The dew shimmered on the fronds of fern and grass, refracting the beams of sunlight that reached down from the high cliffs above. Rafir stroked them between his fingers as he tried to relax, hypnotizing himself in the glimmering drops.
He had been troubled again by a recurring dream. To the tribe, his dream was a gift, a portal into a world of spirit and magic, initiating Rafir into the Thral Koreshi, Keepers of the Spirit. However, since that time, the recurrence of this dream had become a persistent nightmare. The dream was now so frequent during his sleep that he could not dismiss them from his mind's eye, day or night. Always, there was a great warrior wandering through sights and places that were impossible for Rafir to describe, flurries of images with sand, water, fire and dark emptiness. The images were both frightening and foreign to Rafir, all except one. Always, at the end of the dream, Rafir would see his home Godwell Valley. Suddenly awakened from his trance by the skirting rush of a frightened lizard, Rafir sighed, wishing for rest.
That was when he heard a ruckus further down in the valley floor. People were murmuring, and he could tell that something unexpected had distracted the tribe's attention from their daily routines. Rushing down the path toward the main village, Rafir could start to make out the crowd. They were grouped along the main path that led out of Godwell Valley, staring and pointing at a solitary figure that moved down the path toward the village. He looked to be a man, a hooded man in a weathered desert cloak, walking steadily, bearing an old-style rifle, knapsack, a pack and the traditional Drevis Knife of the Koreshi on his belt. Other Thral elders moved to the front of the crowd as the traveler approached. Rafir worked his way through the crowd, moving in behind the other Thrals. A silence settled over the crowd as the traveler continued to approach, till finally he stopped five meters from the crowd. Time seemed to stand still for that moment.
Shaddin, the eldest of the Thral, spoke, "You bear the markings of a Koreshi stranger. We ask that you share your story with us. Who are you, and what may we offer you?"
The traveler lifted his cloak to reveal a weathered, bearded face. Rafir grabbed his chest and nearly yelped out loud at the sight of the man's face. It matched the look of the warrior in his dream. The traveler then spoke, "I am a Jonus Herasi. I have come to be cleansed."
"We do not recognize you, traveler," Shaddin rebuffed in gentleness, "but surely you have a name?"
"I have no name. I lost it a long time ago. I only know that I am firstborn of Reina, wife of Farehl."
"I know of the woman that you speak. She has long passed into the Great Cycle," the old man replied. "However, I still do not remember you. I am curious, from when did you last depart on your journey?"
"Thirty cycles this past sunset," the traveler answered plainly.
"You have apparently traveled far and long then," Shaddin answered back. "Please enter and be cleansed. We must learn what you have discovered during your sacred wanderings. You may stay in my tent if it please you. You may eat and rest, then you can share with us your stories by the fire."
The traveler simply nodded and then followed Shaddin into the heart of the village. Lifting the flap to his tent, Shaddin's urged the traveler into his tent. The entire village followed; there had not been such a stir in the tribe for sometime. After the traveler had disappeared inside, Shaddin turned and spoke to the crowd. "Go to your business for the day. There will be plenty of time to talk of his stories over the coming season." With more murmuring, the crowd slowly dispersed, except for Rafir. Eyeing him, Shaddin asked, "And what of you?"
"Elder," Rafir answered. "There is something that you must know. You have counseled me on my dream, my sacred dream. That man is the warrior in my dreams, the dreams of my initiation."
There was a long pause, as Shaddin reflected. Finally he spoke plainly, "Then it is you who will lead the cleansing."
"Me?" Rafir spoke in astonishment. "Elder, I am the youngest of the Thral, surely there are others that would be better."
"Yes, you," Shaddin reaffirmed. "My young Rafir, dreams are the portals through which the spirits communicate with us. It is clear that the spirits have chosen you to this task. You must not refuse."
"But I have never led a ritual cleansing before," Rafir explained.
"Then it is time for you to learn," Shaddin spoke with a wink, "but first you shall attend to his needs. Now, go inside." Shaddin moved off to leave Rafir standing alone in front of the tent. After a short while, Rafir moved intrepidly forward and opened the tent flap, entering inside.
To be continued...
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