Posts Tagged ‘Burning Sky’

The Panther Debate

August 18, 2018

Panther walked into the shadows where he knew his family was sleeping. He nodded at his son, Rock, who was whittling something and kept walking to find his wife Keeva. He could see her eyes glint in the night and he smiled in spite of himself. He was glad that neither of them was on guard duty as he had a lot on his mind. Keeva was his touchstone. There was nobody he trusted more these days.

“The girls are asleep,” Keeva said.

“Good,” Panther said. “I’ll see them tomorrow before we leave.”

“So you’re really going back there?” Keeva asked.

“Yes,” Panther said. “I have been ordered to go.”

Keeva shuddered. “So many bad memories there,” she said. “I do not envy you.”

“I can definitely understand that,” Panther said. “but everything I don’t want to do is usually for the good the tribe. Ash has ordered it and so it must be.”

Keeva watched her husband for a few beats. “He has given you more directives than that.”

Panther put a finger to his lips. “Shh,” he said. “For the good of the tribe.” He smiled and she smiled back and nodded.

“That is not the weight you carry then,” Keeva said. It was not a question, as she often had a knack for knowing his mind.

“No,” Panther agreed. “That is not the weight. They have asked me to bond with the Wood spirit.”

Keeva let that breathe for a moment, knowing how important that statement was. “And you think that this is a bad idea?” She asked, breaking the silence.

“Don’t you?” He asked. He looked a little quizzically at his wife.

“Yes,” she said. “Perhaps. But I asked you first.”

“Yes,” he said. “I think it’s a bad idea.”

“Why?” Keeva asked. “Why is it a bad idea?”

“You know the reasons,” Panther said. He had grown a little tense from her questioning even though he knew she was only trying to help. What sounded a little like betrayal was just an invitation to think out loud.”

“Calm, husband,” Keeva said soothingly and Panther did relax a little. “I know my reasons and I am sure we have some in common but I would like to hear yours.”

“Sometimes I forget that you don’t already know my mind,” Panther said. “Metalstone actually asked something similar earlier.”

“Your friend?” Keeva asked. “The one who made that beautiful vest?” She was teasing. It was obvious that she was teasing.

“Again,” Panther said with a mock sigh. “He’s not my friend and to refuse his gift would have been counter-productive. However, I am still trying to figure out what is wrong with it.”

Keeva laughed but nodded. “The reasons?”

“The first reason is the most obvious,” Panther said. “The spirits can be beneficial but they killed a lot of people at our naming ceremony.”

“That’s a fair point but was it a lot?” Keeva asked.

Panther took a deep breath. “My mother and father? Died. Rena? Died. Large parts of the three tribes? Died.”

“You attribute the skyfire to the spirits?” Keeva asked.

Panther shrugged. “I don’t believe in coincidences and neither do you. And then after the skyfire, the spirits attempted to kill more.”

Keeva nodded. “The bone spirit.”

Panther nodded back. “Exactly. More relevant than all of that is that the spirit they want to bond me to turned children into trees,” he said. “Perhaps it did not kill them but it may be a fate worse than death and they are dead to the rest of us just the same. That was one of the scariest things that I have seen.”

“Same here,” Keeva said. “Bonding with a spirit who thinks so little of human lives does sound like a bad idea.”

“The spirits do not care about us,” Panther said. “They take our worship and they use it to gain power. I think? I’m not sure yet what their new end game is.”

“We just have to do the best we know how to do,” Keeva said.

“Finally, I think the spirits twist those they bond with or come in contact with,” Panther said. “Metalstone was a fairly harmless orphan until he was given the power to exert his will on the tribe. Green was a compassionate girl who now has a snake slowly replacing her conscience. Ro was a smart but pushy person who has now allowed herself to be blinded to the dangers of the spirits. It is no secret what happened to poor Brand and why he can no longer be trusted.”

“It is grim, husband,” Keeva said. “Is there anything positive?”

“I can’t see anything on the horizon,” Panther said. “I keep trying to have faith.”

“There is another reason,” Keeva said. She had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. He had spent more time alone with her than anybody else in the tribe. They had learned and loved together and they had bonded into a solid team.

Panther sighed again. “When this started, I was a scared little child. I did what I could to help with the crisis but mostly, like you, I stood by and watched them spring into action. Now I’m not that helpless little boy. But what I am, what I have achieved, is all me. I was offered a spirit back then but instead, I did it myself. I’ve gotten this far on my own. Why can’t I go on under my own power?”

Keeva nodded. “We have accomplished a lot without magic but that is probably why you are the best choice for this bonding,” Keeva said. “You never needed magic so you would not abuse it. Your strength inside and out means that the spirits have less chance of dominating you or tempting you,” She said.

“Do you want me to accept the spirit then?” Panther asked. He was flattered by her words but a little taken aback.

“It is simply something to think about,” Keeva said. “The choice is still yours.”

“And what if I decided to do it?” Panther asked. “What if I bonded with a spirit?”

“I will support you,” Keeva said and there was so much certainty in her words. “Your family is behind you always and forever, no matter what.”

“Would that include stopping me if I become a monster?” Panther asked.

“Of course,” Keeva said solemnly. “You would never see it coming.”

“Something to think about,” Panther said.

The Night of the Fire

June 9, 2018

Panther had seen the fire firsthand, standing there for a moment and looking into the hypnotic movements of the flames. The heir had shaken him from that brief moment and then they had returned to warn the tribe. They had time but not much before the fire would spread and burn the tribe’s land. It still struck Panther as odd that the lost child they had found in the shuffle was still asleep in a tree by the water. Things in the tribe had never worked so well but things were still strange. Magic was awake and, although they had seen similar forest fires for a long time, Panther could not help wondering if the magic caused the fire. The presence of magic had him jumping at shadows and doubting everything. The interference of the spirits may have reassured others in the tribe but Panther was nervous. Still, he had a job to do and a tribe and family to protect. The fire was at their backs now and they would soon cross the river.

Panther walked along with the tribe. He and his family walked on the outside in case there was trouble and within shouting distance of Blaze or Ro. Ro’s radius was arguably much larger. That thought made Panther smile a little to himself. Keeva gave him a questioning look but he shrugged and shook his head, it would take too much to explain. Little Kyri clung to his back, still sleeping. It should have bothered him since she was pressed against the fresh wounds from his midnight fight with the sabertooth tiger. Instead, he soldiered on and accepted the pain so that Kyri could sleep. Like her siblings, she would be strong but she was not there yet. She still had time. Panther remembered how small and weak he had been as a child and how that had all changed. Besides, he would be around for a long time before his children needed to stand in his place.

“You still have its blood all over you,” Keeva said. “Although, I am used to seeing you covered in blood by now.”

“I’ll wash it off when we get to where we’re going,” Panther said.

“I’ll tend to your wounds then as well,” Keeva said and Panther smiled at her. “What? We don’t need the snake in the grass medicine woman for this. I can tend to cuts. It’s easy enough.”

“Yes you can,” Panther said. “You’ve had enough experience.”

“Ah yes,” Keeva said with a smirk. “The bravest warrior in the tribe always charging into battle. Limping back to his wife for help.”

Panther laughed. “You are just jealous that you did not get to be in the fight.”

Keeva shook her head. “No. I’m jealous that you got the killing stroke.”

Panther laughed again. “Yes, there it is. The claws come out.”

“Cease laughing,” Keeva said with a smile. “Or I will steal your tongue.”

“I would like to see you try,” Panther said.

“When you least expect it,” Keeva said.

“Daddy always expects everything,” Kyri said sleepily.

“Go back to sleep, child,” Keeva said. “And who do you think taught your sister to move so stealthily? Nobody sees me coming.”

“Speaking of awareness,” Panther said, tossing a small pebble at the back of his son’s head. Rock looked back annoyed. “How is the new man doing? Sobering up?”

“I’m fine,” Rock said sullenly. He was carrying a spear over his shoulder but Panther was not sure if his son was up to a fight at the moment.

“Are you sure?” Panther asked. He smirked, enjoying lightly teasing his son. “We didn’t interrupt anything with our emergency?”

Rock turned and walked backward for a bit so he could look at his parents. “As a matter of fact, I was interrupted. Well, almost.” He turned back around to face forward.

Panther and Keeva shared an amused look. It was not every day that a coming of age afterparty was interrupted by a forest fire. “Well, I hope you treated her well,” Panther said.

Rock huffed. “I treated both of them well, mother.”

Keeva laughed. “Slow down, little one. Who were you entertaining?”

“Taya and Spider,” Rock said.

“A dangerous combination,” Panther said. “How did you manage that?”

“At the same time,” Rock said matter of factly and walked further down the line to get away from his parents for the time being.

Panther smiled a little to himself. His family was thriving. His youngest, Kyri, was on her way to being just as strong as her siblings. Yuna would have her own coming of age ceremony in a year or so. Until then, she was the leader of a squad of stealthy spy children. Rock had come of age and was well on his way to becoming his own man. Soon, he would be going on his own hunts and Panther would be taking Yuna instead. Keeva was a deadly force herself.  Panther was proud to have her as a wife. As for himself, Panther had somehow become a trusted lieutenant to the leadership of the tribe. It probably had to do with the Stone Group being particularly touched by magic.

“Thinking too hard again?” Keeva asked.

“Just thinking about what path this tribe is on,” Panther said. “The future.”

“We survived the end of the world, didn’t we?” Keeva asked.

“We did,” Panther agreed.

“We have survived the awakening and the arrival of the spirits,” Keeva said.

“So far,” Panther said. Even after ten years, the situation still seemed like it was in flux and there were things even the experts did not know yet. The motivations of the spirits were still a bit mysterious, especially the spirits who had not made themselves known yet. Panther had a feeling that the events of ten years prior would come back to haunt the tribe.

“We have weathered the storm and escaped the fire,” Keeva said.

“And yet there is still the water,” Panther said. “If we are not careful, we might drown.”

“Not us,” Keeva said.

“I hope you’re right,” Panther said.


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