Celoturs uz Siksraja

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CELOTJURS UZ SIKSRAJA by Lukca Zelkuk

I must have been all of four anlas when we fled. My mother's legs were a comfort I clung to as she bustled about gathering what she could for our rapid departure. Years later, when I asked, she said the pack knew the elders were going to try and erect a magical wall that would grant us the needed escape time as we ran from our homes. We traveled for many years. I was a pup when the elders erected the wall I hope still holds back the undead scourge. Delay was the key word, which is why the pack kept moving for so long, certain Lyras and that crew were following. We left in the dark, as day broke. Fortunately it was fall, and we took our harvest with us. Careful rationing provided sustenance over the winter season. When no sign of pursuit had presented itself and supplies were running low, we stopped in early spring and tilled and planted. In fall we harvested, and once again began moving onward. This pattern continued for many years.

Our pack was large, and representative of all ages and stages of life. At first the group ran, but as the realization dawned that we were not being followed, the journey slowed enough that life and its rituals continued even without a home. Babies were birthed, children were taught by the elders, came of age, fell in love, married and had babies of their own. People aged, became ill, died, and were buried in our way -- life went on as we continued to move. In time we stopped along the way, some places for a season to plant and harvest, sometimes the area seemed a good choice for a new home, but in the end, most of us kept moving. Each time a small group chose to remain behind amidst promises to keep in touch, which we knew was unlikely.

We would travel till spring and then seriously search out a water supply. Every member of the pack was assigned a job, children gathered twigs and searched for berry bushes, the strong cleared land, built homes, tilled soil and planted crops, the elders fished to augment the dwindling food supplies.

The year I turned nine we stopped on the shore of a fast flowing river. I grew wiry and built muscles as I learned to swim like a fish that year. It was also the year my Grandmother took ill. Nothing seemed to make her better and as the winter approached, she passed on. Granddad became bitter, certain the forced flight had taken his bride from him before her time. When we packed up to leave, he insisted on staying with the group that remained behind. My Dad couldn't talk him out of it, and with many tears, we left and continued our journey. It turned out to be a bitter winter, and though we missed him, we took solace in knowing that his old bones would surely be more comfortable at home by a fire then plodding through snow-covered fields.

During our journey in a place I knew not before that day, I came of age and we tarried there no longer than necessary. Sahred was the same age as I and we had lived near each other before the migration. On the road, our friendship solidified until we felt as though we were brothers. We were inseparable while we traveled, staying with one or the other of our families -- usually dependant on what our mothers were making for dinner. As time passed we grew in knowledge and became restless with the restraining cloak of childhood. We put our heads together and decided to prove we didn't have to be watched so carefully: we set about to play a prank on our mothers and pretend to be lost. We planned it out in great detail for months. One day, as camp was made for the night, we slipped away and didn't show up for dinner at either tent. By bedtime, our parents connected and sent an alarm through the pack that we were missing. We watched, huddled behind a large hedge a short distance away. The pack began methodically searching for us. Watching them going the wrong way, it was hard not to snicker as we congratulated ourselves on how well everything was going.

Suddenly, someone snuck up behind us and grabbed us by the back of our necks. Obviously, we weren't as smart as we thought. Anyway, after being hauled back to camp by our ears, the elders met to decide our fate as we stood shamed before the pack. After some deliberation, the elders dismissed us into our parent's care without informing us of any decision. That was when I realized just how wise the elders were. Sahred and I were constrained from showing any concern or interest in whatever would befall us as we awaited the decision of the elders with false bravado. Everyone but us knew the elders had decided that since we thought we were so mature it was time to hold a Coming of Age Ceremony for us and a few others in the pack. From that day, for a few weeks, every camp the pack made was scouted by the elders for suitability. When a suitable site was found, the ceremony was held and we were released from our tension to pure terror. Since I obviously survived; I shall spare you the details.

After I came of age, my father shared with me the one thing other than his family that he had taken with him when we fled Odcoru. It was late in the evening, inside our tent when he called me to the fire by his side. He explained that he was about to show me something I must never speak of to another until I could be certain no harm would befall it. I swore on my honor as a man and on my mother's head. He stared into my eyes for a long time, then slowly reached into his odaj and drew out a package wrapped in linen and tied with a leather thong. With great care he undid the knots and laid the thong in the lap created by his odaj. Unrolling the linen, he revealed to me what appeared to be a stone sliver. The small, dark stone was shot through with ruddy red streaks. One side was sheared off on an angle as if chopped from a larger block while the rest was smooth and slightly shiny. He then shared several of the stories our pack told about that stone. He folded the cloth over the shard and placed it within his odaj next to his heart. When my father died, it became my turn to guard the precious stone.

I have helped found Siksraja and lived a good life there, but soon my time will come. I have no regrets save that I have no son to pass the stone to. Instead, I have found a special place for it in the hills above Siksraja, where contemplation with our Gods is possible and Coshivi might visit undisturbed should he so desire.