by Jano Donnachaidh
The boy walked into the roundhouse. It was like any of the other roundhouses that populated their village, made of timber and wood with strong thatch and stone foundations and bases. It was a sturdy building able to withstand almost any natural onslaught and most unnatural ones. The ceiling peaked in the center where a small secondary peak allowed smoke to file out of a hole allowing for a clear inside atmosphere even though the center hearth may burn a heavy fire to keep the whole roundhouse warm. But tonight the fire was small, only large enough to light and warm the immediate area and then the four men that sat there were partially in shadows.
He had reached his twelfth cycle of seasons, the beginning of the fourth and last quan of childhood. It was time to leave his childhood behind. He would not be a man for another four cycles at the end of the quan and it was time for the journey to manhood to begin. The question that faced him, that faced all the male children at this age, was that of position within the Tana. Would he be equal in position, guidance, wisdom, and council with the women? Or would he be a defender the home, caring for the children, herding the animals, making the crafts, and farming the land like most Tana men? It was a strange fate he thought that made males and females so diverse. The females were the stronger, physically superior of the two sexes. They held the Councils, lead the Clans, demanded to honour and loyalty of all the Tana. They were born to be hunters and warriors and to provide issue for continuance of their kind. And yet it was the males who received the most powerful gifts of the gods. Females showed some talent in two of the four gifts, but it was the males who could truly master the talents and it was those males who rose to equal status to the women that ruled Tana society. But the gods wisdom is not something to be questioned. This is how it has always been, this is how it always will be, everything is as it should.
But even so, he thoughts betrayed him. These were not the thought of a child of twelve cycles. And yet neither was his body. He was smaller than others his age, frailer. He was of little use in the fields. He would never be of value defending the land against raiders and invaders. Still he could be useful as a shepherd, or a craftsman, or possibly as a father tending to the youths of the village. But these were not his hopes. These were not his desires. They never had been his dreams. He had looked forward to this day and now it was upon him. This day, this night he faced the Quan Council, the Council of the MasterWrights. No higher men existed among the Tana and these four traveled around all the villages roving. Boys came under their scrutiny, the deliberation and left either an apprentice the Wrights, or to live a life among those that did not possess godly gifts. They were to decide his destiny and he was ready to face them.
He looked upon the men on the other side of the fire as the light danced across their faces, beards, and clothes. The smoke rose up in a single file through the flue high in the ceiling. These MasterWrights watched he approached. One wore the red robes of a BloodWright. They were the physicians and healers among the Tana. They kept bodies and spirit pure among the Tana. Another wore the green robes of the NatureWright. Their responsibility were the animals, the flora and fauna. They protected the land from drought and the people from famine, the animals from disease and helped provide prosperity. A third wore the blue robes of the ScryeWright. They kept the record of the past and the visions of the future. They witnessed what happened many miles away and what could happen. The final Master wore the black robes of the DragonWright. His was the most powerful position and the guild for which the boy wished, dared to hope that he would show some glimmer of talent. Slowly, terrified and frightened he approached stopping outside the square. As he completed the form, one spoke.
"Durgana," his voice was low, impossibly low, and rough. Yet it was as if music filled the hall, irresistible beautiful music. It was the DragonWright that spoke. "You are to be tested in the forge of fire for the talents of the gods, gifts to be used for the good of all Tana as birthright. It is a rite of passage unrefuseable, undeniable, and a responsibility that must be recognized as a blessing from the gods and used in their service to benefit their people, the Tana."
"It was many cycles ago," the second voice began as the first provided harmony to the new melody, "beyond recorded memory but not beyond tale and not beyond the abilities of the scrye, The Tana were surrounded by war. A great society crumbled around the island that was the home of the Tana. Hadula showed the ScryeWrights the past and they saw another land, a land from which the Tana had come to this island. He showed them the present and they saw the death of the Tana if they remained. Hadula showed them the future and what could come if the wisdom was heeded. The ScryeWrights saw this land again, this ancient home, and the Tana were there. But they also saw a long journey across the ocean, a journey to an inland sea full of strife and fear. And yet, the journey was not complete. This was not the home of the Tana as they continued to sail, weak, diseased, dying, and yet still proud, still searching through courage and strength for a home waiting both ancient and glorious, waiting for the Tana."
The third voice came in taking the melody above the dual harmony below, "Hana lead us, her people across this ocean, through the straights and to this inland sea. She provided fish and water, yet our bodies were sore,were rotting. For almost a cycle we rowed and sailed as she lead the Tana went west. Our bodies were failed but our spirits soared as she held them in trust for our survival. It was her land to which she lead the Tana. Always at night we saw her crown in the sky calling us forth, westward until we reached the island of strife and fear. We despaired as war was again about to surround us if we landed on this troubled soil. But there was glory in our faith, in our strength even as our physical bodies withered. Then, one night her crown exploded. The stars fell to the east and a great surge of wind filled our sails and our hearts. Our bodies gained strength and our souls filled with glory, and hope. Hana blew our fleet through another straight undo the breadth of water Tanamir. She blew the Tana to this land, this land that Hadula had shown us in the past and future. She revived our spirits to new heights as she knitted our bodies. Rich in abundance of all the things necessary for life Hana brought her people here to live and thrive on Tanamir."
"But Hayla, child of Hana and Hadula knew the way would not be easy." A fourth voice broke in with a new melody to the three lower harmonies. "Hayla took us into this land and showed us the soil, taught us how to grow again and which plants could be eaten and which plants could not. She taught us to bring the most of our yield. She brought in the cattle, the sheep, and the seine and taught the Tana how to care for them and help them prosper. Hayla told us the ways of the animals so that we may understand them and heal them and bid them do our asking. She taught the Tana to survive on this new Ancient land on Tanamir."
The first voice again took control of the melody; more intense, driving the music forward. "But that was not enough. There were other peoples about Tanamir and without. The war that brewed on the island from which Hana took the Tana and the island to which she brought the Tana still caused strife and fear. But Hana had brought us away from the islands to this land on Tanamir. Her job was done, she had taken care of her people. Still Hadula saw that the Tana were not free of the burdens of this world. War would still threaten our borders, his people. So Hana the Healer and Hadula the seer brought forth their second child, brother of Hayla the Prosperer. Halata the Dragon came to teach the Tana, already warriors, already sailors, to defend themselves from any enemy. He taught us the ways of the Dragon. Halata showed the Tana how to cover themselves in battle, how to call the silent wind to hide their presence, to use the Voice to strike fear in the enemy, and the Dragons breath to drive them before the Tana beaten and burned. But Halata had no compassion for the others that lived on Tanamir and lived in peace. Where Hana would heal, Halata burned. Where Hadula offered wisdom, Halata offered hatred and war. Where Hayla offered growth and prosperity, Halata destroyed."
He continued, "The Tana are a mixture of a great many things, good and evil, peace and war, old and new, tradition, and vision. But the Tana preserve their ancient way of life. That way of life demands duty, honour, and glory. If you have the gifts of the gods, those talents must be used for the good of all Tana. That is your only choice."
The four voices joined in harmony as a they sang. Chanting around the fire the smoke grew into a straight column streaming to the flue to find release into the night sky. The fire flared growing larger and casting a glow upon the MasterWrights that spoke of magic and power. It seemed an eternity as Durgana watched and listened to the music that became more of a tangible feeling through the core of his soul than an audible sound. The fire grew white and the smoke lightened but remained straight. The boy watched in awe and in fear.
The Hayla mage, the NatureWright thrust his hand into the fire, straight, palm down, stiff. "If Hayla has given you her talents then you will learn to make the soil pure, to clear the water, make the plants grow and ripen before your eyes, to understand the animals and bind them to your bidding, to ease their pains and help their prosperity for all the good of the Tana." His flesh did not burn but remained intact and the fire around it turned green. Above the flames the smoke remained white but a tendril of green rose through the tendril from the Wrights hand.
The Hana mage, the BloodWright thrust his hand into the fire in the same manner. "If Hana has gifted you with her talents, you will learn to knit the flesh from wound, to end bone from break, to protect the life blood from disease and illness, to ease labor and pain and death. You will mend the body, the soul, and the spirit of the Tana faster than they can heal themselves alone for the good of the Tana." His hand was enveloped in red fire within the white flames and a red tendril of smoke intertwined with the green tendril within the white column.
The Hadula mage, the ScryeWright thrust his hand into the fire in the same fashion. "If Hadulas talents have been given to you, he will teach you to watch the past for wisdom and the future for folly. To tell what the fortune of what is coming and help guide through the troubles that are yet to be seen. He will show you events at great distances to prepare the Tana for all comings and to avoid the waste of Tana life. He will teach you these things so you may aid the Tana in prosperity and growth for the good of the Tana." His hand was unsinged but surrounded by blue flame within the white. A blue tendril wove itself into the green and red in the white smoke that escaped above into the night sky.
The Halata mage, the DragonWright thrust his hand into the fire. "If Halata has given you power of the gifts of the dragon, you will learn to craft the dragons image and bestow these talents upon this image for use in protection and battle. A horn fashioned in the form of the dragon sends forth the Dragons Song sending the enemy running before the Tana frightened and weakened. A ship guided by a dragon hides in the Dragons Wing, silent and hidden by fog and mist to attack and escape our enemy. A tower in the visage of a dragon issues the Dragons Wing and uses the Dragons Song to warn of enemy approach on our border calling forth our warriors and frightening our foes sending them fleeing in terror. And a stave formed with the head of the dragon holds the Dragons Breath. Only the greatest DragonWrights can form the stave and use it to blind and burn the enemy near and far. Halata is a responsibility to be guided and held in trust for the good of the Tana." Black flame formed around his hand and swirled in to join the prior three in the white column.
It was time for the boy to move. He would place his hand in the fire, in the same manner of the MasterWrights. He would either be burnt by the fire hotter than any normal flame or he would be one of them. Outside many eyes of the village were on the smoke emitting in a single long straight column. Clearly they could see the green, red, blue, and black tendrils in the white column. They knew the meaning as all Tana knew the meaning of the Quan Council. A father looked on with hope that his son would not be hurt badly and that he may find his wish. A mother looked on with pride knowing that her son would one day join her side in council and stand for the good of all Tana.
As they looked on, the smoke began to turn black until all other smoke was extinguished except for the black pillar rising into the night sky. To the Tana a new DragonWright was born.