It was an unbearably hot day in the land of Samutone as a large crowd of people were gathered at a nearby tower. They had been waiting there for a long time and the fact that so many inhabitants were packed so close together in one place made it hotter. They were awaiting an announcement of great significance; so important that the queen was to adress it.however people were becoming restless int the heat and wanted the affair to begin as soon as possible.
Many men and women could be seen doing anything in their power to get cooler. Some brought fans to ease the heat, while others simply resorted to blowing in each others faces. The blowing didn’t really help, it just made everyone get a lot of spit on them(and although it sounds disgusting, a few people found the saliva to be cooling them down, so they kept it on their faces) which meant that a lot of people were getting very frustrated.
Then they started to have light conversations about their thoughts on what the announcement could be about, just to try to ignore the heat. In fact, it was so hot that no one even noticed the young woman in the distance, sprinting as fast as she could to reach the tower. This girl’s name was Terra, and the reason of why she was running is that she had overslept that Sunday morning, on account of her being up late reading history books. Most children her age would have thought reading a history book was particularly dull, but Terra found them fascinating. She loved to read about how her great civilization was formed, about the lives of her ancestors, and she frequently read about her most favorite subject of all, the Nurinonando. Nurinonando meant “Great Protector,” and that’s precisely what he was.
The Nurinonando was essentially a military leader and was responsible for the safety of Samutone, a duty only given to great warriors. Terra had admired them all her life, and the Nurinonando had inspired her to become a warrior herself. In truth, she was the only female warrior in all of Samutone, something not everyone was thrilled about.
Teachers from the warrior training facilities had been quite reluctant to the idea of a girl becoming educated in the fighting arts. But once Terra had shown them her skills and dedication, and only at the tender age of eight, they were more than happy to accept her. Even prior to her first days at warrior training Terra had shown signs of exceptional strength and fighting abilities. At five years old she could already come to blows with boys twice her size. Terra, now seventeen, was even showing off her extraordinary skills at this very moment as she sped across the tough desert floor with ease. Soon she could make out the large collection of people on the horizon, and then pushed herself even faster, for fear that the announcement had already commenced.
Now the sound of the crowd’s conversations was reaching her ears, and Terra’s spirits lifted because she hadn’t missed a thing. She came to a stop at the edge of the crowd and took a minute to catch her breath, for she had been running for quite some time, but was glad to have made it. Working her way through the crowd, Terra looked skyward to the top of the tower, and could see a large balcony with elegant curtains that overlooked the assembly. This was where the Queen would be addressing the Samutonians, and Terra hoped that she would start soon, because Terra was beginning to be rather warm herself. The smell of sweat filling her nostrils, Terra waited patiently, thinking that if she didn’t move much, wouldn’t become very hot.
But the fact that she had just been running as fast as she could and was already exceedingly sweaty, didn’t help. Then Terra began to look through the crowd, trying to find someone she knew. After a few moments she spotted a tall boy with dark hair that was about her age, named Daemon. Daemon had been Terra’s friend as long as she could remember, and was also a fellow warrior. And what Terra liked about him greatest of all is that he was one of the few boys in her village that didn’t care if she was a woman. He respected her fighting talents and treated her as an equal.
Finding no way to get any further through the crowd, Terra decided to shout his name.
“Daemon!” she cried over the crowd. “Daemon, over here!” She waved her hands to get his attention. At the sound of his name, Daemon started to look around to find his caller. After a few seconds he spotted Terra, and waved his hands to show that he’d seen her. Terra shot him a huge smile but then turned her attention to the balcony, for an old bearded man who was clothed in a large robe had come out onto it. From the whispers that could be heard around her, Terra managed to work out that the old man was a member of the Council of Samut, which held the country’s wisest elders, who gave council to the Queen and sometimes made decisions for Samutone.
“Settle down everyone!” he bellowed over the crowd. “The Queen is now prepared to make her announcement, so pay attention!” Right away, the crowd became silent, ready for the moment they had all eagerly awaited. Terra sensed the man was angry somehow, because he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. “I now present to you, Samutonians, Queen Mina! Then the old man backed away behind the curtains, and a moment later they parted, revealing a woman of exquisite beauty. The Queen royally stepped out onto the platform of the balcony, and two servants quickly came out behind her carrying large fans, apparently to keep the Queen at normal temperature.
She observed the crowd below with care, as if she was afraid they would somehow slip away from her. Then Queen Mina cleared her throat, pushed her long brown hair out of her face, and began.
“People of Samutone, welcome.” She said, her clear voice ringing throughout the crowd. “I apologize for keeping you waiting in this intolerable weather, but I promise you will not leave disappointed.” She added. “As you all know by now, I have called you here today so I may announce something of great magnitude. Something that has taken me a great while to finally decide upon. Once I have said what I came here to say, I will have set into motion something that cannot be reversed.” The crowd was now as hushed as ever. The Queen then heaved a heavy sigh. “But it’s something I strongly feel must be done. We have enjoyed peace here in Samutone for nearly 10 years, due to the truce with our rivals’, the Horcot.” Murmurs of agreement came from the crowd, followed by silence once more.
“But latelynI have had restless nights, and have not known why until now.” She then dismissed her fanners, telling them that if her people had to suffer in this heat, so did she. “What I’ve realized is that no matter how long peace has graced our nation or the lands that surround it, it can end at any moment.” She declared.
Terra did not have the slightest idea of where the Queen was going was this, and by the increasing silence of the people around her, Terra figured they didn’t either. “And what I’ve furthermore come to realize is that the only way I will ever sleep easy again in my bed is to make certain that my people are in competent hands.” Then Queen Mina paused, as if she was unsure if what she was about to say was the right. Finally she spoke, and it seemed as if it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do. “My dear Samutonians, we must choose another Nurinonando.”
At this the crowd went wild. Shouting and clapping and whooping could be heard. People cheered and threw their hats in the air. They were very pleased at this news, for a Nurinonando had not been chosen in over 30 years, and people had been waiting forever for something exciting to happen to spice up their somewhat boring everyday life.
Mina then raised her hand to the crowd, and they immediately settled down once again. “All who believe they stand a chance of becoming Nurinonando, come to the Hollow Chamber one week from now at noon.” The Queen continued. “But it will not be simple,” she warned. “The choosing of Nurinonando is the most perilous of all rituals ever created within Samutone, and only those strong of mind and body will be able to complete it. And once you have started, there is no turning back.”
Whispers broke out in the crowd.
“I understand a number of you still recall the previous choosing, and may remember it being less dangerous, but times have changed, and standards have gone up.” She explained. “Any Warrior that has graduated from the training facilities can enter the choosing, they only have to present their diplomas at the start of the ritual.” The Queen then wiped a drop of sweat that was trickling beneath her nose. “Now I bid you all farewell, my Samutonians, for I’m sure the heat will soon make us sick, and I do not want to keep you here any longer.” And after a smile and a wave, the Queen turned away from the crowd, and put her hand to her head as if having a bad headache. “Open the curtains.” She ordered the servants with the fanners, and they hurriedly obeyed as she walked back inside the tower.
Terra stood frozen as the people around her dispersed and began the journey back to their villages. The news of the Choosing had struck her hard. All her life she had thought of the Nurinonando as a hero, someone very distant from her. But her diploma from the training facilities was sitting in a drawer inside her room.
She had always wanted to help people, and maybe now….No, she told herself firmly, she could never be good enough to do it. Or maybe she just didn’t want to be. A wave of thoughts ran through her head. She saw herself on a large stage in front of many people. They were clapping for her, shouting her name, and praising her. She could see the Queen behind her, clapping as well, with a large smile on her face. Terra felt happier than she ever had before. She climbed down from the stage and shook hands with many people in the crowd, all of them as happy as she was. She could also see herself on top of a large hill, commanding vast armies, while doing battle herself against enemies from afar.
And again she saw the people praising her, chanting her name, when all at once she snapped out of her daydream at the sound of a horse neighing. Terra noticed a large carriage coming out of the opposite side of the tower that was being drawn by two large black horses. The Queen is probably in there, thought Terra. And she was right. The Queen’s home was in a large castle a few miles away, this tower was only used for announcements and sometimes special ceremonies. Then Terra filled with a newfound hope. The Queen wants Samutone to be safe, to be in competent hands, she said. Terra would be helping her country; she would be making sure that all her people would be safe from harm. Maybe, just maybe, she could become Nurinonando.
Terra jumped in surprise as someone tapped her lightly on the arm.
“It’s just me!” he cried. Terra turned to see Daemon standing behind her, and then gave a sigh of relief. “Aren’t you coming?” he questioned.
“Oh, ye-yeah.” Terra answered, still just coming out of her daydream. “I was just watching the Queen leave in her carriage.”
“Ok, well let’s go,” Daemon declared, “because I’m starving.” It was getting close to lunchtime, Terra thought, because Daemon never missed when it came to food. Soon
Terra and Daemon were close to the rest of the people who were walking home, when they spotted a red-haired boy about their age running towards them.
“Oh, no” Terra grumbled, making a frown. “It’s Ray, the most obnoxious kid in Samutone.”
“You said it.” Daemon agreed. Ray had been bothering Terra for the longest time, and always seemed to make it his special duty to get on her last nerve. But today Terra didn’t feel like dealing with him. By the time Ray got up to them, Terra and Daemon had forced a smile, in hopes of getting him to leave quickly.
“Hi Ray, nice to see you!” Terra exclaimed in her most sincere tone. Daemon just kept his mouth shut, because usually Terra did most of the talking. Then Ray stopped short.
“Wait a second,” he said, “when have you ever been happy to see me?”
“What do you mean?” Terra asked as innocently as she could.
“Well, it seems like you want to run away from me whenever I come near you.” He said matter-of-factly.
“I never did that.” She said with an awkward laugh. “Stop joking around.” Ray gave her a perplexed look. “So,” Terra spoke, trying to change the subject, “Were you at the announcement?”
“Of course I was at the announcement!” Ray replied. “Why do you think I’m walking home then, Terra? Jeez! Are you stupid or something?”
“No.” Terra said through gritted teeth, ready to strangle him.
“That was really something back there, about the whole Nurinonando thing, I’m thinking about entering.” He said proudly. Terra rolled her eyes. She had always wondered how Ray had ever graduated from the training facilities in the first place. It couldn’t have been because of his combat abilities.
“Of course, I was the first one there, so I was at the front of the crowd.” Ray said smugly. “Weren’t you there early, Terra?” he asked, knowing what the answer was.
“I overslept.” Terra mumbled.
“What, I couldn’t here you, Terra.” said Ray, cupping his ear annoyingly.
“Look Ray, why don’t you just leave her alone?” Daemon jumped in.
“What!” He said, as if he was hurt, “I’m just asking Terra a simple question.” Then he cupped his ear again.
“I overslept.” She said louder. “I ran here as fast as I could because I was afraid I would miss the whole thing.”
“Oh, really?” Ray said as if he were talking to a small child. “Well, let me give you a kiss to make it all better.” And then he leaned in close to her, pursing his lips.
Terra grabbed his hand and twisted it backwards.
Ray screamed in pain and sank to his knees. “L-Let go!” he cried. Terra just bent his hand harder.
“Let me make sure you get something straight.” Terra said very calmly. “You get close to me again and the hand comes off.” Then she threw his hand out of hers like it was something repulsive. Ray just rubbed his sore wrist and, without a word, ran off like a scared puppy. “Idiot.” Terra said. She then turned to Daemon. “You could have done the same thing to him, why didn’t you?” she asked.
“Well,” Daemon started, “I guess just because I’m skilled in combat doesn’t mean I have beat up every loser that comes my way.” He shrugged. Then Terra gave him a smile.
“Oh, you don’t have to beat up every loser that comes your way.” Terra said sympathetically. “Just Ray.” Then Terra and Daemon started laughing, and joked around with each other the rest of the way home.
Terra and Daemon were now approaching their home village, Dansa. It was alive with people, at this very moment, for they were entering the marketplace part of town. Many people could be seen trading goods at small stands that sold fruit, vegetables, and many other foodstuffs. As Terra was walking by one particular jewelry shop she could see a very large woman fighting with a merchant over the price of a pair of earrings that she argued would look just GORGEOUS on her. Yeah, maybe if you lost a hundred pounds, thought Terra.
Then they arrived at an intersection in the street and Daemon bid farewell to Terra, because his house was in the opposite direction, but told her they’d meet up later after lunch. Terra waved goodbye, and then turned and headed for her own home. The buildings and homes in Samutone were made with a special substance called Tanlem, a type of clay which is found in the underground mines. When left to dry, this clay turns light orange and becomes harder than concrete, therefore buildings built with it could last for years. Now Terra was walking through a very busy part of Dansa, and was getting pushed around by many people in the congested street.
Two people walking her way were holding hands, so Terra had to duck to avoid them. Then a very large man, even larger than the woman Terra had spotted earlier, was drawing near to her, and she was stuck against the wall. When he passed her Terra swore she had broken a rib, for the man had pressed her smack-dab against the hard wall.
Finally Terra had broken through all the inhabitants, and was now traveling on the last path to her home. For a while Terra walked, until there was no one on the road but her. However, Terra had not noticed the large group of boys that had formed behind her. Soon she could sense them behind her, but continued going.
“Hey look, it’s Terra.” The boy at the front said while pointing a finger at her. “Maybe she needs me to walk her home, because after all she’s by herself and might get frightened.” The rest of the boys began snickering. Terra ignored them. “Good thing I’m here to protect her.” He said obnoxiously. “Don’t worry Terra; I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.” Terra still ignored them. Seeing that she wasn’t responding to him, the boy at the front decided to try something else. “Hey TEEEERRRRAAAAAAA!” he yelled.
“What do you want!” said Terra, spinning around. “Haven’t you guys got anything better to do to fill up your pathetic lives than follow girls around and act like morons!” she exploded. Terra had just finished taking care of Ray, and really didn’t feel like putting up with these guys.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” the boy demanded. “Beat us all up?” The rest of them erupted in laughter.
“I would,” declared Terra, fuming, “Except I don’t like to play with trash.” The boys then got quiet, and the one at the front turned slightly red. Terra then simply turned and started walking home again.
“Hey!” the boy at the front hollered. “Come back here, I’m not done talking to you!” He started walking up to Terra, and the rest of the boys followed him like obedient dogs. Terra kept up a steady pace, as if nothing was happening. “Stop right there.” He commanded, and put a hand on Terra’s shoulder. Terra stopped abruptly, but it wasn’t because she was scared.
Her eyes narrowed.
“Did you touch me?” she asked.
“Yeah, I did.”
“Just checking.” Her right elbow shot back, striking him in the stomach. The boy groaned and bent forward. Then quick as lighting, her clenched fist levered up, hitting him squared in the face.
“AHH!” he screamed, grabbing his nose as the blood started running down his face. He then fell to the floor, yelling in pain. Without even turning around to look down upon her victim, Terra just kept walking like nothing had taken place. And she didn’t have to look back to know that all the rest of the boys were hurriedly scurrying away, afraid to be next.
Terra had now reached her home. She lived in a small house made of Tanlem, just like everybody else in her neighborhood. But her house had lots of small decorations all around it, making it more unique than most of the other houses. Let’s just say that Terra’s mother had a bit of a hobby with decorating. As Terra was entering the front door of her house, she could already hear the voices of her young brothers playing in the back.
[pre]“Mama[/pre], I’m back!” she shouted. Terra was so glad to be home, because she had beaten up enough guys for the day. Immediately her brothers were racing in to meet her. Terra’s home! They yelled as they ran inside, and soon were soon standing face to face with there sister. The one in the very center, named Juman, was a 12 year old boy who had dark brown hair like Terra. Juman was very reckless sometimes, and liked to go play by himself in the desert, shooting his slingshot, which he always seemed to be carrying around. The chubby 14 year old boy at the right, named Manu, who also had brown hair, was very full of attitude, and was never afraid of speaking his mind. And finally, the tall boy at the left was Bant, a 13 year old with black hair who was too smart for his good. Although he was always around when you needed help solving a problem, he’d usually push you aside and solve it for you.
For the first few moments, Terra was listening to a jumble of loud words, for her brothers were talking all at once.
[pre]“One [/pre]at time.” She laughed. “I can’t understand a thing you guys are saying.”
[pre]“Ok, [/pre]well me first.” demanded Manu, shoving his brothers away. “What happened at the announcement?” Juman and Bant also wanted to know the same thing.
[pre]“Come [/pre]on,” said Terra gesturing them further inside, “First let’s get Mama and then I will tell you all about it.”
[pre]“Fine.” [/pre]They all said in unison, and followed their sister. Terra was headed for the kitchen. Once she got there, she found that her mother wasn’t there.
[pre]“Um, where [/pre]is Mama? Terra asked her brothers.
[pre]“She’s [/pre]out back,” replied Bant. “Trying to hang some kind of curtain on the window. But I’m not entirely sure she is doing it correctly.” The three boys and Terra never really took much interest in their mother’s decorating; they found it to be extremely boring.
But as long as she didn’t go redoing their rooms they were happy. Coming outside, Terra could see her mother, hanging up a curtain like Bant said. But when she tried to hang one end, the other came off. It seemed as if she had been doing this for a while. At her mother’s frustration, Terra turned to her brothers.
[pre]“Why [/pre]didn’t you help her!” she whispered.
[pre]“She [/pre]never asked us to!” Juman answered, also in whisper.
[pre]“So, [/pre]what.” Said Terra, “You still help her even if she doesn’t ask!”
[pre]“Why [/pre]are you all whispering?” They all jumped back as Noma, Terra’s mother, spoke right behind them. Then she gave Terra a big hug.
[pre]“I missed [/pre]you so much!” she exclaimed.
[pre]“I’ve only [/pre]been gone a couple hours, Mama.” Terra said.
[pre]“Oh, I know[/pre], it’s just that I hate it when your away from me.” Her mother said with a smile.
[pre]“Sure [/pre]you do, Mama.” The boys said sarcastically.
[pre]“Oh, hush[/pre], you three!” Noma yelled. Then she said, also sarcastically, “Oh, sorry boys, I forgot that it’s not appropriate these days for mothers to actually love their children. What was I thinking! And all this time I’ve been letting you sleep in the house! What kind of mother am I? Don’t worry boys. From now on I will make you sleep outside on the hard, unforgiving floor and make sure I only feed you the stuff I find under the couches.”
Then she started to walk inside, taking the curtain with her, leaving the boys with a look of terror on their faces. But before entering she shot Terra a grin.
[pre]“Don’t [/pre]worry boys,” Terra told them. “Mama’s just joking.” A look of relief came over their faces. “Or is she?” Terra wondered, rubbing her chin.
[pre]“Terra!” [/pre]they all shouted, following her inside. Terra had to reassure them that she was really joking. They actually started to believe her. Terra figured her brothers didn’t pick on sarcasm well. After a couple of minutes they were all settled down in the kitchen. The kitchen was simple, having a sink that was full of dishes, and the various decorations that Noma put on the wall and counters.
It also had a fire oven and one table with five chairs. Juman sat down on the floor while Bant and Manu preferred to sit on the chairs. Noma pulled one up herself as Terra stood in front of them all and began to describe the ceremony she had attended. Ten minutes later Terra was finished, although she left out the parts about Ray and the group of boys that were following her. She knew her mother didn’t like to hear about fights unless she had to. The boys reacted in a very obvious way at the news of the choosing. They jumped up and began to exclaim how awesome it was that a Nurinonando was going to be chosen. Then they asked Terra if she was joking.
[pre]“No, I’m [/pre]not,” she said. “They really are picking another one. Besides, why would I joke about something like that?” Then Juman sprang up, but bent down to pick up his slingshot he dropped.
[pre]“But [/pre]Terra, you’re good at fighting and stuff, are you going to join?” He questioned. Terra was taken aback by this.
[pre]“Um[/pre], well, I guess—.” She stammered.
not, Juman.” Noma answered for her. “Terra wouldn’t enter something as ridiculous as that. I can’t even believe they made such a fuss over this whole choosing thing. If you ask me I think it’s just a show for the villagers. We’re in a time of peace, for goodness sake! What is a Nurinonando going to help?”
Terra heart dropped.
She felt coldness come over her, as if she’d just realized something terribly, terribly wrong.
[pre]“Mama, I’m [/pre]going out.” She said quickly.
[pre]“No, no[/pre], you just got here.” Her mother replied. “Besides, I was just about to prepare lunch, don’t you want to eat?
[pre]“No, I’m [/pre]not very hungry. And I said I’d meet Daemon later, and I don’t want to break my promise.”
“But Terra, you haven’t eaten all day, I’m sure Daemon will understand. Please, stay, I’ve made your favorite, baked potatoes.”
“Just save me some.” Said Terra as she made for her room, got her bow and arrows, and started to go out the door.
“But Terra,” her mother said, “are you sure you don’t want to stay? Your brothers haven’t seen you all day.” Terra stopped inches from the door. She looked down at her brothers faces. She wanted nothing more right now than to spend time with them eating lunch, then going outside to play games. It seemed to her that they were growing up to fast. They looked up at her with those innocent eyes, shining up through their slightly dirty faces with a look of disappointment. How she loved them. But she couldn’t stay, not now.
Terra gulped and exhaled.
"I’m sure."With that she walked out the door and made for her and Daemon’s meeting place.
Blue as blue can be was the color of the sky today. An afternoon sun hung in its depths radiating heat to warm the land of Samutone. A light breeze dancing in the air was a perfect touch to a perfect moment. Although the heat had been unimaginable just a few hours earlier, it had somehow cooled down as if time had stopped.
Terra’s heart felt as if it was falling forever. Her feet felt cold like she was standing in ice that would never melt. She felt tears forming behind her eyes that did not have the courage to come out and drip down her face. And worst of all her heart felt constricted, her lungs out of air. She had wanted to enter the Choosing, because she thought she would be doing something great, something that would make her so special. But her mother didn’t think the Choosing was worth thinking about.
Her comments had shred her soul, and now Terra did not know what to do. After that, how could she tell her mother she wanted to enter? Terra thought as marched across town, to a special meadow where she and Daemon met to practice arching. But she had to enter. She had been waiting for something like this her whole life. Something inside her was saying it was the right thing to do, but another side said it was a stupid.
It’s your life! Do whatever you want to do! said one side.
But Mama doesn’t approve, and I don’t want to disappoint her, sighed the other.
Terra felt lost.
And there was no map to guide her[pre][/pre]