Word Count: 1119 Average Read Time: 5:36 Time Finished: Evening of the 8th Day, before Supper, On Roll.
It had taken them all night to put out the blaze.
Crevai’s sister had been home, apparently. They had found her body, charred beyond all recognition, in the ashes after ensuring the fire was fully quelled beneath a steady stream of water and sand from the nearby river. Crevai had helped, as best as she could. But as soon as the danger was gone, everyone turned on her.
Crevai’s lack of attention was the cause most accepted by those who were nearby, including (after she had been told of her sister’s death) Crevai herself. She simply should not have left the fire unattended to run off. But she had known this, and had done it anyway… and there had been a death among the Stamm because of it.
There would be severe consequences.
Her hands were tied behind her back with the thorny vines of those brought before the council. She was to stand in front of the embers from the past nights fire, in wait for those who would decide her fate. There were two strong men, men whose faces Crevai had seen her entire life, positioned at her sides to ensure she did not break free, sit down, or escape.
This didn’t bother Crevai as much as it might have others who had been judged. She was guilty, and she felt the death of her sibling weighing down on her shoulders. Standing was the hardest for her, because all she wanted to do was cry. But she could do it, for she was Fuchs Stamm, and this was how she was supposed to face judgment.
It was not long, anyway, before the council appeared.
At the head of the council was her father, the man who had raised her. Normally, though he was important, the council would have tried Crevai without his aid because she was his daughter. But, as it was his other daughter who was the victim of this lethal negligence, he was to be heard all the louder.
“Crevai, You have been accused of causing the death of one of Your own: A member of Your own Den, no less!” He spoke with the strength of those who knew they had no choice, but beneath his voice there was the tiniest bit of unease. “Through Your own negligence, Refrana, Your sister, has met her end well before the moon set upon her life. Burned in the fires which You caused, released from Your charge when You left them unattended. “ The crowd around them began to murmur as he spoke.
But there was no unease or doubt in their voices.
They were staring and pointing and gesturing with all of the anger of those who might have died that night. Each scratch, each burn they carried on their bodies was fuel for their anger at this childish and near maliciously negligent woman who stood before them for judgment.
“I have been told that You readily accept this crime as Your own, and are willing to accept the consequences.” He was pacing back and forth in front of her, in between her and the council. His eyes were locked to hers, following in his own wake, never breaking their glance. They were different than those which stared at her from the crowd and the council. She wondered what it was that was different, as she spoke.
“Yes, father, I am. It was my fault, I caused all of this pain. I ask for whatever must be done to be done swiftly, that I might begin to make up for what has happened tonight.” The men beside her grabbed her arms as she finished, making the thorns bite into the soft skin of her wrists.
It was then that his eyes left hers.
“We will be spending the rest of the year rebuilding what You have wrought this night, Crevai. It will be hard for us, especially Your Den, to move on after this.” He looked back at her again, his voice going colder. “But the council has almost unanimously decided that You will not be helping us.”
Crevai could feel the blood drain from her face and chest as she worked out the implications.
“You are to be driven from the Fuchs Stamm, forcibly, as You have forcibly driven one of our own this night.” She began to struggle as he talked. He came up and grabbed her shoulder, pulling her away from the fire plot and over to the edge of the crowd. He never stopped speaking.
“You are to live, if You survive, amongst the Untied, until You atone in some way for the death of Your sister. I will add that Your own death would be atonement enough for most present here tonight. Once Your atonement has been made and accepted by the council, You may once again join the Stamm: Whether that is in life, or in death.”
They were at the far end of the circle, and she could hear him drawing his knife. As the head of the council, it was his duty to draw the first blood from her. She could not believe her father was actually going to go through with this.
He pushed her on the ground from behind, and continued to speak. “If You are seen in these lands again without having atoned, You are to be considered an enemy of the Stamm, and attacked on sight. To mark this, I now will draw the first blood, and cast You from these lands as an Untied Woman.” He raised his knife. “After which, You will be attacked like the outsider You now are.”
His knife came down, slicing at her defenseless back. As it traced its bloody line down her skin, it was stopped by the vines… but only for a moment, as he quickly sliced through them as well. He yanked her up, and hissed the words, “Be fleeter than the Fuchs, and run, little pup.”
She did not have time to be shocked, and began running as fast as she could. Stones and arrows and spears were thrown towards her, but none expected her to move quite so quickly, nor be on her feet as she started. She reached the river, paused only for a moment. She could not swim very well.
Then, an arrow made its mark, burying itself in her left arm. She fell forward, and into the water, to be carried down the current as she began to bleed from both her back and her arm. The riverbed dragged at the arrow she now bore, and it tore at her muscle, sending waves of pain across her body.
She felt the water surround her, and then, everything went black.