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PREVIEW: Youngest Hara’s War

Ulin, Mummified Sage

YOUNGEST HARA’S WAR

Sparing the sage Ulin her life, Youngest Hara threw his mace to the ground. Fissures yawned where it struck. Such was the strength in him.

“Share your wisdom, o wise one!” Youngest Hara cried. “How come no prince can afford my fee? How come every bandit flees at my tread?”

For in those days there was hunger and disorder. The rivers belonged to petty lords: small men who feuded always, but triumphed never, however much they spent in cannon, in spears, in orphan’s tears.

“Maimed women, weeping men!” Youngest Hara complained, beating his chest. “What is this broken folk, this broken place?”

As her answer the sage Ulin replied: “Mighty warrior, let your mace lie. Learn you instead the setting of bones, the growing of herbs, the brewing of tonics for hurts and diseases.”

Youngest Hara spat at this. “War is my desire!” he said. “What glory is there to win, in gardening and healing?”

This made the sage Ulin angry. She screamed:

“Fool boy! Peace is the final lesson of war. Can a man fight, if his arm is weak? Can you harvest a field, without planting seeds?”

And she beat Youngest Hara with her rattan switch. Again and again she beat him, so her wisdom would mark him.

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ULIN, MUMMIFIED SAGE

The seated, desiccated corpse of a monkey sage — a cane on her knees; her tail stiff over her head; her fur shed and floofy around her.

The hero Youngest Hara was her student and husband. Obedient to her teachings, he became a famous healer. The province now bears his name.

When Ulin died she left her tomb unsealed, rightly predicting fools would still need her. It is the valley’s holiest shrine.

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Art by Mun Kao. Text by Zedeck Siew.

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