Thursday, November 26, 2009

This is Chapter 10 of Servant of the King,

and it was tough to write. But the story took over and I swear I felt like I was just typing as fast as I could to get it out.

I know it will need editing and revisions, but I feel good about the images, scenes and goals here.

Okay, I'll just say it. I love this story. I love Lakhoni and can't wait to see what he does next. The poor kid.

Alright, so here it is. I understand that a new reader will have to do a very counter-intuitive thing to read this book from the start, because they will have to scroll down to read each chapter, but the earliest chapters are all the way at the bottom.


Chapter 10

            Sleep ebbed gently as Lakhoni blinked in the pleasant cool of the stone hut. He pushed himself to a sitting position slowly, enjoying the sensation of warmth under the woven blanket he guessed Corzon had put over him. He didn’t remember lying down. His dreams had already faded and he might have wondered if everything in the cavern had been one of those dreams if he could not feel the foreign tightness in his side and on his scalp.
            He sat in the quiet of the hut, looking around. The interior looked much like his family’s – no, his – hut back in the village. Sleeping mats were arranged against walls, leaving space to walk in the middle of the one-room home. Stone and wood boxes, simple and without adornment, acted as dividers between the sleeping mats. Pouches, hides, and water guts hung from hooks pounded between the large, gray stones used for the walls.
            The smell was different. Lakhoni was used to the fresh, just-awoken air that greeted him each morning at the village. Here in the cavern, despite the current of air that took the smoke away, there was a distinct aroma of old smoke. But Lakhoni also smelled a fresh aroma—meat of some kind and even something that smelled like flatbread.
            He emerged from the hut, noticing on his way out that he was the last to awake, and found himself in a scene much like the one of the previous evening. Many people crowded the fire circle, most of them with a hunk of meat impaled on a knife or steaming from a stone platter. Vena stood at the fire with three other women, using long, flat boards to remove—yes, it was flatbread—from the stones surrounding the fire.
            He stood, unsure of himself. Hunger, stronger than he had felt in a long time, awoke at all the good smells. Vena noticed him, calling out, “Lakhoni! Finally! Come get some food.”
            He straightened his shoulders. He would not look cowed by the unfamiliar. He walked to the woman, accepting a platter of meat and bread. “You’ll find water in the bucket,” Vena said, indicating a wooden bucket off to the side.
            He nodded and moved back toward the hut he had spent the night in. He sat on the stone ground just outside the hut and dug in. He couldn’t chew fast enough, and it seemed like the waking of his mouth and hunger had awoken his nerves as well. Dull pain in his side and head set in. It wasn’t as bad as the night before when Corzon had done his work and Lakhoni felt he could probably ignore it for the most part.
            He would have to be careful to not break the thread holding his wounds together. He glanced around as movement to his left caught his eye. A young man, probably only a year older than Lakhoni and obviously very strong, sat down next to him, chewing a large bite of meat.
            “You snore,” the stranger said around the chunk of deer in his mouth.
            Lakhoni chewed for a moment, swallowed, and said, “What?”
            “And you talk in your sleep.”
            Confused, Lakhoni studied the fellow. He understood after a moment. “You’re… uh…”
            “Anor,” said the stranger.
            “Yeah. The hut.” I’ve got to work on that. My mind goes way too blank.
            “Right. That’s why I could hear you snore. I bet the king of the Usurpers heard you snore!” Anor said.
            “It can’t be that bad,” Lakhoni said, glad to finally join the conversation.
            “Oh it is,” Anor said. “And you need a bath.”
            Lakhoni looked at the other boy. “Are you always this pleasant?”
            “Yes.” Anor tore another huge bite off his meal. “Do you always sleep until lunch?”
            Taken aback, Lakhoni looked around. Of course. There was no way to tell what time of day it was down here. “No. Only when I snore.” No wonder he felt so rested.
            “Lakhoni, right?”
            Anor fixed Lakhoni with a baleful glare. “Don’t snore any more. Corzon just brought you back from the dead. I don’t want to have to make those lovely stitches useless.”
            “I’ll do my best,” Lakhoni said, talking mostly to Anor’s back as the other boy rose and walked away. There’s a future best friend, Lakhoni thought wryly. As he ate, he saw Gimno step from a group of people and approach.
            “How do you feel?” Gimno asked.
            Lakhoni shrugged carefully. “Okay. Not perfect, but not terrible.”
            “Good answer.” Gimno lowered himself to the spot Anor had just vacated. “You get to learn what it means to be one of the Separated today.”
            Something in Gimno’s voice caught Lakhoni’s attention. This sounded important. “What do you mean?”
            “It’s more than living in a cave,” Gimno said. “It’s about living according to a certain set of principles.”
            “Eat fast. You don’t want to miss this.”
            Lakhoni felt urgency from the warrior, sensing tension in the man. He gobbled the last of his meal in a few large bites. As he choked it down, he walked to the water bucket and got a drink. The water helped him swallow. Even with his hurry, he had to almost run to catch up to Gimno, who was the last person to leave the fire circle and head toward the large circle in the center of the cavern.
            Their group was nearly the last to arrive. People stood in tight bunches, all facing the altar of stones that Lakhoni had seen the night before. He noticed that the people had left a cleared path between the altar and the largest circle of huts. Everybody’s eyes were fixed on those huts.
            Soon Lakhoni saw movement. A circle of people strode from the large huts and made its way through the onlookers. When they got to the altar, they spread out and Lakhoni got a good look at them. There were eight tall, thickly muscled men in the group, along with a smaller man with hair that was made to stand straight out from his head so that he looked as if he had a porcupine up there. Two of the tall men held a young boy who seemed to be sleeping on his feet.
Lakhoni did not like the look of the eight men. Their skin was painted red from head to toe. Bones pierced their lower lip and their earlobes. Their heads were bald save for a patch in the back, just above their neck. They wore leather loincloths, along with belts and leggings that were died black. Each man had a unique tattoo on his back. Lakhoni saw one man with a bear, another with an eagle and another with what looked like a wolf.
They each carried a long dagger of what must have been steel, but Lakhoni had trouble believing that these people could use so much steel on one weapon. This dagger was strapped tightly to the right leg of the men.
Lakhoni’s attention was grabbed by movement. The two men holding up the young boy—who Lakhoni realized was not sleeping but looked as if he had drunk several guts of wine—strode toward the altar. Looking closely at the altar, Lakhoni realized that it was just big enough for-
His eyes widened in sudden fear and shock. No. This couldn’t be. These people were kind and caring. No, he was imagining things.
The two mean lifted the young boy to the altar, laying him on his back and stepping backward one small pace, although they kept a firm hold on the boy’s wrists.
No. This is not… Dread filled him as the small man with the hair slid a shining dagger from his belt. The man raised his arms, surveying the crowd. Lakhoni thanked the First Fathers that he was in the back of the crowd so that the man couldn’t see his reaction.
“Brothers and sisters!” The man called out in a surprisingly large, full voice. “We are the Separated!”
“We are the Separated!” repeated the crowd. Lakhoni looked left and right. Gimno, to his right, his eyes wide and intent, was staring at the man, a strange smile forming on his mouth. To his left, Lakhoni spied Anor looking at him through hooded eyes. Anor gave Lakhoni a strange smile, then turned his attention back to the little man.
“But we are united!” The man said.
The crowd repeated this too.
Lakhoni’s throat was tight. He swallowed, trying to keep a neutral expression on his face.
“But we know the truth of this land,” the man said. Now he did all the talking and the crowd watched with rapt attention. Lakhoni didn’t dare look around him for fear he would stand out. “We who follow the true God, the creator of the Great Spirit and this world, we know the truth. We follow the true God and we will inherit this promised land!”
The man took a small step and was at the boy’s side. The boy squirmed weakly, his eyelids fluttering. “This is the promise! We will be cleaned by the blood of the son and we will take this land and serve the true God.” The small man jabbed his dagger, quick as a heartbeat, into the left hand of the boy, pulling it out quickly. Blood followed and dripped to the ground. He stepped quickly around the altar. “The son’s blood, pure and willing, makes us mighty! We will be clean.” This last was timed perfectly and the man arrived on the other side of the boy and jabbed his dagger into the right hand. Blood spilled again.
“These are the signs of the son. Through these signs we are justified and we know we must take this land back. We await our prophesied leader- he who comes from shadow but brings us to light.” The man slashed both of the boy’s feet. Blood, thick and red oozed down the small feet. The boy moaned and squirmed more.
Lakhoni swallowed, terrified. How? Why? he thought, his mind paralyzed and repeating these words in a mantra of disgust and horror.
“As our First Fathers’ father did, we offer this pure son on the altar of the true God and we await His time. The time when we will come back to light!” With this final pronouncement, the man raised the dagger high and-
Lakhoni stood frozen. The dagger slammed smoothly into the boy’s stomach and Lakhoni felt his own body jerk at the moment of impact. Sick fear made him feel like throwing up. He swallowed hard, every muscle in his body tight. He thought he might snap like a dry stick.
The dagger rose, a trail of blood following it up. “We will come back to the light!” the man screamed. The crowd repeated it, then it became a chant as the dagger rose and fell. Lakhoni shook each time the dagger penetrated the young boy’s still body.
“Be cleansed!” the man screamed, his high-pitched voice carrying over the shouts of the Separated. The crowd surged forward. Lakhoni was carried with them. He tried to push backward, to fight the tide. He succeeded somewhat, but not quickly enough to miss what came next.
The image of Gimno, Vena, Anor and Corzon, along with hundreds of other people dipping their hands in the dead boy’s blood and smearing it across their faces and bodies would never leave him.
He wanted to run, climb back to the surface and leave this world behind. But they were kind. They fed me, took me in. I thought they were good! He took a step backward, meaning to find the entrance to the cavern and get out immediately. Panic filled him. He had to get out. This was not right. Now. He had to leave now.
Gimno appeared before his terrified eyes. Lakhoni gasped, realizing he had been holding his breath in his paralyzed terror. “The first time is hard,” Gimno whispered with a kind smile on his face, a rivulet of blood running down his neck. The warrior lifted a hand to Lakhoni’s face. Lakhoni felt wet warmth cover his forehead. It dripped into his eyes. “But you are Living Dead now. The blood of the son purifies you.” The hand painted both of Lakhoni’s cheeks. He was holding his breath again, revulsion slamming inside of him, trying to burst free in a scream of pure fury and disgust. “With this blood, you become a son of the son. A warrior for the true God.”
His face warm and wet, the thick, sweet smell filling his nostrils, Lakhoni closed his eyes for a moment. He could think of nothing that he could do or say. He had to get away. He wanted to learn nothing from these people. Suddenly he wondered where the slain boy had come from. He couldn’t have been more than eight years old.
He opened his eyes. Gimno still stood there, watching him. Gimno caught Lakhoni’s gaze. “You will understand; I will teach you. I will make you a warrior and you will help me become a Consecrated.” Gimno looked over his shoulder and Lakhoni followed his gaze. He understood somehow that the eight tall, red men must be the Consecrated.
Gimno turned back to Lakhoni. He wrapped his long arms around Lakhoni in a warm embrace. His whisper, its tones soft and kind, sent a bright flare of fear and fury into Lakhoni’s soul. “Welcome to the people of God.”

This is 2250 words, making the total word count so far 17,220. That's not really where I should be to finish this as a NaNoWriMo project, but that's okay.

Feel free to share. Heck, I invite you to share-- I'm a writer. I need readers and validation!

No comments: