Day Eight: 1,396 words (11,208 total)
The crowd followed closely behind the shaman as they entered onto the beach. Laborers rushed ahead to the docks to ready four boats. The shaman stood facing the boats and the villagers made a semi-circle around them. Tuang pushed his way threw the crowd, waiting for the chosen to show themselves. The shaman initiated a prayer. The banker's boy closed his eyes and muttered his wishes to himself. They were more orders than wishes: orders for the spirits to recognize their fallacy and strip the honor from the laborer boy. But when the prayer was over, everyone opened their eyes and all remained the same. There were no changes to the trial and a storm still inched closer.
The shaman began to announce the names. One by one the people would bow and then enter one of the small boats. First, the young boy with cornrows. Tuang was angry at this choice as well. That boy had a weak arm and was a poor volley player. But he remained quiet; at least he came from a decent family. Next, the older woman entered a boat. Then the man entered another. Tuang held his breath. This was the moment he had been waiting for.
"Beroel!" the shaman announced.
A few moments went by. The villagers looked around in the crowd, but no one stepped forward. Anticipation was killing Tuang. He shoved his was through the people in search of the boy. But the search had turned out fruitless. Their were whispered amount the people. One man, Chais walked forward and bowed down to the shaman.
"I beg your forgiveness. The boy is not here."
The shaman were silent.
"What do we do? This does not happen?" a person of the crowd asked.
"He mocks the spirits! Find him!" shouted another.
While disappointed, Tuang was glad the the villagers shared his hatred. Perhaps they'd turn their cheek if he wished to teach the laborer a lesson. Some of the crowd dispersed and ran off in various directions. As for the chosen, they waited in their boats confused and a little angry that this could mean their chance at the trial was over. The shaman, however, paid no mind.
"The trial begins!" they announced just as thunder roared.
The chosen paddled their boats out into the water towards the storm. The island they ventured to was already engulfed. The journey would be treacherous. The shaman did not move. They watched. The remaining crowd cheered on their friends and family, but were concerned by the empty boat sitting at the dock. What did this mean for the village? Would the spirits be angry?
Talau had returned to her hut after the fortune incident. It angered her hearing the shaman say she'd fail. She couldn't. The villagers were happy ignoring the omens, but she couldn't. She would build an army and they would explore the Mainlands. The animals must have gone somewhere and the lands north seemed like the best place to start a search. Talau couldn't give up.
But her deep thought was broken when her niece rushed inside the hut. The small girl was panting and looked so worried.
"One of the chosen fled the trial!" the small girl announced.
The chieftess, however, did not share her concern, "Oh?"
"What do we do?"
Talau glanced out a window. The storm was now at the beach whipping branches, leaves, and sand with such violence.
"Nothing." she stated so plain.
"Whoever it was, I don't blame them."
Omoachel was confused, "Everyone is calling him a traitor. They want him to be banished when he's found."
"Hmm, funny thing about banishment: I'm the only one who can declare it."
"..and you'll banish him?"
Talau laughed, "Of course not! Banish the only person smart enough not to sail in a hurricane? I wouldn't dream it."
Talau was agitated, "Get some sense, girl! You can't rummage around blindly and expect the spirits to coddle you. Those people that went out in the storm are going to die! I'm glad that at least one of them will live!"
Omoachel's lip trembled, "But...why would the spirits ask them to..."
Talau put her hands on her niece's shoulders, "The spirits have left us. This is their way of saying we're on our own."
Omo pulled away, "No. That's not true!"
Talau massaged her temples, "Omo, don't be so obtuse. Are you really going to trust everyone else over your own aunt?"
Omoachel thought for a moment, "...yes."
Talau gritted her teeth, "Then get out and stand in the storm like the rest of them!"
She didn't mean to yell at her niece. But the damage was done. She tried to stop Omo and explain, but the little girl had already left in tears. Talau pounded her fist on her table. This isn't how she wanted it. She just wanted to protect her people, but none of them understood how dire the situation was. To her, it seemed like she was the only one who could save them from ruin.
Talau left her hut. She descended from the plateau and walked down to the square. The shaman were there and the fortune-telling continued. She made sure to keep out of their vision. Carefully, she checked the line, but Omo was nowhere to be found. Next, she visited the awning, but there was still no sight of her niece. The rains were nearing the square and she needed Omoachel back at their hut: safe.
The thunder crashed. Talau became more desperate to find her niece. And at last, it hit her. She rushed to the beach. The winds unraveled her bun and sent her hair blowing a million directions a second. It was difficult to see and sand whipped up at her eyes. It was hard to walk, but she persisted and eventually she got a glimmer of her niece sitting in the sand.
"Omo!" she yelled.
She reached her niece and her heart was broken. Omoachel sat next to the remains of her tortoise and sobbed.
"Omo! Come with me! Come out of the storm!"
The little girl shook her head.
"Omo! It's dangerous! Take my hand!"
"No!" the little girl yelled.
"You can build another one when the hurricane passes! Come on!"
"NO! You don't understand!" Omoachel ran off the beach towards the pathway.
Talau was disappointed how their conversation ended, but at least her niece would be back in the village. It was difficult for her to communicate with Omoachel sometimes. She had never been a mother and the responsibility of a child was new to her. She missed her family. But this was a topic that Talau could not dwell on for long. She exited the beach and walked towards the square.
When she arrived, however, things were not as they should be. There was a panic. Villagers gawked and were circled around something. Worried, Talau pushed her way into the crowd. When she saw it, her body felt drained of blood. One of the shaman was on the ground convulsing. He spoke in tongues. Talau rushed out from the crowd and sat down next to him.
"What are the spirits telling you?" she asked.
The shaman tried to speak, but it was a struggle.
"What are they telling you!?"
He began coughing blood, "Darkness...it... ...will consume."
"Are you speaking of the storm?"
"No...it's greater...the islands...will... ...will cease..."
Talau felt sick, "What must I do?"
"No...not alone... ...unite...the only way..."
"What? What's the only way?"
"Unite...or... ...all...will fall."
The shaman laid dead. The people were silent. Talau couldn't move. The weight had become too great. But she knew she had to get up. She needed to do something. If not she, then who else? Talau stood up and turned to the crowd.
"Return to your homes."
No one objected. The villagers dispersed and returned home. The two shaman remained standing. Their expressions were blank. Talau did not care. She left them where they stood and entered the longhouse. She needed to go to the basement. It was the only place she felt alone. The stress was becoming too much. She needed to forget. She needed to remember a time when her father and sister were there. When they were there to lift the weight. She missed those days.