The next day, I go hunting again. Even though the wind is adjusting for me, I can tell my aim has become better than yesterday. I managed to kill two rabbits in a short time. Like yesterday, I cut their throat and hang them from their hind legs. While waiting for the blood to drain, I meditate again.
Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… Clear my mind… Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… Clear my mind… No, it's too cold out here… I'll try again later when I'm in the temple.
After the while, I check on the rabbits: their blood is drained. I try to butcher the rabbits. Seeing how I mess up another rabbit, it's safe to say I've made no significant progress with my dismantling skills so far. The second rabbit goes better, it's still in chunks, but they are double the size as before.
I put the chunks in the pot and boil them with water like yesterday. While the meat is shimmering in the pot, as Mittens calls it, I dispose of the blood and innards.
After eating, I enter the temple. I sit down in a comfortable position and start meditating.
Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… Clear my mind… I can feel the warm sensation filling my body.
Again, I want to sweep the dust outside. I feel the air moving. I open my eyes. This isn't any good… I've just blown up the dust again…
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“You put it too much force,” I hear a boyish voice say.
I turn my head towards the voice. The owner of the voice seems to be a humanoid. Since I'm rather short for my age, and he's about a head taller than me. I guess he's the same age as I am.
“Aster, I took the liberty to move the shuttle away, to avoid detection,” Mittens reports only audible to me, “I am at the cave where we originally parked.”
“Hello, I'm Aster, Aster Cayden,” I stand up and introduce myself to the other person.
“That's a very odd way of speaking…” he answers, “I'm Rowan, Rowan from Dewick Village.”
Mittens did say, my speech will end up strange in the beginning.
“What do you mean? I want to blow the dust out, so I just need the air to move along, don't I?”
“You need to think of where the air comes from and where it goes. Also, you need to think to keep the speed as steady possible, just like when you sweep the floor with a broom.”
“Like this?”, I imagine taking air from the outside through the upper part of the door, along the ceiling, to the back wall, along the floor, through the lower part of the door and further away from the door.
This time, I feel the air moving in the path I imagined. But as most of the dust is still in the air, it doesn't completely get rid of the dust.
“Ah, this works! Thanks for your help,” I say, “but come to think of it, Aura said there wouldn't be other people coming here until in a few weeks.”
“It's about time for the pilgrimage to start, so the nearest village sends someone ahead of time to clean up. My own pilgrimage is about to start, so I was chosen this year. It's quite warm in here,” he answers and takes off his cloak. I can see he has ginger hair with a lot of grey highlights. Are those highlights natural? I continue examining his hair and discover cat ears, furry cat ears. I wonder he'll allow me to touch them. Staring is rude…
“Aura was kind enough to heat the temple,” I explain.
“You speak like you've met Aura.”
“Saying I have met them is saying too much — I've only heard them and talked to them.”
“You can hear them?”
“You make it sound like it's something special… Aura, are you still here?”
“Young one, present thyself to us!” Aura answers.
‘Thyself’? The language has changed… It seems Mittens has updated the translation program. So Aura uses archaic language? And it sounds more commanding than before. That certainly explains why — what's his name again, ah — Rowan mentioned my speech to be odd.
Rowan gasps for air, but a few seconds later, he composes himself and walks to the altar to put his hands on it.
“Young one, thou art qualified. Receive our blessings. We sense thy potential for the blessings of Eos. Continue thy journey and present thyself to them.”
His hair and ears flutter a bit from the breeze. Is it me, or are some of his grey highlights turning green?
“I thank you for your blessing,” he states and bows. He then turns to me and says: “Meeting you on the same day I'm able to hear the voice of Aura must be providence.”
“You exaggerate,” I answer, “so… who is Eos?”
“What do you mean, who is Eos?” Rowan looks at me with a face of disbelieve, “You really don't know? They are the counterpart to Aura. Their blessing is command of the earth.”
“You're an oddball… What were you doing here this early anyway?”
How to explain this…
“I… I've come from a place far away. I got lost and happened to find this temple. Aura offered me sanctuary until other people arrive. So I guess, since you're here, I need to leave soon.”
It's not a lie. I just left out a lot of detail. I did get lost… while travelling in Space, that is. And Terra is, in fact, far, far away.
“Lost? You're welcome to join me on my way back to my village. After cleaning the temple, I'll be on my way back to the village. Or rather watching you being done with it. It's not even noon, we should be able to make it by evening.”
“Thanks, I gladly accept your offer.”
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After waiting for a bit for the dust to settle, I try cleaning the temple again. Taking air from the outside trough the top part of the door. Let it flow along the ceiling, down along the back wall, along the floor, through the lower part of the door and further away from the door. This wind carries the dust outside the temple.
“That's it! Thanks again for letting me stay here, Aura,” I say.
“Young one, return here on the night of the Umbral Full Moon,” Aura interjects.
“As you have requested, I shall return on the night of the Umbral Full Moon,” I answer. I'll have to ask Rowan what that means.
We walk outside.
“Let me get some stuff, from a nearby cave.”
“Aura asked me to kill animals inside the temple. I'll be back in a moment, please wait here.”
I hurry to the cave.
“Mittens, it's me. Open the door.”
The door of the shuttle opens and the ramp extends. I walk in.
“Aster, I've prepared a backpack with a sleeping bag for you.”
“Thanks,” I grab the cooking utensils and put them into the bag. I then strap my sleeping bag and bow to the bag and put it on my back. With preparations done, I hurry back to the temple.
“I hope I didn't make you wait too long.”
“No worries,” Rowan answers, “let's go. Also, you don't need to force yourself to speak differently.”
“No, I've come from a faraway place. I'm merely adjusting my language, it's no trouble at all.”
Yes, it's no trouble at all, at least for me. Mittens is the one that adjusts the automatic translation program.
“Ah, so you're a traveller. I'm interested in your story. But I'll refrain from asking for now. Just let me listen to it when you speak to the village elder.”
“Of course, though I'll have to stay a little vague on certain things…”
I follow after Rowan. I'm actually worried people might call my views on the world heresy…
“Rowan, I'm interested in what you think about the sun and the moons and their relation to the planet.”
“That's a strange question…”
“I know, but please just answer it.”
“Well… the sun and the moon circle around us every day, don't they?”
“I… I see.”
“Were you expecting a different answer?”
“Well, let's put is this way: the scholars of my people have come to another answer. It's also common knowledge among my people, other people might not be very receptive of the idea. I even hear people have called it sacrilege and silenced everyone that supported any other answer than the one you've given.”
“Sacrilege? No, why would that be sacrilege?”, Rowan shakes his head, “there's only one thing people here consider sacrilege: openly questioning other people's faith. Some people believe in spirits nobody has ever heard about. Believer of disruptive spirits tend to commit crimes in the name of their belief. While they receive judgment for their crimes, it's forbidden to denounce the existence of what they believe in.”
“I see, so I even don't believe they exist, I shouldn't voice it.”
“I see. It's a good thing I hear about this before I got into trouble. Thanks a lot, Rowan.”
“You're welcome, Aster.”
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We keep walking for several hours. It's been a while since I've used my legs this much. I see something pink moving about.
“What is that?” I ask, pointing at the pink something.
“What are you talking about?” Rowan asks.
I squint my eyes and realize it looks like a boar. Immediately, I unfasten my bow and knock an arrow. I shoot. The arrow hits the target just as I intended. I'm getting better at this.
Rowan and I look at each other, we nod and move towards the target. When we arrive, Rowan exclaims: “That's a Snow Boar! They are really hard to spot in the snow!”
Hard to spot? What is he talking about? This pink sticks out like a sore thumb!
So Rowan can't see the colour? So his visible spectrum must be different from mine.
“Now, about disassembling this one…”
“Do you need help?”
“Yes, actually I do. Before I got lost, I've never done it before. And from the rabbits that I have tried disassembling so far, I can state with confidence I have no clue of what I'm doing.”
“Let me handle it. Snow Boar have poisonous innards, so it's nothing a beginner should handle.”
“I'll take you up on that,” I tie a rope around the hind legs of the boar, hang it from a nearby tree, and cut its throat. I also remove the arrow.
Rowan skilfully cuts into the boar, starting from the wound from my arrow. Within a few minutes, he has removed the innards. He then removes the skin and cuts a chunk of meat about the wound and throws it into the bucket.
“That should take care of the poisonous innards. The meat around the wound could have been contaminated, so it's better to dispose of it, too.”
“You're quite adept at this,” I comment.
“I simply have a lot of practice.”
As the blood stops dripping, Rowan takes a different knife and starts cutting the meat and trimming it from the bones.
“This is quite a lot of good meat,” Rowan sighs, “good thing we're almost at the village. It will be a quite a push, but it should be worth it.”
Using rope, we tie the meat chunk together and fasten them to the bag.
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After another hour or two, we finally make it to the village. We pass several houses, they are all one-story houses in timber framing style. I follow Rowan directly to a certain house. I assume this is where the elder lives. A girl opens the door to greet us.
“Hey Cyma, I'm back! Is grandma home?” he asks the girl.
“Rowan, you're back early,” she answers, “the elder is home. She should have time now.”
We follow Cyma into the house. It's warm and cozy inside. And rather bright, it's much brighter than the fire in the chimney would make. Where does the rest of the light come from?
“Welcome back, Rowan,” the elder greets him, “I take it you're done with cleaning Aura's temple? You've even received their blessing already.”
“It is as you say, grandma.”
“Would you introduce your friend to me?” she turns her attention towards me.
“Of course, this is Aster. He's gotten lost and sought refuge at Aura's temple.”
“Hello, I'm Aster,” I introduce myself.
“Greetings, I'm Fezzoxa. I'm the village elder of Dewick. Everyone in the village calls me granny or elder. But Rowan is my only real grandson.
I'm sure you have a story to tell. Would you care to share it with me?”
“Of course, Rowan wanted to hear it too.”
“I see, why don't the two of you sit down? My guess is, this is going to be a longer story.”
We sit down. The girl from earlier serves us some water and immediately leaves.
“I've come from a place far, far away. I was travelling alone, when due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up around here. To make it worse, I've lost the means of returning home. As I see it, I don't have any other choice but to start to make a living here.”
“Anyway, I ended up in the Aura's temple. Aura and the other spirits aren't known to my people. Yet despite that, Aura granted me refuge and bestowed their blessing upon me.”
“Yes, it's a very strong blessing from what I can see.”
“When Rowan arrived, Aura asked me…”
“They have asked you to return?”
“Yes, that's right. They ask me to return on the night of the Umbral Full Moon. So you have heard of it before?”
“Yes, it has happened before. Sometimes the spirits ask select people to return on at a certain date, when they bestow those people with a special blessing.”
“Wouldn't more people just come to the temple at that date?”
“No, they don't. Some have tried, of course. But on those occasions, the spirits deny entry to everyone but those that have been invited.”
“I see. When I go there, is there anything I should be doing, or not doing? Anything superficial knowledge would help me greatly.”
“No, there isn't anything special you need to pay attention to. Why are you asking?”
“As long as I'm here, I should at least try to follow the customs of this land.”
“That's commendable! So… will you go on the pilgrimage?”
“Yes, I intend to accompany Rowan on his pilgrimage. Unless Rowan declines, of course.”
“On the contrary! I'm thrilled to have you with me,” Rowan answers, “I have the feeling, interesting things will happen when you're around.”
“Since Rowan doesn't mind, it's not my place to deny it,” Granny Fezzoxa answers, “for now, you can stay here in this house with us. If you want to settle down here after your pilgrimage, that's fine too. I think you'll find it's more comfortable to live in this village than in other places.”
I hear noises from outside.
“Let's have a feast tomorrow!” I can hear a voice saying.
“Since people are talking about it,” Rowan states, “on our way here, Aster hunted a Snow Boar!”
“Without your dismantling skills, there wouldn't be much left of it. I'm happy to give it to the village.”
“It's a rather strange to have the guest of honour provide the meat, but since you're offering, we'll accept.”
“Guest of honour?” I ask.
“Outside pilgrimage season, people rarely come here,” Granny Fezzoxa explains, “we usually welcome visitors with a feast. But it's too late for today, so we'll have it tomorrow.”
“Thank you for your hospitality. In any case, we should put this somewhere,” I point at the meat still dangling from my bag.
“Come with me,” Fezzoxa says. Rowan and I follow her to a room, that's a colder than the rest of the house. As we enter, the rooms brightens. How do they do this without electricity? Is that a blessing? We hang the meat from a pole that's spanning along the ceiling in the middle of the room. The pole has moving rings near the walls, I wonder why…
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Later, Cyma shows me to my room. Unlike before, this room doesn't light up. I guess the light was a blessing Fezzoxa has. Soon, she even brings me a bucket with a steaming warm water and a towel.
“Please put it in front of your door, when you're done,” she says before she leaves.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I mutter.
“Given, there was no bath, I postulate you are supposed to wipe yourself with that.”
It can't beat a proper shower or even a bath, but I guess this will have to do. I undress and wipe myself.
I don't have a change of clothes with me, so I wait for the water to evaporate, put on my underwear and immediately go to bed and tuck myself below the covers. The fabric is kinda scratchy, but not much. I expected worse.
“Mittens, where are you?” I quietly ask.
“I have parked the shuttle in a forest about 5 km to the West of your location. Analyzing the shape of the forest, nobody has been here for at least a year. It is unlikely for anyone to discover it.
Later at night, I will fly around and map the area surrounding the village.”
“Thanks. Good night, Mittens.”
CC-BY 4.0 q. Thái “0xReki” Chung