Day Fourteen: 1,714 words (19,683 total.)
He was frightened to removed the bandage. He didn't want to know what was underneath. Most of the pain had subsided, but it was still sore to touch. He began to unravel and was horrified. A pink scar ran across his face and contrasted greatly from his dark skin. He left the mirror; he didn't want to see anymore of it.
Aside from his disfigured face, Beroel was fine from the attack. He had lost much blood, but had at last regained strength. Although, by now, he didn't know what the plan of action would be. Many of the other warriors talked of retaliation, but the status of the banker's boy had to be taken into consideration. The village would not be on Beroel's side.
But days would be getting better. The barracks had been build in the time Beroel recovered and the warriors now had a place to call home. There was even a fetched off yard that could be used as a training grounds. But Beroel's favorite room by far was the library. All the books from the longhouse basement were brought into the barracks at his request.
After leaving the mirror, he went down into the library to relax. Rekas sat at one of the tables and he joined his friend. Beroel noticed the book he was looking at and sighed. He laid his head down on the table.
"What?" Rekas asked.
"You found the book I left on the beach. I thought I lost it."
"Yeah. I don't know what it says...but is this real? Men fight in metal suits?"
Beroel nodded, "They called, "kanigits" I think. They're warriors of their lands. They protect their people, restore order, and keep the peace."
Rekas was intrigued, "We should be those. We should wear metal and guard the lands."
"I don't know where we'd get that armor, but we will."
Rekas seemed concerned, "It won't be for a while though...won't it? We're too young to even travel deep in the Mainland. Talau won't even lead us there until we come of age."
"...yeah. But it will come. And we'll be far from this place. Hopefully we never return."
"...do you really mean that?"
Beroel stated without hesitation, "Yes. This village is not my home. I'll leave and it will be the greatest thing I've ever done."
Rekas seemed worried, "But this is home. We were born here."
"Home isn't where you're from. It's where you belong."
He stood up from the table and went to the book rack. There were many to choose, but his favorites were the ones of places far away. He wanted to travel to those lands. It would be different there: he wouldn't feel so unwanted and alone. He looked over and Rekas flipping pages and sighed. If only he knew he was Beroel's only friend.
The new moon festival came, but Talau forbid the boys from leaving the barracks. She doubled their training goals for the day and insisted they learned to read in the library when they were finished. Many of the boys were angered by this, but Beroel didn't mind. He didn't want to see any of the villagers anyway.
But as the day progressed, one of the boys snuck out just to see what was happening. When he returned, the young warriors flocked around. They watching him with wide eyes and drooling mouths awaiting a glorious tale. The boy however shrugged and hadn't much to say. The shaman arrived, but announced no trial. The festivals without trials were always lackluster, but at least they were rare.
Talau came to check on them when night fell. She often would and this time she brought Omoachel with her. The boys were in the library. Beroel attempted to teach them to read, but he was not much of a teacher. The boys were not much of students either, so it didn't matter. Regardless, Talau was pleased with the progress.
Omo, on the other hand, looked eager to leave. While Talau talked with the boys, she stayed over by the book racks. As her aunt's conversation dwindled on, Omoachel found a moment to sneak by upstairs and leave the barracks. As she exited, she looked around to make sure no one saw her and then bolted back through the square, to the northern pathway, and into the jungle towards the lake.
All the usual suspects were around the lake. They sat around a tree stump and ate food they took from the festival. Tuang stole a jug of rum from his father's house and they passed the bottle around. Omoachel played it cool and ate with the rest of them, laughed at their jokes, and drank their booze.
"So, Omo," Tuang looked at her, "Where were you?"
She gulped, "Oh...my aunt want me to go somewhere stupid with her."
Sechelei laughed, "That school for smechérs she opened up?"
Omoachel forced a laugh, "Yeah...it was awful, so I came back here."
Tuang narrowed his eyes, "Talk is your aunt has gone insane. She's raising those smechérs like panther cubs. One day, one will grow up to bite her."
"My coin's on the one you butchered up." The lanky boy added.
They all cackled like hyenas. Even Omoachel, although hesitant. She only knew Beroel for the short time he stayed at her hut and although he seemed alright at the time, he mocked the spirits by running away and must pay the consequences. It did upset her what Tuang did, but he just had no tolerance for blasphemers. Still, at times, the things they all said worried her, but who was she to stop them? She would laugh and nod her head along just fine. For once, she felt a part of something and there was no way she'd go back to feeling so lonely.
Tuang turned to her, "Omoachel, I need to have a word with you in private."
They others snickered, but she stood up and followed him to the other side of the lake and into the jungle. She was nervous. What if he'd eject her from the group because of her aunt's action? She couldn't let anything cause them to cast her out.
His smile was terrifying, "I'm worried about you, Omo."
Her lip trembled, "There's no reason to be. I'm fine."
He sighed, "Your aunt concerns me. She gave a title to a blasphemer. It makes me question her faith."
Omo quickly retorted, "But it's not like that! She just needed people to travel into the Mainland. She's only using them; I bet she doesn't even like them!"
Tuang seemed unmoved, "I don't know. And because she's your aunt...I worry if she'll pull you onto her dark path as well."
"No! Never! I'd never side with blasphemers!"
Tuang grinned, "I'm so glad to hear that, my dear Omo. And I'm sure you'll enjoy the activity we have planned for tonight."
Omoachel was confused, but he walked back towards the lake and she followed. What was this activity. But as they walked, he stopped and turned to her. He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. Huh? She wasn't sure why he would, but didn't think much of it. They returned to the group and all eyes were on Tuang except for Sechelei who kept a fierce look on Omo.
"I think now is about time that we start our festivities," Tuang announced with a large grin, "Apparently, there's a new building to house smechérs and I say we give it our blessing."
Everyone cheered in agreement, but Omo was scared. What if her aunt saw her? She'd be furious! But it was a risk she was willing to take. She joined the gang as they set off towards the barracks. They did not wear hoods or try to be discrete; this made them proud. When they neared the building they began to gather rocks. Omoachel felt guilty as she gathered them, but persisted.
In front of the barracks, before a word could be said, Tuang rushed forward and lunged a rock into the window. Everyone followed suit and tossed theirs as well, shattering glass and chipping away wood. Omo still could not throw one. It felt wrong, but everyone there knew it was right. While she struggled to decide, the door opened. Tuang yelled for everyone to halt. From the doorway, Beroel stood.
"We get it. Hilarious. You broke our windows. Woe is us. You've done your damage, now leave." Beroel said sarcastically.
Tuang stood up to him, "But the windows were merely collateral damage. We're just trying to send a little message."
Beroel gritted his teeth, "Well, you said it. You hate us and we understand. We'll be in here and you can stay out there."
Tuang smiled, "But, there's one last thing I need to say. Omo! Come here a minute!"
She nervously approached. This was the first time she really looked at Beroel since the incident. His face looked horrible, but she felt bad for him. What he did was wrong, but hadn't he suffered enough? She didn't know what Tuang wanted her to do, but whatever it was, she knew she wouldn't like it.
"Do you have a rock, dear?"
"Throw it at him."
Beroel looked at her, "She won't. Not everyone's as heartless as you, Tuang."
The banker's boy laughed, "Heartless? I merely fight for what's right. Throw it!"
She hated this. If she didn't throw the rock, Tuang and his friends would hate her. She'd go back to being alone and worse they'd treat her like dirt at school. But on the other hand, she could feel this was wrong. Every ounce of her being screamed not to do it. She wouldn't dream of throwing a rock at an animal let alone a human. But the choice haunted her and there was no time to stall.
She threw the rock as hard as she could. It hit his cheek and left a small mark. It must have hurt, but his face showed no emotion. He stared at her. His gaze frightened her. But he then walked back inside and shut the door. The group cheered for her, but she felt so sick. She wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.