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A Chapter by W.V. Bard

4

                Fed, bathed, and cloaked in freshly scrubbed furs, she left the old man’s house in far better condition than she had entered, physically if not mentally.                                 

                From there on out the trail clung to her boots and either the mud or the tragedy of leaving her family behind in a crippled pile or possibly even the tug of her village and home turned the mere act of walking into a chore.  She could hardly keep up with her guards and kept bouncing off the burly, well-fed chest of the one bringing up the rear.  She apologized profusely each time but never received a response.

They travelled the tight road between villages, one infamous for its many cliffs and sudden drops into the foggy unknown.  Each village they passed seemed larger and wealthier than the last.  But  everywhere the winter had crippled crops, and as they travelled, Pacha glimpsed the poverty in even the larger villages: she saw the beggars, the clothing hanging limply off starved frames, the broken wheat crops in the distance tinted white and grey with ice.  She had never thought of the impact of the winter on the wealthier villages.  She had always assumed it only affected her one tiny, forsaken one �" that the Capital or somehow the mass of persons in the further villages shielded them from suffering similarly from the everlasting winter.

Days passed.  Each night they rested where they could �" usually a cottage out in the goonies but once in an even nicer village than the last.  Each village had been reaped, she knew that much, but wondered where the other children were being taken: if it was the same place as her, if anyone from a particular village had been chosen at all, if she was alone.  The villages certainly seemed to function without mourning.  She wondered if her neighbors and childhood friends lived on in the same manner, as though she had never existed or played any vital part in their daily activities. 

At one home in which she and her guards had quartered in by force, she attempted to ask her server, the matron of the house, as she placed the soup in front of her.

Rusty from misuse, her voice betrayed her, and all that sputtered from her mouth was a croak and a groan.

“You’re welcome ,” said the patron, and rubbed her on the back.  “Drink up; I know this journey must be hard for you.  This soup has chamomile in it; it will rest your throat.”

Truly it had been a long trip.  Though they had only traveled three days, she had passed through two villages already and was officially seated among a much larger house than she had ever seen before, rich with more furs over the walls and carpeting the floor, even, around a much larger, brick-encompassed fireplace.  She sat on one of these fuzzy carpets, cross-legged, with her aching legs tucked tight beneath her so as not to touch the two Processors flanking her.  They had taken off their long black cloaks as a sign of respect to their rich and eager matron, revealing their true garments of forest green jackets and pants, inlaid with golden thread.  Their outfits gave off a rich sheen and shone sparkling in the dim firelight in the home. 

They glowed intimidatingly in the firelight as a reminder of the Capital’s wealth and power,

Pacha wondered at the matron’s amiability.  The men flanking Pacha looked formidable, at best, and devilish at worst.  Their tanned, moon-like faces, free of any facial hair whatsoever from years of diligent plucking, but pierced through on noses and browbones.  Perhaps they were trained to consistently wear an impenetrable mask of disengagement, for they never once responded to Pacha or her attempts at irking them with anything but expressionless grunts.  Her inquiries were met with silence, her “accidental” punches with glares, her blunders and falls with blank stares.

But the woman served them congenially, babbling on about her son and her daughter, now married off the both of them and one even training as a warrior in the second district, and how the reaping went in the village �" oh, poor Cleora, taken away at only the age of nine.  And then Jaeneo, the bread maker’s son, chosen for no reason other than that there were no boys in the village who matched any sort of criterion �" they all really looked the same, that age group, in this village.   Everyone knew he was only taken as a place holder.  What a terrible, dishonorable way to go.

Pacha finally cleared her throat and spoke up.  Her voice cracked out but, lubricated from the soothing soup, she was able to ask, “So one boy and one girl from every village is chosen?”

The matron stopped her incessant chatter and looked at her oddly for a moment, as if surprised that she had spoken.  Then she smiled.  “Well, I should assume so.  Why else would they have taken Jaeneo?  He is practically twins with every other boy in the village!  And he does not look or act like any gods I know of.  He was such a troublemaker….” But Pacha tuned her out and mused over the fact that maybe she had been chosen for no purpose, maybe this was not her destiny.  Maybe she was just chosen as a placeholder.

But the looks she received from her own villagers all her life, especially three days ago on the day of the reaping, and especially the looks from the people in the villages she passed through spoke lengths against such a thought. 

She finished her soup, thanked their caretaker profusely, said her prayers and bowed to the statues with the tiny household and with her guards, then wrapped herself up in one of the furs by the fire.  There, soothed by the warmth in the great house, she drifted into a sort of half-sleep, exhausted from walking all day, but kept up by what the woman had said.  A million unidentifiable feelings and fleeting thoughts kept her just awake enough to suffer through the night as snores and the sounds of the sleeping filled the warm air.  The fire eventually flickered to death in the reflection of her eyes, and in the following blackness she finally fell into a deep sleep.

Tormented dreams immediately ate up her consciousness.  She was running, falling, her mother and father just standing and watching her. [[[ Keep up dream sequence]]]

The next day she awoke in a startled sweat.  She untangled herself from her covers and carefully stepped over her little parade and their host and swept aside the fur covering to the door-hole.  

Outside, the sun was just barely tipping over the horizon, and an icy fog loomed ominously close to the ground, choking out the crops as it inevitably did every morning.  Villagers were just beginning to awaken and go about their daily duties.  An old man helped his young son pile wood (or maybe it was the other way around) on the side of their round stone house, a child ran past with a bucket spilling over with fresh rain water, doors were peeled back to reveal sleepy but hard-set faces ready to tackle the cold day.  A priest in his morning-wear stepped gingerly over a sleeping or perhaps dead homeless man with frost burning off the tip of his nose.

The village looked much like her own and the first one she had stayed in in the daily activities of the early dawn.  The only differences: the abundance of huts �" no, houses �" and their enormity.

A llama wandered up to her.  Its owner, a boy about her age with the deep black eyes of their people and long swept, traditional hair yet to be braided ran after it.  Pacha stuck out her hand and giggled as the llama licked it profusely.  Likes the taste of my sweat, she thought.  She petted it on its nose and watched the boy approach.  He called out, “So sorry for �" “ but halted awkwardly mid-sentence and mid-gate when he came close enough to see Pacha’s pale face beneath her hood.  He stared at her for a moment, mouth agape, then collected himself.

“I’m guessing you were chosen,” he said with a slight grin as he approached.  He grabbed his llama by the nape of its neck, and dragged it toward him and away from licking Pacha’s hand.  Pacha swept aside her bangs, then winced as she realized she had just swept a handful of slobber across her face. 

He laughed and she smiled half-heartedly at him.  “Yes,” she said, not bothering to ask him how he knew. 

“I could tell,” he explained, “you look different.”

“I’m from another village.”

The boy raised an eyebrow.  “Right,” he said.  He stood for an awkward second, just sort of taking her in with his eyebrow still raised, and then relaxed back into a smile.  “Well, best of luck.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around these parts again.  Make sure to remember the villages you pass through for your return.”

Pacha was about to chide him for his overconfidence in her based solely upon her looks, but her words caught in her mouth when he bowed slightly to her with a twinkle in his eye and trotted off, leading his llama by the scruff of its neck.

She let the fur slide back into covering the entrance of the house, washing her in pitch black.  It took her a moment for her eyes to adjust.  She realized that the eldest of her guards was sitting up and staring at her.  Of course.  She should have expected. 

 

--

Apparently they reached some sort of checkpoint by day five, for when they arrived at nowhere in particular at a place on the wide trail connecting each village, the miniature caravan paused.  The only landmark around was about the billionth shrine they’d seen.  The significance of this one in particular was lost on Pacha, but she kept her questions to herself, as usual.

Her captors all spread out to make camp around her, and for the first time in their journey her guard was abandoned and she found herself allowed to move about without a Processor breathing down her neck.

But move around to where?  Being in the middle of nowhere, and seeing herself outnumbered significantly, Pacha saw no chance of escape.  She took a few steps back toward the last village just to test the reaction of her guards.  But none even looked at her.  She pushed forward a few more steps, feeling a tie to them grow thicker with each step.  Eventually, 50 paces or so away from them, she stopped.  Only one acknowledged her slight defiance, standing up and just staring at where she stood so far out of reach, but not bothering to even move toward her.  A bored look graced his ugly, pierced face.  He knew as well as she that she could not outrun the four of them, had nowhere to hide, and had not the supplies to survive away from her escorts on the village road.

  Feeling foolish, Pacha inched her way back toward her escorts.  The diligent one returned to his duties setting up camp. 

They pitched her tent first.  Definitely a Capital contraption, it stood out from the little trail as a man-made lean-to but blended in perfectly with the mountainside on which it perched thanks to the layer of grime and dust on its leather walls.  Two wooden poles connected at their tops made for the door, and when she opened the leathery flap hanging down from its entrance and slipped between their wide base, she saw that its ceiling slanted so sharply down to a base pole lying horizontally on the ground that she had to bow as she stepped in.   And of course, painted on that pole were the symbols of the gods, so that each time she entered she was forced to pay them her respects.

Its opening faced the cliffs of the Night’s Pass, which fell beneath the fogs to a land far, far below, where no one but the Chosen had ever traveled and returned.

Pacha thanked the gods as she bowed into her little tent for its tactical placement away from the cliffs.  It was about a third the size of her old house, so she ought to be used to the space, but at least her home had been steady, thick, warm.  And made of stone.

In this triangular lean-to, the winds blew right through the leather skin, and though she was covered in the most luxurious and thickest of furs, she felt the cold straight to her bones and the frailness of the tent’s set-up sent shivers through her person.

  Flimsy as it was, it was hers, at least for now.  No Processors could enter without first asking her permission. 

Tonight she burrowed into her thick covers, able to ignore with great relief the outline of the Processor guarding her tent.  Beforehand she had imagined they guarded her so as to keep her prisoner, but after her little distance test today she somehow doubted that assumption.  Perhaps they guarded her safety.

She made herself as heavy as possible so as not to be blown away down the Night’s Pass in the raging winds.  But before burrowing into a fortress of furs she just noticed the hand holding the ropes which connected the entrance’s peak.   Although she hated it desperately for tearing her away from her village and spotting her in the first place, constantly breathing down her neck like an angry watchdog, tonight she appreciated that steady hand helping to hold her little tent in place, through the winds and even the rain that began splattering later in the night.  She never got the chance to see if his shift was relieved, for she fell asleep to the steady beat of the rain as soon as it began.  But when she awoke in the morning to shouting, a new hand was holding onto the rope around her contraption’s entrance. 

Pacha stepped out from her little fortress and into the cold fog around it.  Draped around her shoulders hung the furriest of her furs and against the morning iciness it protected her head down to her feet.  “What’s going on?” She asked.

No one responded, as usual, but this time she got an answer.  There, approaching in the distance, escorted by four similarly cloaked men, was a boy she recognized from her own village, the boy with whom she had shared her first kiss.



© 2012 W.V. Bard


Author's Note

W.V. Bard
Any critiques welcome. Rape iiiit.

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I found it a bit wordy to be honest. I enjoyed the chapter overall but I think a few bits seemed to run-on-ish.

"Apparently they reached some sort of checkpoint by day five, for when they arrived at nowhere in particular at a place on the wide trail connecting each village, the miniature caravan paused."---- leave off apparently. You are the author so you obviously know they came to a checkpoint.

Try to leave out details that seem un needed. I found myself being lost in details so that once I came back tot he story plot I was like, "Wait what was going on?"
You did a very good job though and I look forward to the rest.

Posted 8 Years Ago


I didn't see this on Scribophile. You should get the premium account if you can swing it. It's definitely worth it. Did you revise this? It blows the other chapters out of the water. The descriptions are awesome and they help carry the story along. For the first ten paragraphs I was completely immersed. After that, it kind of dragged on. You need more action! There's a lot of monologue from Pacha that is not very captivating. Maybe you could take a break from talking about her and only her, and shift your focus on the terrain and what's happening. Is there a war between these villages? What is the social and/or political climate like? Maybe delve a little further into the incentives of these "processors." It would be really captivating if you were to add a second POV. Still in the same tense, but introducing things from a different perspective. I think you've built things up nicely. The reader knows what's going on and I feel like you're slowly building up to your climax. Just a little action is all you need, I think.

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on November 12, 2012
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W.V. Bard
W.V. Bard

Seattle, WA



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A seasoned writer looking for fellow writers in order to connect, motivate and be motivated, inspire and be inspired, critique and be critiqued. more..

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