Chapter 1: A Journey Begins

Chapter 1: A Journey Begins

The next morning dawns gray and the sun is nowhere in sight as a dense fog and light rain turns the camp into something eerie. Breakfast is a silent affair and even with the recent influx food is scant, most of it already consumed or preserved in salt and put in the smoke house. You eat with your families before packing up your meager possessions and heading to the gate to meet the others.

It was a very short sleep, that was certain. Daeron was excited, terrified and worried in nearly equal parts, and that made for a very difficult night of tossing and turning. As dawn broke on the dismal morning, the quiet boy rose from his warm pallet, cradling a still snoring Stitch in his arms. Padding on bare feet to the doorway, he pushed aside the cloth covering enough to peek out into the milky haze. It was almost fitting, such a blank world laid before them, visibly and figuratively, blind to what lay ahead for the group.

He stood there for a lingering while, how long he wasn't sure, but he was finally roused from his silent reverie by the squirming bundle of bug and leaves in his arm. Stitch's hood slowly opened, like a blooming plant in the morning sun, and was chased by a long yawning "Sewaaaaaaa~" Daeron smiled softly and rubbed the nubs atop his companion's head, much to the bug's pleasure. "Morning buddy. Got a big day ahead of us."

The morning slowly began for those within the hut, Daeron gladly beginning breakfast for those still sleeping, scratching together a warm meal to help cut some of the chill in his own bones. Stitch was slowly circling a leafy branch by the hearth, stripping it of greenery with an eager and voracious appetite. Soon the scent of food had the rest of the household up and active. Daeron's mother, Tansy Half-Moon, had begun desperately fussing over the boy, trying to make sure he was beyond prepared with advice and fussy primping, while his father, Tunza Stone-Grip simply smiled and gave encouragements to enjoy his first journey, and to bring something back as a souvenir from wherever he traveled.

As the meal concluded and his mother finished fidgeting with the pack he'd prepared the night before, Daeron was still struggling to get her to stop trying to add more furs, one of the family's waterskins, or some other extra item 'just in case'. "Mom-" "But what if you get caught in the snow and get cold..." It was summer, what snow? "Mom...""Are there enough snacks for Stitch? Couldn't you just fit some..." He ate leaves, they were everywhere. "MOM..." "Are you sure you packed your-""MOTHER!"

Tansy flinched a bit and looked a little hurt as Daeron placed his hands on hers gently. He smiled softly, finishing, "I'll be okay. Only a couple of days, then I'm back. I've got my clanmates with me, so I won't get lost." "But..." Daeron figured she was going to worry herself to death if she didn't have something to focus on until he could show how strong he'd become. "Until I'm gone, could you keep my Pidgey safe? When it grows up, we'll get fresh eggs for the tribe. Should be back to see it hatch with you. Promise." The boy picked up the small fuzzy bundle of loose yarn and thread he'd made to keep the bird egg warm and placed it in his fretting mother's hands, kissing her cheek. Tansy cradled the egg and smiled weakly at him, her eyes watery, but no tears escaped.

Picking up his satchel, still a touch fuller than he remembered packing it, he walked to the door till he stood beside his father, who was sipping from his steaming mug and staring outside into the mists. Turning to stare out at the same swirling blank canvas of future manhood, Daeron let out a single slow sigh, echoed by Tunza. "Come back with a good prize and a better tale, huh?" "Nothing" The scrawny boy leaned against the muscled man and wrapped one arm around his father in a short hug. It was answered with an affirmative grunt and a burly squeeze of the grappler's return grip. Without another sound, Stitch had descended from the ceiling, having caught up with Daeron from above, resting on the boy's arm and the two left to meet up with his clanmates.

After their misadventure gathering wood for the tribe, Nydia returned home, tended to her chores, and immediately began preparing for her leave. She ends up rounding up a trio of youths, barely past their tenth summer, and explains to them the myriad of chores. Jhahara will feed and tend the serpents; she trusts them with no one other than herself and Nydia. But the children must prepare her meals, keep the fire kindled during the day and the embers burning through the night, water the plants placed around the yurt and turn them so all sides see the sun, and feed and tend to the mice and rats that serve as the serpent's suppers. They must also tend to all of Jhahara's needs, be it transcribing letters, mending her clothes, fetching incense and medicine from the healers, and warming her bed on cold nights. It's a full-time job, and one Nydia greatly doubts the children will fulfill, but they will do until she can return to apprentice Jhahara once more... if the elderly woman lives. Jhahara's eventual end has been the subject of much talk between the women lately, and though Jhahara assured her pupil that nothing will be shuffling her from the mortal coil before Nydia returns, the pupil cannot be certain.

Unfortunately, there were more pressing concerns that evening. Word came that Zednik's mother had taken a turn for the worst, and when Nydia rushed to her yurt, she discovered the woman was far beyond the medicinal quirks and experiments that Nydia had used to keep her alive and awake this long. She was groggy and unaware of her surroundings, and her life is now in the healer's hands. Zednik's place will not be with the children; he will become an adult here, tending to his mother in what may well be her final days. She stayed with her friend long into the night, first sitting with him and his mother, and later comforting him as he wept. She was there well into the night, only returning to the wise-woman's hut as the sky began to lighten; the women's tongues would wag the next day over what had happened in that yurt between her and Zednik, but he can cope with the rumors. She has to travel the next day.

It came early; Nydia groaned as a few hours later Basil was tugging on her slip, pulling her out of bed. After making breakfast and tending to a few final chores, she dressed, this time packing one of her many-layered skirts and wearing a pair of tight-fit leather slacks, much more appropriate for hard traveling. She braids her long dark hair as well, and packs what healing items she can carry, as well as a mirror, dried fruit, and her prized possession: Scrolls of parchment where she had been charting the stars and constellation in the night sky. Someday, she hopes to identify and name each and every one... but for now, she must continue to count and observe.

After a teary good-bye with Jhahara, Nydia Star-Counter left, Basil flitting at her heels. As she walks towards the gate, she stares across the yurts, towards one... her mother's yurt. Valyria Red-Spear did not rise to see her daughter off. Just as well; Nydia is old enough, in any other tribe she would already be wedded and bedded and with child. Though her recent bouts of bravery had given her some value in her mother's eyes, perhaps it's too much to ask to say good-bye. As she nears the gate, she grins at the sight of Daeron, glancing down at the glittering purple bracelet she still wears. Zednik might not be with them, but she still has her friends.

Alright, things are a little more dangerous when you get out of the tribe's sight.
The best thing to do is keep your eyes peeled, your head on right, and you aim straight.
Vinaer will help with that, and so will the others, but remember that you are the son of the Seeker.
The others you are going with will have their beasts to protect them, but since Zednik is not going, you will be one of the only ones strong enough to stand when the others fall.
Do you understand what I am saying?
They are your responsibility now.
Good luck son.

Staring wide eyed at his father whom had a hand on his shoulder and a finger pointed in Leon's face, he could not help but feel awed in some way. His responsibility? What in the world did that mean? Sure, you looked out for other hunters when you went to track a potentially dangerous beast, but they watched yours too. Leon had no time to mull this over, Zednik was needed elsewhere with his mother, and they were heading out soon. Still, the boy had time for one more thing to do before he went.

Standing outside the little hut that housed Zednik and his sickly mother, Leon had to muster up his courage to push through the door. Still, as his hand reached out to move the leather flap to enter the room, the boy could not bring himself to do it. What was he going to say? That he was sorry that his mother was sick? That he was afraid of going out with that much responsibility? That, in some ways, he was excited to have this opportunity, but in other ways, he was terrified. Turning in shame, he went to the meeting place to begin his journey into the unfamiliar woods outside of his home.

Sven Straw-Skein

Sven's breakfast meal-time is quiet, almost sullen. Few words are exchanged, for there is little to be said. Things like 'be careful' and 'stay healthy' weren't things you only needed to keep in mind on special occasions; they were simply understood and did not need repeating. So why would today be any different? Sven had never considered his family life to be an unhappy one, but he never remembered there being much talk, either. This was normal. 'But shouldn't today of all days be a little different?' he wondered to himself. His parents and he finished their meal in silence.

There was little for him to pack. He had few treasures to his name. Colorful stones he had found, old beast teeth from long-dead remains, a few large feathers from distant flocks of birds. Little that would serve him well on a journey. He left them behind, and everything that remained easily fit in his crude cloth sack. It was the Oldok's way to keep only what was needed to make the regular migrations easier, but it was still a little disturbing to see all that he was packed into one sack. Shouldering the light burden, he turned for the yurt's fur door. Stopping, he turned back to his parents. They were in the middle of their usual rituals, gathering and inspecting the tools they'd need to do the day's tasks. Sensing him lingering, they turned to look at him and smiled silently. Once again, the same unspoken, understood sentiments flowed to him from their knowing looks. 'Be careful,' they said, 'stay safe. And always bring honor to the Oldok'.

The dark cloud of doubt hanging over him seemed to disperse, and Sven found himself smiling back. Whatever the future held in hold for him, it didn't matter. He'd approach any situation calmly and cautiously.

Same as always.

Still smiling, he roused Duggles from his sleep and set out to find the others.

Leaving TownSahara's eyes flicker open at the feeling of something nudging her chest. She looks down to see Lily's head pushing her stomach lightly. Sahara looks out the window from where she was sleeping to see it is already morning. She is not sure whether to be happy about this or not.

The previous night, after handing the disgruntled Piplup back to Zednik, Sahara had gone straight home. Dinner had been more lengthy than usual, with her mother and father both inquiring on how she felt about the upcoming journey. Her responses basically came down to the barest truth: she was nervous but ready to do her best. And this morning, that had not changed.

As she goes to take the small bag, which she packed last night with essential items, Sahara catches sight of the drawing below it. She takes it carefully in one hand. The other picks up Lily, who croons in approval at her gentle touch. Sahara smiles at her. If nothing else, Lily will always be with her and will always understand her. That is something to take comfort in.

Breakfast is already laid out when Sahara arrives. There is even a small dish of berries for Lily. Since Lily absorbed sunlight for food most of the time, having her own breakfast only occurred on special occasions. Evidently her parents had decided this was one of them. Lily begins to eat eagerly and with small, happy noises. Sahara takes her food at a slower pace while listening to her father and mother.

"I've heard that Zednik's mother got worse," Mahal says with a shake of her head. "He will be staying to look after her. It's expected and not a bad thing. Still, I wish he could have gone with your group. He's a natural leader."

Isam stops before taking his next bite to reply, "He's certainly good in that area, yes. But they'll do fine. They're all good kids."

"You're less experienced than most of them," Mahal tells her daughter. "If they all come to a conclusion, try to follow their lead. And remember what your father showed you during the hunting trip."

"It wasn't much," Isam says with a shrug. "She found Lily before we got too far. Still, that's turned out to be beneficial in its own way."

Lily waves her leaf energetically before she finishes chowing down. Sahara takes her final bites a few minutes later. When she gets up, her parents come over to each give her a hug. It is as awkward as ever for her, but her words are sincere. "Thank you. I will do everything I can to help so that you will be proud. I love you." The tone might have been seen as flat to people who do not know her, but Sahara's parents recognize the subtle emotions inside her speech. They give her encouraging goodbyes.

Once she exits her home, Sahara heads for the meeting location. Her pack is slung over her shoulders, and she carries the drawing in her hands.

Daeron smiled softly as he saw his companions arrive one by one. He waved to each as they settled in near the gate. He looked around into the haze, hoping to see Zednik come in with his Piplup, but nobody else appeared. "No Zed? Hope things will be okay." He'd heard a few murmurs that his mother had taken a turn for the worse, but had hoped it was merely a short fugue. Clearly this wasn't the case.

"So, my father suggested seeing some of the marshes or mountains past the forest. Says the sights are awe striking..."

At the ExitSahara perks up a bit at seeing Daeron. She goes up to him and holds out the paper she is carrying. "Here." Should he accept it, he sees that a drawing of a Sewaddle is on it. It shows the Pokémon looking content and snoozing amongst a pile of leaves under a tree, with the symbols for the name 'Stitch' written underneath it in fancy curling symbols. Sahara remains silent after handing it to him while Lily watches with curiosity.

Daeron paused at the sudden intrusion into his vision, until he focused on the page itself. His eyes widened as he took in the image with a soft whistle. Nudging his companion, who was already dozing off on his shoulder, Daeron murmured, "Hey Stitch. Looks like she's got you down pat."

The little insect perked up and yawned once before looking over the image of himself. Letting out a trill, Stitch squirmed about and hopped off of the boy's shoulder to land with a soft plop onto Sahara's head, giving a few circling laps atop her noggin, fluffing and then straightening her hair meticulously. Daeron smiled and held out his hand for Stitch to crawl back up his arm. "I'd say he likes it, and so do I."

Looking over the shoulder of Daeron, Leon's eyes widen at the masterful drawing. After Stitch had his eyeful of the drawing, the boy held out his hand as if to ask for the paper. Looking it over carefully, his facial expression turns from wonder to a brilliant smile. Darting over toward Sahara, the boy hold the artwork in one hand whilst putting his arm around the girl as if to show the picture off to her. Ignorant to her comfort, the boy begins to talk,
This is great! I mean, it looks just like the little bug.

Oh! Oh!
Could you do Vinaer?
He won't be able to see it, but I would sure like it!
What do you say?


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