Tribes – Prelude part one

Tribe 8 – RPG/TRPG Session

Run by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)

Tribe Members;

Me – Lady Quinn (Quinn of the Bone path)

Jason (jymmijamz) – Brhyannon (Brhyannon Wagg Trav’on of Eva)

Will – Aulderush (Aulderush Lunerkin Lanig’on of the tribe of Baba Yaga)

CHAPTER ONE

Working the Land

Brhyannon is busy working the ground on the farm in Griffentowne.  It has been fifteen years since Eva blessed the tribe and her parents with her.  Unfortunately her father has fallen ill and is having to stay laid up in bed.  The majority of Griffentowne is made up from the tribe of Eva.  A place where they can live with nature and live off the land.  It has been a hard fifteen years.  For as long as she can remember she has toiled over the crops, either harvesting, planting, or readying the soil.  She has also known of people who has been lost.  Either from the hard work and age, or from an attack on the outskirts.  Talk say that it could be a stray Z’bri that stalks and picks off the weak and vulnerable that venture too far.  There has been no eyewitness but the tales carry on none-the-less.  Recently Brhyannon’s father has been getting worse.  His hair has started to come out in clumps, and his nails are long and thin.  He has even tried to hide that he has been vomiting, but she is aware that he has been during the night and hides what ever is brought up.

A dear friend of Brhyannon, Chloe Trav’on has been helping her with the land.  They have known each other for many years, both growing up in the Eva tribe together.  Both of them are working in silence as they use the basic wooden hoes as they turn the soil.  Even in this heat, Chloe is covered in a thick woollen coat and leather armour, just in case.  She is a thin girl but dressed as she does she looks a lot bulkier.  She is busy chewing on her own personal tobacco that she grew herself.  She spits a dark brown mass out to the ground and turns to Brhyannon, asking her what she is thinking about.  Brhyannon shares that she is thinking of her father, worrying for his health.  “Nobody seems to be doing anything.”

“Have you tried to get everyone together to pray to Eva?  You know, get her blessing”

“They say they have tried everything they can.”

“Hey do you want me to rustle them up?  Get some of the dumb shit together.”

“You can try.”  Chloe assures her that she knows she doesn’t believe it will help, but explains that she has to remember what had happened with their ancestors.  When the Z’bri had attacked and was all over them.  The Fatimas brought them out of that, and had been given this.  Chloe turns and indicates with her arm the land that they now all work on, the fields and huts in the distance.  “We’re free.  If they can do that then they can help out your father.”

“It is worth a try.”

“That’s the spirit.” Chloe pats her on the back, “We had best get back to work before the Den Mother sees us.  We wouldn’t want to get a reputation for slacking now would we?”  Brhyannon smiles slightly at Chloe and then turns back to her hoe.

Two hours later as Brhyannon and Chloe are busy putting their back in to the work at hand, Brhyannon strikes something hard beneath the soil.  She stops to take a look and begin to clear the soil around it.  This is a prime location for the crops and this will need to be dug up.  As she clears away the soil, it revels a chunk of torn, slightly rusted, metal.  It seems to be a rather large piece compared to other previous small ‘talismans’ found, found from a time before the camps.  They usually have some kind of ritual markings on them, the same coming up again and again.  It must have been very potent for them to have stamped this marking on the precious metals.  People tend to wear these has amulets.  However this piece is at least two hand spans wide.

After many minutes of digging at this piece, Brhyannon manages to uncover it and ease it out.  There has gathered a few people around her now, wishing to see what she has found.  The piece is two hands spans wide by two hand spans tall.  It is a rather thick piece with four markings and an odd symbol behind.  This doesn’t look the same as previous pieces as the markings are different.  The metal appears to have been burnt before.

Davey Tav’on, the younger sibling.  Not as well built as would be expected to work the fields, this being against him and people find him a not good toiler of the soil.  But he has the characteristic smile and glint to the eye that normally puts people at ease when they see him.  He edges his way through the small crowd and steps next to Brhyannon, wishing to take a closer look for himself at this new wonder.  Brhyannon tilts the metal artefact for Davey to have a better look.  He repositions his bow that he has had since he was thirteen, so as it doesn’t interfere with the view.  Air whistles past his lips as he takes in the full magnificence of the piece.  “That be proper something there.”  He tosses his long black hair from his eyes so as he can take a closer look.  “Not seen markings like this before, and I have been a few.”  He then describes what he believes the second marking looks like to him, as if it is two ladders leaning against each other.  “Perhaps people used it when they went to high places.”  He then brushes at the piece and points out that the four marking is the same.  “Must have been when the time before when people went up high in to their sky realms.”

Brhyannon remembers what she was told of the sky realm from the village elders.  It refers to large concrete structures that reach to the sky on the outskirts of the Bazaar.  A place that people avoid as it is known to be haunted and people go missing.  One of the strange wonders of the world before.  Probably made in an attempt to reach the sun, but as everyone knows you can’t build your way to the sun, you have to traverse the spirit realm for that.

Davey asks Brhyannon what she plans to do with the piece.  She tells him that she will take it to the market and sell it.  But Davey suggests taking it to the Bazaar and trading it with one of the Dahlian caravans when they pass through.  “You’ll probably be able to get a good sword for your side.”

The thoughts are soon broken by a shout from the near distance.  One of the Den Mothers is running over.  As she gets near her breath short, she stops and pants, catching her breath before speaking.  She addresses Brhyannon, “You should come quickly.  Come.”  And when asked tells her that it is her mother.  Quickly Brhyannon stows the metal object in her satchel, and turns to rush back to the village, knocking over her hoe as she goes.

They quickly traverse the rust ditch as they leave the fields and head in to the village.  The rust ditch has many things half buried in the ground.  Sharp objects pointing out of a metallic material, that has become warn through the years, and anyone who scratches themselves against the object are cut and become infected.  The village’s only defence against attacks.  In the village there are many different wooden frames with either leather hide or tarpaulin stretched over.  Brhyannon soon makes her family hut to find her mother looking very frail.  It is odd seeing her like this.  She has always been healthy, known as one of the important people of the village.  Her skin shudders as she coughs, her hands looking cold and green.  She sways there and Brhyannon can smell a strong acidic smell in the room.  In the dark corner of the room she can also make out something covered.  Green liquid with dark red chunks seems to be sinking beneath the covering.  Joan Trav’on, the mother speaks with difficulty, “Don’t worry I am just feeling a little under the weather.”  And as she smiles, blood can be seen between her teeth and around her gums.  Again she sways, her hand held by James the father.  His skin is looking even thinner today, the veins clearly visible, and another tooth appears to be missing in his weak smile.

“No use hiding it. *Cough* It looks like Baba Yaga has her eye on both of us now.”  More coughing comes from his mouth.  He then assures her not to worry, that Eva is looking over her.  And even with them both gone, the tribe will still be there for her.  Brhyannon turns to the Den Mother, tears streaming down her cheeks, demanding that she has to do something for them.  “There must be something that can be done.”  The Den Mother assures her that everything has been done.  Not even a healer blessed by Eva herself was able to hold back the illness.  The Den Mother kneels beside Brhyannon and holds her hand.  “I think Baba Yaga has marked them for the journey, to explore the world beyond for her.  Do you understand they have been picked, she needs to take them across the river, so they can explore the spirit realms beyond.”  But Brhyannon isn’t listening, stating that they are her parents and she needs them.  The Den Mother strokes Brhyannon’s hand soothing her, telling her tha the Fatimas need them for the good of the tribes.  But Brhyannon keeps crying no.  The Den Mother pulls her close and holds her, soothing her, “The Tribe is here for you.  The clan is here for you.”  Brhyannon pushes herself away from the Den Mother and lets out a scream as she runs from the hut, knocking through a gathered crowd outside, hearing them talking about another person who can’t work the land, as she runs in to the night.  She hears them mention her father and how he was never apart of the clan anyway, and now the mother going it just means more work for the rest.

Brhyannon stops as she enters the woods nearby, a secret little place on the edge that she goes to when she wants to be alone.  One of the middle-aged men with bright red hair, who was talking outside her hut, steps up near to her and kneels a few feet away from her.  He greets her and states that they need to talk.  He tells her that the frost will be coming early and need every hand working the land.  He reminds her that everyone in Griffentowne looks after each other, and they need everyone to pull together so no one will starve this coming winter.  But Brhyannon just turns and asks why no one could help her parents.  He assures her that they did everything they could.  They know her pain and can feel her pain, but they have to move on.  Everyone has pain they have to deal with.  He then asks if she will go on and help with the land.  But she demands to know if Baba Yaga will do what she wants.  He quickly reminds her that they do not tell the Fatimas what to do.  “We only have what we have because of the Fatmias.”  He then reminds her of the tales of the time before with the clans and tribes, of the deaths and how that was the kind part.  “The Fatimas set us FREE!  We DO NOT tell them what to do.”

“Just leave me be.”  Brhyannon demands as she turns her back on him.  He stands and mentions as it appears to be a double shift for him this evening.  He walks off.

A Rite of Passage

Westholm is a settlement right at the western extreme, and towards the north of the known world.  It is a clearing made in the woods there.  A self contained settlement with small huts, and various rusted metal box type objects/structures with glass shards from the world before, adorn the unknown boxes, the glass is said to help with protection and crop growth.  There are a few ruined stone buildings that have tarpaulin stretched across the top to give shelter.  There is a thin path that leads further west from here, but no one ventures to close to the path, but there are pits and ditches with rusted metal spikes along with wooden ones.  Either side of the path is a very large body of water, the water is a beautiful deep blue, and beyond the path but barely visible is a beautiful land with glittering objects that are impossible to make out.  Walking amongst the happy Dahlian people here are the metal armoured Joanites with stern looks upon their visage.  They are the warriors, the protectors.  The few Evans also here are the growers and midwives, and an eternal debt is owed to them for bring each member of the tribe in to this world.

On this particular night, a young girl, no more than six years, is having difficulty trying to sleep.  She is unsure why, maybe it is because there will be some celebrations in the morning.  She hears shouts in the distance, some preparations and foot steps nearby.  She recognises one or two voices that pass, ones that belong to the Joanites that have given her little sweet treats.  Dried fruits that are grown there and made in to sweets to give to the children.  Some of the shouts that are heard are of hate, anger and fear.  Even through the tarpaulin the young girl can feel an intense heat and has difficulty breathing.  An adult female next to her holds her to the ground, the girl knows her to be her mother.  Smoke is beginning to fill the space above them.  Soon the sounds outside turn to that of metal on flesh, and then the screams begin.  Flickering patterns come next dancing on the outside of the tarpaulin, flames licking at anything nearby.  Then the animalistic voices shout out from human tongues.

The young girl eases herself away from her mother and gently lifts up the edge of the tarpaulin, peering out at all the chaos.  Her mother distracted by her own thoughts and fears at the carnage outside.  As the girl looks out, she feels a hot splattering across her face.  It is wet but it burns her face where it is so hot, she quickly wipes it away.  Then a body slams down to the ground before her, a face next to hers, the eyes wide and staring through her.  She recognises the face belonging to one of the kind men that always gave her the sweets.  She then hears a quiet gurgling sound, almost rhythmic, coming from the back of his throat where there is this liquid bubbling and oozing back and forth.  The man’s hand, his fingers reach out to her momentarily, but her gaze is fixed on the hypnotic play at the back of his throat.  Then after the brief spasm he lies motionless, the red liquid trickling down his chin.

But before the young girl can look beyond the man in front of her, her mother grabs and pulls her back under, holding her tighter still.  Her mother was always happy and joyful, but now she is deadly serious as she huddles her.  Soon another face appears at the opening to the tarpaulin.  A dirty wind warn face, with blackened and matted hair on his face, a few teeth missing from his malicious grin, and one of his eyes is bleeding from a gash across it.  “Well hello.”  He looks at the young girl, “We have one here we can use.”  His hand reaches in towards the girl.  Her mother screams and pulls further back with the girl still in her arms.  “Come on little girl.  You want to go and explore don’t you?”  The girl looks up at her mother and then back in to the face of the savage.  Her mother kicks out at him as he tries to pull himself in further.  But as the mother kicks again he grabs a hold of the leg, not letting go and trying to pull on it.  But then he suddenly goes ridged, his head snapping back.  And in the shadow play through the tarpaulin, a blade can be seen being pulled out from the man’s spine.  The savage collapses, moving no more.  The girl doesn’t take her eyes away but focuses on the man and his body lying there still.  But she watches intently, seeing the blood slowing dancing from his body.  The shadows playing on the body like a dance, a dance of death.  Finally her attention is broken by a strange voice coming from her mother.  “Very nice my child.  Very nice.  You can see the dance in all things can’t you.  Don’t forget that as you grow older.  And I am sure my blessing will be many.  You will become a beloved of my tribe.”  The feeling the girl has is of someone other than her mother holding her, then she realises that she is no longer in her mother’s arms.  Her mother with a look of shock is scrabbling to hold her again.  Her mother’s eyes looking about confused, wondering how the girl was no longer in her arms.

The next day it was known that the attack came from the Outlands, a raid.  Three of the nice Joanites were never seen again, one of them the girl saw the night before with the flowing blood.  Also a few of the other children that the girl played with were never seen again, and no one spoke of it.  There were a lot of burials over the next few days, and some of the bodies were not buried but stacked up and burnt.  The girl heard in whispers that these were the Squats that had come raiding.

But all that was ten years ago now, and that same young girl is now a young adult.  She is standing at the top of a very high peak.  Over the years she has been travelling with the caravans, and it is now that time when she needs to make ‘The Choice’.  During her short life so far she has done so much travelling and seeing all of the known world, where as everyone she encounters say it is as much to just travel to the next town or village.  She has gone from her home in Westholm all way down to the Bazaar, and many places in between.

A pat on her back brings her back from her thoughts.  She is not alone up there on the vary high peak, there are three other young men stood with her.  They are all there for their rite of passage, to make ‘The Choice’.  They have to call out their chosen path and caravan, and then they leap off and plummet to the ground.  If the choice is a good one and favoured by the caravan, then they are brought down safely, if not then the land will take its reward.

The girl looks at her other companions stood up there with her, her back to the edge of the jump and oblivion or salvation.  “I am Lady Quinn.  The Bones be mine.”  And as she shouts this out she leaps off backwards over the edge.  She can feel the air rushing past her, but to her it looks as if she is falling at a slow rate.  She can look out and see the lands beneath, see the wall to where the Z’bri have been pushed back to.  She can see the hunting lands, where the food grows aplenty and animals are friendly and docile.  Next she takes in the cursed sight of the ruined place beneath the bridge, where the outcast live in squalor.  She can also see the Sky Realm at the edge of the Bazaar, looking like fingers reaching up to the sky.

The ground is moving oh so quickly towards her as she plummets.  Sights blur and the smells that invade her senses pass so quickly.  She feels her blood rushing to her feet, looking past her legs at the other leapers that soon followed her.  Her focus turns to the Bone caravan, seeing that it is still a long way away and not moving.  In fact she can see a man stood beside the caravan, his bone white mask clearly visible.  She thinks to herself, ‘If they don’t come for me then I will return and kill them all’.  The man looks at her and waves as he leans against the caravan.  She raises her own hand and throws an obscene gesture back at him, but keeps herself calm ready to embrace the outcome.

She hears the sound of one of her fellow jumpers hit the ground with a dull solid thud, and a whimper sound escape his throat as he splats.  The ground is now rushing to meet her at a high velocity, and is mere fleeting seconds away, but she knows death and waits for his embrace.  Wanting to take in the last dances before she meets the darkness.  Then mere inches from the ground, her breath is knocked from her as she hangs there in the air.  A caravan is beside her and laughter is heard coming from around it.  The image of the caravan in the distance shimmers and fades, revealing that this caravan has been here all along, using the ways of Dahlia to hide it from her eyes.  The same man is standing there looking at her, and he throws back her hand gesture.  The others come up and clasp her, patting her on the back and welcoming her to the Bone path.  As the man in the mask finally comes up to her and welcomes her, she pulls him to her as she throws her knee up between his legs hard.  He hits the ground and rolls in to a ball.  Everyone around takes in a sharp in-take of breath, especially the men.  “Nice one.”  She says as she smiles down at him.  “Part of being a Dahlian is getting the joke.”  He tells her through gritted teeth.  “Well there is your punch line.” She retorts.  Ruckus laughter erupts from all around.

Quinn of the Bone path turns and spots a barrel-chested lad sat, about the same age as her.  He has slightly rosy cheeks and a long black theatrical cape billowing behind him.  It looks almost like he must be pushing the back of the cape with his hand.  He is also wearing a bright red tabard, similar to what the Joanites would wear.  He places a large goat skull over his head as a mask, and leaps down to meet Quinn.  His laughter through the mask is loud and booming.  He seems to stagger as he walks over to her.  She can see that he has these small little coloured boxes, no larger than a hand, weaved together with pieces of string and wrapped around his waist.  He claps his hands together as he comes up to her, “That was funny.  You hit him with your knee in the family sack.”  She smiles and places and friendly arm around his shoulder, bringing him under her arm and beside her, laughing with him.  She takes in a quiet deep breath around him, smelling his air for any intoxication.  She picks up none and comes to the conclusion that it must simply be his youthful and excited exuberance.  He then puts his large hand to hers, introducing himself as Seb Agnite, and telling her how happy he is to meet her.

As Seb is busy talking with Quinn, and telling her how happy he is to be there and meet her.  Quinn uses this opportunity to test her skills, and easily unclasps one of the coloured boxes from its bindings, fastening it all back together again without him noticing.  She takes a quick subtle look at the box as Seb talks.  It has different colours on some of the side, but some are blank, however it looks to be segmented in a grid type pattern.  It is dirty and broken, obviously from the world before.  Seb embraces her, telling her how nice it is to meet new people.  Quinn looks over his shoulder at his box in her hand.  As she examines it more, it appears to be just a solid box with each square grid piece connected in the centre with no opening.  It seems a pointless object but brightly coloured.  Acting as if she stood on something, Quinn pushes Seb away and bends over as if to pick his cube from the ground, asking if he had dropped it.  Seb hastily snatches it away from her grasp shouting, “That’s mine.  That’s mine.  You don’t touch that!  I was given that.”  She tells him that he had dropped it and she was only handing it back, assuring him that there is no need to be like he is.  He ties the cube box thing back in with the others, and informs her that Agnes had given it to him and not to touch it.  Quinn turns without a word and begins to walk away.  He quickly stops and runs after her, telling her that there is no need to be like that.

Quinn fetches herself a drink, only taking a sip from her first mug and then pouring the rest over each of the unsuccessful candidates.  There are many different caravans here, most are a lot more colourful and decorated than the Bone’s.  Many have coloured silks hanging from the caravans, and the masks are off mirrors and silver.  People are pouring drinks and leaping and dancing over or through the flames.  The Bone’s on the other hand are more reserved with dark blacks and purples, bone and ebony.  During the evening many from the Bone path seem to be sharing a private joke as they make use of the recent dead, propping them up in odd poses.  Getting dirty glares and tuts from on lookers.  There seems to be a competition seeing who can get the best reaction from the crowd.  The tinkers are usually the outcast, but during these celebrations the Bone path seems to have dropped beneath them due to their antics.

A thin frail hand touches Quinn’s face and turns it towards the owners face.  Seeing a thousand bloodshot eyes looking at her, until she realises she is looking at an object on the guy’s face, of something she heard of from the world before.  It is a monocle with fragmented glass.  The bloodshot eye behind it appears to be examining her.  In his other hand is a walking stick, on top of which is a lantern will ill smoke coming from a thick strong scent of Myrrh.  She wonders how he had managed to come upon her without her noticing.  He turns her head one way and then the next eyeing her intently.  Eventually he releases his hold of her and steps back.  He has a large red lacquered box strapped to his back, with a smooth large lock securing it.  Locks like these are usually all dirty and rusty.  He is wearing a leather breastplate under his loose robes.  He carries on looking at her.  “Don’t get any ideas old man.”

“Oh I have many ideas.”  And after a pause he continues,  “There is something behind those eyes of yours.”

“Yeah and there are behind yours.” She interrupts him.  “Vocalise your ideas.”  She suggests.

“There is a darkness in you.  I can see it.  You don’t walk with it yet.  But if you don’t take care then it will only be a matter of time.  Walk carefully Dahlian.  I don’t want to look in your eyes and see a beast I have to put down.  Do you understand me?”

“We understand each other.”

“Good.  In that case, as you are following the path of light let me introduce myself.  I am Julius.  Demon seeker of Baba Yaga.”  She introduces herself as Lady Quinn to him, and he informs her that he will be walking with her caravan for a while.  Finding them perfect as they are well known travellers, and the Bone path are an ideal image for him to walk amongst.

A Field Trip

Aulderush is in his last year of teens.  He has already learnt a lot but has a hunger for more.  A woman of a similar age comes up to him, an old friend by the name of Larket Sivenon.  She is currently being trained to be a flesher of Baba Yaga.  They are both at The Great Hill and Larket suggest a proposition.  Within the hills long cold corridors, the dead were once entombed deep inside.  There is a constant chill and damp through out the walkways within.  Also there are many statues along the long corridors with their half arms reaching out, and faceless head looking down upon the travellers.  Some have the face of the Goddess herself, but the rest of the statue is in ruin, showing marks of a time before.  Larket mentions a place to the east called The Graveyard of the Singing Bones.  “Perhaps this would be a more interesting place to investigate.”

With an interest sparked, Larket leads Aulderush out from The Great Hill, their eyes winching with the light burning in their eyes.  They have been underground for far too long.  In the distance they can make out the great wall, with what appears small figures moving back and forth along the top.  And in another direction they can see the Sky Realms reaching up in the distance.  Nearby the woods lay all around.  Now in the daylight, Aulderush can see once again the white hair of Larket where she bleaches it.  Her clothes are a rough gathering of clumps of leather sat over a simple black robe.  The leather looks more for appearance than for any real protection.  However she does carry a pair of sword strapped to each leg, their blades extremely sharp, and have never been drawn in anger but only used to remove the flesh of one who has died.  She flashes him a smile when she sees him look at her, her teeth becoming more visibly sharp.  These being her own expression as she feels tattoos are too boring.  The only tattoos that adorn her are the two solid black marks around her eyes giving the impression of staring in to the abyss when looking at her.

As they walk they talk many different subjects and small talk.  Talking of different bones and things that they do when whiling away the time.  And disagreements they have with their tutor.  Larket warns Aulderush that they are not supposed to go where they are heading, but Aulderush assures her that he thinks she is taking the rules too literally.  She smiles at him and carries on.  After about an hours walk they finally arrive at their destination, aware of a fine powder beneath their feet.  Larket begins to recite to herself a mantra from memory as she picks her way through different bones.  They come across a whole skeleton of a creature they have not seen complete before.  It hangs there on a tree, and as the wind blows through the bones they get a sense of how the place got its name.

Remembering the tale of before and how the stories were tattooed in to the bones of the creatures, telling the story of what was, the attack of the Z’bri and the coming of Baba Yaga.  Larket goes to a bone and runs her fingers across the indents and carvings, reading the story told there.  She pales slightly and moves to the next.  Aulderush himself begins to take a look over some of the bones reading himself some of the stories.  One of how Baba Yaga, wrapped in tarpaulin, stood on tall metal girders wrapped in barbed wire, took the fight to the Z’bri.

After a while Aulderush stands and turns to Larket, “Why?  Why is this place forbidden?”  She smiles back at him, “The bones are fragile now, and they have been here so long.  You are only trusted to come here if they know you would not break them.”  She winks at him, “I trust you.”  He nods his head and smiles.  “I on the other hand have no reason to.”  A voice comes from behind them.  A look of panic crosses Larket’s face.  Aulderush turns slowly to find a woman with the markings of the little crone.  Her long black hair cascading from the top of her head, and more of an impression of skull upon her skin where it seems to be pulled tight and subtle markings placed.

“So you have come for the knowledge here.  What have you learned?”

“I have learned the history of our tribe.” Aulderush suggests.  The crone smiles at him, “Remember what is important is the future.  We must remember our past, we record it, it is useful on how we keep ourselves alive here and now.”  She then leads them through to another area.  They have heard of an area where the spirit realm meets the physical in the River of Dreams.  But there hung between two trees, using bone, is an image of skulls floating in the River of Dreams, made up from various different bones.  She asks them if they know what it is made from.  Aulderush looks confused and eventually states ‘The bones of the dead’.  She corrects him, telling him about when the Z’bri attacked, and how they sent their slaves, their surfs first.  They were killed and the bones are what they see before them now.  “These are not just the history written, but history in a physical form.  They cannot be replaced.  This is where we show the truth.  And we use our fallen enemies to do so.”

The crone admits that they have not done any damage yet, but only the known and trust worthy are allowed to enter.  The bones must not be damaged, and with the Joanites patrolling she doesn’t understand how Larket had got them through unseen.  Larket whistles softly to herself and she turns her head away and to the sky.  The crone carries on after giving an angry look her way, turning back to Aulderush and guessing he hadn’t even known of this.  She explains that even the dust they walk on is sacred, it is the bones of their own fallen who had died in the battle for their freedom, and they will be walking away with them on their feet, away from this sacred place.  “This is why I have shown and explained this to you, so you will know.  Instead of me just dragging you away and you not knowing.”  The Crone turns, “We will leave now and you will never come back again.  Do you understand.”  After a long pause, long enough for Aulderush to think that is he assures her that they will leave now.  The Crone thanks him for answering telling him that it will do for now, and pointing out that she is aware that the never answered the second part.

A Most Dire Dance

Quinn has been travelling for some time now with her new Bone path caravan, doing many ‘performances’ for different groups of people and villages.  Over the time, Quinn has caught the eye of a man within the caravan.  A man called Troika of the Bone path, an old man who has asked several various tasks of her.  Such as to place things in certain ways, or to pass on messages, simple things but generally useful.  From the look of his head, his hair was quickly departing his head, so he shaved off the rest and replaced it with a nest of bone shards.  The shards are carefully placed so as not to cut him.  Almost half of this nest hangs down over his fringe covering and shading his eyes, and he has a habit of playing and toying with a piece as if it is real hair.  Another thing about him is that his fingers are oddly painted with various different colours of the rainbow.  And from his side hang little pots of different dye, which he dips into every now and again.  There is one odd pot that has no colour to it, and when he dips his finger in and pulls it out again nothing changes.  But he always looks satisfied when he has done it.  These pots rattle and clonk together on his waist belt like corks hanging from an old hat.  And the only reason even Quinn has a chance to see them is because she has become a friend.  She very rarely sees more than just his hands beyond his sleeves as his arms are always wrapped up in folds.

Troika smiles at Quinn as he sits himself down next to her as they travel.  She has recently just performed a tragedy at the last village they stopped at.  Her part in the play was to portray an agonising death on the stage.  “Ah, there you are Quinn.  Lady Quinn you like to call yourself don’t you?”

“Of course, I’m a Lady.” She smiles.

“Of course my dear, of course.  You can be whatever you wish to be.”  After this foreplay Tropika gets down to the real subject he wishes to discuss.  He explains that he is getting old and his eyesight is not what it used to be, rubbing his fingers together.  She agrees with him on the old man part, but assures him that his eyesight is definitely not failing him.  He carries on, he tells her that he is beginning to miss things, “And a Dahlian should never miss things.”  He tells her that he has become aware of missing something that is terribly important.  “You haven’t missed your humour?”  She questions him, but he assures her that he hasn’t with a smile.  “We wouldn’t want to displease Dahlia now would we?”  He laughs at this.  His laugh has a sound of very brittle bone.  He explains that recently someone had been thrown out of the tribe because that hadn’t kept up their tricks, and this is considered ill in the face of Dahlia.  He turns the subject again and compliments her on her recent performance, and tells her how intricate and complex her juggling and throwing skills are.  “But we all act on and off the stage.  We never take are masks….Off…do we?”

“It is all a play.  Is that not what life is?”  She adds, and he explains that this is his point.  He tells her that actors play a part which sometimes is not their own.  And everyone else has to act around them.  Sometimes it works out and others times when needed it doesn’t.  “Sometimes we have to play roles within roles.  Wear masks upon masks.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes I do.”

“There are others who play roles within roles, and wear masks upon masks that are not of Dahlia.  We can do it and laugh, but with others it can be dull.”  Again he smiles and gives a slight chuckle.  “Now if a traitor was to come in and try to take the mask of Dahlia, then this would be blasphemy indeed.  Do you understand what I am asking?”  Another smile crosses his face.  “I want you to break the mask, to show them for who they are.”  Again he compliments her, telling her that she is a bright girl and believes that she will find it.  She checks what he is referring to by stating that she needs to unmask him, and make an example of the traitor.  He quickly tells her that there is no example needed.  Just to reveal is all that is necessarily.   “And this is all that is needed.  Can I not go that little further?  Can I not give a little dance?”  She gives him a wink.

“We do what Dahlia needs of us.  Sometimes the best performances are the most subtle.  We do not need the flamboyant dance, or the booming speech.  A lift of an eyebrow or the exhalation of air is sometimes all that is needed to lift a performance.  Some performances are more exquisite for their understated nature.”  She tells him that she understands and then that is where this subject ends.

Now he mentions the next town they will be arriving at, and the performance needed.  He tells her of the Evan town called Griffentowne they will perform in, asking her if she has heard of it and what would be a good play.  She shares that she has been there and through there before and suggests a play that is focused on the harvest, a tale of the land.  He thinks for a moment before coming up with the play called ‘A tale of the first harvest’.  A tale where the first crops grew on the Hunting Fields.  He tells her that he likes that suggestion and tells her that he will have a word with the stage master, and convince him that it would be a good play to perform.  “As for you, you will wear masks upon masks and break others.  It’s a great game is it not?”

“It is a most fine game.”

“For Dahlia.”

“For Dahlia.”  And with this last statement confirmed he disappears back in to the deep shadows.

It has been several months now since James, Brhyannon’s father, had passed away and joined the journey for Baba Yaga.  Many of the other Evans have given her room, but it has been going on for far too long and the mutterings have began as they have been covering her work.  Ill feelings are slowly spreading amongst them as they try to stave of the tide.  Brhyannon, along with Chloe and Davey, are sat in the dark, huddled together along with a few other friends in a secret little club.  Davey is sat forward, his bow slung over his shoulder which he strums every now and again as if a musical instrument.  Chloe is sat back huddled up in her own private ball of fur, only the small area around her eyes and nose visible.  The others are more friends of theirs than Brhyannon’s.  Before he begins, Davey again apologises for Brhyannon’s loss.  He then checks that every does know about the Dahlians who will be arriving and giving a performance that very evening.  Then all nod or murmur agreement with this.  “Well I heard…” He lowers his voice as he talks, “I heard that they have a Yagan coming in with them.  You know, of Baba Yaga.”  Brhyannon prompts him to continue.  “Well they are the people who chose the time for death.  That guy must have some writing, some stuff.  Something that will give us a clue, stuff that they do not share with everyone.”  He looks around and continues a little more quietly.  “Well if we could break in to there and access the secret stuff.  Maybe there will be something that can help in there.”  Brhyannon briefly chews the thought in her mind and then agrees with the idea, asking him what exactly he suggests.  But he turns the idea over to her, suggesting that maybe she could come up with a plan.  After a pause of silence as she thinks some more, she turns back to them and suggests that it would be a good idea to wait until the middle of the performance when everyone is distracted.  She then feels that the others would be good to stay on watch while she, along with Chloe and Davey, break in to the caravan.  Davey thinks for a moment and offers that he could be a good look out.  He taps his bow for emphasis and states as much giving a wink, telling her that he has been practicing.  But she turns the idea down telling him that it would be a good idea for him to stick with her.  He frowns and then tosses his hair out of his face and throws her his smile, “Well as you asked, I suppose so.”  He then changes the subject, informing her that he has been giving the idea of getting tattoos of tear drop put under his eyes, and asks her what she thinks of the idea for his first ink.

 

The night soon closes in and the evening’s festivities begin.  The Dahlians arrived and soon began to set up the staged area in the middle of one of the fields.  As the Dahlian move about in the growing darkness, they seem to blend in with the dark around them.  During the play, the Dahlian actors put on an outstanding performance.  Plucking great clumps of food as if from the thin air.  And images seem to swim about, knowing that they must be calling on the dreams.  Magnificent images from the past playing in the corner of their eyes.  Everyone watching is enslaved in the performance, unable to take their eyes away.  And while this is going on Brhyannon and cohorts are planning and preparing for their infiltration.

Now that her part of the play has finished, Quinn is stood on the corner with Seb watching the rest of the performance.  She has been putting some feelers out for this traitor that Troika mentioned, but nothing has come back yet.  She even brings the subject up in conversation with Seb, but he has not heard anything and thinks it to be horrible, that no one should turn against the Fatimas.  He shares with her his feeling, telling her that not many will talk with him, and he is happy that she does.  He tells her that the Demon Seeker seems to like him for some reason too.  Quinn laughs at him at this.  He gives her an upset look, telling her not to laugh.  But she just places her hand on his hair and ruffles it for him.  “You know I am only toying with you.”  He reminds her that he doesn’t like being messed about.  He tells her of his friend that had to go away in the playground.  A group of them went in a tent while the others went away.  And how he can’t give kids, but he did have fun trying.  “I tried very hard.”  He pauses as he remembers.  “So they put us in a tent by ourselves.  Agnes likes kids.  It makes her very happy, but we couldn’t.  So all my friends went away as they made the Agnites happy.  They did their parts, but I never did.  I was so very alone.”  He carries on sharing his past with her, he tells her of when the caravan came through and he was feeling very sad.  But he heard her telling him to travel with it, as this would not let her down if he travelled with the Dahlians.  That he would bring kids back to her, to visit.  Quinn assures him that he is doing what is written for him.  He then asks if she will be giving any kids.  Quinn quickly changes the subject and asks of his thoughts about the play.  He toys with her, saying how good the play good, but wasn’t sure of her performance.  All with a smile on his face, but she punches him in the arm and walks off.  He calls after her apologetically but she ignores him with a smile of her own.  As she walks off she thinks she saw a furtive figure in the shadows.

The caravan Brhyannon and cohorts find themselves outside of is very odd.  It looks as if it is made from a large creature’s ribcage, with a tarpaulin pulled over it.  It doesn’t look like a normal Dahlian caravan they have seen before.  Brhyannon carefully pulls back the covering and they slip in.  Inside they are greeted by a skin stretch and hanging from the rafters with many tattoos upon it.  An ancient parchment from the time before with odd writing and symbols, skulls and an hourglass.  Davey stays in the entrance way with his bow drawn keeping a lookout.  Brhyannon and Chloe rummage around in the darkness of the caravan, the light very poor but their eyes are slowly adjusting.  They find many odd things with strange writings that neither of them can understand.  Brhyannon gets a sinking feeling, realising that the things she is looking for may not be in the simple form of pictograms, just long strings of symbols that they can not fathom.  None of it makes any sense to them.  Brhyannon becomes exasperated with the situation as her patience becomes thin as she looks at one thing after another and then has to toss it back.  She turns to Davey and berates him, “This is a stupid idea of yours.”

As they are about to leave, Brhyannon bumps in to a figure that is unexpected.  A short figure with a bone mask on, who has a brief expression of mutual confusion upon seeing them.  But in the next second a blade is in his hand and pressed against Brhyannon’s throat.  “W w w what the…. Who the fuck are you?  Get back there.”  He gestures for the others to go back in.  The guy appears to be dressed as a Dahlian.  A black garb with purple and mauve sown within it, and a deep purple fools cap upon his head.  “Hand me the documents.  Hand me them now!”  Brhyannon looks confused as she stares at him, “What documents?”  He gestures in the direction of the parchments, “Those, those precious things.  The documents of the Bastard Yagan.”

With Quinn’s interest peeked she focuses on the figure and moves in closer and follows.  The figure is one of the cooks who had been brought on recently.  The cook moves about the caravans and heads in to the Yagan’s.  She carefully approaches the caravan and moves around to the back and listens in to what is happening within.

The dark garbed Dahlian insists on having the documents, demanding to know what the three interlopers are doing in the caravan.  “Come on, you can tell me.”  He runs his finger across the edge of the blade.  “I’m a nice person.”  A line of blood oozes from his finger and he licks at it with the tip of his tongue.  “As long as you don’t make me angry.  Why are you here?”  There is silence in the tent for a moment, and then he continues.  “Are you spying on me, is that it?”  He pushes his blade closer again, but this time in Davey’s direction as he is stood there with his bow still notched but unable to use within the closed quarters here.  “How about you?”  The Dahlian flicks the blade up towards Davey’s eye.  “Are you here to kill me, is that what it is?”

“If that is what it takes.” Brhyannon suggests as she punches at the Dahlian’s face.  He staggers back, his knife drawing blood close to Davey’s eye, and Davey screams out in agony.  “Fucking BITCH!” the Dahlian snarls.  “Fucking hand me that, or I swear I will cut you from quim to throat.”  But Brhyannon turns to look at Davey, who has collapsed clutching the side of his bloody face.  She then turns back to the Dahlian, drawing her hatchet.  “You hurt my friend.  Your gonna pay for that.”

The two clash within the confines of the caravan.  The Dahlian’s knife tasting more blood from Brhyannon’s side.  And Brhyannon’s hatchet burries in to his shoulder.  They bang together and then stumble apart, crashing in to a skull and knocking it to the floor.  As it shatters hitting the floor, a deathly scream escapes, and then can feel something give in the spirit realm.  There is a brief moment where they all feel like they are dreaming, hallucinating, as something is released.  Suddenly it goes very, very quiet and still outside.

Quinn see the Dahlian rushing out from the caravan.  He staggers out from it holding his bloody shoulder.  He is not very stable on his legs as his head is racing.  Seeing him flee she gives chase, being careful not to be spotted.

As Brhyannon and her cohorts pick themselves up, they notice the Dahlian rush from the caravan.  And as they are busy clearing their heads and rubbing their eyes they suddenly notice another figure standing before them.  This man has the markings of Baba Yaga upon him, and he is looking through a fractures lens at them with his bloodshot eyes.  His hand lashes out, taking Brhyannon’s chin and turns it from side to side.  “I don’t really need to look in to your eyes you know.  You’re here in my private place.  Here where you shouldn’t be.  Here where you broke something very valuable.  I don’t need to look in to your eyes to know that you are trouble.  But I shall anyway, to see if the Z’bri have a hold of you.”  The Yagan’s body says calm, and his voice says calm, but his eyes say murder.  “Who are you little girl?”  Brhyannon’s cohorts shuffle away from this man as the shadows close in, and the caravan becomes even darker.  Brhyannon can feel the Yagan call upon the dreams, and the darkness close in around her until she feels like she is within an oubliette.  She just stays silent letting this Yagan berate her.  “Do you know what you have broken there little girl?”  Brhyannon just shakers her head from side to side dumbly.  “No you wouldn’t.”  He then looks over to the others and the darkness surrounds them too.  “What about you?”  Another long silence.  “No nothing.  Quiet from the lot of you.”  He turns his gaze back to Brhyannon, staring back in to her eyes, feeling the dream as he smiles at her.  Not a pretty sight to behold.  “Oh I see.”  He then releases them turning away, and demands that they get out.  “I don’t even have to do a thing.  There is no Z’bri in you,  Not yet, but there maybe in the future.  But your going to drive yourself so far down.  Fall so far that you wish that the Z’bri was matting with your mother at the time you were born.  I don’t have to do a thing.  You’re going to destroy yourself.  Now get out!”  Brhyannon turns from him and holds her head held high as she defiantly walks from the caravan.

Upon stepping outside, Brhyannon sees her spotters that were supposed to keep a look out, looking rather sheepish with their families stood around them.  The assembled tribes looking at her as she leaves the caravan, the Dahlian and the Evans.  Her parents are no longer there, but her tribe shake their heads at her.  Her Den Mother turns and apologises for Brhyannon’s actions, sharing that she had a recently loss, but also not excusing her for the terrible act she has just done.  “I assure you that there will be punishment.”  The stage master just laughs at her,  “You have annoyed the Yagan. *chuckle*  It will do, we will put up with his whining for a while.  You don’t need to do anything for us, but if you do it for yourselves then that is another matter.”  He shares how much he knows they take these matters but not for them.  He explains that they will be moving on tomorrow.  “However I do know that the item was a very expensive artefact.  And I am sure he will make us make do for it.  So I am sure if we can make do with something of equal trade as the damage is down by yours.  He did say it was irreplaceable item.”  He then lists items such a food, enough for them on their journey.  Then some clothes, especially some good leathers.  He also lists a good crop of berries that are known for intoxicants.  The Den Mothers face gradually sags with each item mentioned and added to the list.  Finally the Stage Master adds to the list of how he will not expect a charge for their next to visits in trade for any medicinal needs.  The Den Mother thinks for a mere moment about haggling, but then remembers who she is dealing with and spits upon her hand and shakes his.

The Dahlian cook runs out in to the woods.  Quinn is careful to follow him but not to be spotted.  The cook stumbles through the night, tripping over tree roots and stone rubble from old ruined buildings.  There is little remaining of the buildings from the time before, just the odd stone and parts of foundation.  But Quinn has no problem stepping over the obstacles, while the cook seems to find every one of them and trip.  Eventually he falls a finally time near to a river.  His breath escaping him in hurried gasps.  The wound in his shoulder not so very deep, but the blood is pumping out and he can’t seem to stem it.  Quinn feels like The River of Dreams is merging with the river here.  She can feels the shadows around, and it feels as if Dahlia herself is within her.  It feels like she could do anything and step anywhere.  She knows she is on the hunter of the one who is not playing the game.  Who is not being ‘fun’.  She feels like she could step over the Sun.  And as she walks towards the cook on the ground, she can see where is blood is running on the ground it is like a blazing fire.  It seems as if a herd of horses are running where the river is flowing, and the fire is coursing through her veins.  She takes an easy step to be in front of this hunted.  He is unaware of her presence there.

As she steps forward to interact with him he snaps around, his blade before him,  “Is that you?  Is that the Bitch again?”

“I will be careful who you call bitch.”  She kicks at his hand that is holding the knife.  The blade goes flying.  “Quinn!  Quinn.  Thank goodness.  Sorry I though you were that woman.  You remember me.  Come on its me.  I made the food you like.  You know.  I gave you a bit of extra stew that time.”  He then explains that he had saw the girl go in the caravan, and he had gone in there to try and stop her.  But she had gone mental on him.  “So, what was the document you were after?”  Quinn questions him as she gently places her toe of her shoe against his wound.  A scream erupts from his mouth.  He then quickly babbles about the documents and how he tried to get them off the girl.  Quinn ignores this response, and once he has finished she calmly walks over to he knife, picks it up and comes back over to him.  She crouches down beside him and gently touches the side of the blade against his wound, toying with him.  “Sorry, what document?”

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING”  He scream at her in shock.  As the pain subside he tells her that he was worried, he thought that the Dahlians were going to throw him out, and he wanted something to take with him.  “I thought they would be valuable and I could trade them.  I didn’t know what they were.”  She asks him who had been after them, but he informs her that he doesn’t know.  She then begins to cut away the fabric from the wound.  He panics and starts to babble again, telling her that people had started asking about him and he was worried about being chucked out.  “I thought they would find out that I was not of Dahlia.”

“What are you?”

“….I……”

“Take your mask off.”

“I came across from the south.  I dealt with the Magdalians.  I was learning from them and thought I could fit in, but then people started asking questions.  I just thought it would be better here.  It always sounded so much better.”

“So what is your true face?”

“What…This is my face.  This is me.”  Again Quinn places the side of the blade against his wound and rubs it across.  He screams in pain again, demanding what is happening.  “The Outlands.  What you call the Outlands.  I came from there.”  A smile crosses Quinn’s face.  “Looks like you will have a nice dance.”

“What?”

“It looks like you will perform a nice dance.”

“What?  Does that mean I can stay?”  Quinn answers him no more but instead moves her knee and presses it down on to his wound, putting a lot of pressure upon it.  The traitor screams in pain and agony, and it goes on for a very long time before he wavers and ceases as he passes out.  He has turned a deathly pale from the major blood loss.  Satisfied with this, Quinn grabs him by the scruff of his neck and drags him back to back.  Back to see Troika.

Quinn drops the traitor at Troika’s feet.  He is just sat there, busy painting his finger nails with a very bright green.  A green that Quinn has never seen before and wonders how he had managed to get a dye that bright.  It reminds her of the toad around the rivers that all the creatures try to avoid.  “That was a bit extreme wasn’t it?”  He asks of her without looking, still busy with his painting.  “What do you mean?”

“Our job is to dance and hint.  Subtlety in all things.”

“I was subtle.”  Quinn states looking a little put out.

“I could hear the screams from here.”

“That wasn’t me.”  A slight smile to her face.

“Really.  Girl Quinn.  You can lie to nearly everyone else, but I have been doing this a very long time.  You did well for the most part, but remember, the dance is more beautiful for elegance and restraint.  Those who try too hard become unbalanced.  Please remember that.”  She tells him that she hadn’t tried too hard.  Telling him that she had only watched and listens.  Observed and followed.  “I just made use of what was presented to me.  It was very little effort on my part.”  He shakes his head at her.  “If you are to find out everything.”  He smiles at her as he looks up to her.  “And there is much I haven’t told you yet.  You are going to have to show subtlety, otherwise I am afraid we will have to cast to back to the river, where you dance can be as beautiful as you wish, but you will still be nothing more than a fish.  I hope you will learn, but for your first true mission that wasn’t bad.  Please do learn.”  She gives him a stage bow in recognition of the compliment.

Troika explains to her about the traitor, “From what I hear, and from what the person judging you told me.  He is from the Outlands.  And if my thoughts are correct, and they generally will be.  His education is a result of having quite close links, which means we have a trading item.  And you know how us Dahlians love to trade don’t you.”  He tells her that she has the rest of the night to herself, and as for him he has a long night before him.  He tells her that he must try to keep the traitor stable to live on, and this will be a difficult task right now.  Quinn turns from him and walks away.

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One thought on “Tribes – Prelude part one

  1. Pingback: Bone masks | Calbrownies

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