Festival part 2
Musicians played. The festival once more filled with cheerfulness and laughter. The smell of food permeated the air, and strong drinks flowed heavily. Entertainers representing the diverse colony kept the festival-goers entertained as they danced and performed for the crowd.
A short while later, the music changed to a fanfare announcing the arrival of the Tyto. The Tyto’s wings flapped and caused a slight breeze as they circled above the crowd and landed one by one on the platform behind Cayleb’s parents. The festival-goers were always in silent awe of the Tyto who made their home in each world’s highest rocky points, making it almost inaccessible to the others. They also kept a lab ship off-planet. Their foresight to keep a spaceship with essential medicines, plants and supplies helped colonize the new planet. Some things from Verbinia were not compatible in the new environment but were fine on the ship, allowing for the preservation of some of the things the Verbinium refugees enjoyed from their former home. Whenever they appeared in public, the colony knew it was of great importance and hung on their every word.
The air filled with massive wings beating as the Tyto Elders flew down to the platform, assembled on the right side of the stage, and started calling the names. Ever the efficient and no-nonsense creatures that they were.
Wrathe and Phoenix were near the top of the list, as expected. Fifty names this year, five more than last year. Cayleb fidgeted with his tail impatiently and looked expectantly at his mother as he waited. They were already on the 43rd name. Did he not make the selection? He understood they could not add him to the list because of his birthright or who his parents were, but he was sure he would be called up this cycle on his merit alone. The Tyto called the 49th name, and his heart sank. Would he truly have to wait for another cycle? He lowered his head, and his tail drooped at the realization that he may have to wait until he had gone through the change. Not what he wanted, but he understood how much more powerful he would be afterward and, with a sigh, resigned to accept that as truth.
Finally, the Tyto reached the last name. Cayleb looked up, slightly startled. The son of the ruling couple quietly took the stage. He could not show pride or his profound relief outwardly. That emotion would appear disrespectful since he was the 1st born of the new colony and the ruling family. He gracefully and humbly took his place among the seasoned and unseasoned Harvesters, his yellow eyes cast downward. He knew that this was only the beginning. He still had to make the final selection, or this would mean nothing. The cheers of the colony erupted as he took his place. Waiting for a beat, he looked up and acknowledged the crowd with a smile and a wave. The older Raa-men chanted a warrior cry in honor of the chosen. The Tyto continued with a lengthy speech about some of the changes. Cayleb heard little of the address as he reveled at the moment.
He looked out across the sea of faces knowing his participation was for something larger than himself. His eyes finally rested upon his parents. He was now among the diverse species with valuable skills standing on the platform. The soul of this planet would know what was needed. Secretly, Cayleb hoped that she, the UNNAMED, was somewhere watching and proud.
His father stood once again, and the crowd lulled into silence as he spoke.
“This tradition is a great honor and a coming of age, rite of passage, for our young offspring. Chosen for more than your physical prowess, your character, reasoning, ability to lead, follow, analyze, and your chances of survival under duress were important. These were all critical factors, outside of your species numbers.” With evident pride in his voice,” I am honored that my offspring will be a part of this sacred and honorable tradition” The crowd erupted in applause and cheer.
After the Time Trial qualifying ceremony, the celebrating continued well into the hours of rest. His family and all families with members participating in the Time Trials left early to ensure their representative got enough rest. Once home, Cayleb was so excited that he could not sleep.
“Can you believe it, mother! I am going to get my chance to help the colony!” Cayleb exclaimed with excitement punctuating his voice.
“Of course you are, my son; it is time. You are an excellent candidate, and I am sure you will make us proud no matter what. You are strong and of good character. We love you. There is no doubt you will participate in this year’s harvest. I do plan on having a word with the Tyto, however, as to why they called your name last...” She broke off as Cayleb’s father entered the room.
“Mother, that will not be necessary. The Tyto called my name. That is what is important. We must not be ungrateful.” Cayleb responded, “Although, I must speak the truth when I say I was worried I would have to wait for another cycle,” he confessed.
His mother smiled and inclined her head toward his father. “It was all I could do to keep your father’s nervous energy from flipping over the meal table.”
“Rubbish,” His father said, smiling. “I was merely enjoying the excitement of the day,” He said, taking her into his arms.
“Father.” Cayleb acknowledged
“Come to me, my son,” and Rook embraced his son.
Rook’s mind was full of the desires that a father has for their offspring. His love for his son was more significant than for his own life. His pride magnified when he beheld his son for the first time. Cayleb was his most important achievement in his eyes. They had waited so long to be able to breed, and he made every hope and fear disappear. Every cycle of waiting was worth it. He knew that his son would be a profoundly wise and kind ruler in his stead when that long away day came. Raa-men had longevity. To some, he would seem immortal. But he was humble and of sound judgment and character. He was a warrior, a protector, a leader, a visionary—all of the things needed for a good ruler.
“Miyrah, my sweet Mynx, we should rest now.” His father spoke gently to his mother. Turning back to his son as they exited to their quarters, he wished Cayleb a good evening.
“Father!” Cayleb called out as something crossed his mind.
“Yes, my son,” Rook answered, halting their steps. Both he and his mother regarded him patiently.
“Wrathe said the change was painful. Is that true?” Cayleb asked
Before answering, they both exchanged a knowing look. Rook and Myrah both walked back toward Cayleb, where his mother kissed his forehead and excused herself so they could talk.
Rook guided his son to the spacious, well-appointed sitting area. Fine textiles from the home planet had been saved and adorned the room, usually only used when they had guests. His father chose this room, indicating the importance of the conversation they were about to have.
Cayleb waited for his father to sit before choosing a chair off to his right; as was the custom for the son to sit at the father’s right hand. His father looked serious as he began.
“The pain determines how strong and how powerful you are to be. Some have hardly any pain because their role is of a lesser cause. My pain, for example, was excruciating, as were my brothers and sisters. I was in delirium with body-wracking hurt and would have taken death’s invitation had it been offered at one point, but my family was there with me, doing all they could to make me comfortable. The Raa-men chanted and gave their energy to help me through. Who knew that one day I would be a ruler? Just remember, the pain is only temporary. You are being wrought in a fire so that you are ready for your destiny, whatever that may be.
Try to keep your mind settled as we taught. It will help. Since you also have your mother’s genes, we will have the Tyto here and all of the colony doctors to make sure we do all we can to help you through your change. We are not sure how you will be affected. I cannot assume it will be of anything other than an added benefit. We will be here for you, and you will have the love and support of the Raa-men in the colony. They will lend their energy and chant for you,” Rook reassured his son.
Cayleb smiled as his father rose. “Thank you, father.” He once more embraced his father and hoped he could be half the warrior his father was.
“I sense your unrest, my son. Go to your place of peace. You will need to focus for tomorrow. I will let your mother know you are going out for a bit.” Rook strode out of the main hall towards his quarters where his lovely mate would be waiting to receive him, leaving Cayleb alone in the sitting area.
Cayleb stood there for a time before conceding that he did indeed need to settle his runaway thoughts.
He quietly went outside and looked at the hazed lavender sky that indicated that the time of rest was upon him. He walked through the field and into the woods just beyond the family home. Cayleb climbed his favorite tree. His mother would bring him to this same tree as a youngling. She would sing to him and carry him up through the branches, and they would lounge in the safety of the boughs while his father went out with the discovery teams. As he grew, he continued to come alone. His parents knew where to find him if he was gone for any time too long.
The expansive upper branches made a nice canopy for him to stretch along. Cayleb longed to go to the cave to hear her voice reassure him that he had nothing to worry about, but he knew that she would not speak again to him this day. The training for the Time Trials would begin first thing tomorrow. A shiver of excitement took flight in his stomach as he looked across the valley from his perch in the Motter tree. The valley would be where the first set of trials would begin.
He placed his palm on the trunk of the tree, feeling the pulse within. The life flowing through it energized and refreshed him. Tonight he needed calm. He could not explain it, but it seemed like the tree always knew what he needed. He settled back against the broad trunk and closed his eyes, harnessing the tree’s offering.
A calming peace came over Cayleb as he rested in the Motter tree. The tiny evening Brevas singing gently into the wind carried to his ears a wonderful lullaby. Before long, he was deep in rest.
Far below the ground, running through the very roots of Cayleb’s Motter tree, was the black water. The UNNAMED flowed silently through the tree and, from inside the tree, touched Cayleb, pouring calm and peace into him. She stayed there as he drifted off, finally letting peace settle within him and watched him sleep.
© Venis Nytes