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Sep 26, 2013

26. The Challengers on the Road

The Unfinished Song: Initiate





…shunned them, but everyone needed them.

He left the bodies beneath the skull stone. After a slight hesitation, he relieved one corpse of legwals and a spear.

The legwals stank of sour milk and blood, a stench that reminded him of the first time he’d killed a man. Though Kavio had only been ten, not yet past Initiation into manhood, he’d already been Tested and proved a Tavaedi. During the fight, he’d been so sacred he pissed himself, and because of that so embarrassed, he hadn’t told Father what happened. His stupid fear, his stupid pride, had almost started a war.

Was this the meaning of his journey omen? He’d spent his whole life trapped in the literal and political mazes of the Rainbow Labyrinth tribehold. This was his chance to shed those restrictions, grow himself anew. He didn’t want to be his father’s shadow, or his mother’s reflection, but neither did he care to be a rover. If he remade himself, he wanted to become more than he had been, not less.

Sheer cliffs lay directly west, so he took the gentler eastern path from the box canyon then circled back into the mountains. A generation ago, many thriving clanholds had nestled in the arroyos and cliffs of these mountains. Eagles nested in the thatch bomas where warriors had once stood guard. Whole clans had bequeathed nothing to the future but their bones. His father would not say how he had survived those years; that generation hoarded food and secrets, but Kavio knew more than his father suspected. It was in the West, in Yellow Bear, Kavio had learned his father was not the hero he’d always believed.

At times, he felt sure someone followed him. He went so far as to double back on his tracks, in case the rovers had friends. He saw no one.

At a major crossroads in the trail, however, a crowd of men and women waited. He growled to himself. He’d sharpened the stone point on the spear he’d won from the rovers, but if it came to real battle, he wasn’t properly armed.

This lot looked more deadly than the rovers. For one thing, he knew them and many of them were Tavaedies. It stung to realize that many of those standing there to confront him were young men and women of his own generation whom he had considered friends. Even Nilo, the son of Danumoru and Shula.

Kavio refused to show how they had hurt him. Weakness must be concealed; he’d learned that much from his father.

“Well?” he challenged.

“We want to come with you.”

This, he hadn’t expected.

“Are you mad?”

“If the Morvae are going to start exiling Imorvae again, we want to be with you,” Nilo said. “If the blooded spear is to come, we’re going to be on your side.”

The others grunted agreement.

“Don’t be fools. There must be no blooded spear, no war. It would rip the tribe apart.”

“So you’re just going to…






TO BE CONTINUED

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