When they first came about, they were a primal phoenix rising from the ashes, determined, opposed, fierce. The world that had died to birth them was wondrous, a mix of enlightenment and the vestiges of the tyrannical cruelty that had created it. That world, filled with the purest of intents and the greed of ignorance, collapsed. In its apathy and infinite hunger for more, it ate its own legs, chemo-ed its defences, and ostracized its thinkers. When that world fell it brought down a star field worth lives with it, the earth turned on them. The small things turned on them. They then turned on each other. They cannibalized and raped the remnants while trying to survive off of the hate they knew. Those diseased peoples fell away, and these people, the people that hid in a small community deep in the mountains emerged, healthy, whole, and wary. They embraced the knowledge that had accumulated by the well meaning, but ill advised past. They learned from the triumphs and mistakes carved into history by that dead civilization. They built a library, aptly named Alexandria, then they built a political system that allowed for democratic governance and the enshrinement of professional academics. They called these academics Shamen, a nod to the most ancient of intellectuals and divided their pursuits into specific classes. The Coyotes, who would culminate the social sciences, the Healers who would study and practice medicine, the Caretakers were masters of the life sciences, and the Engineers, those that would apply the physical sciences to the communities needs. There was a fifth society, one of secrecy and protection, they hid as average people with hidden, extraordinary training, an unknown people that were charged with the protection of the society and the civil population.
After these people developed their place in the land, they felt comfortable enough to begin to migrate, to expand their little society. As they grew, time passed. The horrors of the past melted away and the more mundane became the major concerns of the day. The Engineers no longer had to figure out how to clean water or create weapons, they now focused on irrigation, milling, and their imaginings of the past. The Caretakers now knew the migration routes of elk, the routes through the mountains, and every version of flora and fauna in their territory. The Scouts no longer defended against militarized cannibals, but instead knew where the mammalian predators roamed and quietly investigated concerns the village Coyotes had about the rare yet severely unjust transgressions that occurred in their little communities. The Coyotes themselves no longer spent their time trying to lead a terrified flock of survivors, they spent their time counselling couples, teaching children, and mentoring the guilds and politicians. The diseases of old, the ones born of a congested and unsanitary population, had died off with their victims, leaving the healers to focus on mending bones and the challenges of the different life cycles within the population. That mystical fiery raptor, once lithe and prepared for any challenge, now slumbered, fat and safe. It stretched out on its back, draped over the mountains out to the sea, content in its new home, belly exposed to the whole wide world, tranquil in its knowledge that the dangers were gone, and it alone survived.
Tonight, in the outermost village of Shaddyknoll, a squat man hurried down the north path of the foothill crossroads. His village was situated to the south of this landmark, the westerly path led towards Alexandria and trade with the other small settlements of the great city's lineage. He was rushing to the Healer's lodge in the Satellite Compound, just outside of town, up the northern road.
His wool cloak was drenched due to the autumn storm that he had just ventured through. The soaked hood had collapsed around his face limiting his view of the surrounding area, to that of the oblong perspective an archer would see through the arrow slit in a castle wall. The weight of the sodden cloak went unnoticed, his mind was excited, he was fantasizing at how happy his young wife would be with him. After all, he had walked five miles in a chilly November storm to pick up the tea that she needed to stop her morning sickness.
Yes, it's one more step to her actually loving him, the miller's son thought. He had always thought his wife had married him more out of loneliness and fear of being a spinster than for any significant affection. At the age of twenty-two she was old for an unmarried woman.
He tripped over a loose stone on the path and lurched back into his stride. Scott paused a moment to look up at the deep grey sky. He contorted his face and cocked his head to the side in an attempt to reshape the collapsed hood, changing its shape from a slit to that of a skewed teardrop. He was not a hardy man and the thought of removing his dangling arms from the sheltering cloak in order to adjust the hood was distasteful. The storm was over and had reduced to a misty drizzle. He could see fragments of the stars beginning to peek through the smoky nebulae of cloud cover. It was a full moon, so the opaque blanket of clouds cast a dim glow on the landscape, highlighting the path as it shot through the dense black wood. With the temporary shape of his sheltering hood he was now able see that the path ahead of him was clear of further surprise stones that would cause him another discomfort. With that worrisome item checked off in his mind, he returned to his stooped posture, now able to curtain himself from the outside world again. He sighed as he took up his sodden trudge toward the compound.
Shauna and he had grown up together and she had his heart since they were teenagers. She had an eye for another man, Jimmy Redfield; however, he chose to marry another girl in a neighboring town, and had moved there, they needed a good bowyer. As best as Scott could tell, Shauna had had her heart broken. But Scott had hoped this lifelong friend would see him for a good, kind man, if not the swiftest, and would accept his proposal. It was four months ago since that nervous day and awkward night that they were wed.
He found marriage so strange and was genuinely surprised at what little he had known about her before their vows. She always seemed so carefree when they were growing up. Now that she was his wife she had become fussy about things, silly things like where he put his coat when he came in, or how much food he ate. It's probably just the pregnancy he thought.
He loved her more and more each day though. Her laugh, the way she hummed to herself when ever she cleaned or cooked, and her random antics that made him feel like a kid again. After hearing how domineering other wives were, Scott especially enjoyed the way she handled him. The way she fussed could never be called nagging. She would gently ask for him to do this little thing for her, which always seemed practical and was well worth the gentle smiles he got in return.
Not far now, he thought as he peered up through the narrow opening of his soaked hood. He could now see that he was entering the Satellite Compound. He reminisced of the first time he had entered the compound as a boy.
Children stayed here in small bunk houses for several periods throughout the year in order to learn sciences, language, art, and life skills. At six, children begin to come for a day of introductory classes and knowledge. By eight they attended two-week camps, periodically throughout the year, that expanded their knowledge of the world around them. Scott was brought here by his father on his sixth birthday. It wasn't unheard of for a child to come on their birthday, however most parents waited until there were other reasons to go to the compound before bringing their curious offspring to these sacred grounds. Scott's father had felt this was the most important part of his son’s life so elected to come immediately to show his son how much of a priority education was.
His six-year-old imagination had been filled with thoughts of ornately decorated buildings that must have an aura all their own. This place that represented Alexandria must have a visible magic to it. Only it looked fairly ordinary, some of the buildings were three to four times the size of his family lodge and symbols, instead of words, were carved on plaques above the doorways. Each structure was unique in its own way. Some, like the meeting hall, looked like a thatched hill raised up on stone walls. Others, like the herbal building, were made solely of logs with a high peaked roof. The most impressive of the buildings was the Engineer’s lab, he was afraid to even enter it; the entire building was made of stone including the ceiling, which made him nervous. It baffled him that the stones appeared to defy gravity and he was sure that the blocks would one day come down on some fool's head.
The buildings were all constructed with the same balance of utility and quant beauty. The professional buildings were placed around the meeting hall with the residences placed further out along the perimeter.
Looking back down at his feet, through the small misshapen opening in his hood, he began pondering his offer to go study at Alexandria. When he was about thirteen or so the Coyote of his community had told him he had the potential to become a great Shaman one day, but because of his inability to focus for very long he would only be able to do his training in the great city. This was a controversial subject among the communities. Alexandria provided the communities these Satellite compounds which offered education, medical care, and academic assistance to the villages in exchange for trade goods that would be used by the compounds and Alexandria itself. The issue lay in these offers of further education. Promising youth would be offered a position in the city's academies, which was a very honored position in life, but it would rob the village of one of it's best and brightest.
The Coyotes offer was tempting, to go live and learn in the great city was extraordinary, although he could only think of Shauna. He must have made the right decision; she was now his wife.
This thought reminded him of his reason for taking this journey. Shauna and the baby growing inside her. He could still vividly remember when Shauna told him about the life growing in her womb. It was as if his entire life changed in that moment. He desperately hoped he could live up to the expectations of fatherhood, he worshipped his own father and hoped he could do as good of a job.
Shauna kept asking him if he wanted a girl or boy. He had told her he wasn't sure, which was true. He always wanted a son, but a daughter would captivate his heart.
A force punched Scott in the chest, he stumbled and bent forward, not by choice but by reaction. There was now a stick protruding from his chest. A stick with feathers on the end, an arrow he realized. His body began to slump. He felt the most horrible pain in his life engulf his middle back and everything below, as if his entire lower body had been hit by lightning. Scott could not fathom where the arrow came from, this was not an area where people hunted. He was taking panic breaths. The pain in his lower body burned. He began to wail and was cut short by an explosion of intensity from his wound. His legs were twitching uncontrollably, only he could feel nothing. Hearing soft footsteps running at him, he contorted his neck to see who was rushing to his aid. Was it an apprentice? Dear God help me. He thought of Shauna. A blur of motion. A deafening ring. His vision knocked blind. A pain that jolted from his crown to his chin and back through his neck. Headache. Sound of someone choking. Sounded like someone choking on there own blood. Shauna.
Exhilarated and aroused, the young killer grins. He feels more alive than he has ever felt before. In his hunched squat he searches the area around him, no scouts, no apprentices, no people. His body is vibrating with pleasure, this is better than he dreamed. So easy. This walking, talking version of violence dashed back into the tree line. He feels god-like now. It was so easy. He saw his prey, staring at his shoes, lost in thought. And it came to him. Victim, easy prey. Mine. But he wasn't accurate with his shot. The arrow went low missing the heart. It wasn't an accident a voice inside alluded. Suppressing a chuckle he contemplated the wondrous meaning of his revelation. He missed in order to allow for his victim to suffer, he could then enjoy it up close. After the arrow reached its target, he realised the very real chance of a scream. That would not have been acceptable, he dropped the bow and rushed the prey. The stone war club glided through the air, finding its mark on the crown. A full view of his anguished eyes, the blunt feel of the strike and the sound of the thud-crack added an extra rush to his pleasure. He realized he had an erection that was trying to force its way through his pants. He so desperately wanted to find someone to introduce his weapon to, but his mission took precedence.
One last look around, there were no signs of alarm, and no pursuers. Tonight was such a perfect night for a kill. The storm had kept everyone indoors, shielded from the event. He turned and was off. He started as he realized he forgot to get a souvenir. A trophy would have been nice. Oh well things don't always go perfectly when they are rushed, consoled his inner voice.