EarthBorn: First Days

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You Cannot Die

4th Day 6th Quarter

4 Quarters till Sky Change

“THIS IS THE LAST OF THE MATERIAL SIR!”...calls out a townsman to Wayke working in the barracks as he shovels the last of the shepherds plundered ingots and coal into the cauldron...

“Good...very good and still half a day left...WELL DONE EVERYONE WHEN THESE ARE FINISHED EVERBODY GO EAT REST AND ENJOY LOVED ONES”...walking around seeing stacks of swords spears shields and bows all ready for combat with the last few being melting down...”how many arrows did we get in the end?”...

“nine thousand ready to fly”...Rift interrupts stepping in holding one of the longbows trying to draw the powerful two toned war machine...”How do you use it, it won’t bend it’s too strong?!!” ...Wayke holds his hand out gesturing for the longbow, he takes it into his palm stepping over to the arrows that lay rested standing against a wooden box, he picks up two inspecting their jagged shard tips in the sun, he selects a long thick clear diamond tip with a long slender shaft and sturdy leaf flights and steps away from the curious crowd, he looks around and sees a defiant rooted tree embedded in the rock a hundred yards away and elevated, he takes stance with his left leg forward knocking his arrow, he takes a deep breathe drawing the powerful bow back, the metallic properties of the wood glint in petroleum hues changing colour of the heart wood when drawn, he takes aim letting lose the arrow sails through the air with the grace of a falcon swooping for prey it does not miss, it buries itself deep into the wood down half way...

Turning back to see those watching they are in awe of the power from such a simplistic thought, the power to kill at distance and bring down large game. Wayke so impressed by the bow he decides to keep this one for himself, walking over to the arrows he picks up a bundle before turning to Rift and the other spectators ...

“Practice makes perfect!”...they all look around left and right before bundling over each other to get a bow and start practicing with their new weapons...

“Do not lose the arrows we will need everyone we can get”...they all stop to acknowledge and rift begins distributing the bows out...”did you find Captain Gore last night” ...asks rift as Wayke turns to leave...

“I didn’t look, there was something else I had to attend to far more troublesome, I intend to search now it is daylight, any ideas?” ...Rift nods no and continues distributing and Wayke leaves to find the elusive captain Gore...

He takes the main road into the keep stopping at the stables trade square and the foot of the Hillsiders cliff side home, he walks through the narrow alleys between the pitches, he sees the true face and cost of the Shepherd elites greed, families in tiny pitches unfit for dogs, rain stained canvass tents with the smell of mould and insanitation dominates the closed air, street fires are the only warmth with children battling for heat with the old and the sick, the slightly better off selling goods for higher rates keeping the natural order going in grim fashion, no currency leaves little left in terms of currency only the weak of heart and mind will judge them after chosen deeds be done, images of earths final days already set in here only the strong can change the outcome, he cannot see the lost captain among the misery and squalor of the back sites inhabitants so makes up for the temple, walking at pace direct and unstoppable he passes under the Ivy clad arch crashing through the temple doors, he does not stop passing everyone entering into the shepherds halls through the splintered doors , he bulldozes through the thrones sending them all corralling to either side of the chamber in a burst of powerful fury heading directly for the shepherds ceased vaults, the doors broken inn the lock smashed claw and finger marks in blood stain and deface the door, he pushes his hand out and the door creeks open, taking his axe in hand he moves into the darkness he is to find the stock pile of gold ransacked with only the cover and bindings left and nobody to take responsibility, Wayke grinds his teeth clenching his fist tight...

“That miserable coward!”...he turns marching intent back out to the training troops, they launch their arrows growing more proficient with each attempt but too many fall short of strength , Anuk takes to the bow a natural easily drawing and hitting the target consistently the men applaud him well, Rift spots Wayke approaching and leaves the men to speak with him...

“Did you find the Captain?”...he eagerly asks full of hope...

“No I did not, he has fallen into the realms of weakness and greed, He has left taking the gold with him!”...The men’s faces fall to disbelief, their commander and father figure has abandoned them for gold taking with him a few sorely needed men, corrupted, seeing the sorrow blow written on the men’s faces Wayke tries to lift morale...

“ DO NOT LOSE FAITH NOW, CAPTAIN GORE WAS WEAK, HE OPTED TO RUN WITH HIS GOLD AND FORSAKE YOU ALL ,THAT IS NOT A LEADER, A TRUE LEADER STANDS IN FRONT OF HIS PEOPLE AS A SHIELD NOT HIDE BEHIND WITH HIS RICHES, HE WILL ONE DAY HAVE TO ANSWER FOR HIS TREACHERY BUT FOR NOW WE STAY FOCUSED ON THE COMING, TEND TO YOU’RE FAMILIES, TEND TO YOUR STOMACHS AND MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR SINS... GET SOME REST...WE LEAVE IN THREE QUARTERS!”...The men remain silent as Wayke leaves in heavy thought to prepare for the Sky change now not far, their judgment day, he exits through the gate when Anuk catches up to him...

“yhu, come to spend with my people ,come rising light we may never walk again , share we will when stars shine”...Wayke drops his head in acceptance to Anuks obvious joy, Anuk stops and turns back staring locked in thought as Wayke continues down to the stables, the Sun lowering down behind the Hillsiders cliff the claws of black return and begin to creep across the keep growing longer with each passing moment shaped by twilight, arriving at the paddocks he finds all steeds at ease laying about in comfort atop each other using another’s hide as head rest they bond like a pride of lions grooming and rubbing scent into each other dreaming of one day running free across their grassland homes...

“They are in trance commander, they know what is to come at dawn , this is how they make peace and say farewell”...Wayke admires the beast and asks...

“Are they as herd mentality in the wild?”...

“No sir, they are solitary, the first ones came willing then every dawn after they kept coming until one day no more came, I guess that was all of them, they do this the night before every storm and battle, that’s why we leave them out of their pens, so they can be together”...this warms Wayke, even in the face of extinction with not but a shaggy canvass to their names they show a hand of all love...

“that is quite extraordinary for an animal to show such, individuality and consciousness for another at the same time... True selflessness, and their Sapien keeper” ...he gazes in to nothingness before issuing his final order for the night...”Make sure you leave feed and water for them, then get some rest, you’ve done well today, everyone has”...the stable keeper bows in appreciation and sets about finishing up, Wayke looking high to the cliff face where the Hillsiders light their evening fires and feast on delicacy’s he sets off to honour and fulfil Anuks invitation, he walks through the market where song and dance again fill the soft night air, he looks over to see Rift taking his young brother and a peasant girl in each hand twirling them in laughter and joy to the folk wind melody’s, lovers sit embraced in last chance love those with nobody enjoying in whatever fashion they can, Wayke does not stop to greet passing around the perimeter to avoid everyone and makes for the hill trail up the cliff face, the trail is worn , rock paintings litter the grey boulders and resilient weeds germinate through the parched pounded dirt veins that run between the rock, the trail turns to stairs of few bringing Wayke up and to a pathway into the cliff where fires roar and all the warriors and shamans of the Hillsider way come together in communion, readying themselves for the battle in native traditions, a small amphitheatre made of rock and bench wood, thick and stained it’s glaze of waxy finish natural from centuries of ancestors taking seat before them, a central fire pit dug down the ashes never removed along with keepsakes and tokens taken from fallen friends and cast into the flames in remembrance ever sacred ground to them, they fall silent and stand after noticing Waykes arrival, they form a parting guiding him to a seat between Anuk their chief and the grand shaman at the head of the table...the shaman stands fast and begins talking, he flutters his fingers delicately over the pit, the fire roars to life, heavy husked chanting see the beloved inner beings of the deceased ascend from the treasures in the ashes they spark and dance around the room, creatures born from the souls of those weighed heavy in deeds they represent and reside in everyone’s inner self, Anuk translates for Wayke...

“At the next light, some of you will have joined your brothers on the inner plains, to run free with your ancestor as your true form, lay rest your deepest thoughts rest eternally , tonight we show ourselves in honour of our guest”...the Hillsiders cheer and war cry with excitement before the shaman waves his hands to bring them down to quiet then continuing...”but first as tradition we prepare our bodies for battle, begin the cleanse”...drums beat as the females enter bathed in scents and seductive attire, bearing water they begin to wale soft tones as wash their warriors with all seated having their top garments removed fro them, they scrub and sensate with their nails across war-torn flesh Waykes scarred skin twitches to the touch unfelt nerve ending it startles her hand, steam fills the chamber almost till blindness when another line of women enter the chamber to begin drying off all soaked skin in preparation for the finale, a trail of women bearing bowls of paint and assorted feathers they seem weary resting them down abruptly all aids leave quicker then they entered barring the door shut behind them, they all again sit down and the shaman turns to approach his small alter bringing forth a box, within this box a pipe carved from bone elaborately with long dead species and Hillside ancestors now divine immortalised in the pipework, he whispers to the flame so it may gift him an ember from will, the fire allows his hand to pass unharmed and pull a scolding ember from it’s heart and place it into the pipe bowl, he blows the ember to a meteor glow before sucking the intoxicating fumes deep into his chest and getting the ceremony going, he holds his heart like something is trying to breakout and from between his fingers a beam of light projects a serpent born of sand and wise with a strike of power, his inner being powerful and fitting to character it thrashes around the chamber in holographic realism, it swoops and dives between the men inspiring all before retreating back into the body of the shaman, regaining his whole self once again, he passes the pipe to the left putting Anuk and then Wayke last in turn...

The Hillsiders one by one take turns passing it left, rainbows of colours and creatures big small winged and rapid, tree dwellers predators and prey all have a place among a seemingly imaginary world called the inner plains, a echo system formed of thoughts and beliefs where reincarnation forges new sanctuary without the restrains of human form, truly free, they pass around the pipe inhaling the ember that refuses to extinguish each warrior bearing all the other men use the paint to leave their own mark of strength on each of their brothers, Anuk takes a huge puff filling himself to full capacity, his chest flexes beaming his inner being in glorious fashion though managing to remain connected to his physical mind, winged armoured and stout a powerful plain dweller horned like a bull airborne and built for head on collision, a living rock set in purpose he will surely have a high seat when he passes , inspiration brings the chamber to uplift for their champion and chieftain who has never guide them wrong, inner self returned to him he passes the Pipe to Wayke and all attention focuses on him, they look in waiting there’s no hiding from revelation no hesitation, he takes a deep breathe and slowly fills his lungs holding in tight, he holds until he can no more and awaits, all seems folly with no reaction, with time pressing the shaman begins the end of the ritual standing in front of everyone for final blessings in the form of a feather each unique lashed to their hair before they bed down for the night, everyone talking among themselves taking knees for spiritual guidance from their witch doctor Wayke begins to tense up holding his chest in pain, the men weary back off from him forming a circle around with Anuk trying to subdue Wayke, a deafening sound wave comes forth, he levitates a foot from the floor clenching his heart before a black light projects from him, a skeletal figure hooded in black horned hunter of souls, the Hillsiders in fear fall over each other to get as far as possible from Waykes inner being, reaper of death, the shaman and Anuk snap from their induced fear to clear the chamber of worried men, Wayke powerless the projection does not retreat instead grows more real it begins destroying the room turning the fire from red flame to black, it’s screeches of a thousand tortured dead the shaman buries his hand into the possessed flame scorching his hand he screams in agony to grab an ember not asked for, frantically loading the pipe to once again bring his inner self to bare before Wayke is lost he inhales the toxins and passed it to Anuk who immediately joins the shaman, unleashing their powerful inner selves they begin to harass the reaper, just enough between them to force it to start shrinking Wayke grows in control as the demon within is subdued by the colossal unity of the two Hillsiders both wise and strong, Wayke now strong enough takes himself to the ground and brings his foe to heel inside, both shaman and Anuk stabilise themselves before tending to Wayke taking an arm each and sitting down, the shaman brings a vile from his herb pouch releasing it’s vapours instantly bringing Wayke around, he brings his head up and sees the fear on the warriors all at the door looking at him but the air is hazy and thick with terror...Anuk bends down in front of Wayke...

“Are you well?...not hurt?”...Wayke shakes his heavy head left to right then gets to his feet, blood rushes back to his brain and vision returns to perfect, he looks at the unafraid shaman who looks deep into Waykes eyes like he is a terrible enemy...the Shaman speaks perfectly fluent directly at Wayke deep and full of promise...

“When Victory is achieved, YOU will come to me outsider you cannot pass until pure”...Wayke taken back by the aggression does not argue as the Grand Shaman signals Anuk to escort him away turning his back...

“come I will take you”...Anuk with his arm around Waykes shoulder takes him out of the chamber, the frightened men part putting their backs against cold coarse rock trying to get as far away as possible, they pass down the cliff road leaving the main camp behind, the streets are quiet with all at rest...

“Do Not Take hard, he is guardian of inner plain it is his job to keep pure, you can change inner being with his help, when we win you go see him”...He gives Wayke two heavy pats on the back before returning to his peoples celebrations leaving Wayke to walk alone...

“ANUK” He calls back...”Why are you so sure we will have victory?...Anuk looks back with faithful eyes and replies looking up into the star filled sky..

“Because believe, all we have”...a short moment of still Wayke bows to his friend who returns in kind then jogs off into the quiet night to re-join his kinsman leaving Wayke alone in the deserted streets, he makes his way back to the barracks to take seat and wait until the dawn, he waits and mulls over his experience the inner being flashes and screeches in flash backs it makes him uncomfortable, tormented and torn he sits in the darkness of the quarters waiting in hope that his friends return with the light and salvation...

23

SKY CHANGE

2 quarters till Battle

Legion rising

“Legion”... a soft voice calls out but all is blank paled in white...”Legion get up you know what day it is”...His eyes open and he is greeted with a beautiful face and long golden hair gently brushing against his cheeks eyes that could capture a hundred suns their blue unrivalled...”I haven’t waited my whole life to wed a knight for him to sleep in...get up”...he cannot speak but his body moves he can hear all but cannot control his movements, the woman leaves the room and the vessel body carries Legion to a mirror in a room unrecognisable yet it is not himself he sees, he sees a man together with a trim beard locks of black hair and a room fit for a king, an immense physical prescience the body turns to the window bringing a dark silhouette still and of metal into the field of vision, the legs carry him over showing his armour that he still wears a millennium later all it’s original glory, etched in victories deep close calls none survived bringing forth a moment of recall...

“AHHHHHH” ...a female voice screams in terror from downstairs as chaos ensues outside, the body takes over first looking outside to show a horde of marauders raiding the town the day of the celebrations women and children scream the men outmatched, his legs turn and step into the armour clamping itself shut behind like blast doors for the last time, the arms place the helmet over the head and drag him sword in hand running downstairs, the woman has gone ,lost amongst the towns terror he runs out the front door onto the chaotic streets buildings burning and frantically looks in all directions for tell tale gold hair but cannot see her, the marauders gaining he hears her scream again she is far across in the crop field, the body relaxes giving legion control of himself once again he sprints to her knocking any down in his path, the enemy gaining on the woman there’s not much between them Legion runs as fast as he can asif already superhuman to get to her before she be taken, a marauder grabs her by the wrist halting her escaping swinging her around raising his blade to end her life, the moment of death halted by Legions powerful arm and breaks his weapon across the barbarians skull allowing her to escape, the golden haired woman saved Legion finds the weapon he bears is now his Heavy Hammer his sword now gone, fortune be his he unleashes a hammer blow against the land that shatters the earth splitting it killing thousands and saving the damsel on a circle island, alone surrounded by the Lava moat with this woman he walks to her bringing her tight into his arms and safety...he holds her so tight never wanting to let go, easing off the distinct sound of liquid dripping fills the cave like silence echoing back and forth over and over in between them, her legs fall from beneath her he has to hold her up, he lays her back across his knee taking her head into his broad hand that now rusts and begins to rapidly age away to how it is today, she cannot speak his eyes fill with tears watching the woman choke and spew blood the light leaving her glassy blue eyes,, the tears of watching the one you love slip away, taken away they are not like the tears of greed or fortunes lost they are fewer but fall heavy fuelled by unrelenting rage each one counts a thousand...

“I miss you my wife...i always will”...the woman chokes and writhes in agony as phantom blades begin carving her flesh off her bones before his eyes, he screams and swings his free arm wildly trying to stop them but he cannot, the deed done she is gone he lay her shredded body down screaming with rage in streams of tears, he lay one last kiss upon her cold bloody lips, he stands turning to see the lands ablaze and everyone lifeless upon the ground the sand dampened red, friends, neighbours and the livestock all perished or ash, cresting the hill the marauders surround him on his moat island alone he stands there is only one way out...he slams down his helmet eyes aglow and runs at full speed towards the edge of the island, he jumps far into the horde landing hammer first feet landing hard...

Blackness tailed by Blue sky bright and cloud swept breaking through the umbrellas of leafs, the gap above reveals the start of the sky change with the moons now as two feast plates one aglow of white light the other of a fiery violet brighter in light, this time he is not greeted by his lost love but a odorous member of his ape troop breathing heavily into his face, he tuts before moving the over excited adolescent away with the back of his forearm’...

“Ok Ok I’m up ....AHHHH”...he shouts in agony, lifting his head and looking down his body he can’t see anything other then some new dents and scratches , his pulls his left arm up to his face and hovers his finger over a button...”I hate this!”...he grids his teeth and pushes the button the pain immediate and terrible, his armour powers up and heats to a furnace orange, the armour begins to crumple around his body powered by cogs popping all his joints back into place and welding fractures, the pain is worth the outcome, an invaluable part of him his extreme pain is swiftly followed by a battle ready body, he stands groaning like an aged man and looks around at his environment, standing under a fruit tree central to a long lost part of the forest bearing ruby red fruits with lush thick green leaves and flowers that seem to whisper soft words, he turns his gaze to the rubble heaps and hills enclosed by thick tree canopy and foliage , a sanctuary deep in the dark forest where sun rays break through ,no men have come here since the buildings crumbled eons ago leaving it to be taken by nature, the creatures of all size and maturity stand dotted about the oasis of beauty looking down at Legion alone as the king of the clan...

The biggest of males steps forward backed by some upstarts, they stand before Legion displaying submission and willingness to stand behind their champion, they bow their heads down holding palms out they wait for recognition from Their new king who felled the greatest of them all, he walks forward bumping his hand against the alphas , the creature almost smiles as a man before beating his chest unleashing a loud roar which sets the entire troop ablaze, waves of roars from all the members they rally to their new king eager but steady...

One Legion he steps up drawing his devastating cosh pounding it hard against the ancient ground and let’s loose a terrifying War cry equal to any creature of terror, it dwarfs the collective troops ringing through the trees it can be heard by everyone within miles, Rock stacks and sapiens alike hear the titanic roar, his voice dims out before setting off at lightning speed crashing through the wood for the battlefield with a host of natural born killers at his side almost two hundred strong...

“What was that?”...a Sapien soldier asks, they bustle in preparation lashing their armour to their bodies and steeds lining up in the main street when ready...”it sounded like giants to me”...the men startled they begin talking amongst themselves in despair...”How will we fight both Rock stack and Star Fathers...we are doomed”...Wayke atop his issued steed comes flying up the pathway in full gallop ready to lead the March with his bow in hand arrows on his back, his axe to be drawn at the right moment...

“Do not be afraid of giants rock stacks or anyone else this day, this day is our day”...the men unassured begin to shout questions at Earth heart, he sits steady on his steed as thirty five hundred men hollo at him...

“Where are the rest”...”will your companions return with aid?”...Wayke watches them silently looking over the men he has no answers for, men he must lead to doom if their current fears should manifest to reality, he trots his beast along the line, turning and heading back until quiet reigns supreme...

“What do you want more then anything?” Wayke calls out , none answers back...”what is it you want?”...one brave voice calls out alone to answer...”TO BE UNSHACKLED, TO NOT BE AFRAID”...Wayke smiles and holds still...”Then you have failed already”...the men talk amongst themselves...”You have failed because on the sky change this day of reckoning you are afraid...whether aid comes or not you are afraid, you cannot hope to gain victory with unlimited men if you have already lost before you even arrive on the field...armies could stand behind you and you would still be defeated... because you do not believe, because you will not risk all for everything you want and desire, even if all of you fall you should want to march out there and say ENOUGH! ENOUGH OF HIDING ENOUGH OF BEING AFRAID, IF WE ARE TO VANISH WE WILL HAVE IT SO ON OUR TERMS AND WE WILL TAKE AS MANY OF YOU BASTARDS WITH US AS WE CAN”... all falls quiet and Wayke leans in towards the men atop from atop his steed with the face of a determined demon and speaks with a deep rough tone...” Now Show me how unafraid you are!”...seconds of silence pass when Rift and Anuk initiate the chants, within second of them doing so the whole force uproars , the sound of new steel ringing and the men gets the blood rushing in all of them, Wayke rides up and down waving his hands in taunts for them to give him more, the Hillsiders stand in full pride arrays of colours outrageous hair and war paint, native war cries out of tune and ferocious they resurge even louder the on looking innocents cover their ears feeling they may burst...

“FORM THE COLUMN!”...The men rush in to there long lines taking up the whole central path, the uniform men stand proud bearing new tools of progress they shine in the dawn sun, the stamping ends with Wayke taking place at the head of them...

“OPEN THE GATE”...all eyes front the men wait , they stand silent not a sound but the light gusts that whistle between them carrying dust and loose pollen all’s still, Earth heart turns looking down the column he draws his axe holding it high...

“MAAAAAARCH!” ...The drums beat loud, louder then ever before, this time they beat to a different rhythm, the rhythm of belief a train of hope it thumps across the short meadow and into the forest on a collision with fate, the ones left behind bar the gate shut dependant and in waiting on all and any to return...

They march, the stamping of their feet with them all humming old folk war melodies no words escape them today , the drums and light beaming from their maculate attire it attracts all who get too close, they come from a far curious yet fearful the men take no notice focused on the man in front they follow Wayke through the dense brush not stopping for anything...

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