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 On Top of the World

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Ava Starfire


Posts : 66
Join date : 2011-08-16
Age : 41
Location : Mikramurka

PostSubject: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:32 pm


Winters on northern Matar hover just above the threshold of survivability for humans. The temperature rarely climbs above -20, the snow and wind are relentless, and day is a mere four hours long for most of the winter, which lasts almost three-fourths of the year. The northernmost continent on Matar, Mikramurka, is the ancestral home of the Sebiestor tribe, and on the northeast coast of Mikra-murka, the Star-Fire clan still maintains its nomadic existence.

The Star-Fire clan had set up their winter camp in a mountain valley, moving several hundred kilometers inland to escape the full fury of the fiercest storms in the shelter of the pines. Dozens of the long, low tents, called kenkii by the Sebiestor, marked the location of the camp; heavy canvas affairs, stretched tightly over a tubular steel frame, and tied tightly to resist the cold and wind. Once the snow had piled around the walls, they stayed warm and dry within, heated by a small fusion stove, illuminated by ion-battery lanterns, and inside, they would relax away the worst of the winter in relative comfort.

In one kenkii near the edge of the camp, a young couple lay on their heavy quilts and furs, snug and warm, with their infant daughter sleeping soundly between them. The young woman lay with her head propped up on her hands, watching her daughter, while her husband lay facing her, brushing his wife's hair out of her face with a finger. At that moment of serenity, of peace while the icy wind made the walls of their kenkii billow gently in and out, illuminated in the soft glow of the lantern, they had only a single concern; deciding on a name for their daughter.

“Tarja.” the young man said, smiling at his wife. “She should have your name. Tarja.”

Tarja smiled and looked up at him; “For her second name, maybe...but you should have some influence in her name as well, Olno.”

Olno laughed; “Well, we certainly cannot give her my name. So...back to work, I suppose.”

Tarja nodded and pulled one of the thick fur blankets up beneath her chin. “She looks so much like you, my love...especially her eyes.”

Olno brushed his wife's hair from her face again; “She has your spirit, I have a feeling. She will be a warrior, like her mother. She will fight for our people.”

“Perhaps.” Tarja murmured. “I hope she never has to, really.” Tarja had spent much of her teens as a slave in the Ammatar Mandate, having been captured during a raid-commited by corrupt Matari, sadly-on their village, and then freed several years later when the same sort of operation happened in reverse, the Minmatar raiding a plantation in the Mandate for the purpose of rescuing as many as they could; Tarja was among those freed in that raid. Few hated the Amarr more than Tarja Surionen, and even fewer had done more to fight them; following her Voluval, she enlisted in the Tribal Liberation Force, and had participated in several boarding actions and planetary raids for the purpose of freeing others, actions that earned her the right to wear many tattoos most Matari only dreamed of being marked with. To say Tarja Surionen was a warrior was like saying that the surface of a star is “sort of warm”. She had done much in her 25 years.

Olno gently kissed Tarja's forehead, leaning close gently, taking care to not disturb their daughter's rest. “I will be right back. I have an idea.” Olno was the polar opposite of his wife; he had grown up inside the clan, he had never been in so much as a fistfight, he had never set foot anywhere outside of Mikramurka, let alone left the surface of Matar. Olno was, however, smart, a skilled hunter, and a phenomenal musician, well respected in the clan. Tarja's parents had been very pleased when she announced that she and Olno were to marry; they said the two were a perfect match. While Olno may not have been able to claim the combat prowess of his wife, he could claim the number of hunts he had lead, the number of favorable trades he had negotiated, the number of vehicles he had repaired. He was every bit as critical to the survival of the clan as Tarja, every bit as well respected.

Tarja watched as Olno crawled from under the blankets and walked into the front room of their kenkii, and was on the verge of slipping off to sleep when he returned and sat back down, a book in his hand. Tarja blinked and watched quietly as he flipped through the pages, searching for something.

“Love?” she asked sleepily, “What are you doing?”

Olno just mumbled something and kept flipping through the pages for a few more moments, then smiled when he located what it was that he had been searching for. He looked at Tarja, smiled, and said, “Avlynka.”

Tarja propped herself up on her elbow, looked down at their daughter, and nodded. “Avlynka...I like that name.” She looked up at Olno and asked; “What does it mean?”

“Child of Winter.” Olno said quietly. He held up the book and smiled; “From the book.”

Tarja smiled brightly. The book Olno held was a book of Matari folklore, legendary tales of warriors, Gods, and Spirits that he would sometimes read her stories from, as she had never learned to read or write, things Olno was slowly teaching her to do, with the assistance of that very book.

“Avlynka Tarja Surionen, of the Star-Fire Clan.” Tarja whispered.

“Avlynka.” Olno repeated, looking down at their now-named daughter. “May the Spirits guide her path, all of her days.”

The couple slowly drifted off to sleep, Avlynka laying nestled between them. The young family was surrounded by their clan, a clan full of families, young and old, just like theirs, a clan full of people who would unhesitatingly lay down their lives for one another.

The following day, Olno and Tarja took Avlynka to see the shaman, who performed the naming ritual and then applied Avlynka's first tattoo, her temporary naming mark, a small green design on her forehead applied with inks that would fade, a mark that would have to be renewed every year until she received her permanent naming mark following her Voluval.

Kyllsa, the shaman, concentrated intensely as she carefully applied the mark. Tarja and Olno looked on and smiled; Avlynka was now officially a member of their clan. She never cried once, she simply watched, her icy blue eyes open wide, crossing as they attempted to focus on the shaman's hands as she carefully worked the tattoo gun.

Kyllsa stood up and gently lifted Avlynka from the table she was laying on and smiled down at her; Kyllsa was younger even than Tarja, the previous shaman having been killed in an ice collapse the previous winter, and had not yet married or had any children of her own. She smiled and cooed to young Avlynka, to the little girl she would help raise, to the little girl who's spirit she would guide, to the little girl who's sicknesses she would treat, who's marks she would apply, who's parents she had conducted the marriage rites for.

“Tarja, your daughter is beautiful.” Kyllsa said quietly as she gently handed Avlynka back to her mother. “She will make you both very proud, I am sure.”

Tarja nodded in approval as she took her daughter, carefully examining her new naming mark. Olno stood next to her; “She already has, Spirit-Guide.” he replied.

Avlynka Tarja Surionen was Matari, in every sense of the word, from the day she was born.
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Ava Starfire


Posts : 66
Join date : 2011-08-16
Age : 41
Location : Mikramurka

PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:45 pm

Avlynka sat on the bench in the bustling office, clutching the card that the woman at the counter had given her, doing her best to keep her feet out of the way of all the people shuffling past. Printed on the card was a number-she had no idea what number-and she quietly held it up every time a clerk would shout out the number of the person that would be seen next, smiling and putting it down when the clerk would shake her head.

She had been waiting for almost an hour, looking around the busy office at all of the signs, none of which she could read, looking at the photos of missing persons on one bulletin board, notices of recent policy changes on another. Avlynka had come to the Tribal Council office in the small city of White Point, and was doing her best to remain calm and patient, despite the long wait.

A year had passed since her Voluval, and her face now carried her intricate naming mark, perfectly framing her Voluval mark, proudly situated between her eyebrows. She had many marks now, but most were covered beneath her pullover of polar fox fur and her wool pants, her fur-trimmed leather boots on her feet. Even in White Point, one of the most remote settlements on Matar, she looked antiquated, primitive, out of place. Two nearby children, waiting with their mother for some legal form or another, watched her with delighted interest.

Avlynka waved at them a bit, smiling and watching them.

“Hello.” the young boy said nervously.

“Hello.” Avlynka replied, it being one of the very few words in standard Matari she knew; the ancient Sebiestor dialect spoken by her clan was almost impossible for most other Matari to comprehend, and likewise, standard Matari was a mystery to her.

The little boy and his sister squealed in delight when she responded to them and excitedly pointed her out to their mother, giggling all the while. The woman did her best to calm her children, before smiling weakly at Avlynka and saying, “I'm so sorry, they're just excited, is all. You know how kids can be.”

Her confused look discouraged the woman from any further attempt at communication.

Avlynka was, indeed, quite out of place, surrounded by men and women and children in weird looking clothes, touching buttons on small electronic devices in their hands, the children playing with elaborate holographic hand-held games, speaking an odd language... she practically screamed with relief when, finally, a young woman walked over to her and asked, in perfect Peninsula Sebiestor, “Are you Avlynka Star-Fire?”

“Avlynka Surionen, ma'am.” she eagerly replied. “But yes, Star-Fire is my clan!”

The young woman smiled; she had pale blond hair and fair skin, a simple naming mark consisting of delicate blue lines down the sides of her face. The woman was so very different from herself, that Avlynka had a hard time remembering that they were both Sebiestor. “Well, it is nice to meet you, Avlynka.” the woman replied quietly. “My name is Veli Mehata, and I am a caseworker for members of aboriginal clans. Please, come with me.”

Avlynka nodded and happily did as Vehi asked, even though she had no idea what an “aboriginal clan” was. She just hoped that Vehi would be able to help her.

“Please, sit down.” Vehi said, motioning to the chair in front of her desk. “And please, tell me, what is it that we can do for you?”

Avlynka sat down carefully and smiled. “I need to get my Tribal identification card, ma'am.”

Vehi nodded; “Well, I can do that for you easily enough.” She tapped some of the buttons on the keyboard on her desk, and watched the computer's holographic monitor as she asked, “So, you're an adult, now?”

“Yes ma'am.” Avlynka replied politely.

“I hope your Voluval was not too trying?” Vehi asked as she typed, filling in some of the entries on the screen. Gallentean influence was strong in the Minmatar Republic at the time; the Gallente-inspired government model burdened the Matari with endless paperwork, but also encouraged offices and bureaus like the one Avlynka was visiting that very day, ensuring that even the most primative among the Minmatar would receive the full benefits and assistance of their government.

“How old are you, Avlynka?” Vehi asked.

“Seventeen, ma'am.” she replied.

Vehi nodded; “And your full name is Avlynka Surionen?”

“Avlynka Tarja Surionen, ma'am.” she replied, smiling.

“And Star-Fire clan, Ko'mak sub-tribe, Peninsula nation, correct?” Vehi asked.

Avlynka nodded politely. “Yes. That is correct.”

The session in the office continued, and before long, Avlynka stood, smiling, looking down at the brand new identification card in her hand. While for most Matari, the card had a myriad of uses, for the members of aboriginal clans like the Star-Fire, it would be used to keep track of their accounts in the Tribal bank, to pay any duties or taxes they owed, as well as to simply prove the bearer's identity, though the last feature was unnecessary. The naming mark was, first and foremost, for identification, and it was far harder to fake than a simple plastic card.

“Now, if you have any changes in your family or marital status, you have to let us know, alright?” Nehi said as she walked with Avlynka through the waiting area and toward the door. “Before long, you'll be preparing for marriage, if I am correct?”

“Yes ma'am.” Avlynka replied. “Soon, I suppose.”

“Well, when you marry, you come let us know.” Vehi said with a smile, holding the door open for Avlynka. “There are a few assistance programs to help young families, alright?”

“I will, ma'am.” Avlynka said, waving, as she stepped outside. “Thank you!”

“You're welcome, Avlynka.” Vehi said, waving and then walking away. Avlynka stood outside for a moment, wondering what sort of “assistance programs” a couple in a clan like hers could possibly need, but she quickly decided not to worry about it as she climed on her father's snowmachine and headed north, back towards her home.

“I'm home.” Avlynka called out as she stepped inside her parent's kenkii, kneeling to untie her boots. Inside the kenkii, the air was warm and fragrant, filled with the scents of the thick, spicy stew cooking on the stove and the cedar her sister was working with, as she carefully bent and glued the thin strips of wood, clamping them in place, thin strips that were to soon become a new pack frame.

“Welcome home!” her mother called from the rear room. “How was your trip?”

“Cold.” Avlynka replied, walking inside, enjoying the warmth on her cold, damp feet. “And the headlight is acting flaky again.”

“Tell your father.” Tarja said as she peeked through the doorway of the back room. “I think he went to the Lehtonen's, he will be home in a while. Sit and get warm.”

Avlynka nodded and plopped onto the floor between the stove and the small table where her younger sister Sukki sat working. She watched her sister for a moment, then said, “Wow, you're good at that.”

Sukki smiled. “Not all of us can be hunters with fancy marks.”

“Hey!” Avlynka said, frowning at the tease.

“It's for you, by the way.” Sukki said quietly, looking over at Avlynka and smiling for a moment, before turning her attention back to her work. “Yours has seem better days.”

Avlynka blinked. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” Sukki replied. “You do need a new pack, and besides, we never did get each other Midwinter presents this year... so yeah, it's yours.”

“Guess I should finish yours...” Avlynka replied, grinning.

“What?” Sukki asked, stunned.

Avlynka hopped up, retrieved the needle case and the dress she had been working on for the past few weeks, and sat down on her blankets. “This.” Avlynka said. “With that caribou I shot, I have enough leather to finish it.” The dress was a relatively simple affair, but made of soft, carefully tanned caribou leather and trimmed with small steel rivets, and would lace up the front. “I'm going to do some embroidery on the sleeves and stuff, too. We'll have to do a test fitting soon... you like it?”

A broad smile spread across Sukki's face. “I love it. I looked at it the other day, and was... I thought you were making that one for yourself, though?”

“I will make the next one for myself. No worries.” Avlynka replied. “Besides, like you said... we didn't get each other anything for Midwinter, did we?”

“Mom put you up to this, didn't she?” Sukki asked, laughing.

“Yep.” Avlynka replied. “You too, right?”

“Hey!” Tarja called, walking into the front room. “I shouldn't have to force you two to do things for each other, you know?”

Sukki glanced at her sister, who was nodding. “I know, Mom.” she said quietly.

Avlynka smiled at Sukki for a moment, and began to work on the dress. “Well, I doubt you'll have to tell us ever again, Mom.”

“Good.” Tarja said, sitting at the table across from Sukki. “You two are good at different things... so do those things for each other. That's how a family, or Clan, or whatever, works.”

“She does make good clothes...” Sukki said, grinning, “...even if she does smell like... whatever the hell that smell is.”

Avlynka just laughed and worked on the dress, and the three women sat, talking and laughing, only turning in for the night when Olno finally returned home from the Lehtonen's and the company of his friends. Their “crafting night” became something of a weekly ritual; Olno would dissapear for the evening, and the three would gather around, working on various projects and talking, passing on their ancient traditions from mother, to daughters.
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Ava Starfire


Posts : 66
Join date : 2011-08-16
Age : 41
Location : Mikramurka

PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:04 pm

Avlynka ran as fast as she was able down the river, her lungs screaming, burning; she felt like she had been running forever. The ice was thick and strong, strong enough that rivers this far north were used as roads by all manner of vehicles this deep into Winter, so her only fear was her pursuers. She could hear them, always only one bend of the river behind, just out of sight, yet, still chasing her.

Avlynka was wearing her heavy fur tunic and thick wool pants, her heavy fur-lined boots, her mittens, and yet, she was freezing. The night sky was clear, and the stars shone brilliantly, points of light in a sea of deep blue, and the air was as cold as she could ever remember.

The fierce cold sapped her strength, made her slow, sleepy. The intense pain in her fingers, feet, and ears would soon begin to wane, as frostbite set in. Her lungs screamed in protest as she gulped the freezing air, making her cough, her chest wracked with pain, but she could not stop running.

She screamed as the unthinkable happened, as the ice gave way, plunging her into the frigid water. Frantically she scrambled against the slabs of ice, the intense cold making her movements slower and slower with every second; she had to orient herself immediately, to get a breath of air. Avlynka wondered, suspended in the icy water, how this had happened...the ice should have been thick, sound...no time!

Avlynka gasped as she shoved her way through the broken ice, and managed to grip her ice-knife, pull it from her boot, and haul herself out of the life-stealing water, laying on the ice, breathing slow, paced breaths, holding her hands over her mouth in an attempt to warm them a bit.

Her pursuers rounded the bend. She lifted her head and looked back at them, over her left shoulder; those same tall, gaunt people, with blond hair and cold, lifeless eyes, ran towards her with abandon, a whole group of them, perhaps twenty in all. Some clutched knives in their hands, others carried an assortment of chains and shackles, a few carried nothing at all.

Avlynka staggered to her feet but made it only a few feeble steps before she fell to her knees; she was suffering from hypothermia, she could run no farther. Terror, the same terror, gripped her as she realized what was about to happen, yet again. The same thing, every night.


Her pursuers closed the distance with an inhuman speed, crossing the expanse of ice separating them from their prey with impossibly large steps, running wildly, screaming with delight. She turned to face them, still on her knees, clutching her ice knife tightly in her hand. She intended to make them work for it this time. Not again.

Avlynka plunged her knife into the chest of the first to arrive, the man's voice gurgling strangely as she ripped it back out. She stabbed yet again, this time a woman, the blade finding its mark in her abdomen. Then they were on her, pinning her down, giggling and laughing and chanting in strange tongues. Her knife was pried from her grasp, and she was held, struggling, pinned against the ice by dozens of hands, laughed at and taunted by dozens of voices. Avlynka screamed as they picked her up, kicking and struggling, carried her a few steps, and threw her back into the icy water.


She was too weak to fight, too weak to climb out again, especially without her knife. She struggled, pushing against the slabs of ice, the cold water stealing what little energy she had left. Exhausted, slowly sinking, she had no choice but to breathe.

“Avlynka!” Sukki screamed.

Avlynka sat straight up in bed, gasping for breath. Sukki knew better than to touch her while she was still dreaming, lest she be hit or kicked by her sister's frantic blows, blows aimed at attackers than none of them could see, none of them could help her fight.

“Avlynka?” Sukki called again. “Are you awake?”

“Ye....yes.” Avlynka replied quietly, breathing slow, deep breaths.

Tarja was sitting quietly next to her. “Honey?”

“I'm alright, Mom.” Avlynka whispered. “Really. I'm alright.”

Sukki handed her sister a bottle of water. “Here, Dreamer.” she said, smiling.

Avlynka nodded, opened the bottle, and took a few swallows. “Sorry.” she whispered. “I woke everyone up again.” Her mother, father, and sister all sat near her, their faces marked with concern, all doing their best to soothe her, to reassure her, calm her.

“I am alright.” Avlynka said again, a bit louder. “I know...I know what I have to do.”

“Avlynka?” Olno asked, looking first at her, then to his wife. “What do you mean?” Since she was a toddler, Avlynka had always been gifted-or cursed-with extremely vivid dreams. Usually they were good things. Happy things. Sometimes, however... they were not.

“I fought them.” she whispered in reply. “That is what I have to do.”

Tarja smiled a little; “You fought them?”

“Yes.” Avlynka replied, nodding.

“Honey, we cannot control what happens in our dreams.” Tarja said quietly. “Can we?”

“I think so, Mom.” Avlynka replied. “At least...a little.”

“You do seem less...freaked out, this time.” Sukki remarked. “Though you almost kicked my head off.”

Avlynka frowned a little, and hugged her sister tightly. “Sukki...I'm so sorry. I...”

“Just do what you need to do.” Sukki whispered. “We'll deal with it. You do what you need to do, to make your dreams stop. If I get kicked, well...I get kicked.”

The falling snow swirled about in the breeze, forming eddies and currents in the air before her eyes as she walked along the ice. The windswept river was mostly clear of snow, except for a few stubborn patches here and there, and Avlynka preferred walking down the river to walking through the forest along either bank, as she did not need to wear her snowshoes. They hung, unneeded, on her back, her rifle was cradled in the bend of her right arm, and she walked slowly, near the bank, blending into the world of white.

As she slowly rounded a bend, she saw what she was hoping to see; a small herd of caribou, perhaps twenty animals, also taking advantage of the easier passage the frozen river offered, nibbling at the cedars along the shore. She knelt, using the rifle's leather sling to steady her aim. Her thumb flicked off the safety, and she waited for the nearest animal to turn away a bit, to present a better shot.

Avlynka did not have to wait long; she pressed the trigger, aiming just behind the animal's foreleg, and frowned when the caribou broke into a dead run down the river as the rifle's sharp crack echoed off the snow. Disgusted, she lowered the lever, removed the empty cartridge, slid a new one into the chamber, and closed the loading lever. She dropped the empty into her pocket, sighed, and stood up, walking over to where the caribou had been standing. Perhaps she would find a twig or something, something that could have deflected the bullet, berating herself for missing a rather simple shot, especially when her family desperately needed the meat.

As she suspected, a thin branch, little more than a twig, had interfered, now laying in splinters on the ice. “Damn it.” she said aloud. Winter had been unusually hard, their catch of fur, thus far, had been low, and Avlynka had just missed the opportunity to see her family through the rest of Winter. She did not take it well.

She stood, staring at the splinters, crying, as the stress, the emotion, became overwhelming. She wanted to scream, to kick, to explode, but instead, she quietly cried. She stood there for several minutes, not wanting to return home, knowing her parents would have heard her shot, knowing that, right now, they were hoping she had killed a deer or caribou, hoping that she had, for once, done something right. Avlynka looked down the river, in the direction the caribou had run, and then at her cheap wristwatch. She had been walking down the river for several hours, and however far she walked, she would have to walk, in reverse, on her way home.

Looking in the wrong place.

Avlynka blinked, blinking away the tears, staring blankly into the falling snow, as the words came to her, the thought appearing from nowhere.

A hunter does not chase her prey blindly. She sets an ambush...

Avlynka thought for a moment, doing her best to remember the river's course, thinking and looking wildly around. The river made a large bend...and doubled back...perhaps two kilometers...

She quickly tied on her snowshoes and ran, headlong, into the forest. She ran as fast as she could on her cumbersome snowshoes, jumping fallen trees, dodging branches, running at full speed through the forest. Two kilometers this way, perhaps five as the river flowed...maybe.

Avlynka was sweating, panting, in spite of the freezing cold, pushing herself. This one time, she had to be right, for once, she had to do something right. She ran as fast as she could, and then, pushed herself to run just a bit faster, slowing only when the river came into sight.

She quickly felt the wind; she was on the downwind shore. She scanned the patches of snow on the ice frantically, searching for....no. No tracks.

Please, Spirits, she prayed, please let them keep their course...

She crouched down in the branches of a shoreline cedar, wrapped her rifle's sling around her arm, and waited, doing her best to slow her heavy, panting breaths. She listened, her ear to the wind, straining to hear any sound, scanning to see....was that a branch, or a bit of an antler...

The caribou herd slowly rounded the bend.

Avlynka's heart pounded, sounding in her ears, burning in her cheeks. She checked, making absolutely sure her rifle was loaded, the safety off. The caribou came closer, plodding along on the ice, browsing on the shoreside vegetation. So close...but she was in dense brush, branches and limbs everywhere, every one conspiring against her, waiting only to deflect the bullet.

A bull turned broadside, perhaps thirty meters away, picking at a low bush, close enough for her to see the burrs stuck in its fur. She said a few silent words of prayer, took careful aim, aiming through a gap in the branches, and fired.

The herd ran wildly again, the rifle's shot echoing through the low hills. Avlynka watched the bull run, her heart sinking to a new low...when it fell to the ice. She stood up slowly, watching as it kicked a few times, then lay still, perfectly still, less than fifty meters from where it was when she had fired. She ran over to it and stopped a few meters away, reloading her rifle, just in case...but there was no need. She knelt next to it, looked to the sky, and laughed. It was a large bull, at least two hundred kilos, well furred and healthy.

Avlynka pulled out her small battery-powered radio and pressed the transmit button; “Base, this is Avlynka, over.”

After a moment, Yura Lehtonen's voice crackled back; “Go ahead, Avlynka.”

Avlynka smiled brightly as she said, “Tell my Dad to bring the snowmachine, and his knives. We have a job to do!”
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Ava Starfire


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Join date : 2011-08-16
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Location : Mikramurka

PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:12 pm


The sun began, finally, to creep above the mountains to the south, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, the snow began to melt. Winter began to give way to the early spring, as frozen brooks began to flow, swollen with meltwater, as the first tiny flowers began to bloom along their banks.

It was time for the Star-Fire clan to begin their annual migration north, following the caribou herds to the coastal tundra, to take advantage of the brief opportunities that the brief summer would provide. The clan began its preparations as soon as the sun began to climb above the peaks, and, almost overnight, the world around them transformed, from endless white to brilliant greens.

Avlynka smiled, enjoying the warmth of the brilliant sunshine on her face, breathing deeply, enjoying an unusually warm spring day. The snow still clung tightly to the sides of the mountains, as indeed, it would do throughout the summer, but in the valley, and as far north as she could see, the flowering meadows, the aspens, the rolling tundra, were seas of vibrant green, meeting the sapphire-blue sky at the horizon. She wore a pair of leggings and a knee-length tunic, both of leather, her boot-laces flopping as she climbed the hillside, climbing to obtain a vantage point on the vast, meandering river plain off to the west.

She smiled as she squinted into the sunlight, as a river of brown and black dots flowed across the floodplain, paralleling the Ulga River; the caribou were heading north, towards the coastal prairie, to rear their young and feast on the rich summer grasses. From her vantage point, perhaps two thousand meters above the valley floor, she could see for... well, forever. Below, she could make out the deep brown and green kenkii of her clan's camp, and, as far as the eye could see in any other direction, she saw no other people: just endless green, stretching towards endless blue.

Avlynka searched for other herds, but, as she expected, saw no more. She spent a few moments making quite sure she got a good estimate on the distance and direction of the migrating caribou, and began to make her way back down the rocky slope, towards the treeline, a few hundred meters below. She quickly made her way home to relay the news.

Summer would be short, there was not much time.

“They are to the west, on the west side of the River.” Avlynka proudly explained to the assembled elders. “Moving north, towards the plains. Thousands of them.”

“They are already north of us?” Kyllsa asked, her expression dark.

Avlynka nodded. “Yes, perhaps... ten kilos or so.”

“They are moving early.” Ladok, an elder from a rival lodge, said with a sigh. “They will beat us to the escarpment... we must hope for another herd.”

Avlynka looked at Kyllsa, who shrugged slighty, then spoke up. “I didn't see any other herds... I believe only the one, from this valley...”

Ladok frowned. “Of course. You know everything, Avlynka. Who am I, to doubt you?”

Avlynka nodded and looked at the ground. “Well... perhaps, there are...”

“No.” Kyllsa interrupted. “There is only the single herd that winters in this valley, there has always been only a single herd. That is a drawback of this particular wintering-place. The hunters should go now, go ahead... they can beat the herd to the escarpment.”

Avlynka lifted her gaze, looking for any sign of an impending reply on Ladok's face. He scowled and glared at Kyllsa for a moment, then nodded, grudgingly. “Yes. You... are right, of course.”

“Avlynka, go tell your father what you saw.” Kyllsa ordered. “No time to waste.”

She nodded and ran across the camp as fast as she could, toward her home, her flopping boot laces whipping her legs as she ran. Her parents were carefully packing their belongings into a small trailer, a trailer that would be towed behind the snowmachine when they moved. “Dad!” she screamed excitedly, breathing heavily from her run, “The caribou... they are north of us, and moving...”

“Get your rifle, and whatever you will need to go ahead and follow the herd.” her father replied, smiling. “You're going to go be our eyes. Take whatever you will need for several days.”

Avlynka stood, blinking in amazement.

Tarja stepped outside of the kenkii, alarmed at her daughter's shouting. “What is going on?”

“Avlynka has learned that the caribou have begun their migration early.” Olno replied. “She is going to stay near the herd, and keep in contact with us on the radio.”

“But the base radio has already been taken down...” Tarja replied, casting her gaze at the Lehtonen's kenkii; as if to confirm what she had said, Yura Lehtonen walked outside, carrying the radio set towards her family's trailer. The antenna mast lay on the ground next to the trailer, in sections.

“Well... that complicates things.” Olno replied with a frown.

“We just need to know where the herd is, right?” Avlynka replied.

Olno nodded.

Avlynka shrugged. “I'll fire a shot, every few hours. That should give you some idea. And I'll leave markers.”

Olno smiled. “Good idea. Go. Pack. Make sure you take enough food, some water, cartridges, a change of clothes, and anything else you might need.”

Avlynka nodded and ran into the tent, but only after removing her muddy boots; she dared not arouse the ire of the spirits, not now.

With the aid of her father's snowmachine, its skis replaced by wheels for use in the grass and mud, she easily caught up with the caribou. Avlynka remained one or two kilometers behind the herd, who, thankfully, were in no hurry to get anywhere in particular; newborn calves slowed them down, as did frequent stops for food, rest, or simple play. Even the caribou celebrated the end of Matar's long winter, a winter that lasted for most of the 1,357 day long solar year. Warm weather and sunshine was a relief to all of northern Matar's inhabitants, be they two or four legged.

She watched the herd, laying on her belly in the short, soft grass, taking care to remain low and downwind; if spooked, the herd would run wildly for several kilometers, taking them further from the hunting party which would, hopefully, catch up with them soon. Every few hours, she would fire a single gunshot, and make a small pile of stones, sticks... whatever was at hand, really, and rest the empty cartridge on top of it. A single loud noise, especially a distant one, never really alarmed the animals; the most they would do is look around for a moment, and then quickly resume whatever it was that they were doing.

Three days after she had began the pursuit, the sound of a gunshot reached her ears. She scanned the horizon, the valley behind her, hoping to catch a glimpse of who had fired before replying. Being as remote as it was, northern Matar was a common target for unscrupulous bands of Matari slavers, and Avlynka had been warned to never, ever reply to a signal like that, unless she was quite certain who was sending the signal. Seeing no one, she remained quiet and scanned the hillsides and valley in the direction of the shot.

After several tense minutes, she saw a small group of snowmachines, a few kilometers up the valley behind her; eight of them. She smiled, knowing it was probably her clan, but remained low, hidden, and quiet, until they were finally close enough to clearly identify as being members of her clan.

Avlynka stood and waved her arms over her head, smiling brightly. They approached and shut off their engines, and she was delighted at the sight of her father and Yura Lehtonen, among others.

“Dad!” Avlynka squealed, hugging him tight. Once he had returned the embrace, she smiled and pointed down the valley, towards the feeding herd of caribou. “See?”

Olno watched the herd for a moment, and nodded. “We are still several kilos from the escarpment, too.”

Avlynka nodded. “So, we will do the drive tomorrow?” she asked.

Olno looked at the sun, estimating the remaining light; “Yes, I think. The clan is two days or so behind us, which is good... with tomorrow, eh, they should catch us a day, day and a half after the drive. So the skinning and meat-cutting all should be just about done when they arrive.”

Avlynka nodded, smiling. “It will be nice to have the leather to finish my dress, before the Midsummer.”

“You'll have plenty of leather to work with, after tomorrow.” Olno replied.

The small band made their impromptu camp, talking around a small fire and sleeping in turns, keeping watch over the caribou. The sun never dips far below the horizon so far north, and the blue night sky, illuminated by light from Matar's moon, was bright enough to read by. As the sky to the southeast began to brighten, they roused awake, made their plans, and ate a quick breakfast of jam, bread, and smoked salmon, all items that would be replenished over the short summer.

The plan was made; the band would split into two groups, one of which would move ahead, going through the floodplain and around the herd, the second that would remain behind. The herd was just reaching the escarpment, a forty meter high cliff face, several hundred kilometers long. Here, the Ulga River tumbled down the escarpment in a beautiful waterfall, the thundering noise and billowing mist providing cover for the hunter's movements... and water, to clean themselves following their bloody work.

The herd prepared to pick its way down the escarpment, down a gentler slope where a rockslide, eons ago, had made travel for the animals perilous, but possible. As the herd bunched up, all waiting their turn to head down the hill, the hunters made their move. The band that had circled around charged in on their snowmachines, revving the engines, shouting and screaming, firing their rifles into the air, splitting the herd and driving part of if towards the escarpment. The second part of the band, Avlynka among them, charged in from behind, straight towards the animals that had been cut off from the rest of the herd, and leaving them only one escape route:

Over the edge of the escarpment.

The panic-stricken animals ran with abandon, leaping off of the edge, falling and tumbling down the steep rocky slope to their deaths, forty meters below. The hunters quickly drove their vehicles down the slope that had, only moments before, been covered in caribou, who were now wildly running to the north and west, and dispatched any surviving animals with rifle shots.

Avlynka felt an emotional duality that she had never experienced before as she stood, looking at the dead caribou; fifty-three, they had killed. The number of dead animals bothered her, the twinge of sadness as she gazed at the death she had helped to cause. At the same time, however, she felt relief, for a successful hunt, for enough meat and leather to see her clan through a good part of the winter to come, for having played her part to perfection.

Avlynka knelt on the rocks next to the river and offered a quick prayer, thanking the Spirits for providing for her clan and family once more. She then rejoined the group, and took her place among them, assisting with the chores of skinning and cutting. Her clan would make camp nearby for a week, or two, while hides were scraped and dried and meat was sliced and smoked, and then they would be off again, heading farther north, to take advantage of another seasonal migration of a different type.

“Dad?” Avlynka asked as she worked her knife.

“Yes?” he replied, looking up from the animal he was skinning, next to hers.

“Can we eat some of the meat tonight?” she asked. “I am sort of tired of salmon.”

Olno laughed, as did several of the others nearby. “So am I, Dreamer. We sure can.”
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Ava Starfire


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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:22 pm


The clan spent several days at the base of the escarpment, cutting and smoking the meat from the caribou, scraping and drying the hides. The short summer was underway, a short, but important, time of plenty for all of the clans on the peninsula, a period when food must be obtained and stored away, repairs made, festivals and ceremonies held. They had little time for interruptions.

And, once a summer, a census-taker from the Tribal Council's office would visit the clans, to get a good, accurate count of their members; how many children, married couples, and whatnot, so that the department could have reliable figures regarding the aboriginal clans like the Star-Fire. This year's census-taker was a young Gallentean man, who happily rode towards the clan's camp on a small wheeled ATV, eager to get to work, eager to meet the sort of people that his anthropology professors had lectured about during his courses on primitive Matari societies.

Avlynka and her sister knelt on the ground in front of their family's kenkii, scraping a caribou hide with dull knives in preparation for tanning. They worked at the hide, stretched tightly between wooden stakes driven into the ground, talking and laughing.

“Maybe someone from the Deep-Moon?” Sukki asked, smiling. “Lots of decent looking men, last summer... and they will not care how bad you smell.”

“Funny.” Avlynka replied, shaking her head. “But hey, the Deep-Moon are...” She stopped in mid-sentence to look over her shoulder to her left, staring at the foreign man walking towards them, a spring in his step, and a datapad in his hand. “Who is this?”

Sukki blinked. “No idea.”

Avlynka stood up, brushed some of the dirt from her knees, and watched, in amazement, as he marched straight up to her and asked, in Sebiestor, “Who is the leader of your clan, hmm?”

The people of northern Matar had developed a deep distrust of outsiders, a distrust Avlynka demonstrated when she menaced him with the knife in her hand. “Who are you? Why are you here?” she demanded impatiently.

Jonn Breselle, the census-taker, found this quite a shock; he was told that the clans he would be working with would be expecting him. Terrified, he stammered, “Oh, my... please, be calm, I am here to take a census, that is all. I am from the Tribal council, my name...”

“You work for the Tribal Council?” Avlynka asked, angrily. “How? You are not Sebiestor.”

“I am an anthropologist, ma'am.” the Gallentean replied, a bit smugly. “The Tribal Council felt that I would be a good choice for a census-taker, regardless of my heritage.”

“Anto...Antha...what?” Avlynka asked, lowering the knife, confused.

“An anthropologist. I study people.” he replied. “My name is Jonn Breselle, and I have come to take the census, as well as perform some study, with the permission of your elders?”

Sukki stood up next to Avlynka, and the two looked at each other for a moment, confused. As Jonn watched them, watched the two young women in the simple, handmade leather tunics and baggy wool pants, standing barefoot next to their family's primitive home, he smiled, realizing just how little the galaxy at large knew about the Matari, how little he knew. Elsewhere on the same planet, other members of their same tribe were building starships, yet, here, at the top of their world, he had a feeling he was seeing the Matari as they were before the Day of Darkness, before anyone discovered space flight, before any part of “modern” life had been conceived, let alone, actually invented.

He was seeing what the Amarr had worked very hard to destroy.

“Do you think they will let him stay?” Avlynka whispered to Sukki as they continued to work on the hide.

“Hmm... I suppose it depends if he can convince them he means no harm.” Sukki replied. “I would, but the decision is not mine to make.”

Avlynka stared across the camp, at the kenkii used by the Clan council. “As long as he does not get in the way, I suppose he does no harm.” she whispered.

They received their answer when Jonn and Kyllsa emerged from the council kenkii, and walked across the camp towards them. Jonn was beaming, bombarding Kyllsa with questions, who patiently answered them. They walked towards Avlynka and Sukki, and Kyllsa breathed a sigh of relief as she said, “Avlynka, Sukki, this man is here to learn about us, how we live. His name is Jonn.”

Avlynka nodded and smiled politely, even though she knew what was coming; Kyllsa was unloading the bothersome Anthra-whatever onto her and her family.

“Olno has been kind enough to allow him to share your home. Please, make him feel welcome, and... be patient.” Kyllsa smiled at Jonn, shot Avlynka her “I'm sorry” glance, and quickly walked off.

Sukki blinked as Avlynka looked up at Jonn and asked, “Ever scrape a hide before?”

“Why, no... I cannot say that I have.” Jonn replied as he sat down.

Sukki handed him a knife. “We have to scrape all the fat and meat and stuff from this side, so we can dry it, work it, and tan it.”

“Oh... so, this came off of an animal, then?” Jonn asked, gingerly taking the knife that Sukki offered to him. “I see...”

Sukki smiled, and together she and Avlynka set about the daunting task of teaching the city-born Gallentean how to scrape a hide. Amazingly, in short order, he was doing his share, and the three worked, talking happily, and soon had the job completed.

Jonn Breselle had never been happier.

That evening, the Surionens ate dinner with their guest, who proved to be polite, if not somewhat trying, with his curiosity and questions. After dinner, Olno and Tarja-likely seeking escape from the antrhawhatzits questions-went... wherever they went, leaving Avlynka and Sukki to entertain Jonn, and keep him out of trouble.

Avlynka sat on the floor with her needle case and awl, working on another dress, while Sukki sat next to her, whittling and drilling a piece of wood into a flute. Jonn sat and watched them working, his notebook and pen in hand, occasionally jotting down a note or sketching a simple picture. The night was warm, and still quite bright, as the sun would not actually set for the next several weeks, though it hung low in the sky, slipping in and out from behind passing clouds.

The dress, structurally, was finished, and Avlynka was painstakingly stitching designs onto the hem, the sleeves, and the neckline with various colors of thick thread, flowing floral images and bits of writing, quite different from the straight, geometric patterns that most Sebiestor preferred. Jonn drew sketches of this and that, Avlnka politely and patiently holding it up for him to see whenever he asked.

“That is very beautiful, Avlynka.” Jonn said quietly, admiring her work as she held it before her, giving a rough idea of how she would look in it. “That must be for a special occasion, yes?”

“Yes.” Avlynka replied, nodding. “For the Midsummer.”

“Ah...” Jonn said, smiling and thinking of the cultural significance of such an event. “Is it a religious holiday, or... explain Midsummer to me, please?” he asked. “Please?”

Avlynka nodded as she sat back down to resume her work. “It is, yes... spiritually significant, I mean. We get together and thank the spirits for seeing us through the winter, and ask them to help us through the coming winter.”

“I see...” Jonn replied quietly, writing as Avlynka spoke.

“It is also a day for trade, for celebration, for meeting with the other Clans... and for picking mates, for those of us without them.” Sukki added, rubbing her thumb along the side of the flute to check for any high spots or slivers her blade had missed.

“Picking a mate?” Jonn asked, startled. “Really? One day, to select a mate?”

“Five.” Avlynka said quietly, never looking up from her dress.

“Five?” Jonn asked, a puzzled look on his face.

“Midsummer is five days long.” Avlynka replied, smiling as she glanced up at him. “We have five days, to meet, celebrate, and pick a mate, for those of us who haven't.”

“Ah...oh! So... wait, that means you, correct?” he asked Avlynka, smiling a bit.

Avlynka nodded. “Yes.”

“And the dress is so you look your best.” he said, nodding his head as things began to piece themselves together. “Understood.”

“Well... it is also to demonstrate what I can do.” Avlynka said, looking up at him. “My skill.”

Jonn nodded slowly. “Ah, yes, Avlynka. I believe I understand.”

Sukki blew into the flute a few times, its hollow whistle filling the kenkii as she tested every stop. She smiled at Jonn and quickly played a chirping, piping little tune, showing what the instrument could do. Jonn beamed and clapped. “Oh, my! That sounds delightful, really!”

“Avlynka, wanna grab yours?” Sukki asked.

Avlynka laughed, and nodded. She walked to her bed and retrieved her instrument, a longer recorder-type instrument made of wood with a copper mouthpiece, and sat down next to Sukki. Jonn quickly pulled out his datapad and set it down, smiling at them. “Do you two mind, if I record your playing?” he asked quietly.

Sukki shrugged. “I don't mind, no.”

“Please, feel free.” Avlynka said softly.

Jonn nodded, pressed the record button, and sat down, remaining silent as the two played a haunting, melancholy piece, Sukki's higher-pitched flute pairing with the lower, hollow sound of Avlynka's recorder. They played for several minutes, as Jonn sat, completely enthralled in the song, until they finally ended on a matched low, long note.

Jonn blinked and smiled slightly as the two watched him, waiting to hear his opinion of their music. He pressed the button on his datapad to stop the recording and shook his head a little. “I have never heard anything, anything at all, like that before... simply amazing.”

Avlynka bowed her head a little. “I am pleased that you liked it.”

“Same.” Sukki replied, grinning brightly.

The night wore on, and eventually everyone turned in for the night. As Jonn lay there in his bedroll, he wondered what he would do. He was performing the sort of study that most anthropologists would only ever dream of, living with some of the most primitive people in the known universe. He would be able to write an ethnography detailing their language, their religious beliefs, their customs and culture, and even their art and music, and would be able to support it with photographs, sketches, and sound recordings.

It was the sort of thing that would secure him a full professorship at any university he chose.

And as he slowly drifted off to sleep, listening to the wind rustling through the tundra grass outside the kenkii's open flap, a few meters away, he couldn't help but wonder, if he had any right at all to see any of it, let alone to report what he saw, heard, and experienced.

This was their world, their life. Did he have any right to tell the rest of the galaxy?
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Ava Starfire


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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:30 pm


The fire-baskets were hanging from their poles in the festival ground that had been prepared in the center of the clan's camps, several hundred meters of tundra transformed by lights, decorations, sounds, and smells. Dozens of other fires burned, ranging from small cooking fires to huge festival fires, around which people danced, talked, laughed, traded. Every clan in the Peninsula nation was present, some three thousand individuals, all intent on making the most of the next five days.

The weather was damp, and the sky was a dark, undulating sheet of low clouds, spitting rain occasionally. The rain and chill did very little to dampen the enthusiasm of the assembled Matari. Avlynka, wearing her new embroidered dress, her hair decorated with all manner of brown and red wooden beads, sat beneath a simple canvas awning, playing her recorder. To her left, her sister sat, likewise wearing her Midsummer best, playing one of her flutes, several others displayed proudly before her, being offered for sale or trade.

Much to their delight, Jonn had wandered off somewhere, leaving them in relative peace.

The pair finished a song, and Avlynka set her recorder down and took a drink of her tea while Sukki spoke to a young child from the Late-Rise clan about how to play her instrument. The little boy nodded as Sukki showed him the tone holes, and explained how moving her fingers allowed more air to escape, thus changing the pitch. Avlynka laughed at his expression, the blank one that just screamed, “What?”

Soon, it became a team effort, as both Sukki and Avlynka explained to the boy, who was soon joined by his father, how their instruments worked. Periodically, a young man, his Naming Mark still dark, quite new, would walk by and smile at Avlynka, and perhaps listen to her play for a moment before wandering on. After all... they had five days. No need to make such a decision too quickly.

A thin young man walked over and stood quietly nearby, watching Avlynka and Sukki as they played a short demonstration for their curious visitors. Avlynka saw him after a moment and glanced over, then took a longer look a moment later. He was about her height, actually, so quite short for a man, with shoulder length hair, black like hers. His rather reserved naming mark was done in a delicate pattern of flowing, curving blue and black lines and shapes, and he wore a rather plain leather tunic over a pair of brightly decorated wool pants, representative of the Deep-Moon Clan, capped off with plain leather boots. He had a few simple pieces of jewelry- a simple brass bracelet and a thin silver ring- and was, all in all, she thought, quite handsome, in a very simple, unassuming way.

Instead of walking past, looking, and smiling, as all the other young men did, however, he walked over and politely said, “Hello.”

Avlunka smiled up at him and brushed a stray strand of damp hair out of her face. “Hello there.” she said quietly. It was then that she noticed the small jingle drum he was holding in his left hand.

“Mind if I join you two?” he asked, his tenor voice betraying just a hint of nervousness.

Sukki smiled and answered quickly. “Not at all. Sit.”

Avlynka moved over a bit, to make room for him on the blanket, beneath the awning, and he and Avlynka read one another's marks. His skin was dark, darker than hers, quite a nice match to his jet black hair and deep brown eyes, she though.

“Pleasure to meet you, Uro.” Avlynka said, bowing her head a bit.

“Nice to meet you, Avlynka.” Uro replied, returning the bow.

He set a beat, and the three played several pieces, from a traditional, and somewhat silly, birthday song to a more melancholy tune normally played before a battle. They received some attention, but not much-what they were doing was hardly out of the ordinary, for that place-and then, after perhaps a half an hour of music, Sukki placed her flute in her pocket, stood up, and said, “I'm gonna go look for Mom... see what we're doing for dinner. See you later.” She gave a rather obvious wink to Avlynka, and then bowed her head a bit to Uro. “It was nice to meet you, Uro. You play well.”

With that, Sukki walked away quickly.

Avlynka watched Sukki walk away as the butterflies welled up in her stomach; she was, for the first time in her life, alone, socially, with a boy, a boy who she knew was just as nervous and uncertain as she was. They may have been “adults” in the eyes of their clan, but the pair were both young and uncertain, and under a lot of pressure to find a match; if they didn't, it would be 1,353 days, almost four standard years, before the opportunity would arise again.

Avlynka took a deep breath and turned, changing positions to sit facing Uro. He followed suit, shifting a bit to get further under the awning, out of the rain that had intensified a bit. “Well...” he said, laughing a little bit, “... the weather certainly is “Midsummerish”, isn't it?

Avlynka nodded, smiling. “Yep. It's alright though... not like a little rain ever hurt anyone.”

He looked down nervously, smiling. “Yeah.” He idly fiddled with the laces on his boots, then his bracelet, much like Avlynka was doing with one of the beads in her hair.

Tarja walked towards them and did her best to hide a smile as she bent down, beneath the awning. “Hello there... Uro.” she said, reading his mark, “Avlynka, we are going to be eating over under the big awning with the Lehtonens. Come eat... and Uro, you're welcome to come eat with us.”

“Alright.” Avlynka replied. She turned to Uro. “Want to come eat dinner with us?”

“I'd like that.” he replied quietly, his cheeks red, but smiling from ear to ear. He lay his drum down on the blanket, next to Avlynka's recorder, and together they ran, through what was now a downpour, towards the large awning across the festival ground.

Tarja watched them run off, leaving her behind, and laughed. She liked him.

The rain drummed down onto the canvas awning, and most of the people standing around inside, or seated on the folding chairs, were soaked to the skin, but no one seemed to mind. Families that had not been together for the whole year talked and ate, consuming large quantities of pale, home-brewed beer and cider. Avlynka and Uro sat on folding chairs, next to Avlynka's parents, talking as they ate, listening to Avlynka's grandfather tell a story about swimming across the fjord, to prove he could. Avlynka looked at her mother, who smiled and shook her head, confirming that, yes, it was in all probability, a lie.

“That's quite a mark.” Uro said quietly, in between bites of bread, looking over at Avlynka. “I don't think I have seen anyone else with their Voluval on their face.”

She shrugged. “Well... I don't know if I deserve it...” she replied, looking down at her plate.

Uro smiled. “Well... it suits you.” he whispered.

Avlynka nodded, embarassed at the burning she could feel in her cheeks. “Thanks... um, I like your naming mark.” she said after an awkward pause, looking up at him. “It's pretty.”

“Oh...” he replied, laughing. “Just what a guy wants to hear... that he has a “pretty” mark.” He sighed and dipped his bread in the gravy from the meat, taking a bite.

“It suits you...” Avlynka whispered, smiling. “...it shows off your eyes.”

Avlynka and Uro finished their meal, and Tarja shooed them out of the awning. “Go on... no need to listen to Grandpa. You know he is just going to say the same things he said last summer. Go.... go for a walk, or something.”

Avlynka looked out from under the awning, at the rain still falling steadily. “Umm...”

“Go on. You two are young. You'll be fine.” Tarja insisted.

They did as they were told, and walked across the festival ground in the rain, stopping and peering under awnings and into kenkii, looking at the various things people were offering for sale or trade. Each Clan in the Peninsula seemed to have a specialty; the Star-Fire, for instance, were reknowned as leatherworkers, whereas the Deep-Moon were known for their woven blankets and clothing of wool. They each purchased a few small trinkets, mostly small bits of jewelry or decorations, and shared a piece of fresh cobbler beneath another low awning.

“Ah!” Jonn called out, walking towards the two young Sebiestor standing beneath the awning. He was wet and muddy, but from his grin, was having the time of his life. “Avlynka! Hello! Ah, and who, may I ask, is this fine young man, hrmm?” he bellowed.

Avlynka sighed and rolled her eyes, that universal “whatever” symbol made by girls of all cultures across space and time. She flashed Uro a weak smile, and said, “Uro, this is Jonn, an... anthropompous from the Tribal Council. Jonn, this is Uro, from the Deep-Moon clan.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Uro said, offering a slight bow of his head.

“Likewise, Uro.” Jonn replied, politely-amazingly to Avlynka-returning the bow. “I hate to break up the fun, but Avlynka, your mother and father asked if I would come shoo you towards home... it is quite late, you know... although, meh, since the sun doesn't set, I would suppose you don't...”

“Alright, alright.” Avlynka replied, waving her hand at him to go away. “I'm coming.”

Jonn nodded and headed off towards the Surionen's kenkii, leaving Avlynka and Uro to say their good-nights. “Um...” Avlynka said. “I really had... a lot of fun.” she said quietly, nervously.

“I did too.” Uro replied, smiling. “A lot.”

Avlynka shrugged a little. “So... will, um, I see you again, tomorrow?” she asked.

Uro nodded. “If you want to. I think I would like that.” he replied.

She did her best to hide her smile as she said, “Um, I should go... goodnight, Uro.”

“Goodnight, Avlynka.” Uro said as she turned to walk, slowly, towards home. He watched her walk until she had to round a corner, and disappear behind a row of kenkii and awnings. He smiled, ate the last bits of cobbler off the plate, returned it to the vendor, and headed slowly towards his own family's home.

On the way, Avlynka stopped to pick up her recorder, and noticed that he had left his jingle drum there, right next to it. She smiled as she collected the instruments, along with Sukki's flutes, and headed towards home.

Maybe she wouldn't need to worry, after all.
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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:35 pm

Avlynka and Uro spent the remainder of Midsummer together, and on the final night, waited nervously with their respective families. The time had come for the Engagement Ceremony, when the young adults of the Clans would announce, in turn, the person the had chosen to be their mate, the person they had chosen to spend the rest of their life and raise a family with. Normally, the two would quietly agree beforehand, so that when the time came, and one annouced her choice, no one would be surprised, and potentially hurt the other, by turning the choice down; in some Matari clans, a man could pick a wife, or a woman a husband, depending on their custom, and the chosen person had very little say in the matter. Among the Peninsular Sebiestor tribes, however, both had to agree.

Avlynka stood with her Mom and Dad, her younger sister, Jon, and Kyllsa, the people that, more or less, comprised her “family”. She was dressed in a rather figure-hugging heavy blue and white robe, her hair loose and framing her face, her rather simple appearance today in stark contrast to the elaborate dresses she had worn for the previous four days. Among the Star-Fire, who trace their lineage through matrilineal lines, Avlynka would announce her choice, and he would step forward and accept... or refuse. Even though her and Uro had worked it out, she couldn't help but be nervous.

A shaman from the West-Call clan performed a brief blessing, purifying the ground where the young people would make their announcements and calling on the spirits to bless the new couples. He then quickly walked away, the signal that the first young woman could begin.

She watched and waited as other young women, a few from her clan, most from others, stepped forward and announced their choices, watched the young men step forward and confirm that they, indeed, wished to likewise pick the other person. The oldest went first, including women who, due to bad luck the previous year or the death of their spouse, would pick a new mate in the same fashion. As the one before her announced her choice, which was quickly confirmed by her mate, Avlynka felt somewhat dizzy and sick. Her turn had come; she was the youngest, and the last one to announce her choice.

“Go on, Dreamer.” Tarja said with a smile. “He will accept... you've nothing to worry about.”

“Uh huh.” Avlynka replied with a simple, forced nod, quite convinced that the End had come. She walked slowly, making doubly sure not to do something clumsy like tripping over the hem of her robe, clutching a thin silver chain, hung with small, brightly colored seashells, in her hand.

Avlynka slowly walked across the open festival ground, quite aware that the eyes of every person in every clan on the Peninsula were upon her. She reached the wooden pole driven into the ground that marked the place where she was to stand and looked back at her parents, her sister, her shaman, and... Jon.

Tarja was beaming and nodded eagerly, signaling for Avlynka to just get on with it.

Olno gave her a less-than-stealthy “A-OK” signal with his right hand.

Sukki stood, her arms folded, her weight on her left leg, looking quite bored.

Kyllsa stood perfectly still, her eyes closed, saying a quiet prayer.

Jon took a few photos and scribbled madly in his notebook.

Avlynka sighed, turned to Uro, and made her announcement, speaking as loudly as she could without actually yelling. Her heart pounded as she called out the well-rehearsed words, the words called out by women of her Clan, on that very spot, since her people had settled on the Peninsula. “Uro Vaki, of the Deep-Moon Clan, will you walk the Path with me?”

Uro walked quickly across the festival ground to stand before Avlyna, smiling down at her slightly. His hair, much like hers, was combed straight down, and he wore a brightly patterned wool tunic over a pair of plain brown pants. He reached out his hand, and Avlynka gingerly placed her hand in his, as he replied, “Avlynka Surionen, of the Star-Fire Clan, yes, I will walk the Path with you.”

Avlynka placed the chain she carried around Uro's neck, and he returned the gesture, the same sort of thin chain, adorned with seashells and a few tiny copper beads, around hers. They laughed together, relieved, for just a moment, before walking hand-in-hand away from the pole.

Tarja and Olno hugged, Jon beamed, and Kyllsa elbowed Sukki, as Avlynka and Uro walked to stand at the far end of the festival ground with all of the other couples, awaiting the announcement of the Elders that the Engagement Ceremony had concluded, and that the final night of revelry would now begin. Around them, the other couples planned, hugged, and talked, but Avlynka and Uro took little notice; they were too busy standing face to face, holding hands. Many picked their prospective mate on grounds of prestige, or income, or improving their family standing.

Uro and Avlynka chose one another, quite simply, because they were in love.
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Ava Starfire


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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 pm

On the gently rolling tundra of northern Mikramurka, the only plants to be found are stubborn grasses and a few wildflowers that might grow to a height of 30 or 40 centimeters before the brief summer gives way to winter; only in the shelter of a few fjords, along the coast, do any small bushes or trees manage to take root at all. Thus, the sight of a roaring bonfire, many tens of kilometers away from the nearest forest, would give anyone a reason to pause and scratch their head, wondering if it was an illusion brought on by exposure to the summer's perpetual sunlight.

The sun hung low in the sky to the southwest, reddish against the deep blue sky, and Matar's moon shone brilliantly, nearing its full phase, as the Clans of the peninsula celebrated the final night of Midsummer in wild fashion. Drinking, singing, dancing, music, the sounds of laughter and fun, filled the cool air as the Matari enjoyed such a fire, a towering, roaring fire fueled with wood, brought by members of all the Clans from their wintering grounds, for this very purpose.

The final night was the night for couples; whether they be a new couple, such as Avlynka and Uro, an established couple, long married, such as Tarja and Olno, or even a couple for that one night, as was the case with Kyllsa and her companion, a man from the Late-Rise clan named Euja, it was their night. Some danced, some talked and laughed, some stole away to seek quieter locations to enjoy one another's company more intimately, but all knew the night would end the same way; when the fire died down, it was the signal for everyone to return to their homes, new homes, in many cases, and spend the night together.

Avlynka and Uro danced around the fire, circling around one another, first her in a circle around him, and then him in a circle around her; dozens of other couples also participated in the dance, and the whole ring of them slowly moved around the fire.

The dance ended, and the musicians, Sukki among them, announced that they were going to take a short break, to drink their fill and have a bit of fun of their own. Uro took the opportunity to tickle Avlynka's ribs and then run away, leading her on a merry chase around the fire a few times. She finally gave up and shrugged, and walked with him, shaking her head and laughing quietly, over to talk to another couple.

Avlynka and Uro walked, hand in hand, over to a longtime friend and agegroup-mate of Avlynka's, a young woman named Makyii, and her husband to be, Fero of the Deep-Moon.

“Congratulations.” Makyii said to Avlynka, smiling as Fero stood behind her, his arms around her waist. “It's great, we both found husbands from the same Clan.”

Avlynka nodded. “It is!” She turned her attention to Fero for a moment; “Welcome to our Clan, Fero.” She grinned at Makyii for a moment. “I hope you have some idea how lucky you are.”

Fero laughed. “I do. I do indeed.” Makyii was one of the most beautiful women in the Star-Fire clan, a skilled leatherworker and from a respected family. As she looked up and smiled at Fero who was leaning over her shoulder to kiss her, the slight bulge of her Adam's apple could be seen.

Sukki sat in the grass nearby, taking a drink of water, with Jonn sitting next to her, scribbling madly in his notebook. Sukki had decided that someone had to teach this anthropotamous what it meant to live among her clan, and had decided that she was best fit to do just that, answering his endless barrage of questions with equal parts wit and patience.

Jonn, as clueless as he could be at times, also rarely missed any detail. When he saw Makyii turn her head, he looked over at Sukki, somewhat confused. “Is... that young woman, in the brown and red dress... yes, her. What's her name?” he asked.

“Makyii Illmaryi.” Sukki replied. “She and Avlynka have been friends... well, forever.”

Jonn watched Makyii for a moment more, and then turned to Sukki. “Um... is she, um, transgendered?”

Sukki shook her head. “No. She is woman-spirit.”

Jonn quickly took a few notes. “Really... woman-spirit? Tell me about that, please?” he asked.

“Well,” Sukki shrugged, “The spirits picked a special path for her. Women are closer to the Spirits than men, and she is close with the Spirits. So, she has a woman's Spirit.”

“So... she was born, um... as a boy?” Jonn asked, realizing he was venturing into potentially sensitive cultural territory. “How did she figure out, um, that the Spirits chose this path for her?”

Sukki laughed. “She just knew. When she was little, she wanted to dress like the girls, like Avlynka. She wanted to wear beads in her hair, and get her nose pierced. When she grew a little older... well, she just knew.”

Jonn's pencil was a blur. “And... she is treated as a woman? As any other?” he asked excitedly.

“Why wouldn't she be?” Sukki replied, a confused look on her face.

Jonn smiled and shook his head. “I don't know, Sukki. So... that young man, he chose her? Um... she cannot bear children... um, unless there is some ritual for...”

“They must do stuff a lot different, where you are from.” Sukki teased. “They will adopt, Jonn, there are plenty of children who need good parents.”

Jonn sketched a picture of Makyii and Fero, nodding, while Sukki sat next to him, watching. He was an incredible artist, and his drawings had become immensely popular with the Star-Fire. Sukki watched as he selected a few colored pencils and added color, here and there; the dark red in Makyii's dress, the deep black of Fero's hair, the dyed blue and green beads on their necklaces.

“You are amazing.” Sukki said quietly as she picked up her flute and resumed playing.

Avlynka and Uro danced close together, enjoying one of the last dances of the festival as the fire began to die. They danced slowly, rhythmically, moving in slow circles around one another. They both hated to see the fire go out, to end the moment, but both looked forward to the moment to come.

That would be the first night they would spend together.

Kyllsa said a final blessing, sending off a chant to the sky as the people of the Clans watched and listened, and then announced that Midsummer had ended. People said their goodbyes, shared a few final jokes and tall tales, and headed to their kenkii. In the morning, the Clans would all pack up their small homes, their tools and clothes and supplies, and disperse. They wouldn't see each other again until next Midsummer, 1,352 days away.

The various couples headed towards their homes; Tarja and Olno to their family's home, Makyii and Fero to their small tent, Kyllsa and Euja towards the Shaman's abode, Ava and Uro to their temporary tent, leaving a few behind, like Jonn and Sukki.
“Meh.” Sukki said quietly as she watched her parents walk, hand in hand, towards their kenkii. “Guess I'll sleep out here, tonight. They deserve a night alone.”

“Suppose I'll sleep here, too.” Jonn replied, smiling. “So, Midsummer is over, then?”

“Midsummer is over.”

“And they're all going home to, um... kindle the spark, so to speak?” Jonn said, grinning.

Sukki giggled. “Yeah.”

Sukki lay down on the blanket she had been sitting on, smoothed her robe here and there, and smiled as Jonn lay down a few meters away, doing the same. “Goodnight, Jonn.” she called softly. “Happy Midsummer.”

Jonn nodded, setting his notebook and pencils close by, lest they be needed in the middle of the night. “Goodnight, Sukki. Happy Midsummer to you.”

Avlynka and Uro had no kenkii of their own yet, so, for now, they would stay in a smaller, simpler tent, perhaps 3 meters square. Their parents had each given them equal money and materials to start their own life, a good start, and they would be able to purchase the canvas for their kenkii in a few weeks, when the Star-Fire clan returned to their wintering grounds, closer to White Point. Uro opened the flap of their small home and held it for Avlynka, following her and tying it closed as she knelt to remove her boots.

“Well. Welcome home.” Uro said jokingly.

Avlynka stood up and patiently waited for Uro to remove his boots, before wrapping him in a hug and kissing him for several moments. “Welcome home.” she replied quietly.

The small tent had room for a fusion stove, a small table, and their sleeping area, where their blankets lay waiting. Avlynka retrieved a bottle of water and took a few swallows, then walked over and knelt next to her bed. She lit a small oil burning lamp and said a short prayer, asking the Spirits to bless their bed, their new family, asking the Spirits to guard their sleep and dreams:

Kina anarek'i, kina vuuk'i
Kina cenerk'i, kina vasortek'i
Varla mei yunuki, ienka mei tache
Katrea mei kenkii,neka, iei ma evai're.

While we dream, while we sleep
While we work, while we play
Guard our love, guide our path
Bless our home, Spirits, please hear me.

When she had finished the short blessing, she blew the small lamp out and sat down nervously on the blankets, next to Uro. They sat in awkward, anticipatory silence for a couple minutes, before Avlynka unbuckled the top clasp on the front of her dress. Uro followed suit, loosening the clasps on his tunic, and pulling it off over his head. Avlynka slid her dress off of her shoulders and laughed.

“I'm nervous.” she said quietly, brushing her hair out of her eyes.

“Me too.” Uro replied.

Avlynka shrugged. “I guess at some point, everyone else went through this, right?”

Uro nodded. “I imagine so. And hey, we're here... they must have figured it out.”

Avlynka stood up, sliding her dress past her hips and stepping out of it, and carefully placing it out of the way, next to the bed. She climbed under the blankets and watched as Uro removed his pants, tossed them on the floor, and lay down in bed next to her, as the two clumsily took yet another first step in their new life together.
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Ava Starfire


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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:02 pm


Every summer, salmon migrate from the ocean inland, running up the northern rivers by the millions to lay their eggs. And every sunner, the people of the peninsula would travel north, camping along the rivers, to intercept them. Salmon are packed with protein and vitamins, are relatively simple to catch in large numbers, and, when smoked, keep quite well; a perfect food source, and the primary staple of their diet. Caribou were hunted for meat as well as leather, but, according to anthropologist Jonn Breselle, salmon comprises over 50% of the Star-Fire clan's diet, caribou, a mere 7%.

Without the salmon, he concluded, they simply could not survive.

Understandably, when the Clan elders announced that, this year, the Star-Fire clan would head southwest, and not north, the decision was met with some resistance. The Elders explained their position to the various family leaders, who, in turn, explained it to their families.

Avlynka's dress was soaked from her knees down as she walked along through the high grass, drenched from the morning's fog and rains. Her rifle was slung over her shoulder, fighting with her pack for room on her back, which contained her clothing and few personal posessions. As Avlynka walked alongside her family's creaking trailer, piled high with their dismantled home and furniture, as well as Kyllsa's, and pulled by their snowmachine, she explained the rationale behind the decision to Jonn.

“We are going to cross the mountains that form the spine of the peninsula.” she said, pausing to take a bite of her dinner, a piece of smoked caribou. “And spend the winter along the southern coast of the peninsula, in the forests there, along the Nyakii River.

“So... why now? From what I have been told, you have always spent the winter much farther north, correct?” Jonn asked.

Avlynka sighed sadly. “The Krusual have pushed farther into Sebiestor land. We would be too close to them if we went north... maybe next year they will be gone.”

“Ah.” Jonn replied. “Makes sense... wait, aren't your Tribes allies now?”

Avlynka took another bite of meat and shrugged. “Maybe wherever you're from, we are. Here...they will still attack us if they have the chance.”

“Oh.” Jonn said quietly, nodding as that sank in.

The sound of footsteps shuffling rapidly through the glass announced Sukki's approach, as she walked quickly to catch up with them. She walked between Avlynka and Jonn, likewise carrying a pack loaded down with her belongings. “Hey.” she said happily, handing a chunk of vya to Avlynka, and another chunk to Jonn.

“Oh!” Avlynka said happily, smiling as she took a bite. “Mmm....”

Jonn sniffed it, then gingerly nibbled at it, his apprehension disappearing immediately as he chewed. “Oh, my, that is tasty, what... what is it?”

“Vya.” Sukki replied. “It's made from berries, mostly blueberries. You smoosh 'em all up, into a paste like, and then spread it out and let it dry. Dad usually adds a little syrup or sugar, too.”

“Berries, you say?” Jonn said, thinking out loud. “Must be packed with sugars... energy...”

Avlynka laughed a little, as Sukki's teasing began. “Better watch it... you're gonna turn into one of us, if you keep eating all our food.”

“Hehe, I doubt that will happen. Nonetheless, thank you. It is delicious.” he replied.

Avlynka looked Jonn over, noticing the wretched state his clothing was in. “You may wanna start dressing like us, though.” she said. “The constant wet and wear seems to be ruining your clothes.”

Jonn looked down at his knees, visible through his badly torn pants, his skin covered in scratches and cuts from the sharp tundra grass. “I suppose treated leather is more durable than Luminairian cotton, hmm?”

Avlynka smiled and looked at Sukki. “Give it to him yet?”

She grinned. “No... should I?”

Jonn stopped in his tracks, his hands on his hips, trying to hide his smile. “And what, exactly, are you two playing at now, hrmm?”

Without a word, Sukki stopped walking, and Avlynka rummaged about in her packbasket. After a moment, she tossed a folded bundle towards Jonn. “Here. Put that on.”

Jonn carefully unrolled the bundle and smiled. It was a long leather pullover, similar to those worn by the men of the Star-Fire, carefully sewn and decorated. He nodded, slipped his own backpack off of his shoulders, and-with a bit of help from Avlynka and Sukki-pulled it over his head and fastened the clasps down the front. It hung to his knees, the sleeves to his wrists, and fit him quite well. “Thank you.” he said, genuinely meaning it.

“Well...” Sukki replied, shrugging. “You're like, part of our family, right?”

Jonn put his pack back on, and the three resumed walking. He had no idea how to respond to that, so he simply smiled and said, “Well, you have certainly made me feel as though I am.”

“Here.” Avlynka said, smiling as she handed Jonn another bundle, a pair of loose pants, made of the same treated leather. “These will keep you from getting all cut up.”

“We will make you some new boots when we get to the Nyakii.” Sukki added. “And get you winter clothes, too.”

“Winter?” Jonn replied.

“You are staying, right?” Sukki asked, blinking. Avlynka also looked on, eager for his reply.

Jonn took a look around, a good, long look. Before him stood two members of a family who had, indeed, made him feel as though he were one of them, who had shared their food, their home, who had endured his questions, made him clothing. As far as the eye could see, the rolling tundra met the grey sky, the mist and rain only adding to the beauty of the place.

He looked at the little band passing them by, watched as Tarja and Uro walked alongside Olno on the snowmachine. Uro was talking with Tarja and Olno, getting to know his new in-laws, smiling over his shoulder at his young wife-to-be. He examined the small trailer, its simple thin rubber tires making narrow paths through the high grass, piled high with the weight of two kenkii, furnaces, furniture, all carefully stowed. He watched the shaman, Kyllsa, walking along behind the trailer, watchful in case anything should bounce out, carrying her own rifle and pack, quietly playing her part.

To stay with an amazing group of people, to share their story, to live with them in the beauty of northern Matar... or to return to the “civilized world”, with its wars, politics, crime, laws...

As an anthropologist, Jonn had been trained to examine societies with some measure of detachment. He had studied their language, their music, their rituals, and of course, their food and clothing, their migrations and political structure and patterns of subsistence.

He also knew, however, that the greatest human need was to be part of something greater than the self, to belong, even to be loved.

He knew which one mattered more.

“Of course I will stay.” Jonn replied, smiling. “For as long as you will permit me.”

“Good.” Avlynka replied. Sukki nodded in agreement, beaming.

They resumed walking, talking, laughing, as the Clan continued its trek south. The Clan had never been to the region they were moving to, so this was as new an experience to everyone as it was to Jonn. Nyakii was a strange new world, a new world that held the promise of safety from their ancient enemy, the promise of plentiful salmon from the sea. It would be over three weeks, over a thousand kilometers, before they would arrive at their new home.

If Nyakii failed to fulfill its promises, they wouldn't have time to move again before winter.
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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:14 pm


The scenery soon changed, from tundra, to boggy muskeg, to taiga, as the Clan slowly wound its was southwest. Occasionally, they would have to stop to repair one of the snowmachines, but overall, the vehicles worked very well; a time tested design, an unusual combination of motorcycle, snowmobile, and half-track, very simple and robust. They crossed the mountains through one of the numerous low passes, and began following the Nyakii River down towards the sea. Here, the Nyakii was still a small, bubbling, energetic stream, and bright trout and grayling darted about in the crystal clear water.

When the clan stopped to make camp along the stream, everyone was delighted to take the chance to acquire some fresh fish.

Kyllsa Siikanen carefully picked her way through the crisp water, standing in a tongue of current that bordered a small pool, feeling her way across the smooth stones of the riverbed with her bare feet, a thin cedar spear in her hands. She watched the water, patiently waiting for a fair sized fish to pause momentarily in the calmer water before her.

A flash of silver and Kyllsa thrust the spear into the water, quickly withdrawing a fair size trout. She walked to the bank, subdued the fish with a sharp rap on the head, and carefully laid in the basket waiting on shore. She carefully examined the spear's tip, quite literally made of a straightened, heavy fish hook, and then walked back into the water. Uro and Jonn stood nearby, watching and talking.

“Well,” Jonn said quietly, “I had wondered how they caught all these fish.”

Uro nodded. “Me too... hey, remind me never to make her mad, alright?”

“Your people don't rely on fish, the way the Star-Fire do?” Jonn asked, curious. “What do you rely on, then, if I may ask?”

“We are sheep herders.” Uro replied. “We rely on them. Alpine sheep.”

“Ahh. Of course....” Jonn's voice trailed off as Kyllsa speared another fish.

She held the spear up, showing the grayling impaled by the tip. “You two want to try?” she asked, grinning. “Need to learn to do this, sooner or later.”

Jonn looked at Uro and shrugged. “Why not?” The two young men had become quite good friends, and both removed their boots and rolled their pantlegs up, to wade-clumsily-through the water to where Kyllsa was fishing. She placed the new fish into her basket and quietly, gracefully, waded through the water to stand next to them.

She handed the spear to Uro. “Here. You hold it like this...” Jonn paid close attention as Kyllsa showed Uro how to hold it, how to thrust it, what to watch for. In a moment, Uro was holding the spear at the ready, examining the water carefully, waiting for a fish.

Sukki and Avlynka watched from the bank, quietly giggling.

A fish appeared, and Uro thrust the spear, as Kyllsa had explained, striking exactly where he saw the fish... and missed. He sighed and readied himself again, repeating the episode two or three times before he finally turned to Kyllsa and asked, “Alright... what am I doing wrong?”

“The water makes the fish appear to be in a different place.” Jonn said, matter of factly. “Of course... refraction.”

Kyllsa nodded. “Yes... I haven't ever heard it called “refraction” before, but, the fish looks like it is higher in the water than it actually is. You need to strike below the fish... how far below depends on how deep in the water it is. You will get used to it.”

Uro handed the spear to Jonn. “Here... your turn.”

Jonn nodded, got his feet firmly planted, and watched the water intensely, the spear at the ready. When a fish appeared, he did a fast calculation in his mind and thrust... and withdrew a fat little trout.

“Nicely done!” Kyllsa said, clapping her hands. “See? Not hard to do.”

Uro rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah... beginner's luck.”

Avlynka and Sukki went to work cleaning the fish, as Kyllsa continued her lesson. Before long, Kyllsa, along with a bit of help from Jonn and Uro, had speared plenty of fish for the family to eat dinner. As Kyllsa had no family or children of her own, she had been unofficially “adopted” by the Surionens, and like all other members of the family, carried her share of the burden and chores.

The fish were cooked thoroughly over a small fire, and Olno and Tarja cut up some onions and fried them in a small pan. The dinner of fresh fish and onions, along with some vya, was a welcome change from smoked caribou, smoked fish, and dried rice.

After dinner, Sukki collected the dishes and walked to the stream to wash them, as Avlynka worked on some minor repairs to her dress. Uro and Jonn watched and listened as Kyllsa showed them how to make a fishing spear, as Olno and Tarja quietly watched the stars appear in the slowly-darkening sky, one by one.

Sukki's sudden yelp of pain grabbed everyone's attention, and when she began to scream, the group jumped up and ran towards the stream. Sukki lay on her side on the wet rocks along the shore, gripping her right ankle and screaming bloody murder, the metal dishes she was carrying scattered around nearby.

“Honey?!” Olno yelled, kneeling next to her. “Let us see it. Sukki! Let us look, alright?”

Sukki nodded, her screaming more of a deep, throaty moaning as she gingerly let go of her ankle. The outside of her ankle was swelling, and a large bruise had already spread across most of her ankle and the top of her foot. She lay on the ground, crying and sobbing, while Kyllsa gingerly examined her.

“Avlynka, go get some cedar poles... those ones we were making the spears of, those will work fine... and cut some leather into strips, please?” Kyllsa ordered. Avlynka obeyed, and Uro followed her.

“It's broken... right?” Sukki asked in a whiny, squeaky voice.

“Yes, honey, it is.” Kyllsa said. “Slipped on the rocks?”

Sukki nodded feebly as Tarja brushed her hair out of her face. “Yeah... I slipped.”

The rest of the Clan quickly checked in on them, but, as possible injuries go, Sukki's was actually rather mild. They picked Sukki up and helped her up the bank, where Kyllsa carefully checked to be sure that the bones were in place. Sukki squealed as Kyllsa set a bone, wrapped her ankle in a pressure wrap, and then fashioned a rather stout, sturdy brace of the cedar poles and leather strips, which quite effectively immobilized her foot.

“Alright, honey... you'll be fine. It will hurt for a while.” Tarja said, Sukki's head resting in her mother's lap as she lay on the ground. “Avlynka and Uro can make up some crutches for you, and for now, you can just ride on the trailer, alright?”

Jonn smiled and handed Sukki a small plastic bottle and a cup of water. “Here... pain pills. Take one. Yes, just like that... the water will help swallow... yes, there.” He sat down next to Sukki, smiling and talking to her, while he sketched in his notebook.

The next morning, the Clan resumed their travel, with Sukki sitting on the small trailer, holding on for dear life as it bounced along. It was six more days before they reached what would, hopefully, be their wintering ground for this year, setting up camp a short distance from the Nyakii River in the shelter of the spruce and cedars.

The first night in their new home, Avlynka watched the flickering ribbons of light of the aurora, winding their way across the sky in pale blues and greens. The Spirits sent signs through the aurora, signs that the Star-Fire had read, and followed, for generations.

The Spirits were saying that they had made a good choice to relocate.

That offered some reassurance, but Avlynka knew that, sometimes, the Spirits were wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:35 pm

Sanctuary II

The coastal forests along the Nyakii River are among the wonders of the universe. Towering spruce, fir, and cedar, some reaching heights of nearly 100m, grow from the rich soil, and every inch of ground is covered in ferns, moss, and undergrowth of every type. The rain and coastal fog leave everything in a perpetual state of damp and wet, and everything, from rifle barrels to clothing, had to receive special treatment to repel rust and rot.

Their new home was beautiful, it was safe, it was sheltered from the worst of the winter storms, the Clan having set up camp right along the edge of the forest, near the river. However, everything depended on the salmon, on the food supply they so desperately required to see them through the coming winter. Summer was past the midpoint, by several weeks... the salmon spawn would be winding down... would the salmon be there?

Kyllsa Siikanen walked quietly through the water, carefully picking her way, barefoot, across the smooth stones of the riverbed, the current gently pressing on her belly and legs complicating the effort somewhat. Kyllsa had been doing this now for over twenty years, and, while she was a notoriously horrible hunter, at fishing, she had few equals.

She watched the water, her eyes alert for the sudden flash of silver, the sunlight shining off of the fish beneath the water. She saw the flash, thrust the spear, instinctively, and withdrew a fat, sea-fresh salmon of almost 10 kilos.

“Thank you!” Kyllsa called to the sky, smiling. All around, salmon flashed, splashed in the shallows, and jumped. The unimaginable numbers of fish that were present at the height of the run had passed, but the river still held more than enough to enable the Star-Fire to store away plenty. Before long, other members of the clan, including Avlynka and Uro, waded and fished, and on the bank, the rest of Kyllsa's “family”, Tarja and Olno, Sukki and Jonn, cleaned their catch and smoked them, carefully, the scent of woodsmoke and salmon filling the Nyakii valley.

Kyllsa's kenkii was at the very edge of the camp, beneath the immense sheltering limbs of an enormous fir, and she slept soundly, listening to the wind rustle through its branches. She blinked awake, sitting up and stretching her arms high overhead, wiggling her fingers. She tossed her blankets aside and jumped up, immediately stepping into a long, heavy dress, buckling it closed. Her small fusion stove had not yet been set up, and the night's chill filled her home.

She expertly wove her way through the maze of hanging wind chimes, dreamcatchers, and totems hanging in her house, scarcely brushing one of them as she made her way to the door. She pulled on her boots, and stepped out into the freezing early morning air.

She walked perhaps twenty steps from her door, and vomited.

Kyllsa stood, her hands on her knees, hunched over. In an instant, she had gone from feeling fine, to feeling deathly ill; nauseous, feverish, sick. Slowly, her stomach settled, and she staggered back to her house, seeking fresh water and her toothbrush.

After a good toothbrushing and a small-very small-breakfast of one little piece of smoked salmon and a bit of bread, she walked to the river, to a flat stone she had come to enjoy the view from. The sun had risen, and its light and warmth beat the chill back beneath the trees, her rock nice and warm to the touch. She sat down and just rested, relaxing, quietly watching the world.

They had been at Nyakii for almost two weeks, and their fishing had been productive. She thought about her spear, laying lazily on the grass beside her, but decided that, for today, she could afford a day of rest, of laziness... especially after the morning's illness.

“Third morning in a row...” Kyllsa murmured softly, speaking to no one in particular.

A mink scurried through the rocks on the far bank of the river, here and there poking its head beneath some exposed tree roots, or beneath a stone, searching for morsels to eat. She smiled as she watched the small creature, its energy, its form... she could sense its tiny spirit, that part of all living things that is not merely physical, as she began to drift into a trance.

The spiritual manifestation of the valley was incredible; the dense forest, the fertile river, the lush undergrowth... life was everywhere, in unbelievable quantity. The trees, the fish, the minnows and birds and moss... and her. Her spirit, slightly different from the rest... slightly off.

She examined herself closely, trying to determine the cause. “The illness,” she thought, “whatever has been making me sick.” She looked, peered into herself, thinking that perhaps she had picked up some sort of parasite, or perhaps a touch of a stomach virus...

Then she saw it, there, inside, protected and warmed deep within her body, nestled safely above her pelvis... a second spirit. A tiny, vibrant, human spirit.

She blinked and the spirit world rushed away, back into the shadows as Avlynka sat down beside her and said, “Good morning.”

“I am not an invalid...” Kyllsa complained with a sigh. “I can help.”

“Its fine!” Sukki replied cheerfully, hobbling along on her brace-wrapped ankle. “You just be careful and take it easy, alright?”

Jonn scribbled furiously in his notebook at ever opportunity, holding it beneath his arm, pressed against his ribs, whenever Sukki would hand him another of Kyllsa's belongings, hanging them carefully from the frame poles in the Surionen's kenkii. He laughed as Kyllsa ran her fingers through her hair in obvious frustration. “Seems awful early into the pregnancy for complete rest, I suppose?”

“Yes.” Kyllsa replied sharply. “Women have been having children for... well, for as long as there have been women! I can help move my own belongings.”

Uro gently handed Kyllsa a folded bundle of her clothing, and quickly scurried back outside, away from the fierce glare she shot him, as Jonn's curiosity overpowered him. “Shaman?” he asked, a bit nervously.

“Yes?” Kyllsa replied, her voice carrying a hint of annoyance.

“Why, um, are you staying with the Surionens, now?” Jonn asked. “I am sorry if it is something that should be obvious, but... well, it is unusual, where I am from.”

Kyllsa quietly walked to the small corner of the kenkii she had been given and placed her clothing on top of a stack of crates. “Where you are from, women bear their children alone?” She replied, the annoyance in her voice replaced by utter confusion.

“I suppose that they do, in some cases.” Jonn sheepishly answered.

Kyllsa frowned as she thought about it. “Barbaric. Well, we certainly do not.” she said proudly. “If I were married, I would not be alone, of course, but... as I am not, I will stay with Tarja and her family.”

“I see...” Jonn replied, scribbling in his notebook again.

Kyllsa walked over and gently placed her hand onto his notebook, interrupting his writing. “Jonn, there is a time to write, and there is a time to listen.” she said quietly.

Jonn nodded after a short, contemplative pause. “Yes, Shaman. I suppose there is.”

The two sat down, out of the way of the people busying themselves with the relocation of Kyllsa's belongings, and for several minutes, quietly watched the goings-on, until, once again, Jonn's curiosity overwhelmed his timidness. “Shaman?” he asked.

“Yes?” Kyllsa replied.

“Tell me something.” Jonn asked, smiling nervously.

Kyllsa laughed. “I imagine that they will not tell me not to, hmm?” Kyllsa got comfortable, and asked Jonn to bring her a cup of hot water, which he promptly did. “Well...” Kyllsa began, gingerly placing a couple of pinches of a strong-smelling tea into the cup of steaming water, “... where would you like me to begin?”

“This place.” Jonn asked. “Nyakii. What can you tell me about it?” One of the most common topics in his college courses about the Minmatar people-which he had since learned were almost always incorrect-was the reverence that the Matari held for their homeland. He had heard the Star-Fire mention Nyakii as though it were a person, always using the polite form of their language when addressing or speaking of it, and he was eager to learn more.

Kyllsa took a sip of her tea and nodded happily. “Nyakii!” she exclaimed. “Of course... you do not know, do you?”

“Nope.” Jonn replied, grinning. “But I am ready to learn by listening.”

“Nyakii was one of Matar's first children, one of the first of the Sebiestor people to move to the Ko'mak.” Kyllsa said, smiling. “Back when Matar and her children were much closer than they are today. Nyakii was a shaman, the Clan-shaman of one of the first Clans to come to this place.”

Jonn nodded and staunchly resisted the almost instinctive impulse to reach for his notebook.

“The Krusual and the Sebiestor have been enemies since Matar brought us into being, and then, as with us, that Clan had come here, seeking safety from their enemies.” Kyllsa paused while Sukki handed her a small wooden box, which she set off her lap before continuing. “The Krusual had a shaman too, and he was a sly one. He summoned the spirits of Wind to send a powerful windstorm, so strong that it blew the sea onto the Land, to drown the Sebiestor.”

Jonn's failure to notice Sukki sitting down beside him showed how deeply his attention was focused on Kyllsa and her tale.

Kyllsa took another sip of tea and winked at Olno and Tarja as they sat down next to Sukki. “Nyakii heard the Wind, so she quietly spoke to Matar, and asked that she protect her and her people from the storm. Matar answered, and the huge trees, the cedars and spruce and firs, grew all along the coast, so tall and strong, their stands so dense, that Wind could not uproot them.”

Avlynka quietly took her place behind her parents, kneeling so that she could peek over the heads of her sister and father.

Kyllsa continued the well-rehearsed tale. “So the Krusual shaman tried a second time; he called upon the spirits of the Sky to send a terrifying storm to the coast. The storm rolled in, its clouds thick and black, and the lightning was so intense and frightening that all of the animals and birds fled, and hail to destroy all the shrubs and vines, leaving the Sebiestor with nothing to eat.”

Uro quietly sat down next to Avlynka, gently taking her hand. After a brief pause to let everyone get comfortable, Kyllsa began again. “Nyakii asked for help again, and this time she asked that Matar provide food for our people. Matar responded, and the salmon began to swim up the rivers, and have continued to do so every year, to ensure that our people have plenty to eat.”

Jonn smiled, as slowly, he began to understand.

“Sometimes,” Kyllsa said quietly, “Matar would of course provide for the Krusual too, as they are also her children, but she always has ensured that we are safe here, that we have what we need to get through the winters. Matar provides, but she plays no favorites.”

Kyllsa finished her story, and everyone slowly returned to their tasks, moving the rest of her few possessions into the Surionen's kenkii. When night came, Avlynka and Uro went to stay in their small temporary home-the Shaman's kenkii would remain unoccupied until Kyllsa was ready to move back in-and, one by one, they all lay down to go to sleep. Olno and Tarja retired to their bedroom, and after perhaps an hour more, Sukki, Jonn, and Kyllsa lay down to sleep, all sleeping on blankets in the front room. Sukki and Jonn whispered to one another, but Kyllsa paid them little mind as she grew sleepy, her eyelids heavy.

Kyllsa's last thought as she drifted off to sleep was whether Sukki was intending to press her knees into her back all night.

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Rek Jaiga


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Join date : 2011-09-10
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PostSubject: Re: On Top of the World   Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:44 am

((AMAZING! I just read it all and enjoyed it greatly! I particularly liked the bit where Avlynka and Uro read each other's marks and instantly knew each other's names and stories. I found about three or four epic quotes that I really wish I had the bio space to quote...))
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