Chapter One: Origins I
The sky sure was beautiful today I thought, as I lay on my back watching the clouds drift lazily across the sun. I loved watching clouds, the stories each one can tell when you use your imagination are endless; those fluffy shapes unknowing that to me they are weaving tales of serpents and fair maidens or even stories of thieves in the night and epic battles in times past. I pried myself away from the dreams of the day with a sigh and propped myself up on my elbows before I swung my head about to look around me. It took a second for the green spots to disappear from my vision where the sunlight had left its mark, as my eyes cleared the village beneath me came into focus.
It was bustling with activity today, people running in every direction to fetch forgotten things or add finishing touches here and there. It was a very important day for the people of the Suna tribe.... the people of my tribe. Living out here in the dunes has made us a hardy folk but it has also made us very isolated, and thus lonely. Once every two years the tribes gather for the meeting that we call the choosing. As well as the usual drinking, socializing and general arseing about that the night would hold. there was also the main reason for this gathering. A meeting of the elders from each of their respective tribes and their companions converse in secret away from the rest of us lowly mortals to decide on the best candidates from each tribe to be given the test, three in total will be chosen to be given the honor of being allowed the opportunity to be chosen by a companion. Only the strongest, smartest and fastest would be chosen for this great prestige and although I was all of these things I wasn't sure if I was the best in any of these set categories, I had always been a well rounded person, trained as a warrior and a hunter since I was a child, but since birth I had always loved knowledge; so you see I was the perfect candidate if they want all three in one vessel, but I was definitely far from perfect in any one of these areas. This not only worried me but created a dull ache in my chest that I have never felt before, as though my own heart was attacking me from within. 17 long years I had spent dreaming of this day. The choosing after my 17th birthday when my name could finally be permitted to be put forward to the elders for assessment. 17 long years I had longed to be given a chance to leave the dunes and prove myself in the challenges of the great cities. But today I had forced down any traces of excitement or desire because I knew I must face the truth that I would never be blessed with such luck.
With a last inner snarl at my own position I stood up and brushed the sand from my garments. I had better do my part helping the villages prepare. For the night ahead , even if it was not to be my last among the tribes was by all accounts going to be a night to remember. I walked leisurely from my position on the hill of the great rock down into the centre of the village. It was not a big village and there were not many inhabitants, but each and every one of us was like a member of family to the rest. It is situated smack bang in the centre of a valley in the sand, an ideal location really as we never got hit by the sand storms that could be seen raging above on plains. The village was originally built in a perfect circle with a totem to the companions placed in the centre. Since then, outhouses and other dwellings had been built in and it now makes for a rather odd looking spiked oval. To the north of the village, raised above it but not high enough to see the surrounding dunes, is the great rock. A location of great spiritual importance to my people; it was believed that this is the rock in which the gods imbued the life force for our village, so as to allow the community to sustain a relatively normal life out here in these otherwise uninhabitable wastes. HAH What garbage it was just a lump of rock for the love of all things mighty! I smiled offhandedly to myself at this thought, in reality from the outside the village probably looked like it was built in a large bowl.
As I wove my way towards the totem, stepping in and out of several mud huts and vaulting the fence to the pig pen with a show of agility that I didn't know I possessed. A small thought caught me off guard, it is a rather irrelevant point but all the same to me it was my world, my chance at the life I had always dreamed: I thought maybe ... just maybe I could be chosen. This thought spread like a virus infecting every particle in me. A smile spread across my lips; I would not give up on my dream so easily. With this glimmer of hope lighting my way, I continued on my way. The smell of cooking meat was in the air, as the feast was being prepared by our best chefs, I licked my lips subconsciously trying to catch a taste of the flavors imbued in the air around the village. I walked past several children being told off by their mother for painting on the side of the elders hut.
"Hello Mrs. May, Hey Kids, hope your not bothering your mother now are you?" I joked with a smile.
"HEY MASATO" shouted the youngest of the children "Why hello there Masato, Big day for you is it not? And as for these three" Mrs. May said indicating the children in front of her "Since when have they been anything but trouble!" she joked as she roughled their hair. I smiled and continued on my way, the source of the delicious smell came into view as I walked past the clay ovens and side stepped a few dogs who were drooling on the chef's shoes.
"GEROFF ME YER MANGY MUTTS!" exclaimed the chef in exasperation. I chuckled under my breath. After squeezing through a few more huts and throwing out a couple of passing greetings I reached my destination.
I stood under the towering totem. No matter how many times I saw it my breath was always stolen away. It was beautiful yet at the same time scary; emanating the power of the companions that we are blessed with. I was snapped out of my thoughts by someone calling my name. I spun to see the elder of my tribe hobbling out of the shadows surrounding his hut's entrance. The elder would have been a tall man if he stood up straight but he always hunched low over a dark Oak walking stick he used to aid him in his old age. As he approached me his face became clearer in the light. I had always thought he looked rather like an old prune, with two thick hairy caterpillars over the two slits one would guess are eyes.
"Yes elder" I replied in my most humble tone accompanied by a slight bow, best to get in the old coot's good graces for today at least I thought to myself.
"Could you possibly do an old man a favor dear boy?" he grumbled, his voice was extremely low and weary yet it betrayed the wisdom he tried to hide. It often reminded me of what it would be like to hear an age-old mountain converse.
"Of course elder, and you aren't so old yet you can still run a fine village, no trouble in sight here" I teased as we watched Mrs. May's children running past us carrying armfuls of food they had clearly stolen followed by an angry looking chef wielding a meat cleaver.
"Yes well his cooking is rather good isn't it" he chuckled.
"What would you have me do elder?" I enquired.
"Would you run to the well and fetch some water for us, we are running low and I fear this choosing will require more, I'd go myself but ... well" he indicated his walking stick.
"Of course elder I shall go now" I replied. As I turned to walk towards my family's hut I heard him request that I get it quickly, the cheeky git can hobble his own ass out to the well next time I thought to myself with a grin.
I stepped into my hut to retrieve my pack, the well was at least a 2 hour walk south so I would need to be prepared; but then again, out here you always do, as sand storms are very dangerous and can appear entirely without warning. I slung my pack over my shoulder, donned my sand mask and goggles then exited my hut and walked to the edge of the village, I turned back to look at my home and smiled in the knowledge that whatever happened today I would make the best of it, hell I'd find a companion and convince it to choose me by myself if it came to that. With this though fresh in mind I turned and walked up the beginnings of the path out of the valley, filled with a new vigor.