The Gatekeeper's Wife

Status: 2nd Draft

The Gatekeeper's Wife

Status: 2nd Draft

The Gatekeeper's Wife

Book by: Writing_Cheri

Details

Genre: Historical Fiction

Content Summary


I am reposting this story with revisions. Yin Su yearns to have a male child to please her ambitious husband. She lives in the time of Kung Fuzi (Confucius) when females are dismissed as
irrelevant. Old philosophies honoring women begin a comeback when she meets an enlightened Traveler.

 

 

Content Summary


I am reposting this story with revisions. Yin Su yearns to have a male child to please her ambitious husband. She lives in the time of Kung Fuzi (Confucius) when females are dismissed as
irrelevant. Old philosophies honoring women begin a comeback when she meets an enlightened Traveler.

Author Chapter Note


Please let me know what you think of the characters and the story.

Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: February 15, 2024

Comments: 1

In-Line Reviews: 4

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: February 15, 2024

Comments: 1

In-Line Reviews: 4

A A A

A A A

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On the day the Traveler arrived Yin Su was on the mountainside gathering wild parsley. Her basket was only half full when she noticed the leaves of the trees fluttering. But there was no wind. Small rocks and pebbles began to bounce in place. Birds fell silent and took to the air. Leaves shimmied in a frenzied dance. The ground beneath Yin Su quivered and she lost her footing. Growling like an angry tiger, the earth showed its power. The shaking became more violent, dislodging rock and dirt and sending it careening into the small village below. Yin Su reached for a sapling to steady herself. It uprooted and fell to the ground taking Yin Su with it. She landed on her side and cradled her belly where her unborn child protested. Her breath came quickly as she worked to regain her balance. She had never been caught on the mountainside when the earth decided to move.

The shaking intensified. Trees looked as if some unseen force were trying to shake off all greenery. Everything vibrated in a macabre dance. Yin Su tried to stand but fell again. Her child kicked. Then, the earth began to calm. She struggled to her feet. Dust and leaves rained upon her and rocks tumbled past. She knew there was no safe place once the gods decided to shake the earth, but the mud-packed walls around her house would offer a measure of protection against rolling boulders. She knew additional shaking would come at random times. She stumbled, zig-zagging along the path, grasping small trees and anything within reach for support. Yin Su found a larger tree that offered momentary safety. She positioned herself on the downward side, for protection from the gods’ anger and anything that might roll past. Today was much worse than the occasional movement that rattled the pots in her home and scared the pigs. 

She braced herself against the tree and cradled her belly to protect the protesting child. My son is strong, she thought. I must also be strong for him. A boulder hit the other side of the tree, jarring her to her knees. Her right hand went to the ground. The earth trembled once again, sending the boulder over her outstretched hand. Her smallest finger was crushed. Blood oozed and pain caused her to cry out. A lone cry amid the rumble of the earth. Then all was still. Except the babe within her, who continued to protest. 

Yin Su tended to her bleeding hand. She took her herb-cutting knife from the folds of her garment and cut a strip of fabric from the hem. Her hand throbbed with the effort and blood stained her clothing. She cursed the fact that her working hand was injured. The hand she used to harvest herbs, prepare meals, tend to the animals, and do all the chores around the household. 

She had come to rest in a gently sloped area, which held an array of grasses and a familiar feathery yarrow leaf. She plucked a few leaves, crushed them in her good hand, and popped the clump into her mouth. Chewing caused the moisture from her mouth to create a juicy mass. She spit the mass on her bleeding, misshapen finger then wrapped the fabric tightly around. Her hand throbbed but the blood flow lessened. 

The grass created a resting place to caress her swollen belly as she explained to her child what happened. “The gods are trying to get our attention. They grow angry and shake the earth to wake us.” The child responded with welcomed stillness. Yin Su often explained things to her child. She wanted him to have a wealth of knowledge by the time of his birth. It would help him in life. She was sure the babe would be a man-child. It had to be. 

The earth trembled once again, a short burst. A final shaking to put everything in place. Yin Su took stock of her situation. The bleeding had stopped. She would have many bruises, but her baby was safe. She relaxed and turned her attention to her village below.

From her perch on the mountain, she could see the entirety of her village. Dust covered the thatch roofs, making it look as if an early snow had arrived. Earthen walls surrounded each household, creating a patchwork design of people, livestock, and gardens. Several boulders had rearranged the structures, marring the continuity of the neatly kept community. One enclosure had been hit hard, the outer wall destroyed. But the boulder had taken up the space in the wall, so the perimeter of the house would still keep the animals in. Animals whose anguished cries now echoed through the valley. Villagers scurried around checking for damage and calming frightened pigs and chickens.

Her own house looked miraculously untouched. At least, no visible damage. The courtyard and cooking area showed no unusual debris, and the five rooms surrounding it securely held the thatch roof. Still, there would be broken pots and disarray inside the house. The bronze cookers could withstand being thrown around. Clay pots could not.

There was a flurry of activity at the village gate. The sturdy gate that kept out invaders and controlled commerce to and from the capital city appeared stuck. It was wooden, at least two man-heights high crammed between the natural cleft in the mountains. The terrain had made this cleft the easiest way to traverse the mountains and years of travelers’ feet had formed it into a road. So it was reasonable that a gate be built on this last outpost. 

Yin Su’s husband was Gatekeeper. He decided who passed through and who did not. He inspected the goods coming in or out and collected appropriate taxes. Merchants knew him as strict but fair. He was busiest during the spring, summer, and fall months. In winter the gate stayed shut as it was a dangerous time to leave. Anyone caught outside the safety of the gate would not survive the weather or the roaming barbarians. There were no lodge houses outside the gate for quite some distance. Winter snows could appear without warning.

Merchants traveling outward were just beginning their difficult journey. They would travel treacherous mountain roads winding through snow-covered peaks. They must have enough provisions to see them through the long distance until they reached the cities to the west. They carried goods for the wealthy in those distant places: colorful silks, highly decorated bronze pots, ceramics, and spices. All strapped to horses, oxen, or camels. Oxcarts could not transverse the narrow roadway through the mountains. Better to have the surefootedness of an animal than the uncertainty of a wooden cart. 

Once outside the gate, merchants would travel many phases of the moon before coming to another settlement. Yin Su’s husband would often tell her that he was the last bit of civilization on earth. Beyond the gate were barbarians. Savages who had no knowledge or understanding of how to conduct themselves in society. Yin Su wondered how they managed to survive. Even barbarians had to have wives and children somewhere. She wondered what their lives were like. 

Several men were pounding against the wooden doors of the gate. Her husband was directing the efforts to open it, without success. The shaking earth had shifted the supports beneath the massive wooden doors and they were jammed shut. Travel through Hangu Pass was halted.

After a few moments’ rest, Yin Su started down the path now littered with rocks and debris. Several uprooted trees blocked passage. She stepped carefully to avoid stumbling. Her child was quiet now. Resting. Listening? Yin Su described the scene to her son as she made her way along the path. Her original quest to gather herbs was forgotten for the day. Better to get back to the house and see what needed to be done. She did not yet know it, but the Traveler would be there soon.


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