H’tsi made the sound that meant ‘close by.’ The call seemed to redundant to Sothi who rarely, if ever, used it. She would have told S’toh what their status was, whether they were coming or staying or in trouble. He could figure out for himself that they were near.
Knowing Sothi’s opinion about it, H’tsi said, “If Father taught us to use it, it must be for a reason.” She started up the hill, toward the crest.
It was exactly what Sothi told herself, but it still seemed silly. She followed her sister up the hill.
S’toh was shading his eyes, looking up the steep hill at them. “I thought you were just going to fetch H’tsi and come back, not discuss fashion.”
Both girls frowned at him. Sothi wondered if H’tsi would throw one of the little road rocks at S’toh’s head. There was no time for fashion in the Archery Master’s house. Consequently there was also very little interest in it. All the nice things they owned were gifts or had been purchased for them by Assua, their housekeeper, who took their measure once a month for just that reason. She asserted that Sothi and H’tsi, at least, would grow into an appreciation of fashion and a desire to be fashionable. Neither sister could imagine it. Nor, apparently, could S’toh. He’d laughed when the housekeeper had first made the pronouncement. Which had led to a fight. And then to laps around the compound for fighting. Being very young at the time, H’tsi had gotten away with merely one ragged lap, and that around the family house. Sothi remembered running around the compound, resolutely thinking that she would never be fashionable, that she would always be as ruthlessly practical as her father, as a daughter of an archery master should be.
The very next night she had sat on one of the chests in her father’s room, watching as he pulled clothes that she could have sworn she’d never seen before from the chest by his bed. The loose tunic and pants were the color of the red clay around the large watering hole outside the village. Patterns and archery scenes were picked out in black thread and highlighted in copper. Sothi had watched in mute fascination as her father shook out the garments’ creases. H’tsi and S’toh had been somewhere else in the compound at the time. Sothi couldn’t remember where.
“Did Assua buy those for you, too?”
Chuckling, the Archery Master had turned to look at his daughter. “I bought these myself.”
“Truly. You sound surprised.”
Shrugging, Sothi had braced her hands on her seat, lightly kicking the chest. “It’s just not very useful for being an archer is all.”
“Oh is that what you think?” He’d turned back to the chest open at the foot of his bed.
“Of course! I mean, I guess you could shoot in that,” Sothi quickly added, “but the sleeves could get in the way. Unless you can roll them up or tie them back. Does it have ribbons on the inside?” Her eyes searched the sleeves for tell-tale loops to thread the ribbon through. She had seen the likes on scholar’s robes.
“It does. But they’re not there to help me shoot.”
Looking over his shoulder, the Archery Master had raised his eyebrows at his daughter’s incredulity. “Truly. They’re to keep my sleeves out of my food and drink. But…” he added as he laid out the garments on the bed, “I suppose the ribbons could be used in such a way to help me shoot.”
“So you had this set of clothes made for when you have to wear formal clothes?”
“Yes. And because I liked the pattern of the cloth when I saw it in the town.”
Sothi had rolled that around in her mind as she continued to watch her father take out the other things he would wear with the tunic and pants. There were bracelets and rings which Sothi had never seen. Most hand and wrist jewelry wasn’t practical for an archer either. The necklace that followed wasn’t totally unfamiliar, but the Archery Master only wore it at important events.
“Do you like wearing such things?”
The Archery Master had turned to regard his eldest daughter. “Not all the time,” he said after a moment. “It’s too cumbersome, and it gets too hot during the day for such heavy clothing and so much metal against the skin. But as an occasional thing—a sometimes thing—it’s nice. Your mother used to like to see me in them,” he added.
Sothi’s eyes widened. “Really?”
It had been a lot to think on. Sothi still didn’t think she was any closer to appreciating fashion than she had been then. Certainly not with H’tsi as a constant companion, who was even more tomboyish and ruthlessly practical about archery than Sothi.
Sometimes, though, S’toh was just an idiot.