Day Twenty-two: 1,351 words (22,643 total.)
Talau stood high on a hill and looked out into the crowd. Many were drunk or unamused. Not one smile was part of them. In the distance, laborers went on building huts and did not bother to join the announcement. The chieftess was discouraged that she had not instilled hope in her people.
"For many moons, I have spoke of the day when we would broaden our horizons and travel to new lands. The day has finally come and when my warriors have paved the way, we all will flourish from the resources our new boundaries can give."
She waited for an applause, but there was none. One man coughed and more rustling ensued, but there was still no joy. Talau had written a long speech, but seeing this reaction, she decided to just get on with it and announce who would become chief in her absence.
"While I am away, a new chief must take my place," she noticed Mesaul glaring at her intently, "After much consideration, I have chosen the closest heir, my niece, Omoachel."
The chieftess watched as Mesaul shook his head and then disappeared into the crowd. What worried her was that he seemed more sad than angry. Was he genuinely concerned for the people, or was he just a sore looser? Talau did not know, but it was too late to change her mind. She wrapped up her speech and returned to the western border of the Mainland village where her warriors waited.
The men were fitted with their armor and each carried large sacks of supplies on their backs for the journey. Talau looked at her warriors and saw mixed emotions. Some were anxious while others excited and ready to begin the adventure. She was not sure where she stood. Part of her wanted more than anything to go out into the world and find new lands and resources, but what worried her was if the village would be able to sustain itself with her gone. The chieftess wished Omoachel had came to bid her farewell.
"Are we ready to leave?" Talau asked Beroel.
He grinned, "Of course, my Chief."
She sighed, "Then let us go now."
Beroel ordered the warriors forward and they walked off west along the coast. Talau looked back at the Mainland village. The pity party commenced and no one seemed to care that she was leaving. She watched the bridge, but it was empty. As it went further and further into the distance, she continued to check for the small chance that perhaps Omoachel did still care.
Beroel had never been more excited. The village got smaller and smaller when he looked back until eventually it was out of sight. This pleased him. If he never had to see the Zehnai lands again, he would have no qualms. There was a new world awaiting him.
He looked ahead at the palms expecting exotic birds, reptiles, and creatures foreign to him, but saw nothing. The sun began to set and in the time they traveled, they saw no sights worth mention. It was only the same trees they had in the islands, the same scarce animals, the same sand, and the same dull rocks. Beroel was disappointed, but he thought perhaps the next day would deliver more exciting sights.
When the sun had finally set, they chose a spot on the beach to set up camp. Beroel and Rekas walked further inland with axes to gather firewood while others set up tents and built a pit. Rekas stopped to cut a nearby palm, but Beroel set his sights deeper.
"Where are you going? This wood will do."
Beroel didn't respond and traveled onward. Rekas ran after him and together they ventured further into the trees. But the forest grew denser and the moonlight became obstructed. Rekas grasped Beroel's arm.
"We'll search by daylight."
Beroel sighed and they both returned back towards the beach to cut the palms. One tree would be enough and they chopped it up into small pieces to use in the fire pit.
"At least give it a few days before you try to wander off." Rekas said as he hacked away at the wood.
"It's just...everything I want is out there just out of my reach. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to hold back."
Rekas twisted his mouth to the side, "We're still half a days walk from the village. If the chief suspects you'll abandon us, she'll have you escorted back to the islands."
"What does it matter if I leave? You could lead the warriors better than I could any day."
"Talau sees something in you."
He scoffed, "She's confused. I don't belong."
Rekas knew it was futile to argue. They gathered the wood and returned to camp. The blue stained tents were up and the pit was ready. The two men walked out towards the water to try their luck at catching a fish or two. They swam out into the water to see what they could find.
"We're still too close to the village. The fishing is still weak. I say give it another day or two when were further off from the clouds and we'll get some good catches." Rekas said.
Beroel was bored. While his friend enjoyed the feel of the ocean, he could certain live without it. He dove underwater to search the reef, but it was barren and lifeless like the one back in the islands. The corals were broken and plants were few. He checked under rock structures in hope of maybe a lone eel, but it was fruitless. He came up to the surface for air.
Rekas was out of sight. Perhaps he was on the trail of something. Beroel dove back under and sunk to the bottom. He sat among the debris of the reef. He dug his hands inside and felt something cold and smooth. He clutched it in his hand and brought it to his face to look. It was a large pearl. It was iridescent and flawless. He gripped it tight, closed his eyes and sat under the water. He didn't feel like swimming up.
"Damn it!" Rekas shouted as he reached the surface for air.
He had just missed a small fish. But it was futile anyway; it wouldn't have even been a meal for one person let alone an army. He swam back to the beach, but on his way caught a glimpse of Beroel sitting on the ocean floor. He swam down to see what he found. But when he reached him, he was still. Rekas grabbed his friend and pulled him to the surface. He wasn't breathing and Rekas dragged him to the beach.
"Beroel!" He screamed as he pumped his chest.
He listened close against his neck. He was still alive. Rekas was frantic and pumped his chest madly until finally Beroel coughed up sea water. Rekas wiped his forehead and laid down beside him. Beroel was woozy.
"I'm tired of finding you half-alive." Rekas said.
Beroel was silent. His fist was clenched and he opened it to reveal a pearl. Rekas saw and frowned. They looked at each other and they both knew.
"Toss it back into the ocean." Rekas said.
Beroel shook his head. He tried to sit up, but was dizzy and fell back down. Rekas sat up beside him and looked out into the ocean. Moonlight lit of barren reef. He was surprised a pearl so lovely even lived in place so hideous.
"It's only going to torture you." Rekas said.
Beroel opened his fist again to view the pearl, "I know. But I want to keep it. You know how you say the spirits send signs?"
"...yes. It could be a sign...but I know how you hate memories of...you know."
Beroel closed his eyes, "I know. But these are times of new beginnings. Maybe this pearl came to me so I could forget about what it once meant."
Rekas was silent, but all he could think was, "Or maybe it's a sign to never forget."