My NaNoWriMo story
The people awakes before sunrise, the whole camp a buzz with work as the feast is prepared. The children whine and struggle against their mothers while the women cook and clean, too busy to keep an eye on playful children and unwilling to release them in case of near by danger. The men are in the forest with the older children, gathering wood for the fires they will have that night; the work is hard but spirits are high as most of the children can not recall a happy feast, the feasting being done in the highlands mostly done to mourn the dead or make peace with enemies as the drought wore on. The older girls gather sticks, twigs and kindling while the boys help the men gather and cut to size already dead and dry wood from the forest floor. The men laugh and boast of the past while the children who are not distracted from their games by the work yell and chas each other using long sticks as swords and clubs to play fight, ducking and weaving between trees and people while battling their chosen foe or foes.
As the sun rises high the men and older children return to the village, stoking fires as needed with the gathered wood while others set up massive fires to be set at sun down. Urzoth over sees everything from the Tent of the Elders, a frown set deep on his pleasant features. “Are you listening, Urzoth?”
“Hmm?” He blinks and looks at the men discussing the feast.
“Did you decide who your daughter will marry? You must be prepared for what could be your untimely end tonight if the gods find you to be unworthy of Black Flame.”
“Lana will marry whomever she wants, she is young and has time.” The elders frown and murmur to each other. “She is twelve, gentlemen. Twelve, what were you doing at twelve? Were you worrying about your future wife? Your children? Grandchildren?” He looks in Lana’s general direction, and while he sees the eyes his child is making at the smith’s son he knows nothing will come of it. “Or were you like everyone else at twelve? Having fun before the trials of adulthood pressed on you, dancing with pretty girls in the fire light at feasts while your eyes followed another more beautiful girl across the rim of light, hoping you’d get your chance with them?”
“We are not, and never were, destined to be chiefs and rulers.” One counters, Urzoth turns to the five men and frowns.
“At my daughter’s age do you know what I was doing?”
“Of course we do.”
“I was learning to fight, I was helping my father carve out an area for this tribe. I wasn’t chasing girls, thinking about a wife, I was hoping to make it to the dawn.”
“But the gods-”
“The gods.” Urzoth rises and makes a grand sweeping motion with his hands “This is what the gods have given us! This is what they desired for our people! Who am I to question them? If they desire my death this night they will have it! My daughter will not be wed till she is ready and that is final.”
“We were not implying she marry tonight, just that you plan ahead.”
“Unless you plan to kill me yourself I will survive this night.” Urzoth narrows his eyes “And should the gods take me, as is their right, Tullo will guard my daughter from the likes of you and rule till she ready to take the mantel. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Yes, Urzoth. But if Tullo takes-”
“You act as though my death will occur tonight, it is a feast gentlemen, happiness, joy, dancing, too much to drink, far too much to eat. Lighten up and enjoy yourself.” He turns and strolls down the small rise the elders had built upon, he smiles and nods to his people as he passes them till he comes to stand behind Lana, he frowns noticing the look the blacksmith’s son is giving her, the boy quickly turns away, going back to work, Lana huffs and pouts. “He lays a hand on you and I’ll cut it off.” She jumps and spins around.
“Da! You scared me.” She giggles, heart racing. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play dumb with me,” Urzoth starts walking away, Lana follows.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” she looks up at him, genuinely curious.
“I saw the looks you two were sharing.” Lana’s face turns bright red “And if he lays a hand on you, I’ll cut it off.”
“He wont da.” Lana pouts some.
“And I don’t mean I’ll cut off his hand.” Lana gapes at him.
“DA!” She slaps his arm and storms off while the man laughs, the warm reverberating noise that draws the attention of everyone around him, he just grins and shakes his head continuing on his path toward his tent, he crawls inside and while the yelling and giggling of children rings out around him he closes his eyes and forces himself to sleep, he will need his strength.
“Da, da! Wake up.” He jolts and sitt up abruptly, “Its time for the feast, come on.” He grumbles and rolls over before rising slowly and crawling out of the tent, all around the camp the fires are lit, the food is being served and everyone is smiling and talking. He takes a deep breath and approaches the central fire, the drums come to a stop and he clears his throat.
“Everyone!” Most people fall silent but few actually look at him, he does not notice or care “Tonight was celebrate the bounty that would gods have given us! Tonight was name the wielder, and tonight was drink to the health of the living and the memory of the dead.” Tullo cheers, already more then tipsy from an early start on the feast, Urzoth smiles at him “I will not hold this up any longer then I must, I will take the challenge of the Black Flame and when I pass I shall be the sword and shield of this new nation full of pride and joy.” He glances at the elders “But, should I fail Tullo will rule till Lana can take the chiefdom, I am not rushing my daughter to marriage, when she is ready and with whom she will marry with my blessing. I am announcing this because I cannot trust the elders to respect my wishes unless everyone knows about them in case of my death.” The crowd nods in understanding, “Now as I said I will not take up any more of our time till it is time for the challenge, let the feast officially, Tullo, commence.” The crowd breaks into a ruckus cheer that Urzoth soon joins, howling at the moon like a wolf. He steps away from the fire and takes the drink out of his old friend’s hand, sipping it and savoring the taste of wild honey mead seasoned with spices stolen from a wayward caravan from the lands beyond.
“That,” Tullo begins, slurring slightly “Is mine, wielder.”
“Not a wielder yet, my friend.” Urzoth finishes the goblet before passing it back to his friend, “Fill it and bring me a fresh one, would you?”
“You gonna check up on Lana?” Urzoth smiles and shoves his friend away “You know she’s with that boy.” Tullo calls as he stumbles toward the small kegs.
“I figured as much!” Urzoth calls back turning to the fire, no Lana, he glances around and can just make out her face in the dim orange light of a fire near the Elders tent. He pushes his way over, sneaking food and joking at he goes, he smiles when Lana looks up, but it quickly fades. “What’s wrong, sweetest?” He asks softly going over to her and kneeling down.
“M-Markon,” she sniffles “H-he’s dancing with another girl.”
“So, find a better boy to dance with.” Urzoth jokes, she glares.
“Its not funny da, I want to dance with Markon.” Urzoth pulls her close and hushes her.
“I know you do and I know this hurts, you feel like you might die from the heart ache, but I promise you its is nothing compared to what I feel every time you give that boy those looks.” She pushes him away and looks into his eyes “You are my little girl, Lana. And my suggestion to you is, if Markon won’t dance with you, dance with another. Preferably a warrior so he can behead the elders when they kill me tonight.”
“What?” She asks, concern oozing into her voice.
“They were acting like I am going to die tonight, so if I die I want you to have Tullo or your love interest behead them on my behalf.” She smiles softly and wipes away her tears.
“Don’t joke about that da, you could die.”
“I already lived through so much, if I die tonight my only regret is I wont see you all grown up and happy.” He smiles and she frowns.
“Enough of that, da.” she stands up. “I’m going to go find Tearly.” She walks off after that.
“That’s not… He’s doesn’t have the strength to heft a blade and behead people!”
“I know, he’s swift, that counts for something right?” Urzoth rolls his eyes.
“Oh goody they’ll die swiftly.” She giggles and he stands up watching her go with the warmth of happiness and the fire seeping into him and making the impossible seem possible in that moment, thankfully Tullo stumbles over and passes him a drink before he can attempt something stupid.
“To love!” He calls.
“To peace.” Urzoth adds.
“To the stars above!”
“And to the earth below.” They do not clink glasses, each man slams back the warm liquid before going in search of food to fill their empty stomachs.
The hours pass in what feels like moments, dancing, drinking, eating, laughing, and general merriment leads to midnight when the drums fall silent again and the elders speak.
“Long ago,” The very oldest begins “The gods created the earth, the sky, and all life; upon that day man rose from the mud and began to live.”
“These men were our ancestors” The second eldest takes over “They worked with their hands, using wood and stone to morph the land around them, but then one day they stumbled upon the most holy things.”
“Metal, glistening in the earth” The third eldest starts “They took it and attempted to wield it but they could not. Unskilled they were, so the god of war came down and blessed the men with the ability to morph the metal, but only as a relic, the holiest of holy gifts from the world around us.”
“And so the man created the Black Flame, the serpentine blade of the gods, divine justice in a state that allows men to use it.” The fourth continues “And so we pass down the divine blade, from one wielder to the next till the gods see fit to take back what belongs to them.”
“Tonight we will prove that our great chief, Urzoth, is worthy of wielding such power.” the final one speaks “Come forth Urzoth.” Urzoth passes his goblet off to Tullo and steps forward, kneeling before the elders, one of the few times the man has shown the council any honor. “Drink deep from the cup, ingest the world and all that is contained within.” Urzoth looks up and takes the stone goblet in his hand, sipping the medicinal liquid; the fifth elder tilts it further back forcing Urzoth to ingest the entirety of the liquid.
The chief wrenches away and couches, his head spinning and aching, every thing slows around him then darkness envelopes him. He falls onto his side, foaming at the mouth, the elders exchange concerned glances as his body begins to twitch uncontrollably. “Da!” Lana shoves through the crowd toward her father, Tullo, having sobered up watching his dearest friend, drops the goblets and grabs her, pulling her back to him. “Let me go! LET ME GO!” She screams and struggles, thrashing wildly. “He’s going to die! Will no one help him? Please!”
“Hush child,” Tullo whispers harshly “Do not think so little of your father.”
“He’ll choke like that!” she continues to scream and struggle against the man while the clan looks on, the twitching stops, the foaming stops, but so does his breathing. “Murderers! You killed him!” Tullo turns her around and pulls her to his chest holding her tightly as she screams and cries, muffled by his body. The elders again look to each other concerned for their own safety as the clan begins to grow anxious and fearful the longer he lay without breathing or moving.
“Murderers…” the crowd begins “Killer! Traitors! Heathens!” the anger builds and builds as the most loyal begins to walk forward, they lift Urzoth’s body, carrying him on their shoulders while Tullo pulls Lana away from what could end up being the center of violence as the clan begins to circle the men that have attempted to subvert and control the grand, now fallen, leader.
The loyal men set Urzoth down outside the reader’s tent, Tullo speaks hoarsely “Reader, Reader are you there?”
“Speak my child.” The old woman responds.
“Terrible news, the grand chief, bringer of the people to the promise land, had fallen.” She chuckles. “You laugh?”
“I laugh at you. The great chief is not dead. The great chief is with the gods, his body in suspension.”
“Does that mean I have to save the elders?” Again she laughs.
“Yes it does child, go now and save the fools from the crowd.” Tullo leaves Lana and hurries to the crowd stepping between the murderous group and fearful elders.
“I would, I really would but the Reader says Urzoth isn’t dead.” Tullo takes a step back as the crowd continues its advance.
“I do occasionally but I’m not right now. In fact if Urzoth doesn’t wake then we can kill them, but give him a little while.” the people exchange glances “You can even tie them up so they can’t flee.”
“Deal.” Tullo steps out of the way and the clan surrounds the men, binding their hands behind their backs and hauling them to the Reader’s tent. Lana looks over, barely acknowledging the group before turning back to her father, tears rolling down her cheeks as she waits with baited breath.
“Tullo.” She speaks at long last. “If he does not wake by dawn I want them gone.”
“Oh trust me, if I try to stop the clan again they’ll be gone and so will I.” She nods and again the silence returns.
“He’ll get cold if we leave him here. Bring him to our tent.” She stands and walks to the tent, she places her bed roll on top of his and stokes the fire while the men carry him home and place him on the mass of fabric before exiting, leaving daughter and friend to care for the possibly dead body of the great chief.
For Urzoth no time has passed, his world went dark then his eyes shoot open and he sits up inside his tent, momentarily panicking as his mind struggles to process what happened and how he had gotten here. “Da!” Lana throws herself onto him, her arms wrapping around him “You’re awake.”
“Of course I am.”
“You’ve been out for hours, friend.” Tullo supplies “I barely managed to save the elders from the clan.”
“Yeah, its almost dawn da.” He looks down at Lana “I was so scared.”
“I’m sorry sweetest.” he holds her for a second more before she pulls away. “I need to see the elders.” They nod and the trio crawls out of the tent and into the public eye.
“Urzoth! You’re alive!” The eldest member of the elder clan sounds shocked and happy “Thank the gods! Tell these men to release us!”
“Not even minutes back from the gods, and you’re already giving me orders.” Urzoth grumbles. “Tell me elder, what was in that drink?”
“What do you mean?”
“Tell me what was in it.” The elders share a glance with the other members of the council. “Why are you nervous?”
“The drink contains a small amount of poison…” He offers slowly, carefully choosing his words “A small dose of poison and a powerful hallucinogenic.”
“So you attempted to kill me?”
“NO! No, no, not at all! It is the same combination that has always been used, Urzoth.”
“Did you measure it out personally?”
“No… I left that Mikeal actually.” He looks at the third youngest, the man that Urzoth fgihts with and degrades regularly, the man’s colorless, emotionless face is off putting. “What did you do, Mikeal?”
“Do?… I miss-measured. It was an accident. I didn’t think it would harm you.” his voice is flat and monotonous. “That’s all.”
“Miss-measured?” Tullo steps toward him “Miss-measured, your mistake nearly killed our chief! Nearly killed the man the people wanted to wield the Black Flame! You miss-measured, I call bullshit on that. You did it intentionally, didn’t you? Everyone knows how you feel about Urzoth.”
“Tullo, enough.” He looks back at Urzoth and says nothing as he steps out of the chief’s way. “You nearly killed me, accident or no I cannot pass judgment on that but what I can pass judgment on is your role. For your mistake you may be the third eldest on the council but your words count for less then the fifth. That is your punishment. Is that fair enough?”
“I… Yes, Urzoth. It is fair enough to satisfy me and my brothers.” Urzoth nods.
“Release them, I cannot wield what they have yet to give me.” They are quickly untied and hurry off to their meeting tent, the eldest takes the serpentine sword from its crate and presents it to Urzoth with the clan present and cheering as he hefts the ceremonial sword above his head. “To the people I have served as leader, to the past and present. I will be the sword and shield of this clan till death rips from them.”
“Hail Urzoth! Chief and wielder of the Black Flame!” The crowd looses its mind, screaming and cheering while the drummers began their drumming in earnest, adding more fuel to the energetic fire spreading through the crowd.
“Let us enjoy the rest of the feast interrupted last night!” Tullo shouts out, just barely audible over the crowd, Urzoth grins and laughs.
“Here, here! Let us feast till our kegs are empty and the food is all gone!” The fires are stoked, blazes reaching high into the sky while drums and songs echo in the land. Drink flows freely for everyone and the food lasts them long into the night, Urzoth and Tullo drinking and singing by a roaring fire while Lana finally gets her dance from both boys she has been chasing the night before. As the drink runs low and the food is nothing but table scrapes the people go to their tents, sleep taking over a majority of them while some stay awake making ruckus love most of the night. The clan sleeps away most of the following day and upon awakening in the late afternoon the clan is silent, shuffling quietly to not aggravate the throbbing headaches most had from the two nights of feasting, even if it was interrupted by a possible death.