Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wow, this is freaking great. Installment four!

Here's my next NaNoWriMo installment. Yes, NaNoWriMO is a rather silly name, but this is doing me so much good. The only problem is that I'm getting a little too caught up in this and slammed out another 2200 words today. At this point, my novel is already at 6600 words!

And I am really excited about this story.

And it's really my bedtime.

Here it is. Kristi and Melinda, I need you to tell me if I'm doing better with the emotions now. Please?

Chapter 4

It was the chill that woke Lakhoni. Opening his eyes, he tried to sit up and find a blanket to cover him. Last night, he had sucked on some grain, chewing it down with some cured meat and large gulps of water. Then he had found his family’s hut, stumbled in and had stopped only long enough to roll out a sleeping mat woven from river grasses. Sleep had come so quickly that he was now finding unchewed grain in his mouth.
“Soft enough now,” he muttered to himself, hissing at the stiffness in his body. He felt as if his joints and bones were fused tree branches. Cotton filled his head, a dull throb at the top of his head reminding him of the blow he had been dealt. He carefully levered himself up, stiffness in his neck forcing him to move his entire upper body as he searched the hut with his eyes.
No blanket.
Confused, he pushed himself first to his knees, then to his feet, swaying precariously for a moment before he put a hand on the wall. Each movement produced a hiss from between his teeth.
Why couldn’t he find a blanket? Why would the king’s raiding party take his family’s blankets? It wasn’t as if the blankets his mother made were of any special quality or appearance. Confusion combined with the heaviness already in his head. What reason would they have had to take the blankets? Had the raiding party also taken other families’ blankets?
They steal our food, he thought, our valuables—and now our blankets. How were these acts any better than the Usurpers? Did the Usurpers also steal from their own people? Did the Usurpers’ king send out murdering raiding parties that stole peoples’ blankets?
Lakhoni stepped to the doorway, one hand going to the animal skin that hung there.
Blankets. These were nothing. He had to push the silly notion from his head, recognizing that he was avoiding thinking about what would greet him when he went outside.
He had a duty.
He could not leave his people, his family, outside any longer. Scavengers would no doubt appear soon.
Lakhoni searched for his courage. He felt for it in his stomach, trying to look past the stiffness and pains in his body.
Murderous raiding party.
There. His courage sparked in the heat of sudden anger.
He had a duty.
Lakhoni pushed the animal skin aside. Bright morning sun stabbed his eyes. He closed them, gasping in shock and pain. After a moment, he blinked rapidly, trying to accustom his eyes to the light. Soon he was able to open his eyes for a few seconds, then a minute. Finally he could focus on the task before him. He readied himself, standing as straight as he could.
Movement was the first thing he saw. Scavenging birds flapped and pecked, squabbling over their morning meal. A groan escaped his lips, long and low. But fury took over and the groan became a shout. A scream. Forgotten were his pains as he hurtled forward, waving his arms in wild gyrations and curses he had learned from Lamorun flying with spittle from his lips.
The vultures squawked loudly and lifted off, their ungainly wings flapping heavily, frantically trying to reach safety from this creature that attacked them. Lakhoni meant to take the birds and destroy them, but he was too slow. They flapped up and flew toward the trees to the west. Lakhoni flung his gaze down, scanning for a nearby rock. Snatching one, he hurled it at the departing birds, praying he hit one.
The rock fell into the trees; the vultures, untouched, flapped in wide circles, moving far to the west.
Lakhoni screamed a final curse upon the birds, the words tearing through his throat. He felt as if he had swallowed a handful of sharp obsidian arrowheads. His throat raw, his chest on fire. Lowering his head, he focused on the form on the ground in front of him.
His father, Zeozer. Eyes wide, mouth open.
Lakhoni fell to the earth, his battered body protesting powerfully but unnoticed.
“Father.” Lakhoni felt transfixed by his father’s death gaze. Lakhoni tried to close his own eyes, knowing he should reach out to close his father’s. He could do neither. Lakhoni stared, unable to tear himself away. Eyes so wide open that he felt them drying already, Lakhoni contemplated his father’s body. He noticed the stick Zeozer had been using to get around on his injured leg lying some ways away.
It looked as if his father had been trying to get somewhere and had abandoned his stick.
Lakhoni found his paralysis had dissolved. He reached out and touched his father’s forehead, then gently closed Zeozer’s eyes. A sudden tremble rocketed through Lakhoni. He sucked in a breath. His thoughts moved with the speed of a an oldster telling a favorite story. His father. Where was his mother? And Alronna, his sister?
He had a duty. He must care for the dead. He must-
A sound somewhere between a grunt and a scream exploded from his mouth, his chest feeling as if it would cave in. Lakhoni tried to hold the next one back, but couldn’t. He feared the weakness that threatened to spill from him. He didn’t know if he could pull himself out of the torrent that he knew was in him if he let it flow.
He imagined that he was inserting a rod of hardened iron into his spine. He gritted his teeth. He must not allow it to flow.
He had a duty.
He passed a cursory look around the village center. Too many to bury. He would have to burn them and do the both dances: of death and fire.
Lakhoni pushed himself to his feet. Wood first. He moved toward the forest.
With an hour’s work, Lakhoni was able to build a large pile of dry branches.
As he turned from contemplating the pile of wood, he found he was shaking. He knew what he must do, but he began to worry he wouldn’t be able to do it. His head still hurt. So did his side. The other more minor pains had faded with the work, although his sweat stung in his cuts throughout the morning’s labor.
Lakhoni knew he couldn’t do it. How could he be expected to drag everyone he had known his whole life into a pile of branches, then set the pile on fire? How could he touch their dead forms, close their dead eyes, drag their limp…
He choked back a moan. Why? Why was I left to do this? Why couldn’t I die with them and let the animals and nature do their work?
“Why?” he whispered to the cool breeze blowing through the village.
It gave no answer.
He stood before the branches, his thoughts in a haze of pain and burning grief. The torrent within him surged. He swallowed tightly, clenching his lips tightly closed.
He had no answer. I’ll never know why. He looked around the village, not seeing the bodies this time, but seeing ghostly memories of people working. Marna heating rocks for Yeval’s ancient feet. Enormously fat Salno waddling through the village, carrying his pouch of herbs he used to make healing teas for those with ailments.
“I can’t. I don’t know how,” Lakhoni whispered.
But if not him, who would do it? Who would provide the final respects for the people he had loved and who had loved him?
            “I’ll do it until I can’t anymore. The First Fathers would understand.” He turned and, before he could think anymore about it, he crouched, hooked his arms under the nearest limp form and walked backward. Carefully laying the body onto the branches, he tried to avert his eyes before he saw the person’s face. He wasn’t fast enough. It was Jona. His cousin. Lakhoni reached out quickly, closed Jona’s eyes and turned to the next one.
            If I go fast enough, I won’t think about it.
            He worked steadily for hours, deliberately staying away from his family’s hut. Salno’s gigantic form took three times as long as any other. The work seemed to cleanse him of the fuzziness that had plagued him earlier in the day. He realized that he had likely been right with his guess of the previous night. The raiding party must have left someone behind to catch any village people outside the village. That hunter must have hit Lakhoni, thinking he had dealt Lakhoni a death blow.
            Then the hunter must have dragged Lakhoni to the village and, thinking him dead, thrown him amongst the other dead. That would explain the stinging cuts all over Lakhoni’s legs.
            Lakhoni bent to the next body. Without thinking, he looked at the face.
            Sana. His mother. Lakhoni’s breath disappeared and he sat heavily, his arms still hooked under his mother’s lifeless body. Her light brown eyes stared.
            Lakhoni’s breath slammed back into him as if it would reach down his throat and tear out his stomach. His lower jaw shook as he tried to control it. His hands, between Sana’s arms and torso, trembled. The need to run filled him. He tried to get to his feet, tried to pull his hands out. He couldn’t remember how to stand. Dead. His mother was dead. Lakhoni saw the wound that had killed her, imagined the sharp edge that had sliced her smooth skin. He looked away, certain he was defiling her by looking at the wound.
            His mother.
            Killed with a casual slice of a hunter’s dagger.
            Dead. The word flashed through his mind again and again.
            Soon it was joined by other words. Killed. Murdered.
            Lakhoni felt the tears on his face and knew he couldn’t hold it back. No, he wouldn’t hold it back anymore. For his mother. Her kind nature always ready to comfort any child in the village.
            His body shuddered as the torrent of grief spilled out. His chest heaved, his mind flashing through images of Sana. Cooking in the family fire pit. Giving his father her special smile. Her strangely straight teeth glinting in the firelight. Sobs that seemed to shake his soul poured out of him. Lakhoni curled over the body of his mother, his fear, grief and anger watering her and the ground under her. He rocked back and forth, high-pitched moans escaping his clenched mouth, tears that didn’t seem to have an end streaming down his burning cheeks.
            He stayed that way for some time, until his body felt spent, his soul empty.
            No, not empty.
            Nearly empty, but there was still something there. Something hot, raw and painful like a fresh wound. But this pain was good.
            Lakhoni stood, lifting his mother’s body in his arms and carried her to the soon-to-be-pyre. He finished his work quickly, realizing by the position of the sun that he must have been bent over his mother for a long time. Last was his father. Zeozer’s body was much heavier than Sana’s, but Lakhoni lifted his body as well, knowing he must not drag his parents’ bodies through the dirt.
            As he placed his father’s body onto the pile, a thought struck him. Where’s Alronna? He knew he hadn’t found her body in the village yet. Could she be alive? Hope surged through him. It had been said that sometimes raiding parties would take people back to the king’s palace to serve the king. Maybe Alronna had been taken?
            Lakhoni began to feel as if he might know why he was preserved. He would find his sister, rescue her.
            He wanted to make an oath of vengeance, but knew that was not his place. His vengeance would have to be directed at the king, and the king was appointed by edict of the Great Spirit and the First Fathers.
            Lakhoni found two fire stones in his family’s hut, Now just mine, and gathered some tinder. The first spark caught and he coaxed the flame to life with his breath. In minutes, the dry branches under the bodies caught, orange flames questing skyward.
            He cleared his head with a few breaths, then thought of the dances he must do. His ankle still hurt, but he knew he could do what must be done. He began, starting slowly and allowing the movements to, bit by bit, take over his body. Lakhoni then began the chant that allowed the spirits of the dead to let go of those they left behind. Now came the part where he must name the dead. If this had been a normal Death Dance, the village would say the dead person’s name together.
            Only me. For all of them.
            “Salno. Jona. Yeval. Marna. Omior.” He continued, his eyes closed as he gave in to the dance. He left his parents for the end. As he twisted carefully, sliding his left foot in then stepping backward, his hands reaching toward the fire, he sang, “Zeozer. Sana.” Lakhoni turned a complete circle, lifting his arms toward the darkening sky.
The unexpected voice made him jump in shock and sudden fear.
“Why do you sing their names?” 

And that's it for today. Stay tuned for more! 


Melinda said...

Holy. Cow. Jared.

That was amazing. It felt so real. It made me want to cry.

And I still have chills and I'm going to be wondering all day who it that is talking to him.

More! More!

Anonymous said...

I like it, especially that last entry. Umm... I cant put anything else I want to say into words.
- Jeremy