It was on the third and last day of the great festival of spring, just as the sun was setting below the fire clouds of the western sky that Rayne trudged wearily from the forest. The crowd, gathered to watch the sun disappear between the twin peaks of Mount Razmus, noticed him approaching and silently parted to allow him into the village. No-one looked at him, well not directly, some looked from the corner of their eyes as he passed, but Rayne seemed not to notice anything as he dragged his feet slowly down the dusty road, seeming only concerned to keep his eyes firmly on the ground in front of him. If anyone had seen his face they would have been amazed, for it was split by an enormous grin, in fact he was having almost as much trouble trying to stop himself laughing out loud as he was in trying to walk the last few steps to the door of his hut. As he opened the door and stepped inside, he glanced up to see the last diamond of light shoot from the "Eye" of Mount Razmus as the Sun finally sank behind the mighty mountain. This was the sign that all the villagers had been waiting for, the start of the feast of Razmus, all except one and he was lowering himself onto his bracken bed, too tired to wash the travel from his skin or to even remove his boots. As he closed his eyes he could hear the crackle of the huge cooking fire and the sizzle of the elk roasting on it, the sound of the people chattering excitedly of the days to come, he sank gently to sleep undisturbed by the gradually swelling noise of the partying throng, later as the singing and dancing became frenetic, he could have been far underground for all the affect it had upon his sleep.

The next morning he awoke with the sun, no sounds of stirring were coming from the villagers, all he could hear were the birds calling to each other in the trees and somewhere the snuffle of a pig foraging, all was peaceful, but for how long? Lifting himself gently from the bed he was amazed that his muscles would let him move at all after the exertions of the last few days, days that could change the history of his world and maybe all worlds. Stretching cautiously to ease his body into movement he became aware of several things at once, he was incredibly thirsty, his tongue almost glued to the back of his mouth, his belly growled with hunger, but worst of all he smelled as if he had spent the last week laying in the foetid swamps of Damil. Hooking a clean robe from the hanging bar on the wall of his hut he made is way through the deserted street of the village, Soft snores and the occasional mutter were all that came from the homes of the villagers, it was obvious that no-one would be stirring much before midday, after their exertions of the previous night, smiling to himself he wondered how many of the young-free had coupled last night and whether there would be the building of many new huts over the next few months. Making his way over to what was left of the elk carcass he tore several strips of meat from it and gathering up a tankard continued toward the river below the village, he filled his tankard from the fresh spring that rose near the road and drank deeply of the sweet water before filling it again to take with him. He sat on the riverbank and ate a couple of strips of meat before wrapping the remainder in leaves and burying them in the sand next to the tankard, he then let himself slowly, fully clothed into the chill of the morning river, as he removed his clothes he scrubbed both them and himself with sand almost removing his skin in an effort to rid himself of the stench of his travels. When finally satisfied that he was as clean as he could be he eased himself out of the water and spreading his clothes on the rocks to dry lay down naked in the warming sun, closed his eyes and was soon asleep again. No one would be around for hours yet, he thought as he drifted gently into the healing sleep.

What seemed like moments later, he awoke to the sound of laughing splashing children, how long had he slept for? The sun was high in the sky. Not far from noon he thought to himself as he sat up blinking the sleep from his eyes. Standing he was aware of his nakedness, not because clothes were deemed a social necessity, they were after all just protection from the elements and cutting, stinging, biting plants and insects, rather because of the state of his emancipated body, he really must try to eat more, when he can, otherwise he may not have the stamina to finish what has already been started. "It will be hard enough", he thought to himself, "to convince any of the villagers of what he had learned", he would have to travel again to try and bring back some tangible proof. As he mused on the problems before him he became aware of eyes probing his neck, turning he saw the black haired acolyte of the priest sitting on a rock close to where the road meets the river, she continued to observe him as he stood and donned his clean robe, digging the food from below the coolness of the sand he sat again and finished the meal started many hours ago, the water had become tepid so he just rinsed his mouth before throwing what was left onto the now warming sand. Gathering his almost dry clothes he made his way back to the road leading into the village, as he passed the acolyte, "what was her name? Jena, that was it," she rose and followed just a short pace behind as he went back to the spring and refreshed the tankard with that oh so valuable giver of life, after he had had his fill he offered Jena the tankard but she just shook her head in refusal. "Why was she here? Had the priest sent her to find out what he was up to?" It was no use asking her as she was allowed to speak to no one but the priest.

Jena follow him all the way back to his hut and when he looked out later she was still there outside on one of the village seats making no attempt to hide what or who was the subject of her observations.

Obviously there was no way that Rayne would be able to leave the village without it being noted, the priest or the council must have finally realised that far from just being a loner there was something different about him, something that they maybe considered dangerous, but, he wondered, what would they try to do about it. Should he try to leave the village now before they had come to any conclusion amongst themselves or should he wait until he had recovered a little from his recent journey?

Unknown to him all decisions would soon be out of his hands.

Peter Wright, To Email Click me


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