at mosquito bites and curse my miserable fate.

We come to a clearing and stop. Mtumbu seems to have found what he was searching for, which are... some inedible plants and some branches. What is this? He is walking around and picking up branches and sticks now! Does he plan to build a fire when the rain is just going to put it out? What about finding food? I thought adults were supposed to be wise!

Mtumbu chants something, a prayer to the goddess Adire, and suddenly by magic the sticks start to change shape. My master fashions this collection of raw branches and pieces of wood into a frame. He then pulls some strips of fabric from his loincloth, and continuing his orisha prayer, expands them and uses them to reinforce his invention. He creates a loom right before my eyes! Another prayer transforms a stone into a knife and sturdy roots into knitting tools. He points to the wild cotton plants around us -- I didn't notice them before he pointed them out -- and tells me to harvest the cotton and bring it to him. As he weaves with his magical loom, he also has me fetch him other plants for fibers and dyes. The press of humid air and my empty stomach make me tired, but I am curious to see what Mtumbu is doing, and being busy keeps me from dwelling on my hunger and situation too much. And when I am not fetching, I am helping Mtumbu, and watching his masterful weaving and stitching techniques.

Within an hour or so, Mtumbu has woven new dry clothes for the both of us and several other garments; in truth, my new dashiki is very nice, suitable for a noble and better than what I was wearing before. We bring the extra clothes to a farm on the outskirts of the village nearby, and we trade those clothes for food and beeswax. We return to the loom and Mtumbu creates a small tent with a canopy, waterproofed with the wax, and some soft bedding. The clouds finally break and rain pours down, but we sleep dry with full bellies this night. The orisha magic made Mtumbu's loom and tools, but his weaving was an even greater creative act.

I have decided being apprenticed to a tailor is not such a bad thing after all. Especially one such as Mtumbu.

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