Welcome to the seventeenth stop in the #exploreleira blog tour where we’re celebrating the (almost) one year book birthday for Songkeeper! It is the second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, which tells the story of a girl who can hear the song that created the world.
If this is your first encounter with the blog tour, we are continuing a series of alphabet posts looking at the world and characters and magical creatures of the Songkeeper Chronicles … and we have an awesome giveaway that you can enter below! You can find a list of the stops and dates here: #exploreleira tour. (Links will be updated once each post becomes live.)
Today, we’re looking at the letter …
Q is for Quahtli, Matlal of the Saari
Matlal Quahtli is the ruler of the Saari nation of the Vituain Desert. He is married to Sa Itera and father to two young boys. In battle, he carries a broad-headed spear and rides upon the back of a massive male lion. As Matlal, he sits enthroned beneath the Star of the Desert. There he leads and judges his people from the city of Nar-Kog.
The two halves of the city, Nar and Kog, climb up twin cliff faces overlooking a valley. Narrow bridges span the gap, connecting the two. Nar-Kog is the largest Saari dwelling in the desert, although there are many other smaller towns and villages scattered throughout the vast sea of sand dunes ringed about by jagged mountains. The Vituain Desert is a wild land, inhabited by a fierce and free people.
The Saari are divided into tribes, each ruled by mahtems (chieftains), and led collectively by the Matlal. While the mahtems of the individual tribes typically inherit their positions, the title of Matlal is not hereditary. Deserving warriors among the mahtems compete in trial by combat to determine the next Matlal. Quahtli battled seven warriors for his seat beneath the Star of the Desert, and there are none among the mahtems or all the Saari who doubt his worthiness.
None save perhaps his brother in law, Inali. In Songkeeper, we learn that Inali was next in line to lead the Sigzal tribe as mahtem, but the title was passed to his sister Itera as her bride-price when she wedded Matlal Quahtli. So Itera became mahtem, and Inali was left only with the title of Dah, a son of high birth but little standing.
It is a loss that Inali bears bitterly, though he would not dare say it to Quahtli’s face, for the Matlal is a warrior through and through. A tall man, Quahtli presents an imposing figure, with the breadth of his shoulders made wider still by the ruff of lion’s mane that lines the neck of his lion-skin cloak. As Matlal, he wears no crown, but the gold beads knotted into his dark braids and the gold cuffs on his wrists proclaim his rank among the Saari. And yet, as a warrior, he is seldom found without a spear in hand, ready to plunge into battle at a moment’s need for the people he calls his own.
Quahtli is a strong, proud man. He prepares his people to fight a battle that he does not believe he can win …
“Daily my warriors skirmish with the Takhran’s soldiers on our northern borders. It is only a matter of time before his army marches into this valley. And what then? I must either surrender my people and our freedom to his rule, or see their corpses like cold and prey to carrion fowl in the sand.” Quahtli fingered the tip of his spear. “We are too few to fight him.”
And yet he will not yield.
For if there is one trait all Saari have in common, it is their ability to stand firm before the shifting winds of change and circumstance, buffeted by the gales of disaster and dismay, and like the mountains of their homeland, simply to stand.
In the words of Amos McElhenny,
“These sun-addled people are as inflexible as steel an’ unbending as their sand-blasted cliffs. It’s getting’ right tiresome.”
After Matlal Quahtli—and really, the whole fascinating Saari culture with their lion steeds, spears, and warrior’s code—appeared on the page, I hoped to spend some time with them in the Vituain Desert. I wanted to wander through the narrow roads and earth-carved houses of Nar-Kog, venture into the sandswept expanses of the desert, and stand beside Matlal Quahtli at the edge of the Council Hall overlooking the valley below.
But the story set a relentless pace, drawing Birdie, Ky, and Amos away from the desert … and I had no choice but to follow …
Want to find out more about Matlal Quahtli? Check out the links below to purchase the books:
And before you leave, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! One lucky winner will take home a copy of Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper, and a gorgeous handmade mug. Two lucky winners will take home copies of Songkeeper! Open to international entries. Enter through the Rafflecopter below and be sure to continue following the blog tour. You can earn new entries for each post that you visit along the way. Winners will be announced after April 15th.