Sothi watched her brother and sister run for a moment until she was sure H’tsi wouldn’t do anything as silly as leave the raised road for the tall grass on either side. She should know better, but she was young and it was easy to forget that the grass only looked innocent. Even S’toh, who had begun to get very tall, was too small to intimidate the hunters that were surely lying in wait for foolish prey. And of course if H’tsi did decide to leap into the grass, S’toh would have to go after her. Then their father would have only one child and a most unusual heir. Because, after all this time, Sothi didn’t think her father would marry again just for a son. And if he did find someone new to love and they did have a son, she did not think her father would supplant her position and make this new, younger brother heir over her.
But the people would expect her to marry. Probably someone from the Northern Archery Master’s household. Probably B’den. Who was two years older than S’toh, which made him four years older than Sothi. She felt her face turn sour.
Just then H’tsi came tearing up the road. Gong too fast without running over all their things, she tripped over her feet as she tried to slow her speed. Sothi threw herself forward and grabbed H’tsi’s pack to pull it out of the way.
“Thanks!” The younger girl came to a rolling, tumbling stop on the dusty road.
“Sure. It was only my bow and quiver you were about to crush.”
H’tsi pulled a face. “Don’t be such a sour. I wouldn’ta run over the ‘quipment.”
Making a show of checking her bow and quiver, Sothi said, “Well when it’s your bow and quiver I’ll remember to leave them exactly where they are so you can not barrel through them all you want.”
S’toh came jogging up the road before H’tsi could say whatever it was that was clearly on the tip of her tongue. “Isn’t it a little early to be arguing? Sothi, I bet I could have heard you halfway back to home.”
“She nearly ran right through my things! Who was going to fashion me a new bow, then?” Because although all their bows had been gifts from their father, they had been given with the admonition that they were the weapons and tools for trained warriors and hunters. Not children. If a bow broke during training it would be replaced. If a bow was broken because of playing or carelessness, a new one would have to be made by the hand that had caused it to be broken. And to underscore the point their father had taken each of them (and at some point each of his students) to where the bow-makers lived and worked. While it was true that the Archery Master did not consider any training complete until a student could fashion a working bow, arrows and quiver on their own, at 12 years old Sothi wasn’t far enough along in her training to make anything more complicated than arrows. Not even S’toh, at 14, was expected to make his own bow yet, though he was strong enough (and patient enough) to make a real effort now. Sothi wondered briefly if he would learn bow-making when he went to apprentice under the Archery master of the North.
S’toh waved off his sister’s annoyance. “Since it would be H’tsi’s fault, Father would make her do it. Or me, since me chasing her would have caused it to be broken. And I am eldest.”
“If only.” Sothi stood, dusting herself off. “My bow. My responsibility.” It was a twisting of one of their father’s sayings, but she knew that both S’toh and H’tsi would recognize it. “Are you two done playing now?”