Are these lizards doing a…dance fight?
I’m joking, but not by much. The morning started with drums and these things which are like the unholy child of a whistle and a kazoo. The whole tribe woke up just a bit earlier than their normal start time, but the noise started almost instantly. I don’t sleep and even I was wanting things to stop and restart after a cup of coffee and a few extra hours sleep.
The whole tribe marched out in outfits which seemed to signal which family group people came from. Obvious markings and sigils grouped each family, from the same feather being attached in the same place to paint applied to the same areas of the face. Each marked their similarity to their family, but each family picked a different way of signaling this. It was like they were conforming while refusing to conform. It was like high school all over again.
After the bleating, the blatting, and the dance walk - yes, seriously, the whole tribe dance walked in a slow shuffle type thing - they formed up at the communal fire. Chief old lady lizard was wearing a robe type ensemble which had lots of tiny metal bits sewn into the gown. Her face had a red and black painting in an odd pattern, odd because Lady Lizard had the same pattern on her face. Given the way the rest of the tribe was set up, it seemed to indicate mother and daughter, or maybe grandmother and grand-daughter? It was hard to tell how old the chief was. She was definitely older, but was she grandmother or was Lizard Lady just much younger than I thought? Given I hadn’t seen another female in age between these two who was also in charge, I was going with mother-daughter. There were other females, just not in charge like these two were.
Most of the other females seemed to be running herd on small groups of the hunters. Even given that, there was a serious birth rate difference between males and females. The ratio was looking to be something like five to one and given Shortstop and Romeo’s behaviors, I’m guessing no one was into sharing here. Which was just too bad for Romeo. Because my boy Shortstop seems to have sewn this thing up tight. He was standing behind Lady Lizard, his new looking leathers subtly matching Lady Lizard, with his face painting almost matching. The black lines across his face matched hers, but the red paint was suspiciously missing.
After everyone had formed up and calmed down, Chief Lady started a long-winded speech. Even not being able to speak the language I could recognize a politician at work, though Lady Lizard seemed oddly pleased about the speech as well. Romeo was deeply pissed, his eyes strayed from Lady Lizard only long enough to glare at Shortstop.
This looked like a formal ceremony where the clan would determine rankings and importance, a way for men (and women) to show their importance and seek status. So a bit like a football game in high school. Maybe less violent though. Slightly.
I fully expected to see some fights, and I was not disappointed. After the Chief Lady finished her speech, there was an awkward silence where lizard eyed lizard until one young stud in the back called something out. The crowd quickly moved away from him so that he could march proudly into the dirt patch in front of the fire pit. One of the older hunters seemed to shake his head at the sky before he walked out into the patch to meet him. After Chief Lizard said a few words, the two combatants slapped their clawed hands together, and then the fight was on! And then the fight was over.
The older lizard hunter took down junior so perfunctorily it was almost over before I knew what had happened. Junior rushed in with his arms held wide, and the older hunter stepped in and just slammed his elbow into the side of Junior's head, full force, full body twisting into it. Juniors arms never even came forward to break his fall, I think he was lights out before he even touched the ground. The older hunter just picked him up off the ground, his biceps bulging as he lobbed Junior onto his shoulders like a sack of potatoes and walked him back to his troop.
Junior didn’t perform well, and he kind of made an idiot of himself, but you have to give it to him, he went all in. The hunter he picked to challenge was huge, strong, and obviously knew what he was doing. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really praiseworthy. Extra stupid in fact. Though the elder hunter seemed to think it was funny, he patted juniors head like an affectionate older brother after he propped him up next to the rest of his family. By the laughing friendly conversation from the rest of the family to the older hunter, I don’t think they had expected much more from the whole thing.
Things continued in this vein for a while. A younger male or female would challenge one of the other older hunters, and they would smack claws then fight. Though I did notice females would only challenge females and males would only challenge males. When the females fought, it was usually a horribly violent affair. Claws, teeth, whipping tails, broken bones, and missing teeth. No one was permanently crippled, but the challenged women went into things like they had been personally insulted. The men seemed to see it as just a right of passage, just something that needed to happen. The women though…wow. It was like a discovery channel dominance fight between two crocs. It was scary.
At one point a female marked with a blue painted circle on her leather chest piece challenged another female with a similar blue painted circle on her chest piece. The younger sister (Daughter? Niece? I’m guessing sister) taunted her older sibling the whole way down to the dirt pit. The older sister did not in any way look amused, neither did the troop she had been leading, to be truthful. I’m guessing the female fights determine who gets to lead the teams, given her behavior I doubt that she would be leading those men effectively even if she won. When the two sisters fought, it was horrible. At one point the older sister broke the younger sisters arm, then proceeded to start winding the arm up like a crunchy fruit roll up. Red flavor. Once the palm touched her shoulder, the other arm held under her squirming body, her sisters knee sitting between her shoulder blades, the younger sister snapped her head around and tried to bite into her siblings lower leg. At this point, the fight was about to devolve into a free for all bloodbath when the Chief Lady shouted something at the two fighters and they seemed to come back to their senses.
The older sister took the win, and the younger took a seat with a large dose of some kind of healing (or numbing) potion. Given the disgusted look on her face, either way, the drink was nasty tasting. I just wanted a sample of it. The looks passed between the two did not convey any love. I’m thinking that this was some sibling rivalry gone wrong. But then, that could just all be headcanon for me. I couldn’t understand a word these people were saying. I was reading between the lines pretty heavily, and the lines consisted of headbutting and face paint so take it with a grain of salt.
The fights were also interspersed with demonstrations of dances by the youngest of the tribe, as well as smoked meat. The tribe looked to have decided to turn the entire day into a fair-like atmosphere. The Chief and Lady Lizard didn’t fight until the rest of the tribe had worked out their differences. After the chief had called out the same phrase she had used before, though this time with no new challengers coming forward, she turned to Lady Lizard and said some kind of ritual phrase.
Lady Lizard straightened up and then closed her eyes and recited some phrase while her whole body stretched toward the sky, her tail stretching taught behind her. After her spoken word performance, she stomped her feet as she shuffle-danced down to the dirt fighting area. Her mother matched her stomps and shuffled down to the cleared dirt area as well. The drums picked up in a solid beat and then they then proceeded to…dance fight, is the best way I could explain it.
Given the horrific claw and fang fight from the females before, I had been expecting these two to rip each other to shreds in a display of death and danger. The dance-fight was absolutely captivating to everyone else, but mostly it was boring to me. It wasn’t until they had been dancing and thumping along for minutes that I started to understand the importance of the focused looks they had. Little wisps of fog seemed to raise themselves from the ground at their feet then flash across the distance at each other. The wisps broke up as they came close to the other dancer. The flashes of faces and ghostly claws that formed from the fog, along with the shudder and looks of exhaustion from the dancers, said there was more going on here then I was aware of.
Without warning, Lady Lizard whipped her arm out in her mother's direction, and a green bolt of lightning flashed between them and into the ground. She was obviously trying not to hurt the older female, but threatening was definitely allowed. The Chief returned the threat with a sharp stomp during her dance rhythm which chucked up a plume of dirt and a rock spike in her daughter's path. Lady Lizard continued her dance without missing a beat, even incorporating the new stone spike with a twirl, stomping onto the ground as she passed to thrust a similar spike of stone in retaliation. The Lady Lizard’s stone spike was not as well aimed, nor as large, but she followed it up with a gust of wind that forced the Chief to stumble as she dodged the rock. The older females face had mostly remained relaxed, even as [Gertara’s Lightning] had to have been a surprise, but the stone spike/wind burst combo threw her off her game.
The dancing spell fight continued with bolts of mana which were aimed at the ground between the opponent's feet, shield spells which blocked drops of fire which had been gently lobbed in the direction of dance, and even a spell which caused a strange shudder to rush across the ground in a wave. Lady Lizard had started the dance less sure of herself, the Chief being older and more experienced. Lady Lizard’s use of the green lightning left her opponent rattled. Her endurance and agility while dancing, combined with her ability to release more spells, had her winning hands down. The Chief though tried to go out with a bang, her last move was a jumping twisting thing that left her hands clapping together with a literal concussive wave of sound. Lady Lizard took the blast head-on with an aggressive flash of a magical shield and followed by a wave of mana of her own, her concussive clap being the result of her tail slamming into the ground.
The silence of the drums and the shocked halt of the dancer was short lived. The troop quickly started hissing and cheering. Lady Lizard saying something which had Shortstop standing behind her with his spear and the old Chief looking both reluctant and proud. Both women were helped back to their sides of the firepit, their breathing coming in gasps. Lady Lizard, hereby promoted to the master of ceremonies (and probably the tribe) performed some kind of speech and then smiled as a group of younger males started handing out small gourds of a drink.
The music and performances continued into the rest of the night, but it was clear the Lady Lizard and Shortstop were now in charge. The older chief didn’t seem to be too upset about the entire thing, she sat down next to Lady Lizard and chatted with her in a good-natured way while the festivities continued.
I was having a hard time watching the rest of the proceeding since Romeo had decided after the show of Shortstop’s acceptance, that he was going to get his place in Lady Lizard’s heart back. His idea?
He came to visit me.