Tuesday, April 23, 2013

CHAPTER TWELVE


Join me in a tale of the First Raepuwa Pride. As the images pour forth from the smoky lips of Bas a' Rhinn, Portia schemes and Amara finds a new "talent." As always comments and critiques are encouraged.

CHAPTER TWELVE



           Outside the mediation chamber of Bas a’ Rhinn, the Raepuwa danced and mingled. The Homecoming Celebration had begun, the mornings dissent becoming a far memory for most of them. It was the beginning of the Prides season of leisure. Throughout the short spring and summer, they worked hard, gathering produce, hunting and fishing the melted bogs and streams of the land. Trading with the other Prides, for what items they could not retrieve on their own, due to strictly adhered to territory treaties. They had no system of commerce between them; each Pride was governed by a lead pair, who was responsible for the community.  They kept the territory lines and commanded the sentries at their lands borders. Keeping a fragile kind of peace, that for the Northern Ridge Pride was often tested by those of the Western Ridge. Their leader Kai occasionally sending sentries and hunting parties into the valley in attempts to gain acreage. 
         This was why Bas a’ Rhinn wanted Amara.
He believed that she could somehow help the Pride keep Kai at bay. His attempts as sovereign failing time and again. The Raepuwa had no training in how to rule. The people did what they must to survive; they were a community that helped each other if only to help themselves. A single Raepuwa had little chance in life if not with a Pride. Humans for better or worse looked at them as little more than animals.
           “Manimals,” as the slur was often whispered. If not for their formidable size compared to most, more of them would be found skinned and strung up across the land as it was before they grouped together. The history lesson was for Amara’s benefit. The Shaman knowing the reason for Portia’s discourse. He had witnessed the attack in the square, not intervening because it was not his fight.

          Amara was ashamed of her behavior, ashamed that she had used her magic to hurt another. It was destructive, and she feared its power, her power. She feared that she would never be able to control it. Was she supposed to become numb? Never know anger, was it necessary to live a life without feeling? Could it be learned? She admitted that a relationship had developed with Graw, but that she limited herself because she felt the fire build. Smelled the furs singe during the tryst. She had to stop him or risk hurting him.
             Bas a’ Rhinn listened intently as she recounted the instances when the fire came. The trauma that awoke her. The fear that saved her, time and again. He silently contemplated her obstacles. She was a creature of instinct, her power manifested when it did as a means to an end. When her mind could no longer cope, her body took over; the key to her success in overcoming the burn was to succumb to it.
       “Summon it, set it free, no matter the result. Bottling it up will only result in consumption.”
              “I don’t want to hurt anyone else.” Amara pulled on the sleeves of her top, clenching them with white knuckles.
             “There is no reason you should. We are all of us, man, woman, Raepuwa, a part of this world. If you have too much magic, give it back to the ground beneath your very feet. She can take it; she gave it to you in the first place.” Bas a’ Rhinn lifted his pipe making lines in the air with the smoke. “Here, this smoke, it comes from the herbs that I burn. I inhale them, and they become a part of me. Some stays inside me, but the rest goes into the air. I am made calm by it, and those around me also benefit from its scent. What I cannot keep within me is exhaled back to the air, only what was meant for me stays. So it should be with you. The spirits would never give you more than you can benefit from. Do you understand?”
              “Spirits? What spirits? My Goddess is not yours. How do you know that this was not some punishment from her for my disobedience? For my thoughts of usurping the country, making the land in my image. Perhaps my fate is to be consumed by my sins. What do you know of my Goddess? Nothing, as I know nothing of your Spirits. My Goddess is vengeful when displeased.”
              “Perhaps that is the point. You were harmed. Your world taken from you in a most cruel fashion. It seems that all your life you have been made the victim of your circumstance. Did it ever occur to you that your Goddess was displeased by this? That you are to be her vengeance. If you would stop fearing her and listen, maybe you will hear an answer to your own questions. But in the mean time, you must unleash your burdens. Fear, anger, sorrow, they are all a part of you, without them how could you understand happiness or joy? We need to have the thing to compare to the other. Now, you can be alone and joyless, or you can take what you have been given and make use of it. If not with us, then with your own. If you choose to stay here, you will be expected to do your part, as we all are. This means harnessing and coming to terms with what you are.”
            “What am I?” His words swirled in her head, making her dizzy. ‘Or was it the smoke? Strange how calm I am.’ Her thoughts wandered in and out of his suggestions, her eyes traced the lines of the wall beyond the smoke filled room.
             “Nothing, if not a gifted spell caster.” Khane put a hand on Amara’s shoulder, startling her. “I do not mean to interrupt, but night fall is nearing and the crowd grows restless.” Khane bowed to Bas a’ Rhinn. “I thought Amara would like to feast with us, while you prepare.”
            Bas a’ Rhinn nodded to them both in agreement. “Think on it, child. You have a great amount of considering. I wonder how you will turn.”

****

          Amara joined Khane and her family at the bonfire site. The caravans that had filled the square in the daytime were now gone. Minstrels played drums and woodwind instruments. The Raepuwa passing around bottle after bottle of wine. Platters of meat, fish, and fruit were plentiful and piled high on tables and inside covered carts that ebbed smoke as they roasted foodstuff over open flames.
           “We had hoped that as our guest, you would light the fire?” Khane asked as Amara took a sip of wine, the question making her spill some down her chin.
            “After this mornings affair I would think that my doing something like that would be most frowned upon.”
             “Well you could use one of those.” Crevan smiled, pointing to the formation of torches, which lined the square.
           “Actually, if I could avoid it.” The image of her mother thrusting a torch into her hands worked its way across her memory, as she looked at the tall pile of wood. She dragged down on her sleeves again. The sensation bringing her a strange comfort. Without a word she approached, grabbed a piece of the wood, it flared up and as it hit the rest of the pile ignited the Bonfire, the Raepuwa closest to it having to jump back from the sudden intense heat.
            “Perhaps next time, you should give warning.”
            “With my luck it wouldn't have worked if I had.”

****

          From the opposite side of the fire, out of view, Portia watched Amara intently as Mao lay in the snow. The ice feeling good against those parts of him that were burned. “She has them all bewitched.” Portia hissed, kicking Mao who was not paying her any attention.
He let out a painful cry, looking up at her in surprise. 
          “What do you want to do about it? Bas a’ Rhinn wants her here. Thinks she’s of some use.”
          “She’s of use alright; her scalp would be a lovely addition to my collection. Come on, I’ve some scheming of my own to do. You can keep me entertained.”

****

         As the sun finally settled behind the Braithorian mountains, the Raepuwa broke off into small groups, all sitting around the raging fire. The young no longer running and playing, they too sat quiet. Just as Amara mustered up to questioning, the sky was ablaze. Color filled the air in silent explosions. Each taking the shape of Raepuwa, lingering in the sky, moving like puppets on wires.
          Drums were being played rhythmically, and a raspy voice rose up over them.
          “In the beginning before the Prides were formed, there was chaos.”
Amara craned her neck and looked around, trying to see who spoke, finding a figure hidden behind a tall configuration of fabrics, hiding them from view.
          “That is Father Girish.” Khane whispered, grasping Amara’s forearm. “He tells the tale of our uniting, Bas a’ Rhinn, creates the visage in the skies. Illusion and healing, those are his gifts from the spirits.”
         “It’s beautiful.” Amara answered back with a smile as Graw came up behind her to sit. She leaned easy in his arms. Watching as the scene unfolded overhead.
         “Raepuwa wandered aimlessly. Some fell to hunters, who with arrow and sword tracked and murdered. Taking skins, selling off heads as trophies. Taking claws to market. For many years, Raepuwa families were torn apart by the thousands, leaving whelps with vengeful hearts.”
        The images brought tears to Amara’s eyes. She clung to Graw’s arms as he held her tighter, nuzzling the side of her face.
       “Raepuwa were slaughtered. Fought alone and died. Numbers dropped, colors faded. Gone is the Onyx.” The sky images showed Raepuwa black as night, with no marks. “The Red Manes.” Raepuwa with thick auburn fur surrounding their mighty faces leapt up and melted away. “The Golden Spots.” Long lean bodies danced across the sky, with gold fur covered in an array of black and taupe circle marks. “Then He came from the mountain. The first Girish, with his white tigress.” A Raepuwa silhouette stood tall and proud beside a female whose color was like that of Graw.
          Amara looked up at him, and then to Khane in question. Khane nodded “Yes.”
         “It was they who gathered Raepuwa. Brought together those that remained and formed the first Pride.” Large groups of Raepuwa formed, strangers meeting for the first time. “It took time, but each found that in community there is strength. Once strong, man found a formidable foe. There was a clashing, which shook the Braithorians. Man was pushed out, the Raepuwa able to live where others feared. Community brought peace to the valley. And so it has become a land without influence. Raepuwa are free to roam, to live, and breed. So it is and so it should be.”
         Murmurs and snorts filled the air, as the images began to fade. Small whines escaping from the young as they were ushered away. Amara wiped at the tears on her cheeks, finding that they had become icy. Graw shivered suddenly.
           “Are you alright?” She asked as he pulled away from her some.
           “You’re freezing cold. Look you have ice on your skin.”
           Amara looked at her hands, a fine layer of frost glistened in the fire light. “I don’t know what’s happening.” The sadness that had gripped her began to turn to panic and the bonfire suddenly jumped up blue white, spooking some of the Raepuwa for the second time.
         Graw and Khane reached out for Amara, only to draw back suddenly burned hands.
        “Bas a’ Rhinn, we need to take you to him, now!” Khane squealed plunging her hand into a pile of near by snow.

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