Ancients of Gondarash (Completed)

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Entry 2239 19/07/09 00:00
The dark boy looked at at Cliff fearlessly. He stared for a few more moments and then turned and headed to Gondarash. 

"Come on, then," he said. "I'll get Arka and he can sort this out."

Arka had been built up to be some sort of powerful and superior figure, but he was a child like the rest. In fact, it soon became clear that nobody was any older than about 13 or 14. The tall, dark boy, named Jed, seemed to be the oldest Cliff had encountered thus far. Arka was younger, but he had an air of duty and sense about him. His eyes were dark and his hair was fair and it fell down over his eyes. When Cliff met him, Arka was standing behind the commons, wielding a short bow and pointing it at a target some way off. 

"Arka," Jed said, halting Larr and Cliff behind him. Joy had wandered off. "Larr found a stranger in the springs. He says he didn't come from the water."

Arka turned his head slightly to look at Cliff, and then he relaxed the bow and lowered it. He stared for a moment, observing, squinting against the sun, with his head slightly tilted to keep his hair out of his eyes. 

"Will he be staying here tonight?" Arka asked. 

"Joy doesn't like him. She'll probably cook him rabbit foot stew," Larr said. All three of them laughed, though Jed's laugh was more of an amused snort. "Joy does most of the cooking," Larr explained. "But she won't poison you so don't worry."

Arka put away his arrow and walked to them. "If you didn't come from the water, you're welcome to stay for the night. It's up to you," he said, looking at Cliff with his head slightly lowered.
Entry 2240 19/07/09 00:00
Cliff looked between them uneasily, but for the moment he was relieved, at least to some extent.  "Ok," he managed.  He took a half step to the side, getting a little closer to Larr before continuing, "You are their leader?" He observed Arka more carefully. "But, you are just a child," he said more quietly with a piercing look. The hypocrisy of calling another boy a child when he himself hated that phrase missed Cliff.  "How many more are there here?"
Entry 2241 19/07/09 00:00
"There are twelve of us," Arka said. "I'm not just a child. I'm a child. We're all children. But Jed is the oldest." Jed nodded proudly. "I guess you'll meet everyone when we eat tonight. Jed, can you make sure Joy has started cooking and help her if she needs it? Larr, I trust you can show Cliff where everything is. I have things to do." He smiled quickly and pushed past them, disappearing from their sight around a tent. 

"Right, well," Larr started. "What do you... want to do? See? Oh, I'll show you where the mottorn water, and then you can meet my sister." 

He grinned and lead Cliff into the commons tent. There was nobody in there. It was an impressively large canvas tent, with a roof high enough for an adult and enough space for over a dozen people to lie down. Down the centre was a large table with a long bench on either side. Pots, boxes, and other odd things leaned against the sides of the tent. Larr went to a barrel with some markings on it and opened the lid. There was a wooden cup attached to a rope so it wouldn't sink. He scooped up some water and handed the cup to Cliff. 

"You must be thirsty," he said, wriggling the cup.
Entry 2242 20/07/09 00:00
Cliff sipped the water while contemplating what he should ask next.  He had so many questions that the curiosity seemed to fill him up, and yet he couldn't find the words.  The boy swayed from foot to foot while looking at Larr's gray eyes, only breaking contact to dip the cup for a second drink.  The silence wasn't uncomfortable, at least not to Cliff.  So, he didn't pursue any more questions about the strange water for the time being.

Looking down into the barrel's water, his thoughts drifted back to the tactical matters at hand.  There didn't appear to be any imminent danger here, and it probably wouldn't be wise to sleep outside of the village.  Staying the night seemed to be an optimal course to the boy, and he could always figure out what to do next in the morning.

Sunlight illuminated the tent's roof and a breeze blew in that stirred ripples across the surface of the water.  He placed the cup gently back into the barrel and replaced its lid.

Turning he approached Larr giving him a nod and a small smile that seemed to say, "I'm ready."
Entry 2243 20/07/09 00:00
Larr watched, also silent. He didn't look away when Cliff made eye contact; he just looked back and smiled reassuringly. The breeze blew in because someone had opened the flap and entered without making any noise. Larr looked past Cliff and smiled at the other person. 

"This is Nierra," Larr said, and a girl walked around them and stood by Larr. Aside from being a girl, she looked quite like Larr. "She's my twin."

She nodded at Cliff and smiled. "Hi," she said. "Cliff, was it? Joy has told everyone about you already. She's meant to be cooking, though." She paused awkwardly. "So you're... a stranger? You don't know this place at all?"
Entry 2244 21/07/09 00:00
Cliff turned around to face the newcomer.  "Hello," he responded to the girl in monotone voice.  "Yes."  Taking a half step backwards, he bumped into the barrel.  Partly distracted now looking backwards, he continued, "I have never been here before today.  I do not know where here is, not really..." He trailed off. 

The boy looked back up.  "I am from the village Nighen in Gutalia mountains," he said in a rehearsed way, but the twins didn't seem familiar with this.  "In North Nidoen?  It is somewhere," he paused and continued with a small voice, "not here... I think."  He shook his head as though it would clear the confusion.  "What is outside of the Valley?"
Entry 2245 21/07/09 00:00
Nierra stayed where she was. "Well, there is our valley, surrounded by mountains. Beyond it are the great seas, and somewhere further is a lake. That's where Rean took the... the others, after..." She looked away and then at Larr, seemingly for a sign to keep going or stop. "I don't know where 'here' is, either. This valley is our world," she confirmed. "Nothing beyond here is of any significance to us." 

Suddenly, others began to sporadically enter the tent and find a seat. Most of the children went and took a seat around the table as though it had their name on it, but some of them stood around and waited for somebody else to sit before deciding where to plant themselves. Because Cliff was between Nierra and Larr, few of them noticed him before they sat down and looked around. Each time Cliff was noticed, the child stopped entirely and stared. Some shook their head and went back to talking with those around them; others continued to stare, either in curiosity, disapprovingness, or both. Jed was among them, but the rest were unfamiliar to Cliff. Arka took the seat at the far end of the table and a tall girl with powerful dark eyes and a beautiful wave of black hair took the seat at the opposite end, nearest the entrance. Larr pulled up a box to sit on and gave Cliff his own seat, and everyone stopped talking. Joy came in last, carrying a large bowl filled with something, and after she served it, they began to eat. 

Larr broke the silence. "This is Cliff," he said, not looking up, as the collective pressure of everybody's gaze was too scary. "He's... staying here for the night, I think."
"Why?" a boy with fair hair and bright blue eyes objected. "Where's he gonna sleep?"
"I'll fix one of the extra tents after nightmeal, and he can use that," Larr said, with a hint of annoyance. 
"Who's gonna keep an eye on him?" the other boy shot back. 
"I don't think that'll be necessary," Arka said, forcing a smile at Cliff. "Right?"
"He's only been here a few turns, and one of us is already doing extra work," the blue-eyed boy complained. 
"You're the one who broke the tents in the first place!" Larr said, no longer occupied with soup. 
"That was an accident! How was I meant to know you'd done such a bad job?"
"Tex! Larr!" the tall girl's voice exploded into the tent. The other boy, Tex, jumped and dropped his spoon, sending a small spray of soup across the wooden surface. Some of them giggled. "Enough. Both of you. Larr doesn't do extra work if he doesn't want to; nobody is making him. And you'll have extra work cleaning everyone's dishes tonight if you keep this up, Tex." 

The tent was quiet again. Everybody looked as though they were at a funeral... Everybody, that is, but Arka. Though his face was low, it could be seen that he was actually trying not to laugh, and doing a pretty good job of it, too, as nobody seemed to notice.
Entry 2246 21/07/09 00:00
The rush came before Cliff had a chance to follow up on Nierra's response.  He quickly stuck himself between the friendly twins, dreading the sudden encounter with all the others.  When the seat was presented, Larr's kind gesture was met with another subtle smile.  Although Cliff normally found it hard to make friends, not that he would admit this, Larr made it almost impossible not to like him.  Almost as to remind himself, Cliff wriggled his toes within the borrowed boots.

It seemed every time he looked up someone was looking at him.  This left him with a constant unease.  He instead let his eyes rest on the soup before him as a distraction.  When Tex first responded, Cliff could feel his cheeks growing warm with a blush.  He focused his attention on not showing the embarrassment, but after the scolding the boy couldn't help but let out a satisfied smirk.

In a rare occurrence, the silence that befell the table bothered the boy.  Cliff replied while still looking at his soup, "I can setup my own tent.  I..." After pausing, he could feel the eyes on him.  He looked up with a cold, almost glare, at Tex before continuing in a low monotone, "can take care of myself."  He took the first sip of his soup.
Entry 2247 21/07/09 00:00
"That's good of you, Cliff," Arka said. "Larr will help you, though. It's hard to do and you need others to help lift the supports."
"Oh yeah, sure!" Larr said eagerly. "I'll help."

Tex sighed and bent under the table to pick up his spoon, which had fallen between the boards of wood that made the tabletop. Then he shot back up. 

"He's wearing Larr's boots," he said, confused. "What's with that?"
"He needed them," Larr said with a shrug. 
"But your feet are bleeding..."
One of the other girls, with her hair elaborately plaited and decorated, sat up straight and looked at Larr. "Show me," she said sternly. 
"No, it's fine," Larr said. "It's just dirt... and mud. I'm not hurt. It's fine, really." He looked at Cliff and smiled.
She seemed satisfied at this. Everybody ate in awkward silence for the rest of the meal, and those who left, did so as quickly as they were able to. 

"I don't know what you expected to happen," the tall girl said, once it was just her, Larr, Cliff, and Arka left sitting. "You knew they wouldn't like a stranger. Why did you bring him back?"
"What was I supposed to do?" Larr objected. "Leave him in the cave?"
"If he got here on his own, he can leave on his own."
"Monopa! That's horrid. He doesn't know how he got here!"
She tilted her head. "How do you know he didn't come from the water?" Monopa asked. 
"Joy saw him. I mean, she saw him not... come from the water. He wasn't wet when I saw him. He was just standing there," Larr said, looking at Cliff and frowning. 
Monopa raised her eyebrows. "You don't sound very sure." She crossed her arms and leant forward on the table. 
"You're being as bad as Tex," Arka said, glancing across the length of the table at his fellow leader. "And yeah, I know he's only like that because of the last strangers, but this boy is different. I can tell just by looking at him; he wouldn't even step on a snail if he could avoid it."
Monopa sighed. "I'm going to have to ask the king tomorrow. Jed and I will take the boy at dawn. It's a long walk; a score of turns at least. We'll get there by highsun if the weather is good. Unless anybody objects to this?" She looked across at Arka. 
Arka shrugged. "The king is usually fair."
"What do you have to say for yourself?" she asked Cliff.
Entry 2248 21/07/09 00:00
"I did not come from the water, if that is what you are asking.  I just woke up in the cave.  I cannot remember how I arrived there," Cliff said looking calmly into her eyes.  He stood up abruptly causing the chair to make an unpleasant sliding sound.  "I will see your king.  There is nothing for me to hide."  Cliff shifted his gaze between Monopa and Arka for a moment trying to read them.  His confidence had returned in the presence of a fewer number of children.

The boy turn and walked to the flaps tent in a very controlled manner, but came to a stop when he realized there was no where to go without Larr.  Looking back over his shoulder he forced a smile and said, "We should get started, should we not Larr?"  The smile faded when Cliff now saw that the bottom of Larr's feet indeed had strokes of red on them.  He turned back to the flap, waiting a short moment, before stepping outside.
Entry 2249 21/07/09 00:00
Monopa nodded. "Very well. We'll take you to see the king. Get some rest; it's a long walk. Good night."

Larr jumped off his box to assist Cliff with erecting one of the tents. "Yeah, let's go."

There were actually several tents which had been reduced to piles of canvas and wood. Larr went to one beneath a large tree and tapped it with his foot. Then he suddenly ran back into the commons tent and came out with a lamp, hooking it on a pole beside the tent, explaining that they needed to be able to see what they're doing. After a short while of trying to untangle the supports from the woven pieces of canvas, Larr stood inside, in the middle, with the central horizontal beam on his shoulders while Cliff secured the vertical supports to either end. After Larr had checked them, Cliff brought the lamp inside and then left Cliff in there and went to get some bedding. 

A head with blue eyes poked in. It was Tex. 

"Hi," he said, grinning. "Has anyone told you about the Ferehens? You'd better watch out. If you don't know what to do, they'll carry you up to their nests and you'll be eaten alive by the babies." He reached into the tent with hands bent like claws and imitated gashing motions. Then he laughed and stepped inside. "So can you fight?"
Entry 2250 21/07/09 00:00
While helping Larr setup the tent, Cliff had another surge of curiosity.  He really wanted to ask who came from the water before.  They must have been bad, he concluded with a nod to himself.  A devilish grin crossed his mind as he imagined mystical scenarios like he had read in his many books; he hid the expression as quick as it came.

But, something told him that Larr would be the wrong person to ask.  Maybe because he was too nice, and Cliff didn't want to upset him.  While pondering Larr had wandered off.  "Too late now," he said to himself blandly, dropping himself onto the ground.  While waiting he watched an ant journey part of the way across the canvas roof.

Seated in the dirt with his legs crossed, he looked up at the blond boy surprised when he popped in. "I can manage," he lied.  Cliff narrowed his eyes and added a slight tilt to his head before continued, "but if a Fere-."  He stumbled on the foreign word, "should come... how would you fight it?"  Cliff's pragmatic side was overlooking the earlier encounter with the boy.
Entry 2251 21/07/09 00:00
"Oh, you don't," Tex said with a wicked grin. "You wave fire at it and yell; they don't like loud noise. They come from the sky. Now you owe me for that advice..." 

He walked around Cliff in a circle as though observing his prey. Tex was nowhere near as critical as he had been earlier. In fact, he seemed curious about Cliff and wasn't worrying about any imminent dangers. 

"Can you do anything interesting? Anything at all?"
Entry 2252 21/07/09 00:00
Cliff stood from the cross legged position, twisting on his heels so as to face Tex when was fully upright.  "Interesting how," he said with a hint of a smile in his eyes.  The two boys were face to face.  "I am a good climber and am pretty strong," he said.  This was actually truthful.  His aspirations for adventure and parental defiance lead him to ensure that he could take care of himself.

Cliff stepped uncomfortably close to Tex.  "What about you, eh?"  There was a hint of sass in his voice.
Entry 2253 21/07/09 00:00
"I can climb, too," Tex said proudly, not backing down. "I bet I can climb faster than you can. And I can explore. I've discovered more secret places than Jed. And I make shoes with Larr. I can make you some, if you do something for me." 

He was still grinning and he put his hands on his hips. He was taller than Cliff, and he took advantage of this. 

"Convince Monopa to take me with you tomorrow," Tex said slowly, as though Cliff was retarded. "We're not normally allowed to go with the tree. Tell her that you want to be my friend because I'm lonely or something. I dunno, make something up. Make it sound like you wanna try and be my friend or... Yeah. Then I'll make you some shoes. Since, you know, you're probably gonna be staying here for a while if the king says you didn't come from the water. Waddya say?"
Entry 2254 21/07/09 00:00
Crossing his arms, Cliff leaned back arching his back.  He narrowed his eyes looking up at the boy. "I am not so sure. I mean, after all I have these nice ones right here," he said teasingly with a click oh his heels. "Besides, it would be awful hard to convince anyone that I would want to be your friend." His emotionless expression betrayed the playful intent of this comment.

He turned to his left looking into the canvas.  "But, I suppose I could try." Without saying anything more, he lifted the canvas flap and stepped outside.

It took a few minutes, but he eventually tracked Monopa down.  She was standing outside one of the tents adjusting the canvas.  She immediately turned to address him.  Before the girl could say anything, Cliff's eagerness got the better of him, and he uncharacteristically started the conversation.  "I was wondering if Tex could accompany us tomorrow." Realizing the nature of the outburst, he continued in a slowly manner, "I like him.  He has a novel charm about him."  Not even Cliff knew what exactly he meant by this.  His eyes darted in an effort to think of some recovery.  "That is, if it is alright."
Entry 2255 21/07/09 00:00
"A novel charm?" she repeated. She began to smile, but then stopped. "More like a devilish charm. Why would you want him to come? He'll slow us down. Oh, don't worry. Assuming you just spoke with him, go and tell him he can come but as soon as he annoys me, he's going straight back here. Alone." She turned back to what she was doing. "A day of Tex behaving himself..." she said to herself. "Impossible..."

Larr came up to them, stopped, and looked from Monopa to Cliff. "Here you go," he said, unleashing a large bundle of furs and quilts into Cliff's expectant arms. "I'm going to sleep with you, just to make everyone happy." He nodded in Monopa's direction but she didn't respond. 

Larr and Cliff went back to the tent. When Tex came out, Larr was about to speak, but Tex got in the first word. 

"Well?" Tex said to Cliff, who nodded, and he grinned and walked away with his head held high. 

"Something you want to tell me?" Larr asked as he unrolled what appeared to be a mattress onto the grass. "Or are you already making deals behind my back?" He smiled at Cliff, to show he wasn't offended.
Entry 2256 21/07/09 00:00
Cliff smiled but then let it fade before he opened his mouth. "I felt bad about your feet." He motioned to Larr's toes. "Tex offered to make me new shoes if I convinced Monopa to let him come. That is all," he said with a warm smile. 

"Thanks for sharing a tent," he let out a single hah of a laugh. Cliff struggled with the furs stumbling a bit before dropping most of them to the floor of the tent with a worn sigh.
Entry 2257 22/07/09 00:00
"Aren't you lucky?" Larr said, pulling his top covers over and lying down on his back. Then he said nothing, and the sound of heavy breathing quickly filled the tent. 


Larr was one of the first ones up out of all of them. He got up and went straight outside and began working on the remaining tents, with Arka helping. When Cliff woke, there was talking nearby; some had awoken, but not all of them. Tex was still in his tent but Monopa could be seen sitting on the ground under one of the trees with her eyes closed.
Latest Post Entry 2258 22/07/09 00:00
As he stepped out of the tent, Cliff stretched with a satisfying grunt.  Realizing he had been somewhat slow to rise, he quickly adjusted from his relaxed posture to a stiff seemly alert stance.  "Good morning," he said quietly to Larr. "When will we be leaving?" Cliff asked will attempting to brush his hair with his fingers.  Trying to make use of himself, he moved to assist Larr, but there didn't seem to be much he could do to help.
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