The Long Shadow of Duty

KilimanjaroPhoto © Tim Scharks via Google Photosphere

High on Eztazato’s slope, Taqr sat beside the altar fire, joints still aching from the hike. He mumbled prayers as the offerings burned. This would be his last journey here, he expected. Next year, the Mountainfolk would have a new chief, one way or another.

Taqr was too old to lead the warriors this time. Everyone assumed—feared—he’d send his nephew Bitla, his last male name-kin. But Bitla was selfishly cruel, short-sightedly vain: a bitter legacy to leave.

It was too late for Taqr to pray for more sons. Even Estazato’s gifts were limited.

Young Hilti could win this war, save the Mountainfolk. If Taqr endorsed him. If Taqr relinquished his name right.

The decision, made, stuck like gristle in his throat. Swallowing, he turned from the altar.

Eztazato’s shadow spread across the land, dominating even the clouds. Taqr’s own shadow was lost within it.

But the mountain endured.

Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge. Big thanks to Josh and Karen for hosting this great writing prompt, and taking us to exciting places all over the world every week! This week, Pegman climbs up Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. What gorgeous sights! Click on the link above to see the images other participants found, and read the stories they inspired. And as always, feel free to join in yourself: everyone’s welcome!


23 thoughts on “The Long Shadow of Duty

  1. Love this mythic tale. He’s doing the right thing, but this wonderfully captures his bitterness at doing so. You knocked it out of the park with the resonance and symbolism in those last three lines.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Karen, I’m so glad that all came across! I basically began the story with the idea of the last lines, the shadow of the mountain (and the Mountainfolk it represents) subsuming the shadow of the one man and his legacy. There were so many gorgeous images this week, it was hard to choose!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Great way to put it, Rochelle, thanks! Yes, maybe Taqr’s brother was the problem, although I’m betting it’s more complicated than that… Uh-oh, if I start thinking about such things, I’ll end up writing another huge backstory for yet another story I don’t have time to write. Better stop now, haha!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the great comment, Alicia! I was going for the moody atmosphere, that hard point of decision making. And perhaps the altar fires and prayers did help: better to make the hard decision and commit to a plan, than to keep putting it off and perhaps have it made for you.


  2. Taqr shows great leadership here. Instead of focusing on keeping his bloodline as leaders, he’d relinquish that to maintain stability and peace. Great wisdom there – shame many other leaders hadn’t made the same choice over the centuries. Fabulous writing, Joy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that comment Lynn, I’m so glad that all came across! And yes, I imagine that’s a very difficult decision for any leader to make, especially in a society that seems to value name-rights so strongly. He probably knew it was the right thing to do even before retreating to the altar to do whatever ritual that was, but rituals help, I think.


    • Ooh, nicely put! And to follow up on that, the evil will be less likely to last if Taqr can keep the man from leadership, letting him drag everyone else down and affect who knows how many years afterwards.Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooh! You sent a real shiver down my spine with those last few lines! And closing with “But the mountain endured.” – wow. As Karen says, you knocked it out of the park! The whole piece is suffused with the atmosphere of your world – the decision seems to arise naturally from the mindset of the culture in which you’ve set the story. Absolutely terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you for that supportive comment Penny, I really appreciate it! It’s great to hear that it came across that well. i always hope my characters feel as real to the reader as they do to me, but sometimes it’s hard to get everything across in only 150 words.


  4. Very well-written. Often the right decision is a difficult one. I loved the atmosphere of this piece.
    ~Cie from Team Netherworld~


    • Thanks for stopping by and reading, Cie — I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, I agree that the right decision can sometimes be very hard to swallow, even if you know it’s right.


  5. Your story plays out beautifully, Joy – from setting the scene and atmosphere of the piece to that final gut-wrenching decision. Taqr put the future of his people above the tradition of name-kin succession, displaying the character of a great leader. A fitting and poignant ending. I can’t help wondering how the cruel and selfish Bitla will react.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you liked it Millie, thank you for the lovely comment! And what a good point, the story isn’t quite over for these parties. Hopefully Taqr’s faith in Hilti is well-deserved, and the others will follow his lead for a smooth succession. I can imagine several reactions Bitla might have to his failure to get credit he doesn’t deserve, but probably any of them will convince everyone else that yes, they are definitely better off without him in charge.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.