Saturday, November 8

The Stamm's Exile

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.

He spoke.

“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.

The Parting Stalac

Word Count: 1066 Average Read Time: 5:20 Time Finished: Evening of the Eighth day, pre-supper, after lots of deliberation

The birthing had been harder on Mhrnsh than he’d thought it would be.

Purposefully expelling himself at the triumphant end of the long ceremony had been a very troubling thing for him to do, but also something very necessary. He might have ruined the moment by staying: his utterly selfish feelings dominating his mind which would- and should- have been focused on the miracle which had just occurred for his friends, Shnndr and Kshtk.

Mhrnsh thought his friends would understand. Perhaps not immediately, but certainly as time would pass. But that was the last thing on his mind right now.

He rushed to his partner. They had something of great importance to discuss.

What he had just experienced helped him to make a decision he had been wrestling with for the last long while, since their last failed birth together. There was no denying, to Mhrnsh, that the troubles the Stalac had with the miracle of birthing were somehow related to the great quakes which had been happening for the last few years. Ever since the first one, which had happened shortly after Mhrnsh was finally considered to be of age, there had been difficulties… and with each passing quake, the difficulties seemed more apparent to him.

No one knew what was causing these disturbances. No one had cared to find out, because to do so would mean leaving the safety of the caves which the Stalac spent their entire lives in. No one had been damaged, or Crumbled, because of the quakes. It was a minor annoyance that most around him simply attributed to the ever-deeper tunnels they were digging. It was easier that way.

But Mhrnsh knew the answer was out there. And this past experience helped him resolve to find it himself.

His partner, Shhkt, had some reservations, of course. He was very much a Stalac, in very many ways. One which often came up in this conversation was “Staying in the Caves.” It was rumored that many bad things had happened to those who had left the caves, for whatever reason. Dusting Stones, the worst punishment that could befall one of their own was to be driven from the caves and forced to spend the rest of their years on the surface. Going out there was akin to asking to Crumble, to be unmade.

Mhrnsh was going to leave this place. But he first needed to convince Shhkt.

Opening the door they’d carved themselves out of a mightily large piece of Shale, Mhrnsh burst into their house. There was Shhkt, sitting in the living area, softly glowing in the soft glow of their Crystal. He noticed Mhrnsh almost immediately.

“Welcome back, Mhrnsh. Did Kshtk and Shnndr’s birthing end in tears, or in light?”

Shhkt’s voice was immediately soothing to the still very startled and emotional Mhrnsh. He lost all thought, and immediately went to join with Shhkt. Joining was faster than talking, after all. At least when it came to emotions.

They Joined quickly, touching heads and gazing deeply into each other’s eyes. In his mind, Mhrnsh could see exactly how Shhkt was feeling at that moment: The hopeful thoughts he had concerning their friends’ Birthing, the worries he had about their own, the concerns he felt when Mhrnsh walked in unlit. And, of course, Shhkt could see all of Mhrnsh’s feelings. Including his resolve to find what was preventing them from successfully having a child.

Their Joining broke as quickly as it had formed.

“Oh, my Opal, please say I might convince You to stay,” said the voice of the only Stalac who had always been there for him. “I do not want to lose You to Your travels.” Shhkt spoke with the tiniest hint of yellow glow showing from his chest… and and accompanying bit of fear tinting his voice.

Mhrnsh, however, was inconsolable. “To have to go through what we have gone through, when our bond is just as strong as the one which Shnndr and Kshkt share, is something which I cannot allow to befall us any longer.” His voice did not tremble, but it did waver… or perhaps falter, as he had been doing so much as of late. “I do not want to leave You, or the caves. And I certainly do not want to be lost to skies… But I cannot continue on like this. It is crumbling me with every passing day. And I know it has not been easy on You, either, Shhkt.”

Shhkt started to object, but caught himself. Taking a moment to think things through, he calmly said, “Yes, these years have been hard. Ever since the brittling quakes, things seem to have been getting worse. But losing You would be too much to bear.” Shhkt took a step back, and looked away. “I was so sure the last Birthing would work. We did everything right, cut every edge so perfectly. He would have been such a wonderful child, to carry on after we begin to crumble away.”

Looking back at Mhrnsh, he then said, “But having You there was what got me through that. I would have fallen apart if it weren’t for You. I couldn’t have borne that third failure if it were with anyone else.” Shhkt implored, “Is there no other way? Something else we could try, before casting You off to the damnable skies?”

Mhrnsh looked into the eyes of the one he cared so deeply for, and they both knew the answer. It only fell to him to say it.

“We’ve tried everything we could think of. This is all that is left, my Stone.”

That simple word of affection now felt as though it weighed two tons, dropped upon the feelings currently flowing through Shhkt. He flared Yellow, and the Deeply Translucent blue of sorrow, casting sea green light which both reflected and emanated from Mhrnsh as well. They both saw the sincerity of each other’s emotions, and then, Shhkt took his partner in a (very rare for the Stalac) embrace.

“Stay tonight, then. Leave after one more recess together. It will have to last us quite a long time.” That was very true, and they both knew it. It was common knowledge that few Stalac who left would ever return to the caves. It may well be their last evening together.

Mhrnsh would make sure it was one they would not soon forget.