Chapter One Origins pt II
After a few short minutes I had already reached the top of the spiralling path from the village. The dirt road wound around the bowl like valley that was simply too steep to walk up. I was starting to enter to the wastelands that lay beyond the village when I paused for a moment to turn back and look down upon the small community beneath me, after a moment's contemplation I spun on my heel and continued on my way to the well. An outsider would have gotten lost so very easily out here in the barren and seemingly shapeless waste that I called home, unlike the cities and life filled landscapes that I had heard so many tales about as a child; the dessert had no land marks for use in navigating. Out here in this harsh land a wanderer could simply walk in circles four hours on end and never know. I had forgotten how unforgiving the sun was I thought as I looked woefully at the burning star in the sky. With no cloud cover it looked like a menacing hole in space leading to hell itself. And it could have been too, the sun often played with the minds of men, sending them mad and sucking the moisture from every inch of their bodies, leaving barely even anything for scavengers to feast on. As a hunter-gatherer for a nomad tribe naturally the first thing that was drilled into me at a young age was how to use the sun's angle in the sky not only to gauge time but also direction. I knew that the well was directly east from here so it would not be hard to find. With a sigh I pressed on towards my destination.
An hour past without any change in the landscape, save for a pair of scorpions I saw fighting viciously; I paused for a second to watch the scene. After a successful strike with its poisonous tail stinger, the larger of the two collected its opponent's corpse to take to its family for food. It scuttled away quickly as if it couldn't wait to show off the spoils of war. I shook my head at the sadistic nature of what I had just seen, how cruel an end the loser had met. Then I put myself in the position of the victor and after a moment of contemplation I concluded that I would kill for the needs of my family or friends just as the little creature had, if I was given no alternative. I brought my attention back to the task at hand and once again set of at pace towards the well. I should not be far away by now I thought to myself hopefully. The intensity of the suns heat was starting to make my skin itch, as though I were covered in tiny insects that were gorging themselves on my flesh. As I continued I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck, it soothed the itching on my body but at the same time I felt fear's ice cold grip around me. I doubled my pace to the well as I knew what the breeze had meant as soon as I had felt it. A storm was coming.
Before long the storm had well and truly consumed me and I was lost amidst a swirling haze of sand and grit. I hastily tightened my goggles around my eyes and pulled my mask up to cover my mouth and nose. This was not good. The storm was particularly violent and there was no chance that I could see the sun through it.
With my only indication for direction lost I was in deep trouble, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the well and back in this. After a moments consideration I sighed and obeyed the training that had been ingrained so deeply into me and I put my self preservation over the collection of the water. I hurriedly removed my pack from my shoulders and pulled out a strange contraption, it looked like a blanket with several rocks attached at the corners along with spikes. I cast it out like a fisher casts his net at sea, onto the floor and began setting the weights and pushing the spikes into the floor and before long it was secured tightly to the floor, I quickly shut my pack again and shimmied underneath the blanket. This was a method that the hunters used to create their own space much like a small cave to shield them from the harsh winds and slicing sand whirling around outside. Great, I thought bitterly to myself, the elder was not going to be impressed.
After what seemed like an age the sounds of the storm subsided and rays of light had started to show through the blanket around me showing small particles of floating dust as though they were fireflies. I began to shuffle to the exit of the shield when I heard voices. I immediately stopped moving and held my breath. The shield should be covered by a thin layer of sand left by the storm so whoever was outside would not be able to see me if I stayed very still.
"That village is around here somewhere, I know it is" a male voice said in a hushed tone. My ears immediately perked up. Something was off here, I had heard this accent once before, these people were from the city and whoever they were they were looking for the Suna.
"Yeah and when we find it, we can finally get our hands on a nice little gift for Giovanni, I mean what better chance to get ourselves all three starters in one go" replied a second male voice, much deeper than the first and gritty as if someone had shook a bag filled with stones as the man had spoken.
"Apparently these morons still use spears and shields HAHA I mean against twenty of us, talk about an all you can eat buffet" joked the first man. I shook with rage and had to try very hard to stop myself from leaping from my hiding spot and teaching the fool to fear the Suna. But I managed to maintain my hiding place and settled for vowing to exact some punishment on this man when the time came.
"Quiet you two! Do not underestimate them; there are only three of us until we signal for the backup team remember? And for these people to survive in such a place means they are no morons, now lets just find this village and signal the rest of the team so we can get the job done" hissed a third voice, it was a strange voice. It contained feminism revealing the gender of the user but at the same time wielding a huge amount of authority. This was a woman who was used to getting what she wanted. I heard footsteps as they began to move onwards.
I waited for a few minutes before slithering from under my hiding place. I saw the trio heading west. A stroke of luck I thought to myself, judging from the sun the village was actually south west from here and that was going to give some time to get back and warn the elder of what I had heard.
Without stopping to pick up my weighted blanked I swung my pack onto my shoulder and started to run as fast as my legs would carry me towards home. Without stopping for anything I forced my legs to keep moving, the wind whistled in my ears as I fast approached my destination. I carefully ran behind dunes for a while until the outsiders were out of site. I ran for an hour before I neared the valley. Without stopping at the top of the spiral track to the village I simply ran past it and leapt from the rim, it felt like time had stopped for a second when I thought I had jumped too far. The jarring impact as I hit the side of the valley wall brought me back to reality and I started sliding with surprising speed down the bowl like curve heading straight for one of the village's outer fences. Just before I hit the fence I pushed myself as hard as I could from the sand I was sliding on in an attempt to clear the obstacle. As it turns out I didn't quite push hard enough and I caught my back leg on the fence, I fell forwards landing clumsily on my chest. I lay on the floor for a second trying to regain the air that my crash landing had knocked out of me, before leaping to my feet and continuing to the elder's hut.
Within seconds I had reached my destination and without thinking I barged straight in, I found my self being stared at by all of the local tribal leaders and their powerful companions. I dropped to my knees completely devoid of breath to tell the elder why I had so ungraciously interrupted the meeting. Before I could speak however the elder slowly stood and looked at me.
"So my son you were eavesdropping and disagree with our motion not to allow you to be put forward for the choosing?" he enquired with an air of what seemed like sadness in his old voice. It felt like being slapped, I watched all my dreams shatter in front of me. Of all things I was not ready for this now. It took all the energy I could muster to shake my head.
"You do not disagree then my boy? Well that is a surprise" he added with a smile, I think it was the smile that pushed me over the edge. A frightful hatred rose within me that I could not contain and I suddenly forgot the true reason for my rude interruption.
"DISAGREE? OF COURSE I DISAGREE!!!!" I yelled with all my might. I leapt to my feet suddenly in anger. One of the companions took my action as an affront and pounced at me, knocking me to the floor and pinning me down with a strong leg.
"Azura let him up" the elder said in a soft voice. "The way you reacted to my words tells me that you were not eaves dropping. I am sorry, but now I must ask you to tell me why it is then that you interrupted the meeting of the elders" the companion removed itself from me and I sat up stunned. All the fight had left me. I would get a companion but that is a worry for later, right now there were bigger fish to fry.
"I saw some people out in the dunes, they were looking for this village and judging from their accents they were from the cities" I said in a steely tone. The elders all shared significant looks, they knew something.
"What exactly did they say child?" enquired one of the other elders in a strangely weathered sounding voice. The use of the word child reignited my anger but I bit my tongue to hold it back before reciting everything I had heard to the elders.
"You all know what this means." said another one of the elders.
"It is imperative that we get on with the choosing, as soon as possible. We will need all hands on deck if we are to defeat a group of 20, even if they are all of grunt level" said the elder of my tribe. General noises of approval came from all the elders around the room, as well as their respective companions. I looked from one elder to the next, not quite understanding what was going on. What on earth was grunt level? I shook the questions out of my head and slowly stood up.
"You have done well young one, but this proves my logic so my decision stands. You will not be put forward to be chosen. We will need you here to protect this village in the years to come." The elder of the Suna said as he rested a hand on my shoulder. "You will become a great asset to this village Masato, I do not think you should squander your life on stupid dreams, you should remain here where you belong"
I looked into his aged face for a second.
"With all due respect elder life is about knowing what you want and going out there and getting it, only children have dreams. When you become an adult you either give up on them if you are too weak to pursue them, or you put your heart and soul into them and they become something more like a goal than a dream. So this is my life's goal and nothing will stop me from fulfilling it, it is who I am now. I am sorry but I cannot just remain here as you desire. Even if you keep me from the choosing I will leave on my own and find a companion, or I will die trying." I whispered, the elder looked at me with a deep sadness etched into his lined face but he did not say anything. I bowed in respect to all the elders and companions before turning and walking from the hut. it was already sunset, the sun had disspeard beyond the horizon and the last dregs of light where slowly ebbing away I headed straight for my family's hut, I knew now for sure that this was to be my last night among the village whether I was to be chosen or not. I was going to leave tonight to start my travels either way.
When I had reached the hut I slung my pack down in the doorway and went about collecting everything I would need to carry with me. I was nearly done packing when I found my hunting tanto on the corner of the prayer shrine. I sighed when I saw it, the day I had taken this knife I had vowed that I would use it to protect the village until the end of my days. I took the blade within my hand and studied it, I would certainly need this on my journey; but I did not know if it was right considering the circumstances in which I had been given it. I would be back one day I thought, and when I do return I will have the might of all my companions with me to better protect the village. With this thought in mind I made a vow then to the little blade. That I would always rush to the village if it were in danger. I took the decorative handle in my hand and slid the blade from its sheath to see the glimmering steel beneath. I heard a cough behind me and quickly re-sheathed the blade before turning to see my father standing in the doorway to the hut. He was wearing his hunting attire as though he had just returned from the dunes above the village. He was a large man, at about seven foot high he towered above me, his muscular physique gave away the nature of his profession. He worked hard for his living and it showed. His face showed lines around his dark thoughtful eyes cause by a lifetime of frowning. Probably in disappointment at me I thought to myself.
"So your leaving then?" he enquired.
"Yes sir I plan to reach my goal, before returning to the village I must see the outside world before I confine myself here" I replied warily, there was something in his tone I hadn't heard before.
"Make me proud son, show the world of what it means to be Suna" he said in a hushed tone, as he stepped forwards and embraced me, I was stunned for a second and as I embraced him back I felt tears well in my eyes. It meant so much to me that he understood.
"I am not leaving this second father I will remain until I have seen the village safe from the outsiders" I muttered. He quickly pulled out of the hug and looked into my eyes.
"Then the rumours are true? There are people looking for us?" he said sincerely
"Yes father it was I who overheard them talking in the wastes." I replied
"Then we had better prepare had we not" he added as he ran for his shield and spear in the far end of the home. I smiled to myself; it looked like I would get to fight alongside my father finally before I departed. I grabbed my tanto and together we rushed from the hut to the totem where all of the villages where congregating for the choosing. We neared the outer ring of villagers and began to weave our way to the centre. Everything seemed well. The choosing was going ahead, the inner area of the village around the totem was glimmering as it had been surrounded with flaming torches. And the anticipation of the waiting crowd could be felt as they waited to see who was chosen. Just then however a large explosion shook the village and I was thrown from my feet and into the corner of a hut.
I leapt up again and shook my head to clear my vision; there was a ringing in my ears caused by the large bang. I looked about me to see the cause of the explosion. The outsiders were here already, a fight was ensuing between men in strange attire and the hunters of the dessert tribes, Companions where appearing in swirls of coloured mist all over the place and joining the fray. I gripped my blade tightly and jumped into the fighting. I slashed left and right parrying attacks that were thrown at me as I made my way to the totem where I knew the majority of the fighting would be taking place. Villagers where running in every direction in an attempt to escape the violence that had landed on their doorstep. As I neared my destination I was confronted by a sight that horrified me. The attackers had surrounded one of the new companions from the choosing, it was cowering in fear as they threw strange contraptions at it and attacked it from all angles. I howled with rage and jumped into the man nearest me; throwing him to the floor I rushed forwards and kicked him with everything I could muster aiming for his gut. The man rolled back in an attempt to dodge the attack but he was not quick enough and I caught his left shoulder as he turned. The blow connected with a loud crack that told me I had broken a bone. The man shrieked in pain and attempted to get back onto his feet, I saw the perfect opening as he pushed himself up with his hands removing his guard. I took it with no hesitation, throwing my knee forward into his jaw I saw his head snap back as he crumpled to the floor and did not stir. I felt something hit me in the back of the head and I rolled forwards landing in a heap in front of the cornered companion. The men around us closed in slowly but I was not going to let them get this companion so easily. I jumped up and changed my stance into a defensive one, readying myself for any attack they would dare throw, changing my blade into a reverse grip and placing myself in front of the companion as a barrier. I saw them drag their wounded companion to safety. A man to my left leapt forward suddenly and threw some kind of ball at the creature behind me, I spun and kicked the device straight back at the attacker and to my surprise the ball split open and some kind of net with spikes on its edges unleashed itself unto the man, screaming in pain he wriggled trying to free himself from the tangle of wires and spikes. I turned my attention back to the others surrounding us; I wasn't letting them get near without a hell of a fight. Another of the men jumped forwards in an attempt to push me out of the way, I easily sidestepped this clumsy attack and slashed my blade across the man's face for his trouble. The warm blood spattered my face, I had not killed him but he would be scarred for life. I spun to look at another who looked as though he was going to dare to test me, he pulled out another of the ball like contraptions and was midway through throwing it when my fist collided with his jaw knocking him backwards and sending the ball far off its original destination. I quickly leaped back into my defensive position, ready for any other attacks. I could not keep this up much longer on my own and I knew it there were simply too many of them. There was a stale mate for a few moments as neither side attacked. Then two of people from other tribes leapt into the circle beside me with companions at their side. One of the companions let loose a massive ball of flame at the strange attackers. Whilst the other companion and the two tribesmen themselves had engaged opponents of their own in hand to hand combat. And with this abrupt change of the tides our opponents split to deal with separate segments of fighting individually. I was left facing three people, one of whom was the man who I had disfigured with my tanto not five minutes earlier. He was scowling through a river of blood that was pouring from a large gash across the bridge of his nose. The two others I didn't recognise, one man and one woman. The wounded man spoke first.
"Step aside kid or you'll regret it." the words were barely discernable as they were gurgled as if spoken from underwater. The blood must be running into his mouth I thought to myself
good. I narrowed my eyes at him. Even through the blood I could hear that this was the man who I had heard insult the suna in the dessert earlier.
"Still think we are just morons with spears, you look mighty pretty with that second extra hole in your face ya know" I mocked. I had no intention what so ever of stepping aside. The man's expression changed instantly to one of deepest hatred. He yelled at the top of his lungs before he charged at me.
"STOP!" yelled a voice I recognised "this one is mine" said the woman as she stepped forward from behind the man who had frozen mid charge. "Are you ready to die boy?" she threatened. I knew this to be the leader I had heard earlier in the dessert. I saw the man who had begun to charge turn his back and walk away.
"Off to enter a beauty contest?!" I shouted after him while laughing.
I smirked at the arrogance of the lady before me.Did she really think she could take me on? She suddenly produced something in her right hand and yelled "get him Dozer!" A great rock rhino companion appeared in a mist before me and reared its head. It snorted and pounded the ground with its rear leg preparing to charge. I knew I was in deep trouble there was no way I could cut that thing with my knife. I stepped back and just sheathed my blade before I positioned myself in front of the companion I was protecting, ready to die for it. The rhino charged suddenly and time slowed as I counted my final seconds. I saw it lower its horn ready to obliterate me, watched the shadows dance across the whole battlefield as the light of the torches flickered. Heard the sounds of the other battles continuing around that I had forgotten existed. I saw the charge begin. Felt my legs shake as the massive rhino rumbled the very earth with its massive lumbering strides. Saw the horn approach me inch by inch before I closed my eyes slowly and waited for the end. But it never came, I hesitantly opened my eyes to see that the beast had stopped as if it was frozen only a metre away from me. I looked closer and to my utter surprise saw that it was held in place by what looked like vines. I looked for the source of the vines, following their every curve back to a short green companion who was standing in front of me. the companion I had been defending. Now that it was in the light I could clearly make out its smooth almost amphibian body. Its short yet very muscular legs and perhaps most special of all the origin of the vines, a plant that was growing from the centre of its back. It growled before unleashing what looked like a mass of spinning blades into the face of the stone monster before me. The rhino squealed in sheer unbearable pain as they ripped its face to shreds. It collapsed in a bloody mess in front of me and the female leader screamed in horror as she saw her companion so hurt. She recalled it and ran, her men close at her heels leaving only the shouted promise that they would return; I watched them until they rounded the corner and left me alone with the companion who had saved my life. I knelt by it and it looked at me with its large red eyes. I knew then that this was to be my companion. And I would do anything for it and it for me. I rested a hand on its head and looked straight back into its eyes. I quickly looked around to check if I was needed anywhere but it appeared that all of the outsiders had fled and no one had been badly hurt. A few hunters were treating minor wounds but otherwise everything looked normal. It seemed that the ones who had just fled from me where the last in the village . Happy with the scene around me I drew my attention back to the companion before me.
"Thank you my friend, without you I would certainly have been lost to the ether then" I smiled. It just sat looking at me before to my surprise it smiled back and sent some vines from its back that entangled me in what I knew to be an embrace. I laughed myself into tears. What seemed like an age later I heard a voice over my shoulder.
"Apparently you where destined to be chosen whatever I tried to do to stop it then" I spun to see the elder standing there with tears in his eyes. "I saw what you did for that companion. You are truly an astonishing young man Masato. Now that I have seen that I could never dream of confining you to this village. Go and fulfil your Drea-No your goal. Go and reach your goal" he said with a smile.
"Thank you elder, but I will not leave until I have helped with any necessary repairs to the village." I replied as I slowly looked around me. Surprisingly there didn't even seem to be any damage to the buildings around us. "Elder what was that explosion? Surely it would have left some damage to the village??"
"Ah yes, that was actually my companion being a little over zealous in its attack when it saw the outsiders approach" he chuckled "as for your question these companions have an amazing amount of control over their abilities and Azura would never have harmed the village or its people
. Maybe shook you all up a bit of course but no substantial damage." He said, with a laugh when he saw my expression. "Now go Masato, your life will lead you to far lands but know that the village's spirit will always be with you, we are convening at the totem in an hour to continue with the last of the ceremonies required for the choosing" he said as he turned to walk away leaving me alone with my companion again. MY companion, haha what a strange night it had turned out to be.
An hour later the village was once again gathered at the totem. I was at the centre of the crowd along with the elders of each tribe and the other two who were chosen. I knew them now to be called Kaemon and Bishamon they were both my age. Kaemon and I had been speaking for the last half hour and were getting on well, he had been chosen by the companion who commanded the power of the sea and his dream was to become the best warrior that the land had ever seen. When he asked me mine I made up something equally manly about proving the might of the suna to the city folk, but inside I had known since I had been embraced by my companion that I wanted in fact to study them and be a friend to all companions. To raise them well and form strong bonds with people across the land as I travelled. I wanted to have every kind of companion that there was in my team. Bishamon was a very boisterous man and was boasting very loudly to the people how he was going to crush the city people for their influence and destroy anyone who got in his way. I wasn't so sure I liked him very much but I knew for sure that him being chosen by the companion who wields flame was no mistake.
After a few minutes the elder hushed the crowd and stood before the chosen.
"You who have been chosen, only two things remain to be done. You have each to be presented with a map of the land so that you can navigate your way easily across it. You will also each have to choose a name fitting for your companions. Choose carefully these are to be your most powerful allies and your best friends." He said sincerely. He then walked to each of us in turn handing out a hand painted scroll which I knew to be the map he had promised. He then turned back to the crown and shouted.
"The naming will begin now"
Bishamon was the first to shout out a name for his companion.
"My companions name is ARIES!" he yelled. His lizard like companion set loose a flame at this.
Kaemon followed shortly with
"My companions name will be POSEIDON!" his turtle like companion jumped in the air and sent loose a stream of bubbles into the sky in agreement.
I stood for a while staring at my companion, Aries and Poseidon were very fitting names and I would not rush into choosing anything lesser for my partner. After a moment something dawned on me and I slowly knelt down in front of it. I leant close to its smooth face staring into its beautiful red eyes.
"You're a female aren't you" I whispered into its ear. Its eyes shone at this and it licked me affectionately on the cheek. "In that case how about
." I stood and turned around facing the crowd
"my companions name is ATHENA!" she roared at my side and unleashed a volley or leaves that cut neatly through Poseidon's bubbles that still lingered in the sky, the crowd laughed and cheered at this display of accuracy. after this the crowd began to clear knowing that the ceremony was over. I was beginning to walk back to my hut when I was stopped by Kaemon. He offered me his hand.
"Let's be friends and we can help each other out in the future, and I wish you luck in your journey" I took his hand happily and shook it
"I wish you luck too
Friend." I heard a laugh behind be and turned to see Bishamon standing there.
"I will have none of that, we are rivals from now on." He said loudly as he punched me in the arm mockingly before lumbering off to join his family who were waiting for him by the huts to the left.
The next day after some emotional goodbyes and some parting gifts which I stored in my backpack. I set off towards the path from the village, for what I knew would be the last time in a very long while. Just as I reached the bottom of the path out I saw my father and mother standing there waiting for me. I approached them trying to hide the welling emotions I had for the pair. When I reached them I couldn't find the words to express what I felt I should, so I just threw myself into an embrace with both of them both. They laughed but with an air of sadness in their tone. As I released them my father held out a package with both hands.
"Make us proud son" he whispered. "and look after her" he said indicating the companion striding along next to me, I took the package and smiled before walking past them up the road without another word. I reached the top of the path with Athena at my side.
Ready to start my adventure.