Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo installment three! Total is now 4400 words!

Alright folks. I did some recalculations and decided I need to hit more like 8,000-10,000 words each week. So I knocked out about 2200 words tonight.

Here's the installment. I'm really enjoying this! Let me know what you think! (Especially if you like it.. ;-) )


Chapter 3

            The village drums played an unusual beat. A beat Lakhoni had never heard. It was a pounding, steady beat unaccompanied by chanting. No fire burned; no figures moved in the Fire Dance or the Hunting Dance.
            Just blackness and a steady pulsating beat.
            Now more. Blackness, beat and pain. Hot pain with an epicenter of molten stone at the top and back of his head. The pain flashed red lights behind Lakhoni’s eyelids.
            Not the village drums. Drums in his head.
            Lakhoni tried to open his eyes. They felt weighed down with the heavy stones his father used to weigh the fishing nets down with. He tried to move his hands. No response.
            He decided to concentrate on breathing.
            He didn’t know if it was minutes, hours or days later that he moved back toward consciousness. The drums in his head were softer, but the molten pain throbbed steadily. He felt as if his head were expanding then shrinking with each throb.
            His teeth felt heavy. They felt locked together at the back of his mouth. He feared that if he did succeed in moving his jaw, his whole head might fall apart. He gritted his teeth tighter.
            Keep the head in one piece. Don’t let it divide at the epicenter of the pain, spilling his spirit and life into the cold earth beneath him.
            Cold. Realizing that he was feeling a new sensation, Lakhoni welcomed the cold. After long minutes of breathing and feeling like a new kind of stone on the ground, he began to feel other rocks under him. He could become one of them if he stayed here long enough. Stones did not feel pain, did they?
            Lakhoni swam out of the blackness sometime later. It seemed to want to hold him, pull him deeper. He fought hard, knowing he must break free or finally just succumb to the nothingness that beckoned him. The pain would be gone if he stopped fighting. Nothingness… peace. Nobody to bother him.
            The village.
            Lakhoni mentally grabbed the pain in his head as well as the increasing pains all over his body and held them tightly. These pains became his anchor as he fought to open his eyes. He felt he should be out of breath when he finally cracked his eyes open. Yes, his eyes were open. Then why was all still dark? He blinked once, then again.
            His eyes opening seemed to be a signal to the rest of his body parts to remind Lakhoni of their presence. He moved his arms, wiggling his fingers.
            Where am I? he thought. What… what happened to me?
            He closed his eyes, then forced them back open when the deep blackness beckoned again.
            The village. He had been running. The river, his side. The moment he remembered the branch on the river bank tearing into his side, the pain he had been feeling there greeted him. Sharp pains on his right shoulder arrived soon after.
            Soon pain at every extremity was making itself known.
            The village. The raiding party from the king. He had to warn them.
            Was it too late? How long had he been lying here? What hit me?
            Lakhoni moved his head from side to side. It felt as if his head wanted to keep rolling—right off his neck to become a ball for the village children to play with.
            The dark. He understood now. He was lying on his front, his face only inches from the dirt. His body was oddly contorted; he was lying on something—something like a log, with his torso hanging down one side and his legs hanging down the other. The ache in his shoulders and upper arms guided him to his arms. They were draped out, beyond his head.
            With his arms located, Lakhoni slid them back and under his body, grunting in effort and pain. Slowly he pushed himself up. He forced his torso backwards until he was kneeling next to the log, his hands resting on it.
            This was no log.
            Lakhoni reeled back, dizziness and revulsion flinging him to the side and to the ground again. His stomach heaved. Nothing came out. Seemingly unconvinced, it heaved again. He felt suddenly burning hot inside, despite the distinct chill that covered his skin in bumps.
            Guilt at the feeling of thirst washed through him. How could he feel like finding water when he had been lying on-
            He heaved again.
            He needed water. He forced his knees under himself, then raised his head, searching for a tree he could hold onto while pulling himself to his feet. Dizziness washed over him with each movement of his head, but it was diminishing quickly. He carefully looked heavenward. The sun was dipping below the trees at the edge of the desolate waste to the west. He had maybe one hour of light left.
            Bringing his gaze back to earth, Lakhoni saw the thatched roofs of his village. He was at the edge of the village, between two of the huts. Dark shapes littered the ground of the village center. Small and large, the shapes were thankfully somewhat obscured by the failing light.
Lakhoni focused on the well at the middle of the village center. Water.
He finally struggled to his feet, using the fire-hardened clay brick wall of a hut to help him get up. Understanding of what had happened to his home blinked through his mind like a lightning bolt; Lakhoni let it slip away. He would not think of it. Not right now. He would not think of the faces that he knew he would see if he looked any closer at the shapes all around him, the shapes he was stumbling over, his injured right ankle nearly buckling, to get to water. He would not think about how he came to be alive. He would not hope that others had survived.
For now, he would get to the well and hope that the raiding party had not done something horrible to the water, or simply thrown the rope down the hole. He skirted a particularly large shape with a huge, rotund middle, forcing away the name that came to his mind quicker than thought. He knelt at the well, gently fingering his head. His shaved scalp seemed to be covered in dried mud. His still clumsy fingers brushed the still-hot center of the pain up there, causing a bright flash behind his eyes.
Raca,” he whispered. “Don’t do that again.”
He groped around until he found the tightly wound rope. This end had a large knot on it. The rope ran through a smooth notch in a short log. The notch had a strip of hardened leather strip over it. The log was anchored tightly to the edge of the well. This mechanism kept the knotted rope from falling into the well and made it easier to pull up a full bucket of water.
Lakhoni took up the rope and gave it a test pull. He felt weight on the other end. Water, he thought. He pulled at the rope, the effort flaring the pain in his head. By the time he got the bucket to the top of the well, he was breathing heavily, licking his rough, dry lips with each pull. Pulling water out of the well had not been such an effort since he was twelve. He almost felt as if the blow to his head had made him revert to four years previous when he was just beginning to learn the Dances of his people.
He looped the rope around the two wooden spikes behind the log, making sure the bucket of water would not fall back into the well. On his knees again, he grabbed the bucket, splashing his hands in the movement. He sniffed carefully above the bucket. Smells okay. He took an experimental sip. Then he was swallowing huge gulps of the cool liquid. It tasted like the sweetest fruit he had ever had—like the peaches and apples of the fruit grove the village kept.
He forced himself to stop drinking. Lamorun’s lessons about dehydration had been too firmly ingrained for him to ignore them now. Lakhoni knew that the heat he felt in his body came from at least a day without water. He would have to eat soon if he wanted to avoid becoming seriously ill from the dehydration he knew he was suffering.
Yes, food first. Then rest.
Or perhaps rest first. It seemed like his pains had faded while he focused on getting water, but now that he simply knelt by the well, the pains in his head, side, shoulders and everywhere else had returned in full force.
Here was a bare spot of earth. He could sleep here and find food in the morning.
Lamorun’s voice came to his mind. “Your body will use the water better if you give it food to work with.”
With a resigned grunt, Lakhoni forced himself to his feet. He remembered that during his run to try to warn the village, he had sprained his right ankle and hurt his side, but had been able to put the pain away somewhere. He seemed to have lost that place for now. The cool feeling of the earth under his feet stood in stark contrast to the hot pains covering his body.
He stumbled toward the nearest hut. Pushing through the cloth-draped doorway, he looked around the shadow-filled interior. Sitting mats encircled the fire pit in the middle of the floor. Scattered on the floor were dishes, some of which still held food. Lakhoni took one dish up, smelling the food left behind.
He dropped the rancid food. He had to find some cured meat and perhaps some handfuls of grain. He couldn’t chew the grain, but he could suck on it until it had softened enough to be eaten. He moved around the hut, leaning on the wall at times to take some weight off his foot. Finally he found the stone box that held this family’s stock of smoked meat and grain. It had a soft cloth cover draped over it and upon it sat a doll made of long grass and small strips of woven cloth. Guilt flashed threw him as he lifted the heavy lid. A deep basket of grain and several pouches filled the stone box.
Lakhoni pulled the first pouch open. The aroma of cured meat wafted out, making his stomach leap in eagerness. He tore off a bite and chewed, the deep, wild flavor filling his mouth. He couldn’t chew fast enough! He needed more water. Clasping the pouch of meat tightly against his stomach, he hobbled back out into the darkening evening.
The sight of the motionless, darker now, shapes slammed into him with the force of a wild boar. No! He must not lose what meager sustenance he had been able to get into his body! He took a deep breath. Yes. They are dead. My home. Probably my family. The thought made him sway as heavy grief struck him. Of course my family. I am the last-
This last thought made him stop short of the well. Why was he alive? He looked around, then remembered the position he was in when he awoke. He limped to the bucket of water he had brought up earlier. Tearing another bite off the dried meat, he took a large sip. This helped the process of eating immensely. Next he cupped one hand into the bucket, pulling out a small handful of water. He splashed it on his scalp. The cool water seemed to somewhat quench the fire in the still-throbbing spot on his head. He worked the water into what he had thought was mud on his head. Pulling his hand away, he could see in the failing light that his hand was now covered in blood. His blood. The blood that covered his head.
He poured some water over his bloodied hand, careful to do so away from the well’s edge. Next he splashed water on his torn side. More blood.
He was covered in his own blood. They must have seen all this and thought I was dead—or dying. Must have dragged me here for some reason and tossed me in with the other bodies. He washed his hands clean again. Took another bite of meat and another sip of cool water.
He would have to find a sheep gut so he could carry some water back to his hut. He pushed to his feet, his many injuries screaming in protest and his ankle threatening to give way. But I’m not dead.
Chewing more slowly now, Lakhoni stumbled around the slumped bodies of his family and village people. But why? Why am I still alive?


Wheeee! That's it for today. Hey publishers, editors and agents-- now accepting offers!

1 comment:

Ammon and Jen said...

Thanks for fixing the link--it was worth the wait!