Monday, November 16, 2009

Hooray for my next installment.

Golly. I love writing. Gee whiz. I get excited about the stories I get to tell. Shucks. I am really enjoying these new characters.

Anyway, here comes the next NaNoWriMo installment. This one is about 1700 words, for a grand total so far of 8350.

Read it and weep. Or smile. Or laugh. Or fume.

You know what, feel any emotion you desire.

Chapter 5

Lakhoni blinked, trying to make out the speaker in the jittering shadows cast by the now-blazing bonfire. “Who said that? Who’s there?” He saw nobody, only the swelling darkness under the trees at the edge of the village.
No, the voice had been too close for it to have come from the trees. Lakhoni turned a slow circle, beginning to wonder if he had imagined the question and the speaker.
“You know that does no good, don’t you?” The voice came from behind him again.
Lakhoni spun again. Nothing… again.
“Who are you? Where are you?” A chill oozed up Lakhoni’s neck. Was this a spirit come to rebuke him for his slowness?
“Right here, boy.”
A deep shadow on the side of one of the huts writhed. Then part of the shadow detached itself from the rest of the darkness.
Lakhoni’s breath caught in his throat. A sudden fear flooded through him. Was this one of the vengeful spirits Salno had often spoken of and that Lamorun had scoffed at? He had his answer in another moment as the person stepped into the firelight.
Now Lakhoni’s breath released as his fear made his muscles feel weak, his legs feel as if they were the branches of a young sapling. The figure before him stood at least two hand-lengths taller than Lakhoni, and Lakhoni had already reached his father’s height. The man—or was it a creature?—wore a deep red loin cloth that looked to have been made from a bear pelt. His left shoulder was covered by some kind of shining material—it looked to be bronze or something similar, and bracers of the same material stretched from his upper arm to his shoulder.
But it was the man’s face and torso that had injected the fear into Lakhoni. This was worse than a vengeful spirit. This was a demon in flesh, one of the Dead-but-Living that mothers warned their misbehaving children would steal them from their sleeping pads if they continued to disobey.
The man’s head was shaved bald and shiny, crimson tattoos swirling all over his head, face and neck. The crimson tattoos gave way to what looked like a black image of a panther on the man’s chest. The panther was snarling, long white teeth seeming to glint in the light of the funeral pyre, its lips almost appearing to drip and quiver with life. Countless scars covered the man’s chest, stomach and arms. A wicked-looking obsidian dagger was strapped to the belt of the man’s loincloth, a quiver of dark-fletched arrows peeking over his right shoulder.
As the man approached, his movements tight like a drawn bow string but graceful like the panther on his chest, Lakhoni instinctively stepped backward. The heat of the roaring fire just behind him brought him back to himself, the pain awakening him from his fear.
“It does no good, cub,” the man said, his sharp teeth glinting in the firelight, “to try to help your dead in their journey. There is no journey.” He stopped a hand-span in front of Lakhoni. “Death is the end. So a good death is what matters.”
Lakhoni realized he was looking the man directly in the eyes and he tore his gaze away. He had no idea what to say. Why would a Living Dead have come? Was it true? Did they eat the flesh of dead people?
Lakhoni knew he would be able to do nothing to stop this man if he wanted to feast on Lakhoni’s friends and family.
“Don’t worry, cub. I’m not going to eat your people. I respect the clay that is left behind at death.” Lakhoni glanced up, meeting the man’s gaze once more. He looked away quickly, turning to face the bonfire. He cast his eyes over the inferno and took a small step backwards. Maybe if I run quickly, he’ll be taken by surprise. I might be able to make it to the river and hide in the water.
A heavy hand dropped on his shoulder. “And don’t run. I have no intention of hurting you.”
Lakhoni grimaced, sucking in a breath. The hand on his shoulder felt hot like a burning coal. The touch made his skin crawl. He wanted to pull away, but thought he might anger the man if he drew away.
“I know you can speak, cub. I heard you saying their names in that silly ritual.”
Lakhoni automatically glanced up at the man. The tall man wore a glinting grin.
“I won’t hurt you. Relax.”
Lakhoni knew this was impossible. He had to get away. The Living Dead never left anybody alive. Stories said that they would even slit the throats of their own wounded if the injured warrior couldn’t move on by himself.  They left nobody behind to tell tales.
“What’s your name?”
Lakhoni clamped his mouth shut, terrified of speaking.
“I am Gimno.” The heavy hand left Lakhoni’s shoulder and Lakhoni heard it impact the man’s chest.
Lakhoni burst into motion, flinging himself away from the fire and the specter of the devil in flesh. His head throbbed every time his feet pounded on the hard-packed dirt of the village center. In seconds, he was gasping for breath. His heart slapped the inside of his chest wetly. Air burned in and out of his throat. Blood drummed loudly in his head. It felt like minutes before he hit the tree line. He reached out for a trunk, intending to use it help him take a sharp turn toward the river.
Something slammed into his right side, flinging him to the ground. He rolled over, glancing up.
The tattooed man stood over him, breathing easily, his teeth flickering pale white from the bonfire. “I told you I wouldn’t hurt you. Now I’ve had to break my word.”
Lakhoni sucked in air, the throbbing in his head making him feel suddenly drowsy. Suddenly he found he was more angry than afraid. This loosed his tongue. “Why are you here? Who are you?”
“I told you,” the man said, offering a hand to help Lakhoni to his feet, “I am Gimno.”
Lakhoni ignored the offered hand, pushing himself to his feet. He gripped his side as a sharp pang tore through him. His hand came away warm and wet. “Why are you here?”
“To pillage.”
The man’s brutal honesty felt like a slap. Lakhoni blinked, taken aback. His anger flared. “Only two days dead? You came to steal my people’s things, the only thing left of them, and they are only two days gone?”
“Eloquent aren’t you?” The fearsome man grinned again. He turned back toward the fire and began to walk. “It’s not stealing if they’re dead. They don’t care anymore.”
Lakhoni stalked after the man. He knew his anger could do nothing but bad. He knew also that he would not try to fight this man. This… Gimno. “I care. I’m not dead. Not yet.”
“And so we will not claim right to this village and all in it. You survive so it is all yours now.” Gimno stopped near the lowering fire.
Lakhoni stepped next to him. “Who are you to say that it’s mine? You have no right to-“
“I just said that, cub,” Gimno snapped. “I don’t need to say it’s yours. Natural law says it. The law of the forest dictates it. Just because you are too dense to understand this does not mean I will tolerate disrespect.”
            The man’s anger seemed to radiate from him in a heat almost comparable to the now-dying funeral pyre.
            Lakhoni stood silently, unsure of what he should say. Should he beg forgiveness? Would this man strike him down if he didn’t?
            “I like you, cub.”
            The sudden change in the man’s voice made Lakhoni glance up. A fierce smile adorned the man’s tattooed face, his eyes glinting. “You’ve got a spine. Most people would have turned to limp grass just at the sight of me.”
            Once again, Lakhoni had no idea what he could say to this.
            “But you’ve got to learn to speak when spoken to. This silence is insulting.”
            The man’s sudden glare stabbed into Lakhoni. How could a human go from smiling to angry then back to smiling—then back again so fast? And how had this man caught up to him so fast when he’d tried to escape?
            “We will start with your name.” The man stared intently at Lakhoni.
            If I give him my name, will he have power over me? Lakhoni thought. Of course, if he didn’t give his name, perhaps the man would use his obsidian dagger to cut him down at that very moment.
            “Lakhoni.” He tried hard to keep his voice steady and clear.
            “He has a tongue!” The man slapped Lakhoni on the shoulder. “Good to see that Lemal’s dogs didn’t cut that out of you when they cut your head open.”
            Then the rumors were true. The Living Dead had no loyalty to the king.
            “No. They left me for dead,” Lakhoni said.
            “Then you are truly one of the Dead-but-Living. Welcome.”
            The statement brought Lakhoni’s head snapping around. He found the tall man’s face, then eyes. He could detect only sincerity.
            “But…,” Lakhoni glanced at the nearly dead funeral pyre, “I don’t know what you mean.”
            “A spine and honest. You’re a rare one. With a name like ‘Formidable Servant,’ it’s no surprise,” the man said.
            “How- how’d you know that?” Sana had made a point of telling her children what their names meant, but Lakhoni had always thought his name was unique to his family.
            “’Lak’ means servant. ‘Honi’ means formidable.” The man glanced down at Lakhoni, then turned to face the mountains. “Not difficult if you get some learning in you.” He began to walk toward the eastern edge of the village. “Now come. Your village will be fine for now.”
            “Come where?” Lakhoni asked.
            “To your new people. We will return soon to collect your things, but for now, you need a healer.”
            “I can’t leave here. This is my home.” Lakhoni cast his eyes about, the dark shapes of the huts standing dancing with shadows thrown by the dying pyre.
            “No, this is a burial ground. Your home is elsewhere now. You are Living Dead now, Lakhoni cub.” The man threw a glance over his shoulder. “You must trust the Separated. That is who you are now.”

And that's it so far. More tomorrow! (The new bed calleth mightily.)

1 comment:

Melinda said...

This is great stuff, Jared. I love Gimno. You have created a real and developed character.Great dialogue! Well done!