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  #46  
Old 02-09-2012, 05:32 AM
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The walk began in confusion for Nontle. She didn't understand why, but both Mkela and Aisha were letting her lead them. As if that was not enough, an awkward silence overtook the group as they walked. She realized that she just chatted up two people she didn't know anything about and now had no idea what to say to them. She clasped her hands together in front of her. This was going to be very awkward if someone did not say something soon.

Think solutions, not problems. she told herself a few times in a row before shaking her head rapidly in a vain effort to clear her mind. It didn't work, as usual. No doubt it had drawn some looks from bystanders, both Korana and Namaqua alike, but she did not think to look.

"So~..." She skipped a step as she broke the silence. "What do you do in your tribe, Mkela?" She stole a glance, not at him, but at Aisha. Aisha probably felt at least as awkward as she did, especially considering she wouldn't be able to easily weigh in on this topic.
Nontle blinked with realization of a mistake she made. "Not that you have to answer if you don't want to.. or can't, for that matter." She added to her question.

She chose that moment to realize that she was not leading them because of some funny reason that she failed to see, but out of sheer convenience. Neither of them was acquainted with the camp; Aisha had only recently returned and the same counted for Mkela, albeit an arrival and not a return. She was the only one who knew the original Korana camp. And even though the Namaqua now had their own side, some knowledge would serve them better than none.

Last edited by Kaleopolitus; 02-09-2012 at 03:50 PM.
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  #47  
Old 02-09-2012, 08:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaleopolitus View Post

"So~..." She skipped a step as she broke the silence. "What do you do in your tribe, Mkela?" She stole a glance, not at him, but at Aisha. Aisha probably felt at least as awkward as she did, especially considering she wouldn't be able to easily weigh in on this topic.
Nontle blinked with realization of a mistake she made. "Not that you have to answer if you don't want to.. or can't, for that matter."
The question stumped Mkela. What do I do in the tribe? What is my place? Nontle had given him a chance to not answer, but he didn't want offend anyone. He didn't want to waste this opportunity to spend time with the girls and Karyu. Here were two young people who weren't avoiding him. Mkela didn't want to lose this. Answering a question was much easier than thinking of something to say himself. And while he would have been perfectly happy to simply walk in silence with them, he felt Nontle deserved an answer. "I help my mother. She's alone and needs my help. He couldn't say "I have no father", but the thought was there. Then he thought of Old Moon. "I help Old Moon too. She is a wonderful leader for our tribe, but she is old and needs someone to help her with her work." Mkela suddenly wasn't sure if this was really true... that she needed help. He had never really consider this before. She asked for help, and he helped her. "She is like a grandmother to me. What is your Old Moon like?"

As Nontle stepped ahead of Mkela, he was a bit relieved. He felt the tension release from his shoulders. Trying to find his way through the camp was difficult - and he didn't really know where they were going. Coupled with trying to keep up a conversation made the task more so. She knew the way. He knew that, as the male of the group, he should be leading... and that thought, taught to him from his youth, instinctively entered his mind as she passed him. He started to move quickly to stay ahead of her, but then realized that, contrary to his teaching, he really didn't mind following a woman. It was easier (and probably wiser)... at least in this circumstance, he reasoned. He followed at a comfortable pace between the two girls, the wolf pup between Mkela and Aisha. Now it didn't matter where they went.

As he watched Nontle bob and weave through the crowds, Mkela was aware of every fold, every color and pattern in her clothing; the tilt of her head as she talked to people she new. But this awareness was not limited to Nontle. If she is still following, he could picture Aisha and Karyu following behind without turning to look at them simply from the sounds behind him and the looks from people they passed. Mkela watched the crowds as they passed. People he knew and people he didn't all merged into one mass, but with intricate detail. As darkness fell, the sights of the oasis dissolved into a hypnotic blur of light and dark, the fires dancing in the still air. Sight was replaced by sounds, scents and tastes. The excitement of the day heightened his senses and brought a new awareness of his surroundings. Food never smelled or tasted so good. While it was food he had eaten before, everything was new and exciting. All of this overwhelmed his senses, and his head began to swim. The sounds of drums became the backbone of conversations and stories merged into one continuous living dialogue; reality blending with fiction and mythology as if it were all real and happening in front of him. His eyes followed the spirals and arcs of sparks from the fires dancing in the air, ever drawn upward into the night sky. These faded into the background of stars above them: always present, always above, always watching.

Last edited by mwc9a; 02-09-2012 at 08:25 AM. Reason: Is Aisha still with us as we wander the camp?
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  #48  
Old 02-09-2012, 03:21 PM
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The small fire was starting to burn down, the reddish light silhouetting the three of them as they sat or lounged in companionable silence. The wolf was sprawled on the sand, eyes closed with pleasure as one of the girls scratched his head between his ears. They had stuffed themselves with all manners of food, pointing out to each other the best delicacies of their tribe - the spicy Namaqua meat skewers, the delicately flavoured breads of the Korana, the honeyed flatcakes, the roasted nuts and more. They had chatted as well, although at first it was mostly Nontle; the others had joined in after a while, feeling more at ease now that their bellies were full and nobody seemed to disturb them.
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  #49  
Old 02-09-2012, 03:57 PM
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---Before the meal---

The walk to one of the less crowded bon fires didn't take them long. By the time Mkela finished his question she had already spotted one and was making her way towards it. For as long as it took her to say it she turned on her feet, still walking in the same direction, and said, "Pretty old." She turned back towards the bonfire and darted towards it, quickly talking to the bare half a dozen men and women enjoying it's warmth.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:41 PM
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Aisha was surprised at the ease of the interaction. This was an odd evening based on her past few years of experience. She was perhaps not one of the group, a bit apart, a bit in the shadows, but they seemed to accept that. She looked up from her introspection as she heard their voices. A small smile, probably undetectable to the others of the group, twitched around her lips at the subject of Old Moon.
“She’s very wise. And very clever.”
Had the old woman foreseen something this in telling her to stay? It seemed unlikely. Then again, so did the whole night.
At her feet Karyu whined a little, looking up to her. An affectionate expression crinkled over her face as she heaved up her body and moved to wrap herself around his head, holding him in her lap.
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Old 02-09-2012, 10:37 PM
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As the fire burned low, Mkela laid back in the sand to look up at the clear sky and abundant stars above. While the conversation around the fire with Nontle and Aisha had been awkward at first, it had become easier as the evening wore on. And while the topics had been rather mundane - the foods they liked, stories from their tribes, life in the desert; nothing too personal - it had been more of a conservation than he had managed with anyone his own age in many years. Now there was no awkwardness. No feeling like they needed to fill the silence. These two young women seemed to accept him for who he was. Maybe they felt that they too were outsiders in their own tribes. Aisha most likely did, with her wolf pup, but Nontle wasn't so obvious. Mkela wondered if she had other friends... what had drawn her to speak to him... but that seemed too personal to ask. Besides - she had approached him and now they sat together around the fire. That's all that mattered at the moment.

Xa is rising. Soon it will reach the arc of light. Then the stars will shine brighter. Mkela pointed out several of the brightest stars. Old Moon had taught him the names and the stories that went with them. There is Obtungi. And Ebuka, that red one over there. And that one... that one just above the arc of light is Acatubi. Old Moon says that back in the beginning times, there were people like us who visited from there. Or so some of the old stories say.

Xa rose steadily towards the arc of light and would soon be obscured. This image reminded Mkela of the vision that had appeared to him the night before. Vision? Hallucination? Shadows playing tricks on his mind? Mkela still wasn't sure what it had been or what it had meant - if it was anything at all. In the excitement of the day, he had not asked Old Moon as he had intended. He reached down and felt for the stone in it's pouch. It had been many hours since he had sensed its presence. Good... it's still there. He absentmindedly ran his fingers along the familiar smooth faces and jagged edges while his mind replayed all that had happened to him since then. Was that really yesterday? It feels like so long ago. I don't feel like the same person I was yesterday... Everything feels so different tonight. How did this happen? What is happening? Mkela searched the stars above, looking intently in case they might attempt to answer his questions. And then, for the first time in many years, Mkela thought that he might be happy.

Last edited by mwc9a; 02-10-2012 at 07:08 AM.
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  #52  
Old 02-12-2012, 12:29 AM
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M/engá's Journey to Kai’am

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Originally Posted by Kittenmancer
As dawn broke, the tribe began to stir from their sleeping places around the smoldering fires...
M/engá stretched his arms and greeted the magnificent dawn. He rubbed a little clove and sandalwood powder on his teeth to keep them polished, as mother had shown him, and began adjusting the feather in his headband, trying to judge from his long shadow which arrangement would look most handsome. For many years M/engá had worn a single tail feather of the honeybird m/enga from which he took his nickname. Recent events had led to him adding a few more. He'd earned them, or so he felt.

Stop your foolishness, !Hongongoschá! said his father, delivering a sharp cuff to the back of the head and knocking his elegant feathers to the ground, fetch your things and make good your site, we leave for Kai'am NOW!

M/engá was ready to voice his protestations, to shout no-one calls me !Hongongoschá! anymore! but the countenance of his father implied this would be a poor trail to follow. He rolled his blankets and packed them into his haversack, muttering to himself, though secretly glad that soon they were getting a move on. As far as he was concerned they could not be at the oasis soon enough. He hadn't seen a tree in a few days and his honey stock was running low: what he had left was starting to dry out. The oasis promised fresh fruit and clean water, and a chance to have a good scrub: M/engá did like to keep himself presentable.

Over the past few days the ranks of the tribe had swollen as different bands converged along the route to Kai'am. Thee was a seriousness in everyone's demeanour: the desert was always treacherous. However, this seriousness was tempered by the knowledge that soon the journey would be over; and as the tribe expanded the mood lightened, families and friends catching up with one another after weeks or even months apart. As M/engá loaded the family's wares onto a mule, he caught the eye of /!Engo, one of his many older brothers. /!Engo was speaking very seriously with their father: how much of a man he looked now! Of course, he was five years older and had already found a wife and raised two boys. Hard to think that they used to climb the Baobab together. /!Engo shot him a quick wink and a smile by way of greeting before making his way to the vanguard. Their father would bring up the rear with the elder warriors, and it looked like M/engá would be accompanying him.

~~~~~~~~

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kittenmancer
About a turn of the glass before noon, the scouts who had departed in the direction of the oasis returned, streaked with dust and sweat...
So then the honey badger said to me: "What do you mean by being so bothersome at this hour of the night? I have been hunting all day long and now it is time for me to rest. Well, seeing as you are here, I might as well eat you whole" So do you know what I said to the honey badger?

As M/engá had predicted, he was tasked lumbered at the rear of the great procession, seeing to the elder warriors and making sure that the weaker tribesmen were keeping pace. Despite not really wanting to be within earshot of his father's rebukes M/engá found the situation to his liking in that he had a captive audience for his tales. Some of the older girls had made a point of lingering near to him too, which hadn't escaped his attention.

Honey badgers can't talk! said one of the children everyone knows that!

Is that so? Well, no one had told this honey badger that, and he had quite a lot to say to me that night. That is until I told him who I was. THEN he was lost for words

The children laughed loudly: Did you fight him?

Oh yes... with my bare hands

Your bare hands?

Well, of course, I also have magical powers: they come in very useful when fighting honey badgers!

M/engá began an animated performance, describing how he fought one of the most ferocious creatures of the wilderness bare-handed, complete with mimed actions and not unconvincing sound effects. Before he knew it, M/engá was so engrossed in his performance he honestly thought that he was there, battling the badger with his bare fists. Lost as he was in the moment, he had failed to acknowledge that he was losing his audience to a greater commotion sweeping through the tribe. Ultimately, it was down to his father to shake him from his reverie

Quiet boy, Old Sun is speaking!

A warm smile spread over his face when he heard the magic word Korana. To him, the Korana meant two things: beautiful crafts and beautiful girls. All of his favourite items were crafted by Korana, most of them gifts from his mother, herself of that tribe. In fact, people said it was her blood that had made him so handsome (well, he liked to think they said things lie that). Though his mother was a Korana tribeswoman M/Engá was proud to be Namaqua: after all, what girl could resist a mighty Namaqua warrior. Already he was making adjustments to his head band. He peered along the long line of tribesmen to check the competition. Ahead of him, his nemesis /Uhi seemed to have tagged along with the elf Nmeregini.

They were strong but haved no clue when it comes to girls... besides, they seem more interested in tormenting Nmeregini's crippled brother Kalamko

Already Nmeregini was at it:as the group of boys passed Kalamko one of them gave his mule a knock, sending its load tumbling to the ground. As the group moved on M/Engá watched the cripple take the blame, suffering a reprimand from none other than Ndgzi, M/Engá's father. M/Engá shook his head He must have seen that! It wasn't his fault...

The attack of compassion was short lived and soon enough M/Engá was once again checking the competition. There was someone he did not want upstaging him... someone in particular. Where was he? Surely not at the vanguard with the best warriors... maybe he was with the scouts? This seemed highly unlikely, given that the scouts were made up of the Namaqua's finest hunters and M/Engá had only ever seen this one catching ground squirrels and tree sparrows... where could he be? He wasn't usually so difficult to spot...

HA! There he is, walking with his mother! He has shaven his head. He probably cut it off because the other boys were teasing him... if only he knew! If they teased him, it was because of jealousy! Just like they mock me for polishing my teeth and washing in water and wearing Korana craftwork... because they are jealous. Still, without his blonde hair he is less of a rival to me...

~~~~~
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Last edited by Sofinho; 02-12-2012 at 12:31 AM. Reason: splitting post -too long
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:32 AM
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...at Kai’am...

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Originally Posted by Kittenmancer
Even if one didn't know the exact location of Kai'am, the oasis was easy to find; one simply had to follow the change in vegetation
The spectacle of the Korana camp quite took M/Engá's breath away. Perhaps it was the result of so many long days contemplating nothing but the desert's monotony, perhaps it was simply the sight of something new: either way, somehow the colours seemed more vivid, more intense than M/Engá was used to. As the elders got down to business and the two tribes began to mingle, M/Engá watched the neatly-shorn Mkela wandering off with an equally bald Korana girl. Time for that later...for now,let's have a look at some of these crafts...

M/Engá spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the camp, asking the Korana craftsman about their wares and listening to old tribesmen from both tribes trading stories with one another. He admired how the destinies of these two tribes were intertwined, how although they had their differences they were ultimately one people, bound by blood but perhaps more importantly by trade. It isn't merely goods that get traded here: it's stories, ideas... even husbands and wives!

Would he soon find a wife? All his brothers were married. And his sisters, come to think of it. That could wait. He still felt young... and there were things he wanted to do before he settled down. Not that the life of the Khoe was ever truly settled. Still, as he looked around he concluded that although the Korana were certainly very beautiful, he could honestly say that he found none as lovely as Orm!xa. An old Korana craftsmen had very charitably accepted two dessicated honeycombs in return for a bracelet consisting of a single turquoise bead on thin leather strap: he present this to her tonight, as a gift. Before then, he would take a swim in the lake and wash off some of the desert sand prior to the festivities to come.

~~~~~~~
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kittenmancer
As the sun began descending towards the horizon, people of both tribes began drifting towards a small sandy beach on the western side of the lake, where the preludes to the feast were starting...
The sun was already setting when M/Engá emerged from a long swim in the cool waters of the lake. Orm!xa was sat on the shore, apparently waiting for him:

Are you waiting for me? asked M/Engá, barely able to suppress a big smile from spreading over his face.

Yes I am

There was an awkward pause.

Um... do you want... to... get...

I'm waiting for you because I'm here to fetch you! C'mon, you need to help us: you can beat a drum, can't you?

Is there anyone who cannot do this in our tribe? I can beat a drum as well as they can I was think... wait!

Orm!xa shot him a mischievous grin as she skipped gaily across the sands to where the musicians were gathered. congregated. M/Engá was surprised by her pace, he struggled to catch her up. Perhaps he would have gained on her sooner were he not forced to relent his pursuit momentarily, dumbstruck by the sight of the shy Mkela lounging with not one but two Korana girls... and a wolf cub. Before he could ask his fellow tribesman just what in the name of Sore was going on Orm!xa was calling back to him from amongst the many drummers. HE was not given to keeping a lady waiting, so left his questions for later.

M/Engá was very happy to beat the drums for a while: he was familiar with most of the Namaqua repertoire and quickly got his head around the subtle differences of the Korana rhythms. What excited him was the interplay between the two sets of musicians: the call and response from one rhythm section to another. It was only a rehearsal, but swiftly M/Engá found himself occupying the same elevated state he achieved when telling his stories. It was the same feeling he had when he had witnessed the honey-bird find the bee hive for the badger. He was aware of the presence a greater force, an energy permeating the life around him and to which he felt connected.

Crowds had begun to be drawn towards the assembly, captivated by the music of their ancestors and contributing to its content. Soon this was not a rehearsal, it was a performance. As the rich chorus of Korana and Namaqua voices chimed in unison, M/Engá was once again reminded of the shared heritage of all the Khoe peoples. The music became another medium by which this exchange might be made, these songs were stories, too. Even when the singing paused he could hear the words being spoken in the melodies of the thumb-pianos, sense the stories being told by the drums. M/Engá recognised that even the movement of the dancers possessed a language all of its own but still part of the language of the Khoe.

~~~~~~~~~

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kittenmancer
The sun had long dipped under the horizon but the celebration was still going strong. The dancers went round and round the crackling fires, pounding the sand with their bare feet, leaping and twisting in the air, their bodies on fire with boundless energy...
Sweat poured from M/Engá's back as he pounded the skin of the bass drum, galvanised in no small part by the movement of the many people dancing before him. Orm!xa was among them, dancing with amongst a group of the young people of both tribes, boys and girls, elves and humans. He could not be sure but he thought he may even have caught a glimpse of little Ataba, the halfling hunter, though maybe it was one of the children... Orm!xa shot him a wide a smile, beckoning for him to join her dancing in front of the fire. I think I've done enough drumming for now...

As he put down his sticks and join the dance a familiar voice called his name from behind him: it was his father. He was ready to turn and tell the old man to leave him be, but there was a solemnity about his Ndgzi somehow different from his usual gruffness:

Son, he said with just the slightest trace of affection, You must come with me...
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Last edited by Sofinho; 02-12-2012 at 12:33 AM.
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  #54  
Old 02-12-2012, 07:04 AM
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Aisha, Mkela, Nontle

The contended peace around the fire was broken by a group of three adults approaching. Tal'e Ban'te wore a pained expression on his face, although he did his best to hide it. The look he gave Aisha bore a mix of warmth, sadness and regret. Tenda Ihejia wore his usual stony expression, although there was a hint of puzzlement in his frown. Both men remained silent, allowing the woman to speak first, although she seemed close to tears.

She addressed her son first: "Mkela, light of my life... a great honour is on you. Old Moon will tell you what you need to know, she's in the sacred hut. Go now, make me proud." Her voice fell to a whisper. "Make your father proud."

Tenda looked at Nontle. "You too, girl. Go. Sore bless you."

Finally, Tal'e spoke as well, his voice cracking. "Aisha, sweet wild child... Old Moon wants to see you as well. I... forgive me. Keep her safe, Aisha, I beg you." With that, he turned abruptly and walked away as fast as he could, almost stumbling.
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Old 02-13-2012, 09:47 PM
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Despite the cold of the night, a bead of sweat appeared on her forehead. She had known this was coming. But Aisha had been so calm, so relaxed. A wave of disgust filled her. She had dropped her guard. She clenched a fist, then pulled it quickly over the cowardly drop.

A well of emotion broke over her as the man who tried so hard to be her father spoke. Her throat tightened. She looked him in the eyes. "There is nothing to forgive. And I will not let anything happen to her." With the proclamation, something settled in her gut. Aisha knew she could be strong enough. She had to be.

The responsibility soothed the beating of her heart. She had direction.
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Old 02-14-2012, 01:59 AM
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Korubo sat silently, watching the flames dance with the Khoe surrounding them. The young man had hardly spoken two words since arriving at the camp, keeping mostly to the back of whatever crowd he happened to find himself in. It was an unusual practice for the normally fast-talking boy, to be sure, but his customary cockiness was beaten back by the sheer awe of so many strangers and the swiftly administered sense of rejection he was delivered upon arrival.

While his pride had glorified his mental strengths, Korubo's insecurity flared where the leather met the sand. The scrawny outcast was nothing like the strapping, manly mental image that the Korana surely had of his people, and it only took one scornful look from an attractive young woman to thoroughly disarm him of his usual bravado. He smiled through it, to be sure, but the wound festered more deeply than it ought. He had been hoping to find welcoming kindred spirits for the last several miles of the trek, and the first pretty face was hardly sympathetic.

Through the festivities he had either sat with his family or awkwardly made his way into the least occupied portions around the fire. Korubo had fantasized about how wonderful the meeting would be; he had heard that the Korana were keepers of hidden lore, and his heart lept at the possibility of learning more of the Trickster from these wise ones. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to be too caught up in the revelry to really let slip any morsels in his presence, and the Korana seemed hardly any different from the muscle-bound fools of his own tribe in the midst of it all.

Korubo quietly glanced up and took in the people making up his surroundings, gauging them for usefulness - or entertainment value. Some warmed water on their sleeping hands ought to teach them for being so distant....
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Old 02-14-2012, 08:16 AM
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Mkela sat up when he heard his mother's voice approaching. Now she stood across from the fire from him, flanked by two strange men contrasting her smile with their stony faces. As he stood to greet her, she moved around the fire towards him. Mkela could feel his face tense and his brow furrow. What could this be? Sensing the confusion on Mkela's face, she took his hands in hers and spoke. "Mkela, light of my life... a great honour is on you. Old Moon will tell you what you need to know, she's in the sacred hut. Go now, make me proud." She extending both arms around wrapped them around Mkela. Her voice fell to a whisper. "Make your father proud." What does Old Moon want to see me now for? Shouldn't she be meeting with the Kxara?

Mkela was only partially aware of the two men speaking. The words only half-registered, but he could hear the tenseness and confusion in their voices. Then they walked away, leaving Mkela in his mother's arms. He could feel her tears falling on his shoulders. Then, as if a light suddenly brightened before him, he understood. He looked at Aisha and Nontle. The three of them, brought together during the day by seemingly random events had all been chosen. While he still couldn't understand why he would be chosen, Mkela realized that they were to be Kxara. Not knowing what to say, he whispered to his mother "I will do my best. Thank you mother. Thank you for all you have done for me." Then, when the moment settled on him, he added "But who will help you? How will you..." Mke pushed him away so that she could look into his eyes and cut him off. "Do not worry about me. Old Moon will see to me. Old Moon will see that I am cared for. It is a small price to pay for such a great honor." Mkela wasn't sure if he understood what she meant. "Who had to pay a price? You? Old Moon? Me? But he trusted his mother and he trusted Old Moon. He would go.

Turning to the two young woman around the fire, he said Do you know the way to the scared hut? Shall we go together?

Last edited by mwc9a; 02-14-2012 at 08:40 PM.
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:09 AM
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"You too, girl. Go. Sore bless you."

She looked at him with both desperate confusion and uncertainty, as well as a flicker of anger. They were summoned to Old Moon which no doubt entailed something big, wether for better or worse. Yet, all her misguided father could offer her was his deity's blessings? He could not even wish her good luck or well being off of his own accord. It was too much to expect of him to change his ways even in this special situation. Even now she would not be able to reconcile with her father. She might well never be able to, she realized.
It is not my problem, he brought this upon himself.

"Thank you for delivering the summons, father." She adressed Tenda with a bitterness that bit through the air, and was not likely to go unnoticed by those undistracted. Her tone carried no love for him, much to his own regret.
She turned away from her father, content with what had been said. She had a lot of questions to ask and only one person whom could answer them: Old Moon.

"Do you know the way to the sacred hut? Shall we go together?"

Nontle nodded half mindedly, trying to conjure up scenarios of what was about to happen and how she would react. Noone had confirmed the fact yet, so it might be something else than becoming seeds. And would it be just them? Or a dozen others? And whom would also be chosen, if at all. The questions bit themselves into her mind untill she snapped out of it, realizing that she had to answer a question.
"Yes... I know where it is. We should go now, one should never keep Old Moon waiting." Nontle turned to Aisha with worried eyes after standing up from her sitting position. "Will... you be coming as well, Aisha?"

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:23 PM
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Hut of the Old Moons



As the two girls, boy and wolf reached the large circular hut that was their destination, they caught a glimpse of Komosai and Kalamko ducking through the entrance, closely followed by Ekevu. At the same time, a Namaqua boy with handsome feathers in his headband was approaching as well, clearly one of the others who had been summoned.

As they entered, their sight slowly adjusted to the dim light within and the swirls of aromatic herb smoke that made the eyes water and tickled the nose. A small fire was burning in the center of the hut, ringed by stones; the flames had a strange colour, with blues and greens flickering among the reds and oranges, an occasional pop and crackle sending bright white sparks upwards towards the central roof opening. Across from the entrance sat the two wisewomen, shadows twisting across their deeply-lined features as the fire danced in front of them.

The Old Moon of the Namaqua, Rahma, sat on the left, wrapped in a blanket patterned with designs in bright colours; the shapes of antelopes and gazelles flitted across its red and green folds, pursued by black human silhouettes wielding spears and bows. Her neck and chest were covered with metal rings stacked one upon the other - bright copper mostly, but here and there gold and silver. Her wrists were crowded with bracelets and heavy rings hung from her earlobes. Her bare arms were thin and sinewy, still strong despite her advanced years. She had shaved her white hair in spiral patterns and painted the same patterns on her face with white. When she smiled at the new arrivals, she displayed two full rows of bright white teeth, something that obviously made her quite proud.

Nadhari, Korana's Old Moon was seated on the right, her blanket a deep blue patterned with geometrical shapes in yellow and white, its hem adorned with shells and beads. She wore a purple scarf around her head and necklaces of many coloured beads were hanging from her neck. Her face and arms were painted with white dots, like constellations in the midnight sky. Feathered earrings fluttered on the sides of her head like little wings. She smiled as well and gestured for the boys and girls to find a seat on the woven grass mats that ringed the fire.

Some of the mats were already occupied: Aisha recognized her sister Abi, who avoided her gaze; Ekevu saw his friend Aykiki, looking serious for the first time he remembers; /Uhi was sitting cross-legged to the right of Rahma, a smug expression on his face; Nmeregini shot angry glares at his brother and tensed in his place next to /Uhi; Odusina lifted her chin and stared defiantly at her cousin; Ataba was almost invisible as he kept to the shadows, farther from the fire than the others. There was also another boy in the tent, sitting to the left of Nadhari, his striking looks unfamiliar to any of the boys and girls. His skin and wispy hair were so white that he almost seemed to glow in the firelight, like the moon reflecting light from the sun. The style of his clothes was not quite like any they have seen, but they seemed sturdy and well-traveled. His pale blue eyes were staring in open curiosity at the newcomers.

Nadhari reached into a pouch hidden in the folds of her blanket and took out a handful of dried leaves which she threw in the fire. They crackled and burned and the bittersweet smoke curled thicker as she spoke. "Some of you came here on their own, others were called. You are all worthy sons and daughters of your tribe." She paused as her gaze swept across all gathered around the fire and at her side Rahma nodded in agreement and lit her polished wooden pipe with an ember held in her bare hand. "This is a fateful moment", Nadhari continued. "I have cast my stones and they show a great conflux of happenings. I can see what was and what is, but what will be I cannot see, not for any of you." She fell silent and now Rahma raised her voice. "You will go through a trial. Those of you who have strength of mind and spirit will be chosen as Kxara, to go forth and accomplish great things. Or to die in the desert, who knows." She gave a dry chuckle.

Nadhari spoke again, ignoring the other woman's dark humour. "Before we start the ritual, does any of you have any questions?"

 
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Old 02-15-2012, 02:59 AM
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“What is this trial, and why do you think it necessary? Either we die in trial or we die in the main attempt of whatever it is you are planning for us. I see no need to risk lives for what will amount to nothing but a test. If I am to fall, I would not have it be in a trivial pursuit!” The words came out loud and caustic, but for once Aisha did not care. Old Moon was toying with them, and she would not have it. To die for nothing…And the flippancy made her blood boil. She kept her gaze directed firmly towards the old woman, ignoring her sister. She does not so much as do me the courtesy to look at me. A seething wave of anger radiated from her.

Her calm of before was utterly banished. In normal circumstances she might feel fear. Death was not unfamiliar to her, but it was generally distant. Yet she felt only hot rage. Perhaps, whispered a worming doubt, you are only so angry because you are frightened. Aisha dismissed the thought with a grind of the teeth. Her anger was not unreasonable. Old Moon spoke of their deaths as if they were little more than curiosities. It was clear disrespect. She clenched a fist, nails digging into palms.
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