Round Robin Story Debate Tournament
Hi, this is the first round in the Round Robin Story Debate Tournament. I will be debating YYW. This is Round Robin, so I will debate YYW twice. This time, I will instigate it and next round YYW will instigate the debate.
R1 is acceptance and for my opponent to post the TOPIC of the story, not his actual section for the story.
R 2 -5 is for the continuation of the story.
Voting criteria is posted in the forum for this tournament, for the link message MIG.
I look forward to my opponent's response!
I look forward to the literary proffering of my opponent, and would like to cordially thank Man Is Good for this tournament as well as all who may take the time to read and vote.
Since I apparently get to pick the topic/theme of our stories:
Coming of Age
Let the games begin!
The small, black boy stands alone. His thin, limp arms hang by his side. In one hand he carries a leather shield, in the other a spear. Bare feet lovingly embrace the cold, dirt covered, stone ground. His shaved head held high. Around him lay ruined dirt walls, the stench of decomposing animals permeates the entire house, if you could call it a house. But to the boy, it was always his home. His gaze swiveled through the room. No one but him and the dead pig. He turned his attention back to the doorway. Outside he could hear the music, the drums, the chanting, the sound of hundreds of feet slapping the ground simultaneously, the cheering, and the anticipation. Yet the boy continues to stand there, alone.
Finally, a man rushes into the room. He has swooshing white hair, tribal tattoos dominate his powerful physique, and piercings disfigure his handsome face.
"Asakia, it is time." The boy slowly nods, thrusts out his chest and strides out of the house. A shock wave of cheering washes over him as he takes in his surroundings. On either side of him, his neighbours, friends, and family stand cheering him on and dancing. All are covered with tattoos and bone piercings. He continues to walk forward. People are throwing skulls at his feet, he picks one up. He lifts it high in the air and shows it off to everyone. They cheer. He takes the skull he loops it through his necklace. A ring of bones surrounds his neck, and in the centre, the skull caps it all off. He continues to walk forward.
When he finally reaches the end of the path, he finds a circular pit. He gazes down into the darkness apprehensively, and a strong hand claps him on the shoulder.
"Nervous, Asakia?" the man with the white hair asked.
"Well, you should be. I felt just like you when I was coming of age. Have no fear, you are the chieftains son, you will perform spectacularly." Sakai's father turned and stepped away, letting Asakai continue to stare into the darkness.
"Ahem," a voice said behind him. Asakia jumped so high he almost fell into the pit. Behind him stood the village elder, the high priest. His twisted, frail body stood hunched over, almost touching the ground. A staff was clutched in has gnarled hands, now being used as a walking stick.
"It is time to begin the ceremony." He reached forward and touched Asakai's necklace.
"5,6, 7. Perfect, you have the correct amount. Your father has taught you well." the high priest turned back.
"THE CEREMONY, IS BEGINNING!" he shouted. Instantaneously, hundreds of villagers swarmed forward. They formed a ring around the pit. They started dancing and cheering again, showering Asakai with bones, flowers, and food. The high priest slowly made his way to the edge of the pit, supported gently by Sakai's father. He stood at the edge of the pit, and the noise instantly died down. No one fidgeted, nobody moved. All eyes were attracted the frail old man standing at the edge of the pit.
The priest closed his eyes and began to chant. Words flowed from him like water. The villagers bowed their heads, muttering along with the priest.
"Eeeesh, eesh HAH!" the priest shouted. He raised his hands towards the heavens then threw down his staff into the pit. The villagers burst out into cheers as the staff clattered in the darkness, its clangs reverberating throughout the air.
"You know what you must do, that staff is a symbol of this village's greatness. If the high priest loses his staff, the gods will smite our village. You must traverse into the pit and fight your way to the staff. Then, when all your enemies are slain you may return from the pit with my staff. Returning without it, will mean death."
"I know what I must do," Asakai said.
Two men rushed forward and threw a rope ladder down into the pit. Torches were lit as everyone craned their heads to try and locate the priest's staff.
"RELEASE THE PRISONERS!" Sakai's father shouted. Three men, huddled in robes and chained together were revealed from the depths of the crowd. Their bonds were released and each was given a skull necklace. The 3 men looked at each other wearily, rubbing their wrists. They were roughly shoved onto the rope and were put down into the pit.
"THROW DOWN THE WEAPONS!" Women came forth from the crowd, kneeling next to the pit. They each held a sword in their hand. Chanting, they lifted the swords high into the air, and then dropped them straight into the pit.
The startled men wrenched a sword from the Pit, and stared upwards. Hundreds of pierced faces and tattooed bodies stared back. The high priest stepped forward.
"Ahem. IF YOU WANT TO EMERGE FROM THE PIT OF WISDOM, YOU MUST FIGHT EACHOTHER WITH THE SWORDS. THE SOLE SURVIVOR, WILL HAVE HIS CHANCE AT FREEDOM."
"Damn you and your games, we'll never betray each other!" a man shouted from the pit. He threw down his sword and made rude hand gestures at the high priest. That's when a second man stuck him with a sword. He fell to his knees, blood rising to his mouth. He choked for air. The man twisted and turned the sword inside the first. He finally wrenched the sword free from the corpse.
"A pity, that was too quick. No fun." the high priest said.
The man with the bloody blade turned and stared at the third man.
"You, you just killed George. You've known him your entire life, he's your friend! How could you, you monst, ACK!" The sword tasted more flesh as it penetrated the final man's rib cage. The sword was wrenched free with a horrible squelch. The man collapsed.
"He's still breathing!" the high priest called down.
The man turned and viciously stabbed the man on the ground, over and over. The crowd cheered each time the sword came down.
The high priest smiled and turned to Asakia.
"Now, prove your manhood. Go down there and slay him!"
A ladder was placed into the pit for Asakai to climb down. The crowd’s cheering overwhelmed the last prisoner’s threats as the ladder was pulled away. Asakai clenched his shield and spear, as the prisoner raised his sword. The second sword laid beside where the ladder once stood, and Asakai knew that if the other prisoner were to gain access that he would not survive this test.
“What do you wait for?” The prisoner shouted as he smiled. “There is no value to delaying fate!”
Asakai didn’t respond, but recalled the many times he had hunted antelope with his father as a boy. While the prisoner was much taller and imposing than a mere antelope, Asakai knew that the area of the prisoner’s chest was about the same size as an antelope’s torso. If he missed, he knew that he could reach for the sword to finish his task.
“You are just a boy! There is no hope for you to win! Your father’s poor judgement will bring your death!” The prisoner shouted again, but stood in his place waiting for Asakai to move first. The crowd’s cheering intensified.
“You dishonor yourself in taunting me.” Asakai shouted. “I may look like a boy, but you have no shield!”
“No shield?” The prisoner coldly laughed. “I have a sword! Your spear and shield are no match! You’ll meet the same fate as the others as soon as you get within range.” The prisoner lowered his sword in disbelief, giving Asakai his opening.
Asakai lunged the spear at the prisoner’s torso, and it struck with penetrating force into the prisoners chest. The prisoner fell to his knees and gasped for air, trying in vain to pull the spear out. Asakai grabbed the second sword and walked over to the prisoner. Asakai thrust the sword into the prisoner’s neck, with the sober concentration of a victorious hunter.
“It is finished!” He shouted.
The ladder was lowered into the pit, and Asakai emerged with the prisoner’s head and the priest’s staff.
“You have done well, my son.” The chieftain began. “But why return with the prisoner’s head?”
“I return with the prisoner’s head so that all may see that when I am faced with a challenge, that I leave nothing unfinished.” Asakai dropped the head.
“You will make a great leader in due time, my son.” The chieftain placed his hands on Asakai’s shoulders.
“It is time.” The priest whispered to the chieftain.
“So it is.” Asakai turned and faced the crowd.
“A great victory is had before us today! As I hunt antelope, so will I hunt all the threats which present themselves to our tribe!” Asakai shouted. “As my father steps down, I beseech the warriors that I may be afforded the same respect you all afforded him. Together, may we all live long and prosper!”
The priest removed Asakai’s necklace and replaced it with a golden chain and black pendant to symbolize his accomplishment. Asakai handed the priest his staff, and the priest smiled.
“Your father chose to fight the prisoners with a sword.” The priest told Asakai.
“Is that why the Chieftain’s arm bears the long slash?” Asakai asked the priest.
“What he lacked in wisdom he overcame with strength.” The priest smiled. “Come, Asakai! Now, we feast.”
Asakai, the chieftain and the priest departed for the great hall, where the tribal elders were gathered around a table that spanned the hall. The chieftain and the priest entered first, and stood at the head of the table. Asakai followed, and they each took seats at either side of Asakai, who remained standing.
“Elders!” Asakai addressed the room. “Today I stand before you, adorned with the mark of victory. As we enjoy these festivities, may this moment stand as precedent for days to come. From my father I have learned much! Were it not for his teaching me to hunt antelope, I might have chosen to fight with a sword. I am grateful to him for all I have learned, and I am grateful to you all, that we may fest together in celebration! To the chieftain and our tribe, we toast!”
Asakai, the tribe elders, the chieftain and the priest raised their glasses and drank.
Asakai remembered his coming of age like the back of his hand. The memory had been burned into his memory, just like the skull was into his flesh. He remembered the fragrances, the scent of blood, the feeling of anticipation. The sound of victory. The taste of human flesh. That night, he and his entire village ate like kings. All three men rotisserie roasted over a raging fire.
"You smell that, Asakia?" his father asked, indicating the putrid smell of burning flesh. "That is the smell of food, of sustenance, of success!" Hunks of meat were passed around and shared. Beers and tropical drinks slopped down fronts and guzzled by parched throats. Grumbling bellies satiated with strip after strip of meat, human meat.
"You taste that, Asakia?" his father asked when Asakia bit into his meat. "You taste that? Remember this taste forever, son. For without it, our village would fail. Look around us son, we live in a barren desert. We rely on a single oasis for water. There is not cattle, no sheep, no livestock of any kind. Our people, we are men! Real men require meat," his father said with relish as he tore into an arm. "Asakia, one day you will lead the raids into the villages. The antelope are too scarce, and too far apart. They come once, every year. When you are chieftain, you will teach the young ones how to hunt the antelope, and then move on to the big game! Humans."
Asakia nodded, and returned to his piece of meat. He chewed it slowly, thinking about George and his friends. The meat tasted burnt in his mouth.
Fast forward 10 years and Asakia has replaced his father as chieftain of the village. To become chieftain, another test needed to be passed. He needed to kill the current chieftain. Asakai was to fight a fight to the death, with his father.
Asakia laid awake late into the evening as he began to contemplate challenging his father’s leadership. It was not unheard of in the tribe to challenge standing powers, but for many generations before his own the chieftain’s role passed gracefully from father to son as the age became a hinderance to the execution of the chieftain’s duties.
Asakia’s plot to stage his coup d'etat would have been out of his character, but under the tutelage of his father’s leadership over the tribe, the plains were bare and the herds had migrated away. The priest accredited the tribe’s difficulty to their own spiritual impurity, but Asakia held his father responsible.
Challenging his father could only end in the survival of one, and not both. The thought of killing his father before the tribe he sought to lead was daunting, but the possibility that the unrelenting hardship cast upon the tribe was equally so. As the sun rose, Asakia resolved to call on his father before the tribe.
An unrestful night yielded anxiety in the day to come, but at the break of dawn, the trajectory of the tribe’s progression would forever change.
“Father! Stand before me! Stand before your people!” Asakia solemnly called.
“On what occasion do I rise?” The chieftain emerged from his quarters.
“There is no food, father. The herds have moved on. The rivers are dry. We face immeasurable hardship!” Asakia accused.
“The priest cites our spiritual impurity. We have contemplated cannibalism in the wake of hardship! In the shadow of our greatest challenge, so have we dwelled in the moral shadows of our civilization!” The chieftain spoke with great power, as a crowd began to gather.
“Our spiritual impurity does not drive the antelope from our reach! Our spiritual impurity does not forestall the rains! Our spiritual impurity does not make arid our soils!” Asakia became furious. “Yet, despite all of these things, our aging chief does nothing!”
“Is that a challenge, my son?” The chieftain lowered his voice.
“Stand and fight, father! Stand and fight! If it is willed that you continue to lead our people, then I shall die before you!” Asakia raised his sword and approached his father. The crowd hung in disbelief.
“You choose a sword rather than a spear?” The chieftain’s intrigue was mirrored by the crowd’s.
“You are no prisoner.” Asakia ran forward.
The chieftain drew his sword as Asakia came closer, and with swift, deliberate grace sidestepped his son’s brazen attack.
“Is that all?” The chieftain’s angst in the wake of his son’s challenge was noticeable.
“Drop your sword! We will settle this without blood!” Asakia said as he walked back toward his father and dropped his own sword. Asakia threw his fist toward the chieftain’s neck, but the chieftain grabbed his son’s arm and maneuvered his son to the ground. The chieftain placed his foot on his son’s throat.
“Be gone, my son. Do not return. It is not fitting that you should die today, though I could kill you now if I chose. I grant you mercy instead. Be gone, my son.” The chieftain’s voice was hollow with sadness, but uncompromising in authority. Asakia’s motion indicated concession, and the chieftain stepped aside after helping his son to his feet.
“You are weak.” Asakia accused. “I challenged you and you let me live. Yours is a pathetic gesture of impotence!”
“You are young, bold and naïve. You know nothing of hardship, and you lack faith. In due time, I expect the process of maturity to resolve your inequities, but until that time, you are unwelcome among the tribe.” The chieftain placed his hands on Asakia shoulders. The crowd was silent, as Asakia drew a knife from concealment.
“And your time on this earth is finished.” Asakia whispered, as he thrust the knife into the Chieftain’s chest.
“I love you, my son.” The chieftain gasped for air, just as the prisoner had with the spear protruding from his chest, before he fell dead onto the ground.
Asakia stood over the body of his father, panting heavily, the still bloody ceremonial knife in hand. His gaze fell from the limp form of his father to the ornately decorated knife. A skull pommel adorned the pitch black handle. A stone blade protruded from the handle, a smiling skull carved onto both sides. Asakia’s eyes met with the skull’s. It’s leering smile mocking Asakia. Blood dripping from it’s mouth. It’s eyes, it’s eyes! They burned. Asakia’s grim expression turned into one of terror. It’s eyes! It’s eyes! The world spun, Asakia lost his balance. He fell to his feet , his eyes still stuck to the skull’s. They burned him. He writhed on the ground convulsing. They burned!! The wind whistled, Asakia, felt it pull. The skull was pulling him in. Face first, Asakia was fell into the skull.
“HA HA HA HA HA!!!” a voice boomed. The mouth on the skull opened wide and swallowed Asakia whole. A void opened in the sky. A screaming child dropped like a stone from the void, collapsing heavily on the ground. Wincing, Asakia got up to his feet. He looked around.
“What’s happening?” he asked. “Who are you? Show yourself!” he cried out. He stared around, looking up at the sky. The void was rapidly closing.
“ASAKIA, YOU THINK YOU ARE SO WISE, DON’T YOU?” the voice asked. It sounded like finger nails grating on antelope bones. It was scratchy, deep, cold, and petrifying. Asakia winced; his chest was being constricted as if iron bands were wrapped around him. He collapsed to his knees.
“Show, show yourself!” he cried. His voice bellowing through his pain. It came out as a terrified squeak.
“HA HA HA HA!!” the voice shouted. “I don’t have to do anything you ask, you are to do MY BIDDING!” Asakia’s chest contracted more and more. Asakia cried out in pain.
“Stop, stop please!” the bands loosened. Air rushed into Asakia’s lungs. He collapsed on the ground, coughing and retching. “What do you want from me?” he asked.
“I DON’T WANT ANYTHING FROM YOU ASAKIA. I WANT TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING. RISE, ASAKIA. TAKE A LOOK AROUND.”
Asakia shakily got to his feet. His gaze wandered. It all looked so familiar, the mud huts, the dining area, the ceremonial fire, the pit of wisdom...
“This is my village!” Asakia shouted out.
“GOOD, GOOD. YOU STILL RECOGNIZE THE PLACE. THIS IS YOUR VILLAGE NOW. THIS, THIS IS YOUR VILLAGE 10 YEARS FROM NOW.”
The entire village shimmered. Colors mixed, flowed, shapes changed, objects blurred and flew past Asakia’s head as the entire village reorganized itself. The effect of the colors, speed, and movement was nauseating. Asakia’s hair flew back, a wind was growing. He raised his hands in front of his face, trying to block the piercing blows of wind from reaching his face. The wind blew him back, and back, and back. It grew stronger, and stronger, and stronger. He staggered. His eyes squeezed closed, tears flowing.
“Make it stop, make it stop!!” he cried out. The wind instantly died down. Asakia, braced himself for more wind. His muscles tensed.
“OPEN YOUR EYES, ASAKIA.”
Asakia cringed at the voice. He slowly lowered his arms and opened his eyes.
“LOOK AROUND. THIS IS YOUR DOING, ASAKIA.”
The entire village was in flames. People dashed around, screaming. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Mud houses ablaze with flame. Large pops were punctuating the screams of the dying. Asakia’s eyes looked around, horrified. The smoke blurred Asakia’s vision and filled his lungs. He fell to his knees, coughing. He stared around at his village. Huts collapsed. Warriors fell to the ground, hit by some invisible force. Children cried out for their mothers, only to be silenced by a cracking pop. Men run with buckets of water, desperately trying to control the raging inferno.
“THIS IS WHAT YOU DID, ASAKIA. THIS IS YOUR FAULT.”
Tears welled in Asakia’s eyes, his village. It was crumbling around him, just like his control. A flood of tears burst forth from his eyes.
“Why? Why are you torturing me like this?”
“YOU NEED TO BE PUNISHED FOR YOUR ACTIONS, AND WARNED.” A massive explosion roared in the background. Men ran forth, their skin pale. Metal plates covered their bodies. They had facial hair, they looked like hideous demons. They ran around, feeding the flame with flammables. They carried wooden sticks that created massive POPS. He watched as a warrior dashed out of a burning hut, wielding a spear.
“ALLALLLALALALYALYALY!!” he cried as he charged forth, wielding a spear and leather shield. A man who seemed to be the enemies leader turned around, pointed the staff and POP the warrior fell to the ground. The man on the ground writhed. The man in armour walked forward, casually. As the village burned around them, all eyes were drawn to the man on the ground and the man in armour. The armoured man reached down and picked up the man’s spear. The villager choked, blood rising in his mouth. The armoured man stood above, looking down at the hurt villager. He placed the tip of the spear on the man’s chest. The white man stared around at the burning village. He suddenly lifted the spear high in the air.
“This is my village now.” He plunged the spear down, and Asakia watched as his adult self died before his eyes.
“THIS IS YOUR VILLAGE 20 YEARS FROM NOW.” The image shifted and changed again.
Now, Asakia was in a completely different place. Everyone looked like the man in armour. They walked around chatting. Massive buildings soared across the sky. There were many new things, things never seen by Asakia before. There were fragrant aromas, new sights, and different sounds. People spoke in a different language. Suddenly, a man rushed forth and started shouting. People strode off to the side, showing a grey round with round squares implanted in the road. Asakia saw strange, four-legged demons walking down the road, pulling a cart. Inside the cart, people screamed and banged on the cages. Their hands, bound together. People watched as they were pulled through down the road, the man in armour at the head of the cart. A cloth had been attached to his back. He was holding Asakia’s spear, waving at the crowd as they cheered. A look inside the cart revealed horrors for Asakia. His people, they sat naked in the dark. Their hands bound together, cramped to the point where they couldn’t even move their legs. It was dank and smelled of human feces. Asakia turned red with rage.
“I will kill him!” Asakia shouted, staring at the man in armour.
“BUT REMEMBER, HE KILLED YOU.” The voice shouted at him. The image shifted again.
Asakia returned to his village, everything normal, everything standing, people happy and alive. Asakia whirled around.
“Is this real?” he shouted out.
“No, but this is your, OUR village now.” Asakia whirled around. His father was walking toward him.
“Asakia, I don’t blame you. But you must learn from my mistakes. This future is inevitable, don’t try to change it, but whatever you do, you MUST SAVE OUR PRIEST’S STAFF. IT MUST BE SAVED. IT MUST.”
“But, father—“the void in the sky opened again, and Asakia was sucked up.
“I love you, son.” His father said.
Asakia gasped, the village stared at him. He looked around; no one noticed what had happened. He wasn’t on the ground; he was still on his feet. He glanced down at his father’s body and at the knife still in his hand. The skull smiled up at him. He threw the knife down, turned and ran away, veiling his tears from his village.
As Asakia ran from the village, clouds began to form. Thunder and lightening scattered the crowd, except for the laborers who had begun to build a pyre for the chieftain. The priest went to find Asakia, sitting in silent solitude.
“Your lack of judgement has angered the spirits. Your father may not enter the spirit world until his body is made to ash by the pyre. His soul will be trapped in the village until the rains pass.” The priest explained to Asakia.
“The rains are a good sign. It has not rained for many months here. The crops have failed. Now, the land regains fertility.” Asakia rebutted.
“Soft rains replenish the soil. Violent storms wash it away, just as violence washes all that is good from our lives.” The priest worried appearance was evident.
“What concerns you, priest? Is this not in our village’s best interest?” Asakia became angry.
“You must right yourself with the spirits. You acted rashly, against the order of nature.” The priest was solemn. “It is not in the natural order that a son should kill his father.”
“Nor is it in the natural order that a village should endure drought and famine as we have.” Asakia’s truculence alarmed the priest, who was concerned that Asakia may be unwilling to rectify his misgivings.
“At dusk, you must enter the spirit world. You must make amends with your father and with the spirits.” The priest continued. “I will go and prepare the cup.”
The cup was a gourd, filled with a tea made from a sacred flower that transposed human consciousness from the earth to the spirit world. It’s bitter taste was nauseating, but it was the only way to enter the realm of the dead or to find enlightenment. Drinking from the cup was reserved for persons of high status in the village, or for the troubled in need of guidance. In Asakia’s case, he was both.
“If the rains pass by dusk, I will refuse the cup.” Asakia interjected.
“If the rains pass by dusk, you will not need the cup.” The priest turned and left.
The rains endured; violent thunder and lightning continued to shake and brighten the dark skies. Asakia contemplated entering the spirit world. He knew he would not meet his father, whose soul was trapped in the village, but his grandfather and the many chieftains who had ruled before would hardly allow him to leave the other realm as he entered.
The priest returned.
“It is time.” He said, as he handed the cup to Asakia.
“So it is.” Asakia drank from the cup.
Asakia stood above dark clouds, and could hear thunder below his feet. Moonlight illuminated the black skies, but the shadows cast by a thick, chilling fog obscured much of his field of vision. A pale figure in a white cloak appeared from the abyss.
“Asakia, I am your great grandfather. Three generations before you, I was the village chieftain.” The figure’s voice was bold and sonorous. “Do you know why I sent the rains to the village, Asakia?”
“To trap my father’s soul on earth.” Asakia tried to hide his fear.
“Yes. The priest has diligently informed you. Do you know why his soul must remain on earth at this time?” The figure continued, his voice as deep as it was convicting.
“No.” Asakia confessed.
“Once your father enters the spirit world, you will no longer have the opportunity to make amends with him.” The figure’s words were precise. “If he enters the spirit world and you have not reconciled with him, the village will suffer for the duration of your rule.”
“My father would smite our village in vendetta? I never thought him so vindictive! Best that I killed him, indeed!” Asakia boasted.
“Your father has no control of the matter, you fool!” Another figure, clad in white emerged. “It is the law of nature! Evil begets suffering! Only forgiveness can result in mercy!” The second figure shouted.
“And who are you?” Asakia attempted to masquerade intimidation with sarcasm.
“I am the ruler who led the village ten generations before your father!” The second figure scoffed. “How dare you speak in this realm as you do!”
“How may I make peace with my father?” Asakia asked cautiously.
“You must accept responsibility, and endure punishment for your wrongdoing.” The first figure moved foreword.
“What is the nature of this punishment?” Asakia’s concern grew.
“You must surrender your sight, or the village will find no peace or health in your lifetime.” The second figure instructed.
“But how will I...” Asakia pleaded.
“Enough!” The first figure motioned for Asakia’s silence. “It is so. You will be blinded for your acts!”
Asakia awoke before the priest. He could not see.
“What have you lost?” The priest inquired.
“My sight. But I have gained favor with the law of nature. I must make peace with my father and address the village, and we may live on in prosperity. These dark times will surely pass.” Asakia said calmly, with sober acceptance.
Asakia walked to his father’s pyre and kneeled before its edge.
“I am sorry, father.” Asakia shed a tear. “I was wrong.” As Asakia finished his statement, the rains subsided and the clouds began to clear.
Asakia rose to his feet. He raised his head and looked into the sky.
“Are the clouds dissipating?” he asked the priest.
“Yes, you have done well, my child.” The priest said.
Asakia breathed in deeply through his nose. His lack of vision increased the strength of his other senses. He heard children playing in the background, yelling and screaming. Loud “thunks” punctuating their cries of glee as they kicked around a ball. The fragrance of wet wheat wafted into Asakia’s nostrils. The smell of rotting meat reeked. Humidity clung to his skin, the heat of the sun and dried mud brought waves of sweat onto Asakia’s neck. He could feel each individual drop slide down his back.
“Priest, it is time for the branding.”
The priest grabbed Asakia’s forearm and guided him. Asakia felt the rocks beneath his feet, the bumpy terrain of hardened dirt, baked under the sun. Asakia, put his hand out in front of him as he wandered around. He felt like helpless infant, being led everywhere.
Asakia was led to his father’s house. The house served as the residence for the chieftain and its family, the chieftain’s symbol of power branded over the doorway. Asakia stumbled forward, blindly reaching around. His hand felt the table. His hand ran over the cool stone tablet. He swung his legs up and lay onto the stone.
“Tamir! Azan! Enter! It is time for the branding.” Two pairs of feet shuffled into the room as the priests assistants entered the room. The smell of incense entered with them. “Tie him down.” The priest said. Asakia felt his hands being tied down to the stone tablet, the thick rope chafing his hands. Tamir and Azan then tied his feet down. Asakia heard the priest, shuffling about, stoking a fire with a large iron rod. Smoke exited out the crude chimney, the roaring fire working in conjunction with the sun to create a sweltering heat. For a long time, the priest remained silent. “It is hot enough now, are you ready Asakia?”
Asakia’s body tensed.
“I am ready.”
“Good. You two, stick a piece of cloth in his mouth.” A piece of cloth was roughly shoved into Asakia’s mouth. He bit into it deeply, tasting the blood of his fathers and his father’s father. The priest walked forward and laid a burning metal staff onto Asakia’s forehead. Asakia screamed in pain, tears welled to his eyes. He bit deeply into the cloth. The priest pushed the metal deeper, and deeper. Asakia smelt his flesh burning. He had bitten into his cheek, tasting the salty taste of his own blood, mixing with his ancestors on the cloth. The priest suddenly removed the brand.
“There, it is done.” Asakia lay trembling, tears running down the side of his cheek. He felt his bonds being untied. Asakia remained on the table, bawling his eyes out. The pain burnt, it filled Asakia, burning him down to his soul. The priest handed Asakia a cup filled with water. Asakia gratefully gulped down the entire cup in one go, the cooling water soothing his writhing innards.
Asakia walked out of his father’s hut. He stood at the doorway and extended his hand. He felt the doorframe until he found the symbol of power. He traced his hands around the skull. His hand reactively went up to his own forehead. He gingerly touched the skull branded into his face.
The adult Asakia lowered his hand from his forehead. He lay back in his chair, sighing. 10 years had passed since the branding. Asakia was now an adult, and a true chieftain of the village. What Asakia lacked in sight, he made up for in wisdom. He taught the village children hunting antelope; he led raids into neighbouring villages. The village productivity tripled exponentially. New huts were being constructed, dirt roads being built, farms producing more and more food. The population boomed, more men, women, and children populated the village than ever. The village was in a golden age. Asakia however was severely troubled. In his vision, his father had told him that in 10 years, their reckoning would be upon them. Asakia remembered what he needed to do; he needed to protect the priest’s staff. But how? Asakia got to his feet. He reached out with his staff like a walking stick, tapping it in front of him to determine his bearings. He stumbled to a back room in the mud house. He laid his staff on the ground and knelt before his father’s monument. Asakia had constructed a miniature temple, right in his house. He had adorned his father’s statue with flowers. He burned incense and lit candles. He lay on the ground, his head bowed to the statue.
“Guide me, father.” He said. “Please.”
Asakia rose to his feet and walked out of the room. As he approached the doorway, it suddenly hit him. He remembered his vision, the man in armour, the village in flames, and his own death. Then it hit him.
Asakia turned and ran out of his house. He ran through the village. 20 steps forward, turn right. 30 steps forward, turn left. 5 steps, turn right. Asakia burst into the priest’s house.
“Priest!! Give me your staff, give it to me now!”
“Wait, what? Calm down, Asakia, what are you talking about?” The priest came out of his bedroom. He sat down and pulled a chair out for Asakia. Asakia felt the chair and sat down. He quickly recounted his vision and plan to the priest.
“Hmmm, this is very troubling news. But I cannot let you desecrate the staff like that. It is the symbol of our gods.”
“Don’t you get it?? The gods were the ones that told me to do this!! I was praying to my father, and he revealed the way! The gods of our village were the ones that informed my father of this, the gods want this to happen! Please, we need to do this to save our gods!” Asakia held his breath. Please, just give me the staff he thought to himself. The priest sighed.
“Very well, this premonition must be addressed.” The priest stood and grabbed his staff. “I bequeath this to you.” The priest said as he laid the staff into Asakia’s hands.
“Thank you so much.” Asakia leapt to his feet and ran out of the house. Turn left, 5 steps. 30 steps forward, turn left, 15 steps, turn right, 5 steps. Asakia burst into the blacksmith’s house.
“Weld a spear head onto this staff, now!”
Asakia stood in front of his village, holding his new spear. He listened to the man gasping for breath, the women rushing around, shouting for medicines. Men knelt next to the wounded man, trying to comfort him.
“Chieftain,” he said, coughing. Blood rising to his mouth. Holes peppered the man’s torso. He stretched a hand out to Asakia. “There were,” he coughed. “There were, there were demons.” The man twisted and turned in agony.
“Can you describe them, Rarai?”
“Their skin, their skin was light.” Rarai drew in a shuddering breath, his body wracked with pain. Asakia could feel death’s presence. “They had, different, weapons. They, destroyed the village.” Rarai drew another shuddering breath.
“They had, they had.” His voice dropped off into a whisper. Asakia lent forward. He put his ear in front of his mouth.
“They had killed everyone.” Rarai gasped into Asakia’s ear. He drew his final shuddering breath. His chest dropped, his eye staring blankly into the sky. Asakia put his hand on his face, and closed Rarai’s eyes.
“Bury Rarai, honor his body. His bravery deserves to be recognized.” Asakia commanded. Women rushed forward and picked up the fallen warrior’s body.
“Chieftain, what is happening?” one of his warriors asked.
“The beginning of our end.” He replied.
In the distance Asakia could hear the approaching enemy warriors, as he retrieved the priest’s staff from the village blacksmith. He held the staff, now fashioned into a spear high as he emerged from the blacksmith’s tent.
“My people,” Asakia began. “Today we do battle. Every able bodied man will follow behind me. I will lead our charge. We will attack outside the village entrance, that our enemies may be stopped before they enter our village.”
“Should any remain to guard the village?” one of Asakia’s warriors asked?
“No.” Asakia cautiously replied. “We will need every able bodied man to fight. The armies in the distance are many and we are few. We must attack without restraint, for if we fail, there will be nothing left to protect in the village.”
The men of the village departed to their dwellings, and emerged clad in the regalia of war. Every man carried a sword and shield and carried a hunting spear on their backs, except Asakia. Asakia held the priest’s staff high, and wore his sword in his belt. They marched from the village, in front of the oncoming army.
“I am Asakia!” Asakia shouted at the rival army. “I demand that your leader present himself before me, that we may attempt to negotiate peace!”
The rival army burst into laughter, as the rival chieftain emerged.
“There shall be no peace between you and I, Asakia!” The rival chieftain shouted. “The prisoner you killed in the pit as a boy was my father!”
“I did not know! I beg your forgiveness!” Asakia shouted, as the rival chieftain stood many yards away from him.
“My forgiveness?” The rival chieftain was indignant. “How dare you ask my forgiveness! You killed him with a spear without even fighting him!”
“He would have killed me.” Asakia explained.
“And now I will kill you!” The rival chieftain shouted, as he charged Asakia.
Asakia tried to hide his fear, but in that moment he saw, for the first time in a decade. It was not sight as he remembered, but a new sight that was knowledge. In that moment he knew exactly where to throw his spear.
“I have been shown mercy! It was meant that I should see you now!” Asakia shouted, as his baffled troops stood in confusion.
“Mercy?” The rival chieftain shouted as he drew nearer. “You were blinded by your own people!”
Asakia thrust his spear through the air, and as it soared he prayed.
“May you fall that no more blood is shed in vain.” Asakia proclaimed. The spear struck the rival chieftain perfectly above his heart, and though Asakia could not see him fall to his knees, the yell of pain confirmed his success. Asakia addressed the rival army.
“I will grant you two choices. You may leave in peace, or you may die in vain!” Asakia’s boldness was overwhelming, even his own troops could not believe the miracle they just witnessed.
The rival army rapidly dispersed.
“They are leaving!” one of Asakia’s warriors shouted. “They are leaving!”
“May you all go in peace.” The relief in Asakia’s voice was noticeable, as he turned and motioned for his own army to depart. “It is finished.”
Asakia sent a warrior to retrieve his staff from the rival chieftain's chest, but the spearhead remained embedded in his now limp body.
Asakia and his warriors returned to the village unscathed, and they were greeted by the priest who anxiously sat at the edge of the village.
“Your staff.” Asakia presented the bloody staff back to the priest.
“You have done well, Asakia.” The priest placed his hands on Asakia’s shoulders. “May we live forevermore without the shedding of any blood.”
“That is my hope.” Asakia softly spoke. “No good comes from the ending of life.”
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