My NaNoWriMo story

 

Easily Gained

“They fear us.” Urzoth grumbles sitting on the bank of the small stream, “They fear us and flee at our sight.”

“Yes, what of it?” His friend straightens and tosses a flailing fish at the unsuspecting man making him jump and throw the fish as though it is about to attack him, his friend laughs causing the chief to glare but the look softens and soon he too is laughing.

“I mean we could take more then this forest.” His friend wades over and plops down next to him “Think about it Tullo, we could take all the land we need. Our cattle could graze freely, we could farm, no more moving around, no more hoping and praying we find enough food.”

“True but if we take more surely someone else will come for us.” Urzoth sighs and lays back, sun beating down on him.

“Could we not afford it?” He asks softly, eyes locked on the deep blue high above him. “Could we not fight for what we need,” He looks at his friend, behind his friend families move about happy and smiling while children play and laugh “Fight for what we deserve?”

“Well yes we could but its not a good idea, we do not know these lands, perhaps the people have fled to a great city to wait for us and when we go there we will be slaughtered without issue or fight.” Urzoth pouts and closes his eyes.

“I hate when you’re right.” Tullo laughs again, smiling broadly.

“I know you do, but that is why are friends, I keep you grounded while you dream enough for the both of us.” Tullo lays back and covers his eyes with his arm. “You give us hope when we have none, Urzoth. If you think we can take these people on I’ll follow you to death and beyond.”

“Thank you my friend, let us pray it doesn’t come to that.” The two men lay there in silence, taking everything in.

“I thought you were crazy when we started this. Pushing through the mountains like we did, I was scared we’d reach the other side and find nothing or worse.”

“What’s worse then nothing?”

“Finding that the world really did end after the mountains like the elders kept insisting.” Urzoth nods.

“Isn’t that the same thing?” Tullo shrugs.

“Probably. The point is, you weren’t crazy, the world didn’t end, the people are happy, this land is fertile, and that you have the backing of every man, woman, and child here. If you think we need more land, we’ll fight along side you, if you think we deserve far more then what we have already been granted, we’ll take it for you.” Urzoth lets the statement to hang in the air for a moment.

“Tullo, I believe we need more, I believe we can take more, and I believe our people can do that. If you don’t agree or find fault in my idea please tell me now, for tonight I will tell everyone.”

“Urzoth, you have my full support, these lands are sparsely populated, we can, indeed, take them.” Urzoth sits up and looks at his friend, a small, devious smile forming on his handsome face. Quickly he forms a fist and punches his friend in the leg “Oh you ass! What was that for?” Tullo sits up, griping his leg and glaring at his friend.

“Old times, my friend.” Urzoth stands up and walks away.

“You’re terrible! I can’t believe you sometimes!” Urzoth laughs as Tullo’s leg begins to cramp, “By the gods you are the worst! Do you hear me Urzoth?”

“Yes, I hear you.” Urzoth turns around, grinning like a fool “I just don’t care.” Tullo releases his leg and falls back with a huff and soft curse before a smile forms on his narrow face remembering the days when they were young and without cares or worries. Urzoth turns in time to duck under a laundry line, the woman hanging clothes giggles and he blushes sending her an apologetic smile to which she only smiled and giggled more. He clears his throat and keeps walking, crossing the tightly packed camp in a few moments to the Reader’s tent, he sits outside the closed flap. “Reader, Reader, are you there?” He begins.

“The reader is here, child. What is you wish to know?” The Reader’s elderly, shaking voice responds, the true power behind Urzoth and all that he does comes from the woman hidden with the tent, kept away from the light of day, knowing only her orange lamps from the time she is little till the day she passes on.

“I wish to know the fate of our nation should I strike the people of these lands.” The woman hums, things rattle and fabric shifts.

“The out come is grim, for a time we will rule but then we will die away as the anger of this nation is unleashed claiming everyone.” Urzoth sits in silence a moment.

“What do the gods command of me?” He finally speaks, again things rattle and fabric shifts.

“The gods command you to go forth, and make us prosperous.”

“Thank you reader.” He rises slowly.

“One more thing, child.” He waits “I have seen it in the stars that I will die of sickness soon, send me a daughter of the strongest warrior that is of age. I have much to teach her.”

“Is there any other requirement, Reader?”

“Yes I can see her now, hair cut to the shoulder, eyes wide and curious… Her father dead, mother remarried… Bring me this girl…” Urzoth nods and waits a beat.

“Reader, reader, do you sleep?” No response comes indicating that he can leave her without offense. He stands straight and surveys the people, few warriors have fallen as of recent, but he knows of two that had fallen, that had a daughter, and the mother had remarried; he watches one mother for a moment before her daughter, hair cut to her shoulders ran into sight, cheering happily. With a nod he walks to the mother and pulls her aside.

“What is it, Urzoth?” She smiles, holding her youngest in her arms.

“Mari is the Reader.” Her smile falters. “Our Reader sees her death and must train her.”

“Mari is too young, she can’t have her.”

“It was not a request. Give Mari your blessings and weep later, or I will rip her away from you and can weep openly as a disgrace willing to let the gods be silent forever more.” She looks at him and takes a deep breath letting it out slowly.

“Mari, sweetest, come here please.” She tore her eyes away from Urzoth’s and turns before squatting down to be her daughter’s height. “Mari you are about to be the next Reader, do you know what that means?”

“That I have to live in the tent away from everything?”

“Yes, but it also means that the gods chose you to be their voice. You will be a living divine.” Tears well up “And mama is so proud of you, my sweetest Mari.” The little girl shakes her head.

“But… But I don’t wanna live with the Reader. I wanna live with mama.” The child protests loudly.

“Don’t say that baby, I know you do but the Reader is kind, she will teach you many things, and everyone will remember your name forever and ever. You will never fade from memory and when you pass on your knowledge to the Reader after you, you will join the gods in a great feast.” Mari begins to cry softly, tears rolling down her cheeks and chest heaving “I know you’re scared, but mama is so happy for you. You’ll be taken care of and loved by everyone.”

“M-Mama can visit right?” Mari looks passed her mother at Urzoth.

“Of course child, everyone can visit you any time they desire, or when you call upon them. You’ll never be alone as the Reader.” Mari nods and sniffles some.

“I’ll visit you every chance I can, Mari. I promise.” Mari looks at her mother and nods before giving her and her little brother a hug and going to Urzoth. The great leader leans down and lifts the child, holding her close, he carries her to the center of the village and clears his throat.

“Everyone listen here!” He bellows, Mari covers her ears. “Our Reader is dying, but the gods have chosen Mari for the next reader. While she is being taught she is to be called Reader Mari, and anyone can visit her as long as the Reader is willing to allow it.”

“But!” Her stepfather starts, stepping forward; his wife stops him, barely holding back tears as she smiles “I have not gotten to say good bye.” He finishes hesitantly and walks forward. Mari watches him closely as he takes her little hand in his. “You have a great gift about you child, use it well. You make mama and I very happy and very proud. I will visit you soon.”

“Ok da.” Mari whispers, trying to sound brave but failing. “I love you.”

“Love you too, sweetest.” He pulls away and nods to Urzoth.

“On this day we gain a new Reader, soon we will lose one. Let us never forget the great line of Readers we have had.” Cheers ring out and he carries Mari to the Reader’s tent. “Reader, Reader, are you there? I come with a child of the gods for you.”

“I hear you, child. My eyes are blind to the light, open the tent and allow this child enter.” Urzoth releases Mari and opens the tent. “Enter child of gods, let your sister look upon you in the light of the holy worlds.” Mari hesitantly steps into the tent and Urzoth seals them within.

“Reader, Reader your tent is sealed, gaze upon your sister and teach her all that you know so that the gods may always be heard.” Silence permeates the camp as all wait for her approval.

“Children listen here and listen well. This is my sister and when I die my sister will speak in turn for the gods. Listen to her words and recall all that I have taught you when I join the gods in the jeweled heavens above.” The crowd cheers while Mari’s mother sobs into her husband’s chest as he shushes and soothes her. Urzoth stands and turns looking out over the group.

“My friends,” The cheering is slow to stop “We have been gifted this land by our merciful gods, and the gods above command me to take more. I will march on the grass lands if you all will join me. If none shall I’ll not hold it against you in this life or in the next, we know not what these people can and will do to defend their homes and I ask you for a dangerous thing should they be laying in wait for us in some grand walled city like we have not seen or should they be prepared with an army to meet us in the fields. What say you?”

“This is lunacy!” One of the elders is quick to interject. “This is madness, we should not take more then the gods have given! Who has said they command you to take more?”

“The Reader, mere minutes before choosing Mari as her sister.” Urzoth shoots back, a murmur rises in the crowd. “If you doubt me then speak to the Reader yourself, heretic.”

“You dare to call me a heretic? You dare to call me such a vile name! You are out of line!”

“No it is you who are out of line!” among other angry shouts ring out. “Doubter of the Reader!” shouts another “Punish the heretic!” The elder glances around, suddenly unsure of the loyalty of his own people.

“Enough! If he wishes to question me he may,” Urzoth speaks, sending the elder a knowing look, “Tell me Heretic, do you question the gods?” The chief is giving his biggest opponent an out and the man is not so foolish as to ignore it.

“Never, the gods have always lead me on the right path.” He supplied quickly.

“Then you only question I?”

“Yes, yes only you. I only question you as a mortal man, allow me council with the Reader so I may confirm your story?” Urzoth nods and steps out of his way, the elder is quick to fall on his knees before the tent “Reader, Reader are you there?”

“I am here, child. Speak.” Though she has heard the whole commotion, formalities dictate she be deaf and dumb to the outside world.

“What is it the gods command of Urzoth our chief?”

“The gods command he take he go forth and make us prosperous.”

“So he is to take the land?”

“The gods have spoken, do you turn a deaf ear to them child?” His face flushes.

“I do not, thank you reader.”

“Do not thank me for the world of the gods.” He nods though the woman inside the tent can not see the action.

“Reader, Reader do you sleep?” No response, he stands up and turns to the crowd. “The gods have spoken and I will not question them.”

“The man is no heretic.” Urzoth, the man that started the argument to begin with, concedes to the truth. “Now who will follow me?”

“If no one else will, I will join you, brother.” Tullo steps forward followed by many others till the men stands before their chief and the women are left holding children and shaking their heads. The men arm themselves and head for the forest edge, looking out across the grassland they see nothing, no sign of human life, no villages, no abandon houses and Urzoth smiles.

“Looks like I over prepared…” The men smile and agree as they step into the clear without fear and gaze around. “We’ll stay close to the forest, but we will have our camp out here so our children can play and our cattle can graze.”

“Here, here.” echos behind him, Urzoth turns.

“I will remain with Tullo, the rest of you go back and bring the people here.” The others nod and leave the two men standing in the tall grass. “Well Tullo, I see no army awaiting us, no walled cities, nothing.”

“We see only a small part of this vast land, Urzoth.” Tullo looks back over the grasslands, staring hard the horizon “They are out there, we will have to be careful.”

“You are too cautious friend, but I agree. We know there are people here and we must not start a war with them if we can avoid it.” Tullo nods and sighs. “What is it friend?”

“Just the aching sadness.” Urzoth nods, his closest friend not needing to say more on the subject “I just wish she were here to see this, Urzoth. She would have loved the forest, this grassland, the mountains now to the west. All of it, she would have loved it.”

“I know, my friend, I know.” Urzoth places his hand on his friend’s shoulder, the only form of comfort he can give. “She can see us though, she can see what see. She’ll be waiting for you on the other side, so do not cry for her.”

“I know” Tullo grabs his friend’s forearm and sighs “And when we meet again it will be as though we were never apart.”

“Exactly.”

“And Luna will be waiting for you… You and Lana, she has long to wait though.” Urzoth gives him a sad smile.

“Very long indeed.” They pull apart and stand in silence watching the vast lands before them, the wind rustling the grass and birds singing high above them. “Lana still cries at night.” Urzoth breaks the silence. “When she thinks I am asleep she weeps, she is so strong during the day, and on days when I want to crumble into dust she is strong, but at night she is so fragile…”

“Does she know you hear her?”

“No, I… I let her cry, I let her be weak when she thinks no one is watching.” Tullo nods.

“You are a good man Urzoth, give her time.” Urzoth does not respond to his friend, Tullo knows he is thinking about his words, chancing a glance his eyes widen. Urzoth stands still, eyes shut with tear tracks down his cheeks as the sun breaks through the cloud cover over head giving the chief a near mythical appearance. “Urzoth?” He whispers, his friend’s dark eyes open, the sun vanishes behind the clouds, and the chief wipes away his tears.

“Yes brother?”

“Oh… Uh, nothing… Its just… Never mind.” Urzoth arches an eyebrow but leaves it alone as he can hear the clan approaching.

“They are very close.” Tullo rolls his eyes

“Yeah, I can hear them too.” Both men chuckle and turn to face the noise, Lana is first to walk into sight, mouth falling open in awe as she looks across the large, green expanse. More and more people push into sight and gape at their new surroundings.

“Welcome, everyone. We will camp close the forest, should a fast retreat be needed, but this land, this land is ours now.” The people look at Urzoth.

“Praise Urzoth, wielder of the black flame!” Rises from in back making Urzoth smile and blush slightly. “Praise the chief! Praise the sword and shield that has delivered us from death!”

“Thank you, but now be quick, night will fall soon and it is best that we are not building in the dark.” The praise does not stop though, it echoes and ripples through the gathered making Urzoth’s chest fill with pride.

“I call for a feast in Urzoth’s name!”

“I second that!
“Do you hear us elders? Feast for the chief!”

“Feast, feast, feast!” The chant builds and builds till even Urzoth can not quiet them.

“SILENCE!” He shouts “You’ll never know what the elders have to say if you won’t be silent!” Slowly the chanting dwindles and dies away. “Speak elders.”

“A feast.” One grumbles, “A feast for the chief.”

“And The Black Flame, gift from the gods, to be given to the wielder” Another sighs.

“You have your answer! A feast for me and The Black Flame to go to the fighter for the people. Who names the people?” Urzoth already knows who they will name but tradition calls for him to ask anyway.

“I call for Tullo to wield!” Tullo calls, earning boos from the crowd and some light laughing. “Alright, alright, I retract my call. You guys are no fun.”

“Urzoth!” One shouts, followed by another and another till his name rings out in the all the lands.

“I accept your call, I will wield and I will defend. You all are me people and I will serve you as well as I serve the gods.” The elders glares, hating the younger man all the more with every passing moment “But the feast and the presentation must wait. For now make camp, then we will worry of the feast.” The group disperses and begins setting up camp, Urzoth makes his way toward his daughter before being stopped by an elder.

“Urzoth, a word?” He sighs and back tracks to the elder. The mighty chief stands nearly a foot taller then the bowed back elder. “This is unprecedented. You must reject the call.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Reject the call, a chief cannot wield the Flame.”

“Why not?”

“Tradition-”

“Forget tradition old man! I am tired of Tradition! Tradition would have us starve on the plans, tradition would have my daughter wed and pregnant just months after her mother’s passing, tradition would see me to be nothing more then you puppet!” He bellows gaining the attention of the people around him “I will follow tradition but the people will be heard! I will wield The Black Flame and you will learn your new place in this new land!” The elder flounders for words as the people watch on, Urzoth rolls his shoulders “Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to assist my daughter. I am going to do more then stand around waiting to spout tradition and nonsense. I am chief, I am the wielder, and you will learn to live with that fact.” He spins and walks off finding his daughter once again struggling with the poles of their tent, this time though he watches as she puzzles through it faster and gets the base up quicker then she had when they first crossed the mountains. “Would you like help?”

“No its ok, I think I got it.” He nods and she straightens “Oh, Tullo was looking for you but when you started arguing with the elder he walked away. I don’t know where he went.”

“Alright, let me know if you need help, I’m going to go find him.” It is not a difficult task, Tullo is standing with a dozen other men talking loudly about hunting and fishing. “Tullo, you wanted me?”

“Yes, future wielder, we’re going hunting for deer. Would you like to join us or argue with the elders more?”

“Well arguing with them is entertaining, but I think I’ll go hunting with you.” Tullo grins.

“Alright, the way I figured it is we’ll need six deer to feed everyone for the feast, and a lot of fish. So six were going to go fishing and the other six were going to go deer hunting, what say you?”

“I say,” Urzoth counts the men “Including you and I there are sixteen people, six will go deer hunting the rest can fish seeing as you seem to think we need both.”

“What of the accompanying dishes, chief?” One woman adds in with some snark to her voice.

“That, dear sister I will leave up to you and whomever you desire to gather greens and make them as wonderful as I know you can.” Urzoth smiles and the woman grins.

“After the tents are built we’ll get right on that, but the feast will have to be tomorrow.” Tullo pouts and huffs. “Unless you want under cooked food?”

“No, no. I do not desire under cooked food, the feast will be tomorrow.” Tullo speaks, his pout vanishing to just a small frown “But I won’t like waiting.” He calls after the woman as she walks away. “Come one let’s get going, deer hunting and fishing are easier by the light of day.” The men divide up and go to their wives and slowly forming tents to retrieve bows and arrows along with fishing spears before regrouping and returning to the forest.

Hours pass and soon the sun is setting, the tents are constructed, the women are beginning to cook down the edible greens they have found into stews or grind seeds into a fine powers while the men come back carrying seven large deer and baskets of fish, so tightly packed in the water tight vessels that they can scarcely move. They set the baskets down carefully not wanting to slosh the water around to much, torches are lit, massive fires are built and set ablaze while the deer are cleaned and skinned before being run through with a spear to roast over the open fire.

It is a gruesome sight that night with each deer carcass roasting over fires, skin and entrails in waste baskets ready to be dealt with; the next step is for the fish to be gutted, but that can wait for the next day. The men wash off and return to their tents, hunkering down for the night while a select few stay up and watch the deer and watch over the people. Urzoth quietly crawls into his tent but freezes when his daughter’s broken voice startles him “D-da? A-are you there?”

“I’m here Lana, whats wrong?” In the dark she shuffles and stokes the embers into a small blaze, tears streak her cheeks, her nose red and running. Urzoth crawls to her and pulls her against his chest. “Its ok to cry Lana, I’m here.” His child buries her head into his chest and holds onto him tightly as sobs shake her body. He does not shush her, does not offer her words of consolation, he holds her and lets her cry. Her sobs slowly dies away into soft hiccups and then she pulls away, sniffling softly. “You don’t need to be so strong, Lana.” He speaks softly, choosing his words carefully “Everyone can cry.”

“I know da, but I didn’t want to.” He cocks his head.

“Why not, sweetest? Holding back emotions is a dangerous thing.”

“I had to be strong,” His eyebrows come together “For you… You were so sad, da, I didn’t want to add to your stress.”

“Oh Lana,” He gives her a sad, apologetic look “Sweetie, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. You can always cry if you need to, you don’t need to worry about me.” She gives him a silent nod before yawning, Urzoth smiles and crawls to his own bed “Sleep, child, tomorrow we will have a grand feast and there will be joy for us all.”

“Ok, good night da.” She lays back, slipping under her blanket and turning away from the fire light.

“Good night, sweetest. Sleep well.” She hums back to him and he lays down on his back staring at the domed ceiling of his tent for what feels like hours before finally falling asleep.

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