Day Twelve: 1,444 words (17,969 total.)
Talau walked out into the main room of the hut. Beroel was not back and it concerned her. Was he not ready to venture into the jungle? Sure he was young, but he'd have to learn fast to survive if he were to travel the Mainland. But she had faith in him. Perhaps he had not returned because he couldn't find a fish-owl? How diligent.
The chieftess's breakfast was short. She shared a bowl of oats and banana with Omo and then ventured off to the square. When she saw where the awning once stood, she was pleased. In that area, laborers dug a large rectangle. They dug where the awning once stood and then more around the perimeter. She spotted the chief-carpenter and gave him a visit.
"How long until it's built?" She asked.
He scratched him head, "The stone will go down after this. If we didn't have so many projects, I'd say by the new moon."
"What would it take to get it done by then?"
"It'd be a lot of work I'd loose money on. I'd be short a hundred coin."
"Then a hundred coin you'll get."
The man shrugged, "Well, if you put in like that, chieftess, expect your barracks in the coming days."
Talau grinned and bid the man good day. She walked onto the beach and saw a gathering of young boys. They were dirty and ragged. She approached them and greeted the boy in front with messily braided hair. They bowed to her.
"We are at your command, Chief Talau."
She smiled, "You will all have a home in the days to come. For now, I want you to begin your training on your own time. The Mainlands will not coddle you; don't set yourselves up for defeat."
One of the boys from the back spoke up, "What of our employers?"
"I will speak to them. You all work for me now. And as your first task, I want you all to meet your warchief. He is in the jungle hunting fish-owl. Seek him."
The boys bowed and rushed off into the jungle. It disappointed her that she had an army so young, but it would have to do. They would not be able to set off into the Mainland until they were men; it would be far too dangerous. But she was pleased with her work today. She decided to treat herself and walked on the northern pathway for some shopping.
While she walked, she passed Omo's school. Out of curiosity, she glanced over into the schoolyard to see what was going on. The dance class was in session, but her niece was nowhere to be found. It was strange, but she thought nothing of it. Omoachel was very fickle and was possibly attending a different class. Talau continued with her shopping trip. Finally, a chance to relax.
"What if I get caught?" Omoachel asked.
Sechelei sighed, "Just do it! No one's watching!"
The little girl snuck into the back window of the bakery. Two glistening banana pies sat on the cooling rack. The baker was distracted by Tuang in the front of the store. She quickly lifted the pies and handed them to Sechelei before climbing out the window herself.
"Good work, Omo. Your first step of initiation is complete." She said as she scooped her hand into the pie and took a bite.
Omoachel's stomach growled, "Could I have a piece?"
Sechelei snickered, "You have to be a full-fledged member to reap the rewards."
Tuang met them behind the bakery and claimed his pie. Omo followed sheepishly behind them as they cut through a few hut yards to reach a lake shielded by palms. The kids threw their empty pie containers in the water and sat on the trunk of a fallen palm. Omoachel tried to sit with them, but they stopped her.
"Initiates sit in the dirt." Tuang said without care.
"But my dress-"
"You're either with us or against us." Sechelei added.
Omoachel sat down in the dirt by the lake. It was wet and uncomfortable. She didn't even look at her flowing red dress for fear it was covered in mud. A few other kids joined them at the lake: a lanky boy that often played volley, the tailor's son, and another girl from Omo's dance class.
They all cracked jokes about other villagers, told stories of pranks they played, or bragged about their families. Omo stayed silent. None of the others even acknowledged her. Was this just how the initiation worked? She wished she could join in with the fun, but she'd have to wait for her time. Once she was a real member, they'd treat her like their own, right?
"And have you seen that one girl that stopped by our dance class yesterday?" Sechelei asked the other girl.
She laughed, "Oh the one who wears two buns on her head?"
"Yes! That sack of bones needs to keep away from our class. Could you even imagine her in our costumes? It'd be like dressing a stick!"
They girls cackled and Omo scratched her arm uncomfortably. She wasn't quite sure who they were talking about. But it made her worry. Was she too thin as well? Should she put on weight? While she contemplated, Tuang motioned for everyone to look at him.
"I have very important news for us all to discuss. Last night, I had a chilling heart to heart with a, how should I put it, despicable waste of air."
"You're so cryptic." Sechelei said, rolling her eyes.
Tuang pushed her off the log and continued, "I had it down and beaten like a wild pig, but I showed mercy."
The other girl started to clap and the other kids joined in. Omoachel almost clapped as well, but then it dawned on her that she had no idea what they were talking about. Sure, it was her first day of initiation, but couldn't she at least be clued in as to what was going on. Despite being terrified to speak, she opened her mouth to ask.
"I'm sorry...but what exactly are we discussing?"
Sechelei yelled, "Initiates don't speak!"
But Tuang stopped her, "Now, now. This is something I'm sure would even interest Omo," he smiled and looked at her, "You honor and respect the spirits, am I right?"
Omo nodded, "Of course!"
"Then, of course, you understand blasphemers must be punished."
She was hesitant, but nodded again.
"It just so happens that I encountered such thing. I merely did what anyone should."
"But you let him go!" Sechelei added.
Tuang grinned, "The trait to be merciful is only for the strong-willed."
Omoachel was still confused, "Who is 'he'?"
Tuang's eyes lit up, "Oh, just some blaspheming laborer. Beroel or something I believe its name was."
Omoachel's heart sank. The kids kept talking was she stopped listening. She had to leave and let her aunt know...but she didn't want to let on to the group that she knew Beroel. Who knows what they'd do if they learned he lived in her hut. She tried not to show the worry in her face, but she could see Tuang looking at her from the corner of his eye. He couldn't know. It was impossible.
"Rekas! Over this way!" one of the boys shouted.
The boy with long braided hair rushed to see. When his eyes caught it, he slowed his pace. He kneeled down beside Beroel and checked his friend's pulse. Thank the spirits! He was alive, but in an awful condition. His face was split over and covered in dried blood.
"We'll carry him to the doctor." Rekas said, trying to hold back tears.
He was furious. Who could do such a thing. If it weren't for the broken and bloody spear laying beside him, he'd imagine only a boar could do such damage. But this was done by a human and Rekas had a good idea who was insane enough to accomplish it. He begged to not run into the banker's boy for quite a while, for fear how he'd retaliate.
They carried Beroel to the doctor's hut. They could stitch up the wounds, but nothing could heal the scaring. Rekas ran into the square to find the chieftess. He saw her in the jeweler's and rushed inside.
"Chief Talau!" he bowed, "We need you."
This came as a surprise, but without question she followed Rekas.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"We found Beroel. He's hurt."
The chieftess felt guilty, "Was it a boar? Will he be alright?"
Rekas slowed his pace and fought back his rage, "It was human."