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|this is currently in progress, so bear with me. i have it all planned from start to finish, but it's easier to think of a novel than it is to write one. the premise behind this is that she goes on a quest to gain her name, faces an evil and in order to save her tribe accepts the evil. she's turned into a vampire, and rejected by her people, and struggles to fulfil her destiny of protecting them even as they strike her name from their history and deny her. in this installment, Ryanavyn is given the highest honour she could ever recieve, and her destiny begins to unfold. a kar is a short, slender dagger with a slight curve at the tip. it leaves a distinctive slash mark, and is not meant for thrusting.||
I dreamed I stood in a desert wasteland, nothing before me but blowing sand. No life dared tread these burning sands but me. I could see heat waves rising off the dunes, but as is often the case in dreams, I did not feel it. A barely perceptible instinct was tugging me forward, across the mountains of sand.
As I moved forward, the sand shifted, speeding my descent. On and on I walked, the reflection of sun off sand nearly blinding me. Grit caked my robes, weighing me down, slowing my progress. Taking my kar in hand, I cut myself loose, leaving the cumbersome cloth behind. I traveled on and on, clad in naught but my undertunic, which afforded little protection against the wind.
For hours I traversed the dunes, but weariness never touched me; nor did thirst or hunger. The sun rounded the sky, and gradually the heat waves began to diminish. I began to find shade on the far sides of the dunes, as the sun began to set behind me.
Suddenly an angry, deafening hiss sounded from beside me. Whirling around, I saw a great Sziar lizard; the King of the Desert. Standing fully three quarters my height, mouth open, jagged fangs revealed, the vicious claws on his great feet fully extended. Great, three foot spines rose from his head and neck, showing his preparedness to ravage all intruders in his territory. I faced him down, armed only with the ritual kar.
He lunged forward viciously, raking the air with his claws. Rolling backwards, I barely escaped disembowelment, coming to my feet barely two feet from the tip of his flickering tongue. I slashed my blade through the air in front of me, and bared my teeth, conveying my readiness to defend if pressed.
His slitted yellow eyes gazed unblinkingly into mine. For a long, tense moment we remained frozen in battle stances, searching the other’s soul. After what seemed an eternity, the King seemed to come to a conclusion. His spines lowered, his claws sheathed, and he closed his great maw. Slowly he turned away, and made his way back across his great kingdom.
As he faded into the gathering darkness, the landscape rippled across my vision, disclosing a distant ruined temple, and slowly faded into black…
I awoke in the familiar darkness of my hut, the beams above me hung about with warrior paraphernalia. The sun had not yet risen, only a faint promise of light creeping up from the Eastern Sea.
Rising from my cot, I threw a light cloak over my sleeping tunic and strode swiftly from my hut into the faint dawn light. The village was beginning to stir, but I was loathe to meet with anyone; not with the dream fresh in my mind, and knowing what was to take place later that day. I smiled slightly, mentally thanking my father for building our hut at the far end of the village, closest to the trees.
I slipped into the forest, and swiftly strode up the path towards the cliffs. Knowing I had little time, I raced up the stone steps three at a time, reaching the summit in a record twenty minutes. Rounding the corner, a breathtaking vista greeted me. The Great River Kans roared past in a powerful cascade, wearing the ledges smooth. This was where I came to train, and as it was a sacred place, none would bother me. A deep pool had formed under the first ledge, where the Kans rested before continuing its 100 foot drop to the steppes below.
Removing my cloak and tunic, I dove headfirst into the pool. The cold water shocked me awake, almost instantly refreshing my body and mind. As I swam, I mulled over the dream. It was obviously a message from Lord Svarr, the King of Beasts, but why? Why would the god speak to me, when I followed his sister Kirath? And the desert; the desert lay far to the south-east, out of my tribe’s lands. Wait! The Dragon tribe also lay to the south and east, and Svarr favoured them! Perhaps it was a premonition of vengeance. But why would Svarr speak to me? I was prompt with my offerings to the Three, but they had little to do with those they were not totem to.
Rising out of the water, I donned my tunic and walked to the edge of the falls and looked out over the land. Off in the distance I could see the dark line of the Kirath forest stretching across the lands: Svarr’s domain. Reaching out my arms, towards the distant trees, I relived my dream in my mind.
“Mighty Svarr, Lord of Beasts, this dream is yours. I do not understand, and thus I return this dream to you. Please, bless me with comprehension.” I made the sign of the Beast in his direction by bending my fingers as claws, then turned away and picked up my cloak. Time was short. The Blood Ritual was about to begin, and with it, my Destiny.
I raced down the stairs again, and flew through the woods without hesitation, reaching my hut in minimal time. I saw with a feeling I could not quite name, almost dread, that the torches in the village square had been lit. There was less time than I had supposed: my swim had taken longer than I’d wanted. Cursing under my breath, I ducked through the doorway without being spotted. Racing now, I took off my sleeping tunic, donning instead the simple white robe of a novitiate, and braiding my fiery mane, legacy of my totem, the Pheonyx.
Racing behind the huts, I made my way to the shaman’s, thanking the gods that I’d not been seen. I stopped before entering, facing the stylized tribe totem carving, and made the Pheonyx sign of outstretched wings. Pulling back the curtain, I entered the darkened room and went to my knees before the shaman, bowing my head almost to the ground.
He motioned that I rise, and beckoned me to come forward. No word would pass our lips until the climax of the Ritual. To do otherwise would defile the sanctity of this, the tribe’s most essential tradition. The ceremony would take place in the village square, with the whole tribe taking part, and witnessed by the totems and gods.
I sank to my feet just before him, and rested back upon my heels as he blew the sacred smoke about me, to make me known to the spirit world. He motioned to his novitiate to bring forward the sacred bowl and knives, made of obsidian and touched by the blood of a million Warriors before me. We rose, and we began the procession through the village.
As we passed the houses, the shaman before in ceremonial robes of black and red flames, followed by the novitiate in symbolic white, and myself, head bowed to indicate humility. The village joined in ranks of sacred three, as we walked towards the square where the chieftain, Tornak Firebear waited, clad in his traditional roan bearskin, arms folded and face as stern and weathered as the crags behind.
The tiles of the square were beautifully placed in a symbolic mural of the Great Phoenyx against the darkness of the cosmos. At each corner burned a nine-foot tall torch, placed according to the sacred four directions: North, South, East and West.
Upon reaching the square, the entire tribe in tow, we three slowly entered the square to stand before Tornak. The novitiates knelt some paces before him, while the shaman went up to him and bowed ceremoniously. As the tribe silently surrounded the courtyard, Tornak nodded curtly to the shaman and beckoned him into the square. We entered, and moved to the center of the square where I knelt, head bowed in supplication as the two holy men flanked me, while Tornak stood just behind.
“This firbran (firebrand; youth) wishes to give herself to you!” he roared to the gathered crowd. “Here, before the eye of the Great Phoenyx as she awakens, we will see this firbran’s strength. Let us sing to the Great Fire, to entreat her to witness this hopeful!”
As the sun first peeked from behind the mountains of the easternmost stretch of the Gauntlet, though we remained in shadow, the tribe began to chant the Story of Time, singing of the three Gods Svarr, Vansha and Kirath and their Awakening from Darkness and subsequent Descent to the world. They’d taken the forms of the Dragon, Pegasus and Phoenyx respectively. They’d created the ancients, who’d raised the Gateway to Eternity beyond the Gauntlet, and the Temple of Light in the south-east.
When they began to sing, the shaman raised his blade, symbolically offering it to the sun, before turning to my unprotected back. With swift, deft movements, he began the incisions, slicing arcs across my shoulder blades in mimicry of wings. As he continued, it began to bleed, then burn all across my back. The cuts were deep, and my blood ran fast due to the smoke I’d inhaled. Rushing forward, the novitiate placed the bowl beneath me, allowing the blood to collect.
The chanting flowed around me as wind currents, and I began to see the events I heard transpire. I watched the ancients grow arrogant and turn to the dark, hypnotic power of the Evil, Kronoshir. In a rage, the Totems broke the earth, creating the Five Tiers that separated the tribes. Kronoshir was broken, his corrupted Temple falling around him. The ancients had sundered, and fled to the different Tiers. Each Sect was seen as responsible for the Calamity, and war broke between the Three Tribes. The war continued to this day, and I was to become the tribe’s new Guardian, due to the untimely death of my Father, the Warrior before me.
A minor war had been enacted in the lower regions, far before the next Eternal Battle. My father and the Dragon Champion had fought each other to the death, and the venerable Stallion had died soon after, of old age, it was believed. Thus, there were three new Warriors in the land, each training for the next six years, until the Eternal Battle began. It was too soon, for my tribe, however. My father and mother, though they’d loved each other and me with all their hearts, they’d tried and tried for a boychild to follow in his footsteps. Only a man had ever been Warrior, though I’d showed incredible talent. I had much to learn, and not enough time to learn it.
Gradually I became aware that the sun had almost risen, and the shaman was almost done: his cuts had become shorter, more precise and delicate. The Song of Time was almost finished. As it reached its final note, the sun rose fully, and the shaman completed his last cut. I raised my head and faced those I was sworn to protect, eyes perfectly dry, though my back still bled profusely and was swollen with pain.
With another ceremonial bow, the shaman took the bowl from the novitiate and presented it to Tornak, who lifted it to the sun, and once more raised his great bear-like voice.
“Great Flame, witness the strength of this child! She bears your mark upon her, bought by pain and paid in blood!” He turned to the crowd, and cried out to them. “This firbran has endured Pain for you, and given her essence to us! Who here claims this child, Ryanavyn Brandor?”
Utter silence met his words and my heart sank, though I knew this was but part of the ritual. My father had met his end in battle, and his twinflame, my mother, and died but weeks later. The grief still wounded inside; that fateful battle had only been but three moons ago, shortly after the first snowmelt. A deep rage still burned within me, though I showed no-one, knowing the chieftain and shaman would disapprove.
Finally, the shaman stepped forward. “Strong Tornak, this child has none to claim her. Her father, Phoenyx Bran Flamestrike died in battle with the Dragon.” Hisses came from the crowd, but they quieted quickly.
“Sher Flamesong died soon after,” the shaman resumed, making the Fire sign: the tribe, including myself, followed suit. “I have watched her these three months, and I take upon myself the claiming.” Turning to me, he raised his arms. “Rise, Ryanavyn Brandor. I, Shaman Grish Coalsight, claim you.” I rose and bowed, then turned to face my chieftain.
“Ryanavyn Brandor, do you wish to take upon yourself the souls of your tribe?” he asked, his flinty eyes burning into my own.
I nodded, still unable to speak. He returned the nod, then presented the bowl to the tribe.
“Behold!” he roared. “The blood of a fighter, willingly given that we may entrust her with our souls! Drink now, and know no fear; she is here for us. Her life is but ours, her soul but to save our own, her flame our fire. Eternity is on her shoulders.”
Then, he did something entirely unprecedented. He raised the bowl to his lips and drank of my blood himself before passing it to the shaman, who then passed to the novitiate, who presented it to the tribe. One by one they drank of my blood, and gradually I became aware of a new chant rising from their throats. My eyes misted as I realized that though our future seemed doomed, as I was the first female warrior of all time, and could not continue my sacred line, they supported me with all their hearts. They were chanting my name.
“Ryanavyn! Ryanavyn! Burn brightly, Ryanavyn!”
I stood, head held high, and proud to be their Protector, as they partook of my essence, in order to bind me to them. Every member of the tribe, including the children, drank. In this way, I was bound to each and every one of them. Once everyone had taken part, and the bowl was empty, Tornak turned to the Sun again.
“Hear me, O SkyFire! This firbran is worthy of thy strength, and we implore you to accept her as your own!” Turning to me, he made the Fire and Pheonyx signs over my head. “I name you now, child no longer. Phoenyx Ryanavyn! Our souls are yours!” He bowed his head slightly and presented me with the ritual short steel dagger, the kar. I bowed in return, and pressed it between my palms, blade up.
Turning to the crowd, Tornak bade them begin the celebration, as my baptism finished. They immediately pulled out long coloured cloths and began to sing and dance. A fire was lit in the northern corner of the town center, and a steppe deer slaughtered, in preparations for a feast. With the preparations underway, the Shaman Grish pulled out the sacred ink, ashes and needles. I knelt again in the square, as he began his masterpiece. Sacred herbs were thrown on the torches, and the sweet smoke began to haze the square. For hours I knelt, as the needles punctured my skin, imbedding the ink mixed with my father’s ashes underneath. The preparations were completed, and the feasting and festivities began.
Some of the youths began wrestling matches, and feats of strength, in an attempt to impress the young women. They were, of course, beaten when the blacksmith, Brock Fireforge, my mother’s brother, joined in the fun. He was a great bear of a man, larger even than Tornak himself. The contest was given to him when he pulled the great log into the festivities. It was so large, even he could not put his arms halfway around it, and of course, being Brock, he pulled it with passengers atop. When he reached the square, the entire tribe cheered, and even I felt a smile on my face. Now that it was in the square, the ritual dances could begin.
The sun traveled across the sky and was beginning to set when finally my initiation was finished. I rose, and had the blood washed off my back with cold water. The agony almost knocked me to my knees, but somehow I still stood. I was brought to the River Kans, and through the cunning placement of the shaman’s silver mirror, saw the great warlike Phoenyx tattoo that now covered my entire back, the wings stretching down to cover my arms to the wrists. I smiled slowly, and rolled my shoulders, reveling in the ache.
The festivities continued, and I joined in the dances, acting out the feats of Warriors of yore. We feasted and drank, and kept the fires burning all night. After a few hours, I slipped away to wander the riverbanks. I was a loner by nature, and could only be with many people for small times. I sat on the banks, looking up at the stars and thinking of my parents. They’d loved me with all their hearts: I was a flame of their fire. But I always knew that I couldn’t follow my father: he had to have a son. Now, my deepest dream had come true, but I was faced with new problems, and seemingly no solutions. First and foremost, the Warriors of the Two would surely attack us, perceiving me to be weak and unable to protect my tribe. Secondly, how was I to carry on my sacred line? I could not bear a child for nine moons; it would be a time of weakness for the tribe impossible not to take advantage of. And yet, they had accepted me without hesitation, despite these insurmountable problems. They trusted that we would find a way, and I would not lose their souls to Oblivion.
“Mother, Father,” I whispered on the wind. “I know not the answers. I have your strength, and will find them. In you, and our ancestors, and the Great Fire I trust. Burn brightly…”
Suddenly, I heard footsteps behind me. However, I knew the heavy tread as well as I knew my own breath. It was Grav Tornaksor, my childhood friend. Silently, for he knew my ways, he came and sat beside me. Together, we watched the night sky for a time, content to enjoy each other’s company. Ultimately, however, this comradely silence did not last.
“Phoenyx Ryanavyn,” he laughed quietly. “I don’t know what to say. Yesterday you were my friend, and now, somehow, you are my protector.”
“Always your friend, Grav,” I replied tersely, staring out across the steppes. The wind was almost dead tonight, barely stirring the long grasses. I took notice, as it was an uncommon event. Not rare, but uncommon. Silence reigned again, as he understood my dislike of trivial conversation.
Almost angrily, I realized that his very proximity was arousing me. Grav and I had been lovers for over a year now, but I wanted to be alone right now. But how could I tell him? After all he’d done for me, I couldn’t very well chase him away now. He was only here to offer me comfort, to demonstrate that his feelings hadn’t changed.
In direct relation to my thoughts, it seemed, Grav gently placed his hand on my knee. It was an old message between us; he was letting me know he was ready, but would not be angry if pushed away. Conflicting emotions raced through my mind. On the one hand, I knew if I were to say no, he’d leave me be, understanding my wish to be alone. On the other, I knew he really needed it.
Looking into his eyes, I saw a poorly veiled need. He needed to know I hadn’t changed, that the ritual and my new status wouldn’t change our friendship. Most of all, he needed to know that I still cared. Abruptly, I made up my mind.
Further down the riverbank, Grish and Tornak were walking, discussing matters of grave importance. Mostly, they were concerned with the future of their Warrior, and her charge.
“She must continue her line, Tornak, and soon. Otherwise, we will be doomed at the Eternal Battle, and forevermore. We must do something!” Grish argued.
“I know, Shaman, I know. But what? I’ve wracked my brains for the past three moons, and still no solution,” Tornak growled in reply.
“She must bear a child,” Grish stated, throwing his hands up in an indication of surrender. “That’s all there is to it.”
“Yes, Grish! But how? The Two will attack in those nine moons! And with who?” Tornak raised his voice. It was then, looking down the riverbanks, they saw two young bodies straining in the night air. Stopping, they recognized the two. Respecting their privacy, the two Elders turned and walked back the way they came, silently absorbing what they’d just seen.
“Grav…” the Shaman mused. “He’s young and strong. The Warrior and Chieftain’s lines would be combined…”
“Don’t be hasty, Grish,” Tornak rumbled. “They’ve been lovers for some time. But, I don’t think it is more than that. Ryanavyn knows the problems in her new status, and will not let anything come between her charge.”
“True,” Grish replied, as they came nearer to the village, beginning to hear the festivities and songs. “She is uncommonly intelligent. But regardless, I cannot see a solution. Tornak, I fear the Phoenyx Tribe is doomed.”
“Have faith, Shaman,” was the quiet, almost resigned reply. “She is the Phoenyx Legacy. None could doubt it, seeing her hair, her eyes, and her innate Warrior talent. It is strange that she should be a woman, but she is the Chosen One, regardless. Tomorrow, I will tell her of the Peace we’ve created, and what she must do in the short time afforded us. She will understand, and then her Journey will commence.”
“Once again, Chieftain, you remind me of what I must uphold,” Grish laughed quietly. The two, though dissimilar in every way, were staunch brothers and friends, and had been from childhood. “You’re right. Ryanavyn is our Phoenyx, and I must have faith in her. Kirath’s Fire willing, all will be made right.”
|The Ways of Spirits||Shirka|
|Last Days Pt. 1: The Rise Begins||Burned Tree|