Coming of Age (book)
As recorded for posterity in the 358th year since the Victory of Lanival the Redeemer.
Much of my life has been spent listening to others recount the story of their lives, that I might sift through for kernels that might be of interest to us all. I have traveled far and wide, met people from the different races that populate Elanthia, heard truth that was stranger than fiction, and lies that were sworn to be truth. Due perhaps to the charm of their disappearing past, I have a particular interest in learning the customs of the Rakash. It is a rare pleasure to find one who remembers life before the migration.
Outside, snow was falling heavily, but the fire in the den at Marachek's Oak welcomed and warmed all. It was there that I joined a group of travelers who, brew in hand, were whiling away the time telling tall tales of their experiences. One of the travelers was a Rakash Barbarian, whose white coat concealed any symbol of age. All grew quiet as he told the tale of his testing for acceptance in his pack.
"It was cold when the time came for my passage. Winter had come and stayed long, and even my excitement at the testing could not hold the chill of the damp dawn at bay. Quickly I drew on my odaj, strapped my thigh quiver on and slung my bow across my back before I scrambled out the door of my audiwah. Stars glistened brightly in the night sky, as if bidding farewell to each other before they rested for the day. A small group had gathered, readying the items needed for the hunt and the ritual that lay ahead. Hehdk slipped beside me as we prepared to enter the circle and the sight of my friend steadied me like a horse calms at its owner's voice. That which I had awaited all my life had come to its time. It would be done that night."
"There were four of us, all cubs still. That night we would hunt, first as we were, then as the Lord Mrod made us. It would be our first hunt in which we would be alone for the change. Till then we had hunted in packs, and with care as to Katamba's fickle nature. Proof of our ability to serve the pack, be one with the pack, would be if we returned after the light of Katamba had shone over the sun thrice."
"Into the center of the pack circle we walked, the last time in that protected place. As we formed a small circle of four, facing in towards the elder Jugtahr, he began the recitation of
Hehdk's lines from the falling of the pearl moon. At the name of his great grandfather, Hehdk turned and faced the outer circle of our families. Jugtahr did the same with each of us until we all faced away from him, towards our families. When the recitation of my line was finished my father handed me my weapon and backpack; it was all that would sustain me in my quest to be accepted as a full member of the pack. At the nod of Jugtahr's head, in unison the pack spoke, "Mrod guide." The moment had come, I held my breath as each of us began to walk forward, drawing farther from each other and childhood as we headed towards the four winds. Thus began my journey to adulthood."
"I was slightly comforted knowing the pack would wait for my return, and I was certain my family would beseech Mrod in my name."
"Heated with the excitement of the moment, I pulled my odaj around my body and remembered the ways of the pack. A huge gulp of frosty air helped calm my nerves as I delved deep within myself seeking the core of my people, the balance of oneness. I inhaled the air, sensed its movement within me, let it warm with my scent and released it. I inhaled the air, allowed it to bring their distant scent on memory, felt it, released it. I inhaled the air, they were beside me, within me, at one with me and I with them."
"The road I traveled crested in front of me just as the sun broke free of the reigns of darkness and set its light loose in the sky, turning it pink with the promise of warmth. I had watched many groups of cubs while standing with my family as they left seeking full pack status, now it was my turn. I planned long and thought hard about how and where I would wish to be at the time of the change. Previously I had explored with my friends and set what I thought was a good plan. In the valley below, there was an overhang where tall trees had grown on top of each other, so entangling their roots that they pushed upward out of the ground creating a small enclosed area. My thought was to watch Katamba and spend the change within the confines of that cradle, where I could regain my energy before becoming a delicacy for some wandering beast. Something I assure you I had no intention of allowing."
"All was going according to my plan until I stepped from behind a tree and saw a group of ice gibbons. Unfortunately, they saw me as well. Too late to run, I stood my ground as they advanced, more curious than irate with my trespass. I slipped my bow from my back and casually drew an arrow from the quiver. I had almost set it when a tall gibbon in the back cast frost patch at me. I struggled to maintain my footing but failed miserably. Air escaped from my lungs with a thwack as I landed on my back sending my arrow straight up into the air instead of at its target. My mind raced as I tried to regain my footing while drawing my ice pick. If it were to be melee, then my strength would have to hold against the crowd. A loud fffwwonking noise in the distance brought the advancing horde up short. For a moment they glared at me in unison, then turned and scrambled off in the direction of that odd sound. I remember the burning in my chest that reminded me I had ceased to breathe and I confess I gasped for air. At that moment, Katamba chose to rise and suddenly against my best plans I lay on the plain in full view and at the mercy of whatever might arrive."
The narrator glanced at a thin line on his arm that could have been an old scar, guzzled his brew, and announced, "All's well that ends well."
I thought to press him further, but a fight erupted in the corner over some local grave robbery and before the furniture got righted, the accusations sorted out, and the injured tended, he was gone.
As everyone settled down and ordered a new round of spirits, a young Rakash who had been listening to the evening's tales retook his seat under the blackened torch. I hoped I might learn more about this custom so I leaned over and whispered to him asking if he would care to relate the story of his right of passage. He smiled sadly as he stated that he had never had a ceremony for acceptance into his pack. He said he planned on sharing the information he had heard tonight with his pack and he would be certain his children had some ceremony to mark their coming of age at the tenth circle in their Guild.