A/N. Hello, all! Okay, so I have some stuff to tell you, which may or may not enhance your reading experiance. 'Spirit Lake' is the first of a trilogy (collectively called the 'Spirit Trilogy', for reasons easily guessed). The good news is that that each story in the trilogy can probably be read on its own with only minimal feelings of loss or confusion for the reader (so you can abandon or pick it up wherever you like). Also, it is short. The entire trilogy is probably less than 100,000 words. Chapters in each book while be short (between 700-2,500 words), but there will be a lot of them. I'll try to update them every two weeks, giving enough time for even the busiest of readers to crack down on them.
And wow, that's it. Any further questions or comments can be directed at me in a PM or review, and if enough people say the same thing I'll try to answer it in a later chapter/note. Enjoy!
I remember that when I woke up that morning I was careful to be quiet. I slipped past the sleeping bodies of my elder sister, her husband, and the rest of his family- I'd lived with them since my father died- and tried not to shake anybody awake with a misstep. When I turned to look back at them, they were all motionless, except Marya's husband, whose chest rose and fell with his snores. Satisfied, I left the lodge.
I don't remember ever seeing any of them again.
It was late spring, with just a nip of coolness in the air that faded with the pink of dawn. I slipped away to the gravelly bank north of my village and prepared for my morning exercise. As this ritual involved removing my tunic to bare my chest to the sun's rays, I was a bit flustered when Tashya stumbled on me in the middle of it.
"Fair rising, Reyel," she said, and giggled.
"Fair rising," I said, and bent to retrieve my shirt from the ground. Everything turned bronze for a moment as my hair fell in my eyes, and I brushed it away irritably. Tashya produced a leather band from somewhere, and which I used to tie my hair back.
"Thanks," I muttered. "Who wants to see me now?"
I waited for an explanation, but none came. Instead, she turned and headed back to the low ridges of the lodges in the south. I followed, beating grayish gravel dust from my shirt before I pulled it over my head.
River Bend Holding was walless, and we feared no invasion but that from the river. For that reason, we were set far back from the Father's banks, and on high ground. The slope was noticeable this early in the morning, but out goal, a large, egg-shaped lodge in the east of the village, wasn't far.
Eeliek lived in this Grand Lodge along with our Red Woman, the owner of the village lodges, and the Guardians. She had claimed the corner to the left of the entrance, and it was cluttered with woven blankets, hanging herbs, and pots of colored sands for her Spirit paintings. The only thing with any space around it was the charm box, where old -meaning dangerous- talismans were kept. When I arrived she had a tray of flatbread and a basket of syrup set beside the fire. She followed my gaze and nodded. "Go ahead, boy."
I sat down, tore off a corner of the bread, and dipped it in the maple syrup.
Without further essemble, Eeliek turned her back and began rummaging through her shelves. A morning breeze -though cool even for that- whistled through holes in the birtchbark lodge covering, and I shivered.
The Spirit Woman found what she was looking for and set it down before me. I nearly choked and quickly licked syrup from the bread before any cold drip on the sanded wood box. A spiral had been carved into the top, painted blue, with a burst in the center of brilliant yellow. It was the marking of a powerful Spirit, and I realized what the chest contained.
"You can open it," Eeliek said.
Reverently, I did. The inside of the box was padded with dull red leather, and a handful of arrowheads rested in it. They were broad, made of some black stone, with deep grooves for tying onto a shaft. Each was perfectly shaped, and glinted in shafts of pale morning light.
"Eeliek?" I asked, "Why have you brought out the Spirit Arrows now?"
"I had a dream," she replied, as if no one else ever had.
Of course. Why else would a Spirit Woman do anything? Someone from the other World, or an ancestor from Death Dreaming (if it was, after all, a real dream) must have given her a vision showing the Spirit Arrows...and me.
"What do the Spirits want me to do?"
"You must deliver the arrows to Spirit Lake. They are awaited there."
"A Spirit," she said, and laughed.
"Well, then...I suppose I shouldn't keep a Spirit waiting." I stood and went to the door. She said nothing to stop me, so I went out into the sunlight. I hurried across the plaza, nodded to an ancestor pole that seemed to be watching me curiously, and went into my sister's lodge.
As I understood it, some agreement had once been formed between Spirits and humans. The Spirits were servants of magicians, they came whenever called, and did what was asked- but in return we had to do likewise. Though why a Spirit would call me, I was sure I had no idea. You might call that modesty, but at the time it felt comfortably like complaining.
The lodge was empty- my meeting with destiny must have taken longer than I thought. When Eeliek said 'you are awaited', it's always best to assume the word 'immediately' at the end and move accordingly. I was packing the last of my traveling things and looking for another water bag when the Spirit Woman swept in, followed by...someone.
"Krisha will be going with you," she said.
Rather than asking why she had neglected to tell me this before, I instead asked, "Who?"
"One of the slaves from the west. It knows the way to Spirit Lake."
"It-?" I started, then fell silent as she stepped aside and the person stepped before her.
Krisha was an aman. It looked like a youth or a very young woman, with a flat chest, slim arms and legs, and soft, though clean-cut features. It wore its hair cut a little past the shoulder, and it was a strange combination of blond, brown, and even black strands. It was nervously chewing its lower lip as I regarded it.
I don't know what you expect me to say about aman. Some people think they're a natural freak, like harelips, and others think they're something Spirit-touched. In villages like River Bend, we're a bit nervous of them.
Well, more than that.
I almost took a step back, but Eeliek was glaring at me in a way that I didn't dare. I flushed and looked down- Krisha was about half a hand shorter than me, but then I'm pretty tall- and gave it a look that was mostly eyebrows that said- well, pretty much nothing.
"This is Krisha," Eeliek said, rather needlessly. "And Krisha, this is Reyel. You're going to be traveling together, so I suggest you remain polite."
"Eeliek," I began in a near-whisper, although Krisha was right between us so there was no way it could avoid hearing me, "Why would I be traveling with an aman? Particularly with Spirit artifacts?"
"I only do as the dreams instruct me," she said. "And Krisha's people are from theshores of Lake Country. It knows the area for a long way around."
I never really had a chance to talk her out of it, anyway. But it seemed like a better way to warn Krisha where it stood than saying, 'as soon as we're out of sight of River Bend I'd prefer that you make camp and wait until I return form Spirit Lake so I don't have to handle you'. And after all, though I didn't doubt that the aman had already learned its place- it wasn't looking me in the eye- being chosen for a quest might give anybody ideas.
It certainly gave me some.