A/N: I do apologize if the first few chapters might seem a bit dry to account for all the setting and history and whatnot. I hope inspiration comes to me for the next chapter better than between 1 and 2 haha. Enjoy! :)

Thwock. A large, muscly arm reached out and pulled the tomahawk out of the wood, leaving a shallow slice mark. Rhott did not like to be kept waiting. He trained his entire life to become a hunter, and now that he'd surpassed that – become a huntmaster – the conflict between his tribe and the Newcomers escalated to this point, leaving him even more impatient than usual.

Thwock. As the raids into his tribe's villages and the kidnappings perpetrated by soldiers from the settlement continued, his hunting party slowly lost those with Shaping abilities to the increasing requirement of self-defense. And now, the famed huntmaster now found himself the head of a raiding party. Rhott spat on the ground in disgust. He hated violence. He became a warrior and hunter to collect food for his tribe, to ensure everyone's survival, but not like this.

Thwock. He knew he wasn't alone in his views. Elder Bottrey felt the same way, and knowing this eased him a bit. Bottrey was a man who seemed like any other you'd see walking down the road, but beneath His flesh, He was anything but. The Great Spirits were with Him. At His touch, stone crumbled and fires blazed. With a single wave of his hand, He sent storms away and brought in rain to feed the crops. His very presence brought forth a feeling of peace and calm; when warring tribes saw that the Spirits of Wind, Water, Earth, and Fire were with Him, they dropped their weapons and fell to their knees. For the first time since times long-forgotten, the tribes were united, all thanks to Bottrey. He even taught the shamans how to channel the power of the Spirits, and many came to see and learn from Him, even from the other tribes. He called His powers Shaping, and that soon became the unifying name for the tribe, the Shapers.

Thwock. But not long after that, the raids began. As the Tribunal was about to declare war and destroy the settlement, Bottrey stepped in and persuaded them not to. However, lately the people had begun to grow more uneasy and more supportive of returning the violence. Raid parties had formed, to take back even a fraction of what had been destroyed by the Imperial soldiers. Rhott was almost proud that his own party had been composed entirely of non-'gifted' – pure bred warriors, through and through. That left him more trusting in their abilities, but it also gave them a little more vulnerability compared to the others. Both parties had been growing more and more aggressive, likely in response to the other.

Rhott had enough of waiting. He turned around to leave, only to hear a whisper.

Leaving just as your guest arrives? I suppose manners from a raid captain are about as common as fangs on a chicken.

The hulking warrior turned to see a small cloaked figure behind him. Granted, small was a relative term to him, being over two meters tall and arms as thick as skulls. In the darkness of night, he could barely see the cloak the figure was wearing, never mind any sort of face.

"Who you?"

I am but a humble messenger. You have requested a reply exactly seven days after the deliverance of your letter, and I bring you this from the Magister himself.

"Magister?" Rhott cocked an eyebrow. His Imperial had seen better days, but trade and relations in general between the Shapers and the settlers hadn't been particularly pleasant in the past few years to warrant practice of the language.

He's the big man in charge. Like your old man Bottrey.

Rhott scowled. How dare this man, whoever he is, compare his little Magister to the divine Bottrey?

"You have letter?"

Oh, yes. Silly me. The figure reached into his cloak and pulled out an envelope, the crimson seal of the Magister appearing almost black in the darkness. Almost fresh off the table.

More stark contrast as the giant extended his hand to receive the letter. "Thanks. When I reply?"

No need. You do what it says, or you do not.

"…For such is the verdict of the Colonial Magistrate. Comply, or face elimination." Rhott finished reading the letter and took his seat of Honored Guest of the Tribunal beside Elder Bottrey. He wasn't sure whether to be enraged at the audacity of such a request, or to be fearful of the Tribunal's decision. After several minutes of painful silence, Elder Trosi rose.

"Huntmaster Rhott, was it?" The warrior nodded and stood, a sign of respect in the Tribunal to stand both when speaking and spoken to. The Elder continued, "There are several sections I'd like to make sure I heard correctly before I continue with what I have to say. First, the letter states that it is us Shapers that are to blame for the conflict of the past five years and makes no mention of their assaults and kidnappings for the past fifty. Is that correct?"

Rhott nodded solemnly, "Yes."

"Second, it calls to name the farms and property our raiders have destroyed, without a passing word on the families and lives destroyed by their own acts?"

"Yes."

"And finally, it calls for the death of a raid party – your party, huntmaster – to answer for our transgressions? Is that what the letter says?"

"Yes."

Trosi raised his hands and voice. "Do you see now, O Members of the Tribunal, what this has come to? We should never have let these filthy Newcomers even land on our shores; we should have destroyed them as the raids began, and what do we have now? Threats under the pretense of peace while taking more life? No, thank you. I will not have our people suffer as such." He turned toward Bottrey. "We thank you, O Son of the Spirits, for coming to us," he said genuinely with a deep bow. "We thank you for uniting us with our brothers on this land in peace. We thank you for bringing the Spirits to us, and for teaching us how to channel their energies unto ourselves," he continued, with a bow for each thanks given. "We appreciate your concerns and advice for our people, but this is where we start making our own decisions!" his voice surged with vigor, calling out to the other nineteen elders. "We can take this fight into our own hands, and with the gifts of the Great Spirits, we shall succeed!" His speech was met with clapping and cheering that seemed to come from everywhere.

Bottrey raised his hand, and the room fell into silence, and Rhott sat down. "I understand completely, my friends," Bottrey spoke with a calm voice, "and I am glad you wish to handle this situation. But how will you do it?"

Trosi grinned. "It has always been the joke and motto of the Fireshapers to rain flames upon our enemies. I fail to see why we can't put that idea to good use. I can't think of a single Fireshaper in the area that would be opposed."

"How much time will you need to prepare everything?"

"Two days. Maybe three."

The Son of the Spirits clenched his teeth. This was not going to end well, he could sense it. "Then I call a vote for the Tribunal. All in support of Trosi's fireball, rise."

It was the most deafening sound of nineteen chairs being pushed back that Bottrey had ever heard.

Rhott was sitting with his head in his hands as Keon, his second-in-command, paced along the table in their room of the Hunters' House. The Guild itself wasn't particularly active, as many of the hunters turned to defending against the Newcomers, but Rhott's party still used it for meetings and important events. Such as the convenient offer of freedom for the tribe in exchange for their deaths. The room had been dead silent for about ten minutes now, with the exception of Keon's footsteps.

Finally, Rhott decided to break the silence. "So, what's your take on it?"

Keon spoke up first. "It's impossible to say, really. We have no idea whether the fireball or whatever is going to work, nor do we have any sort of clue if this Magistrate intends to keep his word on leaving us alone. Or maybe these are all empty threats to make us back down for a while." He stopped and turned to the leader. "You are the huntmaster. What do you have to say?"

Rhott swallowed nervously. "Just hear me out before you jump to any conclusions, all right?" After seeing nods of agreement, he continued. "You're right. There are too many things we don't know about. The Gifted have never pulled off as massive and coordinated as this, so I don't trust the all-in gamble. As for what would come after that…" he paused. He didn't know what would come after that, and he was afraid to say it out loud. "If push comes to shove, and the dirty Imperials come to get us, the Gifted will be fighting that battle. If they fall, one more or one less raid party won't make a difference."

Keon sighed. "So what you're trying to suggest is we go and-"

"Get ourselves cut down for the alleged freedom of our people." Rhott finished.

Lari, second in size only to Rhott himself, stood and bellowed, "If we should die, let it be for our people. If our lives are wanted for their property, let us take more with us!" Cheers of rage and approval filled the Hunters' House as the band unsheathed their weapons and held them out towards the center of their makeshift circle, and Rhott smiled.

Tomorrow would be a fun day, he thought as he unsheathed his own blade.

Last Edited: Nov 12, 2012 - Minor formatting.