Kaithel’s Song of the Pale Stone, part 3

Building this story here as sketches with the hopes to flesh it out more. Set in the Augur’s Lore: Song of the Pale Stone Universe.

Part 3

Tongue’s Edge seems like a more hopeful place every year during the Eve of Rite, the annual festival on the night before the Rite of Passage. The event begins at sundown and continues until dawn when those young people who will be sixteen before the first snow depart from the village and survive in the wilds on their own for several days. As the sun began to dip behind Bright Mare’s Peak, everyone in Tongue’s Edge gathered in the village forum, which was in the opposite direction from Kaithel’s house than the water well. The forum is a large, open amphitheater that was dug out of a mound of earth many generations ago. The general area is several hundred meters in length and depth–large enough for all three hundred or so villagers to gather at once. What’s left of the old mound of earth gently rises up on each side of the center, giving people the chance to have a slightly elevated view of the center. The town elders sometimes use the forum to deliver important news, but usually the forum is only busy during annual ceremonies like the Eve of Rite. This evening there were two large tables, one on either side of the forum, each set with various foods and drink for the community to share. Crafts and wares were also displayed around the edge of the forum, and games were available for participants of all ages. The Eve of Rite is truly a celebratory event.

This year Kai and five others will be sixteen before the first snow. Kai is the eldest of the group, so she stood at the front of the line in the center of the forum. A hush fell over the crowds of Tongue’s Edge gathered around the rise, as several attendants began to light torches to combat the dimming light of dusk. Elder Bohaen, a rather obese woman, approached the center where the children stood and spoke loudly in her capacity as this year’s head of ceremony.

“It is a joy to see our children grow into adulthood. The Eve of Rite is more than just a tradition, it is our way of life.” Kai rolled her eyes as the Elder’s speech continued. “It is true that the Rite reminds us of where we came from, but I like to think that, more than that, it reminds us of who we are. Each one of us here have performed our own Rite…” The Elder smiled, her giant cheeks forcing her eyes into a squint, as she gestured toward herself. “…though some of us can barely remember, it was so long ago.” Laughter bounced around the forum. The Elder put her hand on Kai’s shoulder. It was startling, soft, and clammy. “Remember well your Rite, young ones,” the Elder continued. “You are of Tongue’s Edge. And as you go out into the world, our hearts go with you. As you make your way alone, keep us in your hearts.”

The crowds throughout the rise collectively murmured approvals and affirmations as Elder Bohaen removed a necklace from over her head. It was a generous gift, and a noticeable way to begin the evening’s tradition of gift-giving to the Rite’s participants. The symbolism of the eldest of the town bestowing a gift to the eldest of the Rite was lost on Kaithel, as the Elder, breathing somewhat heavily, placed the necklace over her head, and then grabbed her left hand and shook it vigorously. “A happy Rite to everyone!” Elder Bohaen shouted. The crowd of Tongue’s Edge clapped and cheered and then began to move about into the forum to start the evening’s festivities.

Kai inspected her new necklace, as Elder Bohaen continued past her to congratulate each of the other Rite participants. It was a simple band and pendant, but it had a rustic quality that appealed to her very much. She couldn’t help but smile in approval. The neck was made of what craftsmen call “beaded leather,” which was comprised of bands of leather that had been oil-soaked, folded five times before they were cut thin, and then braided tightly. The folds within the tight braids gave the cord the appearance of successive beads, and the technique is said to make the leather nearly unbreakable. In the case of this necklace, the centermost of the braided bands was a sun-bleached leather while the outer bands were of a dark-oiled sort. It made the beads along the cord patterned light and dark. Tied into the cord were two black worvle claws, necessarily filed dull at the tip and buffed so smooth that they felt like river stone. These claws curved inward and hung just below each of Kai’s collar bones. The centerpiece of the necklace was a simple coral stone, tied to the cord by simple leather threads. This rested at the top of Kai’s sternum. She felt proud to wear the necklace.

Kaithel bumped into Reimad toward the east side of the forum. “Nice necklace,” he commented. She leaned in, raising her eyebrows. Nearby, Henlea and Yutum began to play drums to accompany the growing cacophony of conversations around the forum. Reimad had to raise his voice.

“I said, that’s a nice necklace.” His tone was sarcastic. He knew that Kaithel thought this whole ceremony and tradition were silly. He half expected her to joke about how the necklace was silly too.

“Thanks,” she almost shouted back. Her tone was sincere, still in childish admiration of the gift. “I actually really like it.”

Reimad barely heard her as he pulled his dark hair back from his eyes, uncomfortably furrowing his brow. He pointed toward the far edge of the forum, signaling to Kaithel that they should move away from the enthusiastic and overbearing sounds of drumming. They headed closer to the outer food table where Old Man Jorell was telling a story. Kai and Reimad each grabbed an ear of chapan, a type of Northern Wendajii flatbread that has a somewhat sweet flavor and a grainy texture, and can be seen served with most any meal of the day. They began eating their chapan and watched Old Man Jorell’s eyes grow wide with intensity. He was telling the story of how the old god Thrennum came to be known as the god of gold.

“…Thrennum wouldn’t take no for an answer. He defied Bailiea for one thousand years, never once looking back in her direction. He waded across the great ocean, never once turning around. He was so stubborn, you see, that she became furious with anger. Thrennum believed he could climb over the edge of the world and discover what was underneath, and he wanted to succeed. He didn’t want Bailiea to win the bet.”

Kaithel and Reimad each took another bite of chapan, glanced at each other, chewing, and smiled collectively at Jorell’s familiar storytelling style. The Old Man continued.

“Over time, Bailiea became obsessed with her rage, and thought to plot against Thrennum and force him to look in her eyes and lose the bet. This time she built a high mountain range in his path, thinking that would make him have to turn around, and she’d be waiting there right when he did, you see. But Thrennum still would not take no for an answer. He was determined, and so he ignored Bailiea for another thousand years, never once looking back in her direction. He climbed right over the mountain range, through bitter cold and rain, never once turning around. Thrennum, he was so stubborn, you see, and this made Bailiea even madder and madder. Thrennum wanted to prove that he could see what was underneath the edge of the world, that Bailiea should not be the only one who knew the secrets beneath. And so he kept walking, walking west toward where the sun rests.”

Kaithel grabbed another piece of chapan, and some fried fruit. Jorell took a drink of water to ease the hoarseness in his throat, and then he continued the story, wide-eyed.

“The world was different for the gods then, you see. That is, until Bailiea had a brilliant plan to trick Thrennum into turning around and losing his bet once and for all. She realized that Thrennum was so determined because he could always see where the sun went to rest, right there in front of him. Even after the sun set, he could use the moon and stars to guide his direction. He kept walking and walking because he wanted to reach that distant edge where the sun sets. He was so close to reaching the edge that Bailiea became desperate. So this time, when the world grew dark after the sun climbed underneath it, Bailiea began to turn the world to keep the sun on the other side. While the world turned in the darkness, Thrennum began to lose his footing and no longer had a clear sense of where the sun had gone to rest. But Thrennum, he was stubborn, you see. He knew that Bailiea was trying to trick him. So he decided to wait until Bailiea grew tired of the darkness, and then he would find the sun once again. Thrennum curled up and fell fast asleep for a thousand years, so long that Bailiea decided that she needed to see the sun again, so she decided to stop turning the earth and let the light return. When Thrennum felt the sunlight return, he awoke, and resumed his walk westward, never once turning around. His wonderment kept him moving forward, determined to see the other side. Bailiea tried many times to turn the world, but each time the world was turning in the darkness, Thrennum would wait and sleep, and resume his walk when the next day.”

Jorell took another sip of water, and looked around the crowd of children and young adults grinning at him. A young boy with a characteristic lisp spoke up.

“What ‘appen’? Did Fwennum evow make it to the othow side?”

Old Man Jorell drew close to the boy. He had a groveling, formidable voice and he knew how to use it for an incredible dramatic effect. Even when he spoke softly there was a deep intensity to the words, an enunciation that cut through any surrounding noise. And he tempered that powerful speech with a soothing version at times. His comforting tone had a depth all its own that kept his words strangely compelling. “No, lad, he never did get to see the other side. You see, Bailiea realized that as long as the world was turning, Thrennum would have to sleep, but that when he awoke he would still be stubborn and just resume his walk in the same direction that the sun travels.”

Jorell grabbed a piece of round chapan and held it up for the crowd of young people to see, returning to the booming, howling orator once again. “The only way to get Thrennum to face her before he reached the edge of the world was to trick him one last time. One night while the world was turning and Thrennum was fast asleep, Bailiea bent the world touching the two edges together.”

Jorell bent the flat chapan around touching the far edges together to make a hollow tube. The young lisping boy gasped, and the Old Man continued.

“She left the world turning with its edges closed together, you see. When the sun shined on Thrennum again, he began walking west again, never once looking in the other direction. As the sun set, he would sleep.” Still using his chapan as his makeshift map of the world, Jorell dragged his finger all the way around the hollow tube. “Eventually, Thrennum walked all the way around the world, crossing the plains, the deep oceans, and the steep mountains that Bailiea had built. Bailiea just stood behind him, watching him walk away, and then she turned around to wait for him to make it around the other side. She was thrilled with herself, you see, because she realized that she had finally gotten her way. And just when Thrennum realized that Bailiea had won and that he was facing her, he saw the wrath of the sun.”

Jorell took a big bite of the chapan and made a moaning sound. “Oh, mmm, that’s good chapan.”

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