Sweetly WornMature

 

It was difficult, teaching myself to dance with the quick, snapping rhythm of the whistles as my guide. But were the town's gossip accord, who shepherded their neighbors in the fear proper, successful in spying a sullen Cenél Loairn or Gabrán lad such as me who withheld from the celebrations that follow when a village of Picts finds itself smelling of charcoal and rape, or otherwise with a citizenry missing hearts, legs, or any unmentionable bit of humanity best not mentioned in polite company, then that boy would be likely to find his father over a fire pit and moaning of the latter suffering. Suspicion and justice were simple delights to a town who's primary joy was baiting the local fauna into a tussle. So I danced. It wasn't pleasant to watch or perform, but few duties of the Loairn youth are. This wasn't alleviated by my haste to project that I was indeed pleased by the lovingly designed pile of Pictish naturals. Anxiety in the guise of blood pumped loudly through the veins of my legs and I jumped and spun and leaped to the bold drums, loathing what came next. The same birds that this cake of man attracted would be the staple of a feast as soon as the horn and whistlers were finished with their spotlight.  The small market square was adapted to this festival that came all too often in my short life, as my father would say to me in the off-hand. Picts these days were arriving in grand legions flanked by black demons, as he told me. I believed him. It justified the tenacity of my leaping and the fists I shot at the sky as the heavy bone paddles arrived by tanned hide drums. After what was  more than enough time to wear out the callouses of my bare feet, a sufficient number of birds were brought down from their own supper upon the Pictish mound to satisfy our town of seventy or so. After proper ceremony, we engaged in our second-hand cannibalism. I chewed at my crow, which had been hastily roasted above the large fire pit in the town circle, and listened to patrollers at the far ends of the longtable as they spoke of their most recent conquest against the Pictish who, by the warriors' claims, seem to hail from some obscure mix of a black gate to hell and a nest overseen by, in grand description, a jeweled dragon.

The End

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