With Glory Comes Pain
Chapter One, rough draft.
“You’re not going to, so don’t bother,” Kreek said as he dropped to the ground where I had stood crouched with a bow, arrow drawn. The deer heard the thump as he hit the ground and took off, leaving only the impression of his energy which glowed briefly before it faded.
“What are you doing here?”
“Your mom was worried, she sent me to go find you.”
I considered this briefly before ignoring it and instead, responded to his first comment. “You know, I could have made the shot,” I muttered before shoving the arrow back into the pouch and standing up to face my cousin.
“Raine, don’t even pretend. You know you were never going to, why did you even try?” Kreek asked softly, resting his hand on my arm.
I looked to the ground as the morning flitted through my head. Sighing I looked up to meet his eyes before I answered as best I could, “My mom, why else? I don’t have a title, I barely make enough money. Meat is expensive, and I’m a ‘great archer who could bring this family back up in the ranks.’ I lost it when she started talking about dad and how disappointed in me he would have been. I’ve been out here since before dawn broke.”
“Raine, you know better than that. And you could have a title, you know that. The Sarin would take you if you asked.”
“You know as well as I do that the Sarin has to ask you; and even if she does, it’s a lot to give up. To live with the Kiro and obey both of them no matter the request. It’s a risk. And even if all of that was plausible, the fact is that I may die. Dacaras aren’t guaranteed. The spirits might reject my initiation. And then my mother would be alone. As much as we don’t get along, she still is the woman who raised me. Taught me the beliefs. I don’t know…”
“You’re over thinking this. Lotus will ask you, and you will say yes. Because you know that Stryder is a reasonable Kiro and you already work with Lotus all the time. You fetch her herbs and can already recognize them all. She probably hasn’t asked you yet because she’s waiting for a sign from the spirits that you are the next Sarin.”
“But what about my mom?”
“I should hit you for thinking you’re going to die. And that you think I wouldn’t be there for her. Aunt Flora has been there for me since the beginning.”
I smiled slightly at that, it was true. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it. But we still don’t know if anything will come of it. She might never ask me.
“But we have to go, the sun is high. Any higher and I’m going to be late.”
Kreek nodded and gestured for me to lead the way home. Shouldering my bow, I stepped silently through the forest. Unlike most of my clan, the forest was my home. I knew our territory better than most Seekers. From a young age, I had never been able to take an animal’s life. I always read their energy as innocent. That they deserved to live.
Growing up, I had always assumed that everyone could read energy, could understand it, or at least see it as well. But then I made the mistake of calling Kreek a liar, that he was pretending he couldn’t see it when I pointed out the pink aura of a rabbit.
We didn’t speak for three days. Finally I broke and asked him again if he really couldn’t see it. We’ve kept it a secret from everyone since then. Occasionally he’ll ask about it. What colors he had, what animals had, or what it was like seeing everything with a glow.
Truth be told, it was natural. I had never seen anything but light radiating from life. Kreek would always carry his brown and green aura. I couldn’t imagine him without it, it was normal to see him that way. Of course, his colors changed with his mood but those were lighter and it required focus to determine those.
The sun continued to beat through the trees as we walked among the dense undergrowth. Kreek kept mostly to his own, crunching leaves every once in a while.
It wasn’t surprising that he wasn’t comfortable in the woods. Kreek had been recruited by the Kiro to be a warrior. With the recent news of war on the air, most young men and women had been snatched up, recruited to train. I hadn’t been considered. It was just another sign of exile.
My father had been a strong warrior, one of the top leaders. He was one of the travel groups, they travelled far and wide. Ahead of everyone else. He was a part of the elite. They trained for infiltration and never made the promise of coming home.
I remember the many nights of waking up in terror that something had happened to him. I’d crawl into my brother’s bed and be comforted by his smell. Until one night, he wasn’t there. He was gone. And three months later when my dad’s team returned, he wasn’t there either.
When my brother had gone, people at first, were sympathetic. Then the rumors started. And people began to distance themselves. Then my father died. And people came around to express their sympathy. But then the rumors resurfaced, full force. And my mother suddenly barely had enough work.
At the Kiro’s mercy, he took her in as a seamstress for the army. It’s barely enough pay for food and shelter but we have managed. But we have still fallen out of touch with the people.
We’ve lived on the outskirts for three years now. Starting fifteen months ago, our clan’s Sarin started stopping by. She would find me, seek me out. Asked me to help her carry things. Eventually she asked me to collect herbs. Soon enough she had me grinding the ingredients for potions.
Being around her helped, people didn’t treat us as harshly. They acted as if we were angels if she was with us.
Sometimes I was convinced that the only reason she sought us out was pity. But then I would catch a glimpse of her aura. It was so pure, open, and honest. Kind. It put me at ease with its nurturing care. It was brilliant.
Soon enough we found our way to an entrance point of the clan. Due to the sudden threat of evil leaking in from the High Mountains, our clan had thrown up walls. Patched trees together. Had archers hidden in the branches of the trees, high above. We were constantly on watch now. It was slightly unnerving but reasonable. There was news of an attack just three clans away.
“State your name!” one of the guards called out, hand on the sword at his hip.
“Koda! You big oaf. It’s just us, the handsome Kreek and his charming cousin Raine. Don’t run us through with those things,” Kreek called out with a grin worming its way onto his face. With me, he was content to be quiet only speaking occasionally. With his other friends, he tended to be loud and obnoxious. Everyone loved him.
He was a shining star in training, predicted to be one of the best, right up there with the legends like my father and Stryder. He was most brilliant at tactics.
“Kreek, you’re the oaf. Erin came by, told us to tell you to go straight to her once you had returned,” Koda laughed at his friend’s misfortune.
“Yeah? Did she say why?” Kreek asked, slinging an arm around me not worried in the slightest.
“Something about not showing up for practice this morning, without warning. Said to warn you that you would be running all night to make up for it.”
“Guess I better go find her then…” Kreek muttered in defeat.
Erin was his senior partner in training. With the sudden increase to warriors, training had to be modified. So a system had been devised. There was usually two years of initial training put in. Third years, were out in the field learning by doing. But now third years were also mentoring first years. And Erin was strict. She had a night shift currently, and he had afternoon training sessions. The only time they could train together was from nine to two.
It was easy for me to see that Kreek had a lot of affection for her. There were tiny streaks of red signaling the level of seriousness of the affection. It was a new love. Erin wasn’t far behind either, from what I remembered of her. Even if I didn’t read her aura, it was easy to spot the blush that lined her cheeks.
Walking into the village. Kreek parted ways with me with a smile and a reminder to find my mom to give her proof that I was still alive and well. And then with a quick hug, he took off at a run to find Erin before his afternoon classes began. Likely to be begging on his knees for forgiveness and the promise to make up the training time by running into the night before she could think of a worse punishment for him.
And as affectionate as she may be for him, she would never let him out of training. That was one thing that I loved about her. That and that she didn’t believe the awful rumors. She never judged me on anything but what she saw with her own eyes. She had a strong personality and didn’t let people push her around.
Sighing, I walked towards my small home. With any luck my mother wouldn’t be there.