Sunlight danced between the leaves of the grand oak, flitting across the salt washed eye-lids of Tok as he slouched into the roots beneath him. That was the first thing he noticed on awakening. The next was unmistakably the smell of smoke, pluming fiercely across the beach. With a heave of his chest, Tok expelled violently the ashes collecting in his throat, rolled onto his palms and, using the tree to stable his shaken legs, rose to survey the situation.
To his surprise, there was no fire. What was more, there was no village. It wasn't that the village had burnt away, nor had it been moved in the night, it just ... wasn't. Suspiciously, Tok edged towards the source of the billowing smoke, his legs regaining their nimble confidence as he picked his way across the stones beneath his callused feet. A clay mound no taller than his knee was sputtering with fumes that gradually became less offensive to the lungs and in fact somewhat pleasant, sweet with scented pine. The sweetness dulled his mind, lulling his thoughts to numbness.
'Wait', he said it aloud and his voice was not his own, seemingly older and much gruffer than smoke alone would have caused. With slow realization, Tok looked down at his hands. Scratches and cuts marked fingers he did not recognize, hands worn with age beyond his youthful years. He raised his leathery palms towards his face and felt wrinkles he did not own, hair he had not grown and a healed scar across his cheek he did not recall. With a quick inspection of the rest of his appendages, avoiding the temptation to check beneath his tattered shorts, he assessed that he was without doubt, as Mika would have put it, 'matured beyond his years'.
Mika, senior elder of the village on the island of Mocoby, she was the cause of this, Tok was sure. Tok was aware of the initiation trances into man-hood, but didn't know what to expect now that he had entered his own. He assumed that was where he was, or at least what he was witnessing. Those who had returned from the trials had been vague on details. It was village law that the initiation journey and its eventual completion was never discussed with any other. Sometimes the more boastful of the men who had passed their trances would provide less than subtle tips on how to survive and succeed, however whether they could be trusted was dubious at best. The aged warriors and more coherent shaman would provide initiation knowledge invaluable to those who could decipher their ramblings, but on rare occasion. A nauseating grumble of his stomach broke the stillness of Tok's reflecting and spurred him into action.
With an alarming certainty that it was the correct decision, Tok slammed his foot through the crust of the mound. With a satisfying thud, clay toppled into itself and the clouds of smoke above collapsed with it. Natural smoke didn't dissipate with it's source, Tok's first inclination that magic was afoot ... rather literally. Scooping away the dried redden powder beneath and a considerable amount of pine bark, Tok uncovered a wheat loaf rolled in leaf, a beaded necklace and an intricately designed hunting knife. The beading on the necklace was of a multitude of ambers and browns, not ornate but shaded luxuriously. The village emblem of the cats eye hung from undyed woolen thread, glinting silver, a symbol of the hunter. Tok looped the necklace over his dark knotted locks, feeling the cold of the metal and the warmth of reassurance and purpose that it provided. Shifting his attention to the knife, Tok noticed the blade was not of metal but of darkest obsidian, manipulated and crafted to be as sharp and swift as the death it would bring. The wooden handle was inlaid with twisting gold strands and engraved into its butt was the emblem of the elders: the grand oak.