Day Eleven: 1,526 words (15,164 total.)
Omoachel spit the tea from her mouth.
"It's not strong enough! Use for leaves next time!" she said as she handed the laborer boy back the husk.
He groaned and went back inside to make another cup of tea. The trial had changed his life for sure, but he wished he had just sailed to his death like everyone else. It would have been easier that way...and less villagers would despise him. He had been living in the chieftess's home for a few days now. She had this crazy idea to gather a grew of warriors to explore the Mainland. It sounded like just as much of a suicide mission as the trial, but it also excited him. There was a whole world out there and besides, it meant he didn't have to stand out in the sun and stab fish all day. He'd have to stand around in the chieftess's backyard and stab bags of flour now...while waiting on her niece's every whim. Still, it beat getting punched in the face by villagers.
Talau entered as Beroel boiled more water on the hearth. She had a dissatisfied look on her face as she read the tablet in her hands. Beroel looked up at her and awaited what she had to say.
"Sign ups didn't go so hot. People don't like the idea of traveling to foreign lands and facing certain peril. Who knew?"
"Not even the laborers?"
"Well, the villagers employing them were so keen on me 'poaching' them."
"Did you find Rekas?"
"No. The fisherman were pretty taken aback that I asked for one of them by name. But they said he found work elsewhere. None of them seemed to know where."
Beroel seemed troubled, "Why would he find other work? He loves the water."
Talau shrugged, "He's your friend. I wouldn't know. "
"Maybe I should find him."
Talau coughed, "Has my little niece worked you that hard? Are you not thinking? That banker's boy put together a whole search party to find and gut you. The kid's crazy. Even his parents are afraid of him. I'm afraid of him. He plays out on the beach all days and his clothes are spotless. I can't even stay that clean laying in bed."
Beroel never understood her humor, "...I just know he'd join if he knew I was involved.
The hearth began to boil and he poured the water into a husk cup. As he strained in tea leaves, Talau added another handful of leaves and an even larger handful of sugar and gave him a wink. He looked down at the tea mixture and shrugged. How could anyone drink tea with this much sugar? Gross! As he walked towards the back door, Talau stopped him and blew lightly into the cup until the steam was less intense. He brought the cup back to Omoachel. He handed the tea to her and she examined it with suspicion. She took a sip and he held his breath.
"Hmm," she gulped it down, "it was delicious. Thank you."
She handed him the cup and he bowed. As he went to exit she stopped him.
"You don't have to bow, you know. Aunt Talau says you're not a laborer anymore. You're a warrior now."
He turned to her, "Warriors don't bow?"
She pushed her mouth to the side, "I don't really know."
"I've read about warriors from far away lands that bowed. They were called, uh, "kanigits", and they'd bow to these people called "kinigs"...who were like chiefs, but, not."
She laughed. It was genuine and it was beautiful. It may just have been the first positive reaction he had ever gotten from her. He laughed a little as well just so he would stand awkward.
"You'll have to read me whatever this book is before I sleep tonight." she said as she wiped a tear of joy from her eye.
"Oh course, "mai laydee"."
She stared at him for a moment before he added, "It means, uh, nice girl or something."
Omoachel smiled, "Well, thank you "kanigits""
She rushed inside and he stood there as his small victory sunk in. Tortoise Girl had finally noticed him. But it dawned on him that he now had to find that book. This opportunity wouldn't come again. He had to get it from the longhouse basement. But how? Tonight, he thought. Tonight when everyone was asleep he'd sneak out and find it.
A waning moon lit the sky as Beroel sat in his tent. It was blue and Talau gave it to him. These were the only things he knew about this tent. None of this was important, however. All that was on the young boy's head was sneaking through the village into the longhouse. He could be quick. He was a 'warrior' after all. And what's the worst that could happen? Besides that mental kid who lived a few huts over smashing his skull in at least.
Beroel slipped out of the tent and pushed through a thin part of the bushes. He watched the other houses. They were dark. It was the middle of the night; why wouldn't they be asleep? He pushed his body through the bushes as silent as he could and ran down the pathway. The paths were empty and he made his way back to the longhouse. After finding the book, it dawned on him that he may as well search for Rekas while he was out. Beroel walked off to the beach.
When he arrived, however, it was empty. Of course it was. That'd just be too easy. He took a brisk walk on the sand. The fishing docks were gone. He wondered why no one worked to rebuild them. Beroel stopped when he reached where the sand tortoise once stood. It saddened him to see it gone. He sat down where it once was. He scooped up a handful of sand and piled it.
"Fancy finding you playing in the sand." a voice said from behind.
Beroel turned around and smiled, "Rekas!"
His friend sat beside him, "I couldn't sleep. You know the waves calm me down."
Beroel looked guilty, "I'm sorry."
"...for running away from the trial."
They were silent for a moment and then Rekas spoke, "It's a human emotion to condemn someone. The spirits forgave you. Who am I to question them?"
Again there was silence, but at last, Beroel broke it, "Why don't you work as a fisherman anymore?"
Rekas seemed confused, "How'd you hear about that? Some family needed a home chef. I thought it'd be a nice change."
"I didn't know you cooked."
"I don't. Hence why I can't sleep."
"I'm sure you'll learn."
"I better. My back's getting sore."
Rekas loosened his shirt to show fresh lashes on his back. There was about seven and they were deep. Beroel grimaced. Young laborers were never lashed, but it dawned on his that he and his friend were getting older. Soon, youth, the only thing that kept the villagers from treating them worse than pigs ready for slaughter would be gone. He couldn't let his friend be torn to pieces.
"The chieftess is creating an army. I'm joining and you should too!"
Rekas looked at him confused, "An army? I don't know, Ber. I'm not the fighting type."
"All we need to do is sign up and we're free! We don't have to wait until the spirits say we're good enough to change our stars; we can get out of this place!"
Rekas was skeptical, "And go where?"
"Anywhere! There's a whole world out there! A world where we don't need to be lashed because we don't know how to make a proper stew."
"I burned the yams was what it was actually."
"It doesn't matter! We don't have to live like slaves!"
"We're not slaves. We're just-"
Beroel grabbed Rekas by his shoulder, "I'm not taking no for an answer. You don't deserve to be lashed. What would the spirits say to that?"
Rekas thought for a moment, "Maybe I'll pray on it."
Beroel stood up, "If you decide to join me, bring everyone you can. This is our chance to be free."
Beroel ran off towards the pathway. Rekas felt the lashes on his back. They ached so bad. But would joining this army truly be the answer? Beroel was right. The spirits wouldn't want people to be in pain. They only meant to guide and it was humans who misinterpreted them to serve their needs. Tonight, he would pray. He had a feeling he knew what the spirits would say, but it couldn't hurt. An army. It almost made him laugh. But he had to admit, it certainly sounded better than grilling vegetables.
As Rekas got up to exit the beach, he noticed that Beroel left a book behind. He browsed the pages. Despite being unable to read, there were some wild illustrations. He saw men dressed in metal garb, giant lizards, and women in too much clothing. What a silly book. He returned to the hut where he worked, flipping through the pages to find more fascinating pictures.