Monday, November 23, 2009

Ugh, so tired.

But not so tired that I couldn't do chapter nine!

Scenes. Goals. Motivations. Real characters. Story.

This is what I am focusing on.

Here's my latest installment. It's 1985 words. The total word count is now just a bit shy of 15000.

Man I'm loving this. I am a writer, when all is said and done. It's a fact.


Chapter 9

            Lakhoni wondered if the spirits of his family and friends were frowning on him in disapproval. He sat on a smooth, gently cupped stone just over a pace from the large fire that burned in the middle of the homes Gimno’s family lived in. In one hand he held a thin stone platter, and in the other a blade Gimno had lent him. Slicing tender mouthfuls of venison from a hot, still-juicy chunk Vena had carved off the animal over the fire, he felt as if the suddenly pleasant circumstances were somehow a betrayal of the grief that still filled him with leaden pain. Gimno’s extended family spread around the area in the middle of the homes in Gimno’s circle, many of them laughing and chatting, but mostly just producing an all-too familiar harmony of voices and chaos.
            He should be grieving. He had never finished the dance. He should never have left the village untended.
            He felt as if he should be doing something to make his village somehow hallowed ground. He had no right to be enjoying such a meal and such company. His family, his friends—they deserved more. Their deaths, so violent, cruel and stupid cried for answer. The venison, so juicy moments before, felt like dry grass in his mouth. He reached down and lifted the cup he had been given to his mouth. The cool water helped him choke the meat down.
            Lakhoni looked down at his plate; the pink and red juices of the roasted meat mingling. He sucked in a breath as the image of Sana’s staring eyes slammed into his mind. All that blood on her limp body.
            His gorge rose. He fought it back, quickly putting the platter on the stone ground. He looked up fast, praying nobody had seen him. He didn’t want to insult his hosts; he didn’t want them to know how weak he was. He got to his feet, his heart thumping jackrabbit fast in his chest. He knew he couldn’t find his way back to the village on his own. Besides, he had decided he would stay to learn from these strange people. He wanted to be able to move like a ghost; he wanted to be able to strike fear in others the way these people did.
            No, he wouldn’t run from the Separated. But he couldn’t allow the gaiety around him to steal his purpose. He had to focus on what he had to do.
            Alronna needed him. The blood of his people cried to him from the ground, pleading for vengeance.
            He turned, realizing only then that tears were wetting his cheeks. He quickly scrubbed them away, keeping his face down.
            “Your wounds,” Vena said. “You need treatment. And you need rest.”
            He glanced up, briefly meeting her gaze, then looked away. “I’m okay.”
            “Gimno told me what happened to your head. You’re not okay. Not yet, at least.”
            He didn’t know what to say, so he stood silently.
            Her hand brushed his cheek, moving to his uninjured left shoulder. It felt strong, warm and kind. “I’m so sorry, Lakhoni.”
            Her words touched the grief he held in his gut. His throat tight, he mumbled, “I’m okay.” He was done with tears. He would hold the grief inside and fan the hot embers he felt now into a flame of fury that would help him save his sister.
            She pulled gently. He looked up. “Come with me, we will get that side fixed and take a closer look at your head.” Her green eyes met his again. “And I will show you where you will sleep.” She led him around the outskirts of the communal circle. “You are part of Gimno’s tribe now, so you will stay in this circle.”
            Lakhoni walked next to Vena, listening and looking around. He wanted to know his way around soon so that he was not so dependent on these people.
            “Anor and Corzon have space in their hut,” Vena said. “We will lend you what you need until you can get your things from the village.”
            Presently they came to a hut that to Lakhoni looked no different from the rest of the huts in the circle. Vena surprised him by preceding him into the hut. When he stepped into the dimness, he saw that another person was already there.
            “Lakhoni, this is Corzon. He is good with injuries. Will you let him look at your head, shoulder and side?” Vena said.
            Lakhoni nodded. Vena left, one hand going to Lakhoni’s left shoulder again and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Get some sleep,” she said, her voice soft and difficult to hear over the tumult outside.
            The animal skin performing the duties of the hut’s door fell back into place behind Vena. Lakhoni, turned and peered at Corzon in the dim light of the hut. Corzon stood and Lakhoni realized that this man was the tallest person he had ever seen. He must have been nearly a full hand-length taller than Gimno.
            Corzon smiled and made a sound of disapproval. He moved to the doorway and hooked the skin to the side, letting more light into the small home. “I’ve got to be able to see what I’m doing,” he muttered. In the better light, Lakhoni watched Corzon go to a large stone box and dig around in its contents. Corzon was not only the tallest man Lakhoni had seen; he also had the largest nose imaginable. It was magnificent: It jutted out nearly straight from under the Corzon’s eyes, then dropped like the side of a cliff. It then came back to his face in another straight line.
            “Lakhoni, is it?” Corzon said. He sucked his upper lip into his mouth, working it for a moment. “Well, let’s take a look.” Corzon stepped back toward Lakhoni. “Go on,” he pointed at a smooth stone, “have a seat.”
            Lakhoni obeyed, trying not to stare at the incredibly skinny man’s nose.
            “Give it up,” Corzon said. “You’ll never tear your eyes away from Nose Mountain.”
            It took a moment to sink in. Lakhoni burst out laughing.
            “Yes, it’s quite the feature. A gift from my father,” Corzon said. He lifted Lakhoni’s right arm. “Keep it up please.” He prodded gently at the wound in Lakhoni’s side. “Keep your eyes open, the Mighty Nose sometimes forms its own weather system. You might see clouds.”
            Lakhoni snorted. Then he hissed as Corzon found a tender spot.
            “Right. This is going to need some sewing up.”
            Lakhoni sat quietly as he watched Corzon putter around in his box again. When the tall man returned, he carried a small pouch and a drinking gut. He handed the gut to Lakhoni. “Why doesn’t it just fall off my face? That would be a gift from my mother. No woman would marry this nose, so I will always be my mother’s baby.”
            The aroma of what was in the drinking gut hit Lakhoni’s nose hard. Some kind of fermented fruit drink. “What’s this for?” he asked.
            “Take the pain away. The sewing will hurt. A lot.”
            Lakhoni lifted the gut to take a swig. He stopped just before he got there. I will take this pain, he thought. I won’t numb it. This is my consecration. Nothing will stop me from saving Alronna. And if revenge will bring justice, I will do that too. Taking this pain is the sign of this oath. He lowered the gut. “I can handle it.”
            “No, you can’t,” Corzon said. “Drink the wine.”
            “No,” Lakhoni said. His voice sounded harsh to his own ears and he worried he might offend Corzon. “No, really. I want to feel this,” he said.
            “You’ll still feel it with the wine in you. But you won’t pass out from the pain, and I need you to stay alert until I’m done.”
            Lakhoni considered for a moment. No, he thought. He had to show his dedication. His people had died painfully and he had survived. This wasn’t a penance, but a sacrifice of his own blood on the altar of justice. “Just do it.”
            Corzon rested an angry gaze on Lakhoni. You will scream like a pig, cry like a baby, and then faint like a woman.”
            Lakhoni met Corzon’s eyes. “My village was destroyed. My family murdered.” He took a breath. “Do your sewing.”

            Corzon shook his head and pulled his upper lip into his mouth again. He handed Lakhoni a strip of leather. “Bite that. Try not to faint.”
            Lakhoni took the leather in his mouth. The first poke of Corzon’s needle in his side was not bad. The sensation of the thin twine sliding through his skin was a little worse.
            It was the pulling of the two sides of injured flesh together that sent the blackness before Lakhoni’s eyes. NO! He fought the dark away, trying not to think about the gouts of flame-like pain searing his side and spreading to fill his body. The needled pierced again, the twin slid again and then raw agony tore through him again. His teeth felt as if they would slice through the leather in his mouth. His breathing came quickly, desperately.
            “Not too late for the wine you know,” Corzon said.
            Shaking from exertion and pain, Lakhoni shook his head.
            Corzon muttered something disapproving and continued with his work.
            After a few more pulls on his damaged flesh, Lakhoni found that he could imagine the pain was a kind of energy flowing into him, then sliding down his legs and out into the stone underfoot. This helped somewhat. Although the agony was still there, especially each time Corzon tugged the two sides of the wound closed, Lakhoni found he could handle it. He felt as if he had put himself into a place where pain couldn’t overcome him.
            Before he knew it, Corzon was standing and stretching his long legs. “Well, you haven’t passed out yet. Not bad.”
            Lakhoni tried to get his breathing back under control.
            “Your side will be fine. No major damage, just torn flesh.”
            Lakhoni nodded.
            “Now your head.”
            Lakhoni reached up and pulled the leather from his mouth. “No problem. It’s tough.”
            “We’ll see.”
            The head was worse. Apparently Corzon had to do some sewing up there too, and it hurt even more than his side had hurt. Several times, Lakhoni was certain he was going to faint from the pain. Each time, an image of Sana or Zeozer would flash behind his eyelids and he would find a way to fight the blackness back again.
            “You’re tougher than you look.”
            Lakhoni opened his eyes, the pain in his jaw telling him how hard he was biting on the leather strap.
            “But now it’s time for sleep.” Corzon pulled the strap from Lakhoni’s mouth.
            As Lakhoni allowed Corzon to prepare a sleeping mat and a blanket, he imagined that the pain of the treatment had fanned the ember of his grief into a lava-hot coal of fury that he would draw from as he sought to rescue his sister from the thieving king. And justice. He would have to seek justice too; he couldn’t let his loved ones’ blood go unanswered.
            No, nothing would stop him now. He would learn from the Living Dead. He would embrace their ways—but only long enough to prepare himself for what he must do.
            He would find his sister. If she still lived, he would rescue her and kill the king quickly. If she was dead, the king would suffer a painful death.
            And if he died in the process, justice would have been sated and he would be with his family again.
            Sleep overcame him moments after he lay down. His dreams were bright, lit by a blazing sun. He moved through them like a panther through its domain, confident that all around it feared and trembled. 

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