Music- "The Rite" by Lisa Gerrard
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Age: Mid to late fifties
Height: 7' (2.13 meters)
Nationality: Painted Man
Homeland: Painted Rocks- barren sandstone desert
Skills: spear throwing (with and without an atlatl), harvesting water-birds, hunting in general.
Handicaps: scarred all over (primarily on his muzzle and throat), joints are a bit stiff, limps slightly on his right leg.
- Stoic, level-headed, and wise; well-respected senior hunter.
- In a society that values unrelenting loyalty, he constantly compensates for his former disloyalty.
- At the age of 18-30, he left the Painted Men to seek a more exciting and fulfilling life. Returned after harboring serious injuries, and has still never been treated quite the same.
- Has wife and two children, of the ages 10 and 14. Creteus wed shortly after arriving back.
- Only child, broke parents' heart when he left and they dwindled and died.
- Would sacrifice himself for anyone in his tribe, and is very protective of his family.
- Carnivore, loves his meat barely cooked.
- Though he has settled down, a part of him still wants to run away.
How he sees himself: Though Creteus has proved his worth and established himself many times over after his great disloyalty, he still considers himself a despicable person. He greatly regrets all he has done, but at the same time craves it. Knows deep down that this family man/tribal leader exterior is at least partly a facade.
The Painted Rocks RegionDominant species: The Painted Men, a race of tribal reptilian beings.
Government System: Matriarchy. The tribe is led by a matriarch/holy woman, who is said to be blessed by their Deity.
Religion: A water deity known as "The Mother" is worshipped.
Technology: Incredibly rudimentary. The tribesmen rely on stone tools, including knives and spears/darts. Hunters are trained to use atlatls and clubs. Housing is basic and portable, since the Painted Men are nomads. Most live in open loue tents made from colorful cloth, though the matriarch resides in a closed yaranga.
Terrain: The Painted Rocks Region is a vast expanse of arid desert, decorated by beautiful sandstone formations. It is blessed by rain once every two months, though it lasts but an hour. The desert gets its name not only from the people living it it, but from the fact that it is literally painted! The nomads have used the rock faces as canvases and blank pages for generations, and the entire history and knowledge of the culture can be read from petroglyphs. In addition, their coloration mimics the rocks in color and broad striping.
Primary Food Source: Because rain is a rare luxury, the desert's inhabitants rely on a species flightless of bird with aqueous bodies (they are referred to simply as water-birds) for hydration. The Painted Men believe that these birds are blessed by the Mother, and nomadically follow flocks of them. They can extract the water from the birds using blades of clear agate, a sacred stone. After extraction, a flesh-and-blood animal remains for normal consumption.
Fauna: Water-birds, oryxes (desert antelope), burrowing rodents, scorpions, spiders.
Art of CreteusDrag any of these images into your address bar to view at full size!
Act IKarrik, do you smell that
Smell what? I don't smell anything.
Exactly, Creteus grunted, pointing with knobby fingers to a cluster of sandstone rocks illuminated by the waning sun. Watery blue shapes glowed in the light like stained glass, and steam rose from their forms.
Water birds! Karrik exclaimed.
Odorless. Tasteless. Undetectable by wind and completely mute, so you must use your eyes.
Creteus exhaled and drew a pink agate-tipped dart.
The colored agate stuns them, right? Karrik asked.
Can I try?
No son, just watch this time. This is only your first time shadowing a hunter. Karrik groaned disappointedly and looked to the side while his father nocked the dart into his Atlatl, or spear thrower. Creteus breathed heavily, focusing intently on his target: a bird distracted by a scorpion, and dangerously far from the rest of the flock.
Creteus rose from his hiding place behind a stone ledge and got into position, raising the atlatl over his head with his striped arm extended for balance. In an arc, the dart hit its mark and pinned the bird to the ground. He could see it gasping, but only steam escaped its mouth. The other members of its flock panicked and scurried away in their flightlessness. Creteus frowned as he noticed the patches of fraying brown feathers sticking out from some of their aqueous bodies. The process was quickening.You can carry it home if you want, Karrik. Its spirit left as soon as the agate pierced it. His son nodded and cradled the limp water bird in his arms, its neck dangling over.
It feels so strange, he murmured. Creteus knew the feeling well. Holding a stunned bird was eerie; it felt cold and wet like water, but retained its shape and left no moisture.
When Creteus and his son returned, the tribe of the Painted Men welcomed his return graciously.
Wow, what a big one!
It was chasing a scorpion, you say? What a silly creature!
And in nearly perfect condition, too!
The Painted Men had not brought a water bird into camp for a week. The drought only worsened, and the evaporation of the water birds seemed to be tightening the noose, for the tribe relied on them as their only source of water between scant bimonthly rainfall.Creteus! Karrik! His wife called from her open loue tent. Karrik rushed forward and showed the limp bird to his praising mother. Creteus strode through the encampment with his characteristic stiff walk and nuzzled his wife.
I'm glad you're back, she greeted, returning his nuzzling gesture. He groaned, and clutched his side as pain shot up his side.
It's gotten worse, hasn't it?
Yes, Allira. The wound healed long ago, but I must have rebroken it. The Timoti are famous for the strength of their clubs.
Allira glanced at him in surprise.
I guess that's the first time I've mentioned my recreant experience out loud. I don't need to though; It's been over thirty years and I can still hear the others whispering about it. His wife stroked her husband's face with care and embraced him.
Don't worry about their whims and whispers. Most of those idiots weren't even alive when you left. Who cares? The important thing is that you're here now. She broke the embrace. You'd better take that bird to the Matriarch. Karrik is starting to look at it a little too lovingly.
It was time for the sacrifice. A woman emerged from her cloth yaranga with a large, stone collecting bowl. The entire tribe silenced at her presence, for she was the Matriarch, a leader and holy woman. She was clothed in colorful robes and adorned with exotic coral rings on her tail, reflecting her status. But the woman's most striking feature was her eyes, which were a bright cerulean blue. Only those touched by the Mother possessed irises of that sacred hue.Holy Mother, The Matriarch chanted over the bowl. We ask for your child's safe return. For your earthly hunters have toiled in the sun and returned one soul back into your loving arms. Hear me, Mother, and let us celebrate…
She drew out her claw, capped with a precise, hooked blade of clear agate. Only penetration by crystal-clear agate could harvest the water from the bird. With a growling yell, she raised the bird by it's neck and slashed it. Liquid spilled from the incision into the bowl, draining from the limp animal until only a flesh-and-blood body was left.With Water! the holy woman finished with a roar.
The Matriarch nodded to an acolyte, who took the bird away for cleaning.
The tribe chanted in unison, excited and ravenous at the prospect of its long awaited nourishment.
Life! They screamed! The Painted families raised stone drinking cups and clambered over to quench their thirst. Creteus, being a senior hunter and the one who felled the bird in the first place, was allowed the honor of drinking first after the Matriarch.
To a generation of fulfilling hunts, he toasted. The crowd cheered hopelessly.
Fire blazed into the stars. Dried kindle crackled and split from the heat, sending short-lived sparks into the air. The Matriarch took her place in front of the fire pit with Allira, Creteus, and the young ones at her side. Creteus and his family had the honor of sitting in proximity to the matriarch for one reason only: Allira was her daughter. It was no secret that the holy woman resented and despised Creteus not just for his cowardly act decades prior, but for wedding her only daughter afterward. Allira, next in line to be Matriarch, was wed to a traitor.Matriarch, Creteus said, We should be thinking about moving camp again. The birds are on the move, and will be out of tracking range in less than three cycles. The Painted Men were a nomadic race, moving with the flock of water birds that nourished them.
We will make preparations tomorrow. she replied distractedly, as an acolyte delivered a plate of boiled meat. It was the bird Creteus stunned earlier that day. The Matriarch distributed it among the gathering which pined for the sweet meat. As always, she gave Creteus the greasiest glob of organs she could find. Allira and her husband exchanged knowing glances and gave her husband half of her portion of white meat.
As the Painted Ones feasted on antelope jerky and fire-broiled bird, clouds creeped overhead and obscured the dim moon. The tribesmen looked to the sky, for the Mother was to bless the land with rain.
Please mother! A pale ginger man screamed. Lightning split the sky and thunder roared, vibrating the very earth. The tribe prayed and cried to their god. Creteus heard his wife muttering prayer through the night, but he kept his head low. He knew how the night would run. It had happened three times past— The thunder may pound and crackle, but there would be no rain. Surely enough, the sun rose the next day and and the Painted Ones stared at the sky dead-eyed and forlorn.
It has been six moon cycles since the last rain, the Matriarch announced to her people.
Are we to blame? Is She angry at us? Allira asked her mother.
Yes, she must be. Why would she be angry at us? We carry out Her work faithfully every day, a young hunter pressed.
I do not know, Arhiga. The Matriarch admitted, But I will find out.
Allira brought her mother aside.
Mother, she started, You know what we'll have to do if the drought persists much longer. So many others have left for the villages, already—
Has that traitor been putting treacherous thoughts in your mind?
Enough! Our tribe must not dissolve now. We have been here for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Our history and knowledge is painted over every stretch of rock in the desert. This is and always shall be our only home.
But what if becomes a decision between leaving the desert or becoming a permanent part of it?
If it is the way of the Mother, it will be so.
I don't like that answer.
You are going to be the Matriarch someday. You must accept the Mother's will.
She's right, Allira. Creteus affirmed. We must trust in our faith. She has never let us down before, and our hearts are of the desert.
That is quite bold of you to say, considering your past. The Matriarch growled, unmoved.
I am a Painted Man. I did what I had to do and returned a humble servant of the Mother. That will never change.
I don't believe you, Creteus. You know my mother is blind and hateful, especially of you. Yet you defend her botched logic? Allira questioned.
I am only trying to protect my culture. Creteus sighed.
What if you end up destroying it?
I have to consult the Mother. the Matriarch declared. I will require At'sato. Where is she?
In your tent, said Allira.
At'sato was the Matriarch's pet water bird. She had been with the Painted Men for eight generations, and was said to be the medium between the Mother and her followers on the ground. Apparently, she was blessed.
The matriarch retreated into her yaranga and arranged burning incense all around. The air was sweet and pungent like overripe fruit. Carefully, she arranged a beautifully woven mat on the red earth and placed a thick stone tablet in its center. It sported a spiraling, thinly carved labyrinth. The designs was intricate, but possessed a strangely organic quality like a spider's web. Each "thread" of the web reached its endpoint at a small glyph, of which there were about thirty arranged in a circle.Incense clouding her vision, the Matriarch conducted her ceremony in private.
Here, At'sato, she called, and the ancient little bird hobbled over. The clear agate blade glinted in the mottled light as the holy woman drained some of the bird's water into a small cup. At'sato bowed to her caretaker and preened the bare area.
I'm sorry little bird, but it should regenerate soon enough. The Matriarch wet her claw and dripped naught but four droplets of water into the center well of the labyrinth. The droplets crawled through the channels, leaving a dark trail from the moisture. Soon enough, the truth was revealed: the droplets expired at three distinct glyphs.
I see, she muttered unevenly. After putting out the incense, the Matriarch emerged from the yaranga with smoke billowing from the doorway and skulked to her daughter's loue.
Allira, she growled, I was right. You are wed to a traitor and have bore his children. And he needs to pay for what he has done, or the Mother will continue to make us suffer.
What? Allira gasped, How could the tablet ever tell you something that particular?
There's more. Creteus! she called, Get over here, you filth.
Creteus, ever the stoic, strode over with no words of protest.
Don't talk to my husband like that! Allira screeched.
The two children, Karrik and little Istas, woke and stared despairingly at their parents.
You forget your place, daughter.
My place is your future. When you are nothing but dust, I will be here.
Creteus raised his hand. Silence, dear Allira. This is my quarrel, and mine alone.
He turned to the Matriarch with cool eyes.
What do you need to talk with me about?
You are what's making the Mother angry.
Is that so?
Creteus pondered for a moment.
What can I do to help? he asked.
You must leave. The stone told me that you must find the place where the water lies.
He nodded as if he knew what that meant.
Fine. If a pathetic creature like me can do anything to help, I will be honored to.
With that, the holy woman departed, reeking of incense.
That stone tablet is curiously specific, isn't it?
Creteus squinted at the intensity of the sun. It glinted over the horizon, but just so. The sandstone landscape glowed red, illuminating the multitudes of intricate paintings and petroglyphs stained on their faces. The stories, histories, and knowledge of his people were inscribed on the very desert in which they lived. Elders would take the younger folk out here to learn from the petroglyphs as the outside world learned from a book. He wondered if he would ever see this place again.Just over the horizon lay towns and villages, civilization in such close proximity to primal life. The irony was part of the location's charm.
Creteus turned at the sound of his wife's sweet voice.
My dear Allira, what am I going to do?
They embraced each other, nuzzling and crying.
You didn't say goodbye to the kids.
I couldn't bear to.
You come here every day to watch the sunrise.
You know about that?
I'm more perceptive than you realize.
Apparently so, he chuckled.
You miss it, don't you? She murmured.
Life on the outside. I wouldn't know; you have said little about those years.
I lived a decade on the outside and I don't miss it one bit.
Allira smiled gently, tasting the lie under his words.
I suppose so. After all, you were nearly dead when you returned, throat and ribs all bloody and broken. She sighed, Why did you leave? Even after all this time, you never told me.
I was simply an arrogant youth acting on his selfish dreams without any sense of loyalty or respect. But that is over now, and it has been over for decades. I exist only for you and my tribe, and I will bring the water back somehow, even if it means the end of my life. It is simply my duty. His red-orange eyes softened. Allira nipped him on the muzzle. You do not owe us anything. Creteus turned away, unable to face her any longer. The earth rustled; a figure approached.
Mother, Allira addressed the Matriarch.
I have a gift for you. Creteus' interest piqued; it was uncharacteristic of the matriarch to offer gifts.
At'sato trotted proudly behind the holy woman.
You should know At'sato, my bird. I give her to you, as aid on your journey. Our tribe's destiny is in your hands, and you will need her more that I.
Creteus didn't know what to think. What could the bird be other than a burden on him?
But then the Matriarch continued, I must also give you a clear agate blade. With it, you can drain portions of At'sato's aqueous body at your disposal. She is no normal water bird; At'sato was specifically blessed by the Mother and sent to watch over us. She can regenerate, albeit slowly, so use her only as a last resort. And she may also help you get to where the water lies.
Thank you, Matriarch. Creteus bowed, taking the blade in his hand. She painted a black slash across his scarred muzzle, the sign of an exile or someone about to undertake a long journey. It meant he may not return.
May the Mother be with you, for all of our sakes.
He descended into the sunrise, limping slightly with his darts silhouetted against the landscape.
You just had to do it mother. You had to send him away somehow. An old, scarred, arthritic man. And my only love, Allira lamented.
Do you think it was my choice to place the fate of our culture on an old and clearly incapacitated traitor?
The town beyond the horizon had changed little in the past thirty years. The buildings were boxy and made entirely out of mud and straw, seemingly primitive structures to the ignorant visitor. But the markets below were bustling with dragonfolk and what appeared to be descendants of the Painted Ones that left the tribe in years past, dressed in common robes. Fruit, meat, pottery, and other commodities flew past his eyes and overloaded his senses. Creteus was so overwhelmed that he didn't notice the townsfolk stop in their tracks at the sight of the skinny tribesman and his curious pet.
They stared with looks of pure bewilderment, muttering gibberish to each other while gesticulating frantically. It took a moment for Creteus to realize that they were not speaking gibberish: they were muttering things in the quick, rough common language. He learned it years ago, and it began to come back to him.Where... I be able to find Kasco? Apologies... Vasco? Creteus had difficulties pronouncing the "V" sound in the common language, for it was a sound unknown to the Painted Ones.
Mr. Vasco... uhm, yes. The antiquities dealer. said a veiled draconic woman. He should be over there, running the shop in the back corner.
Creteus thanked the woman and located Vasco's shop, a seedy, crumbling establishment that smelled of dirt and age. A reptilian figure slept in the corner over a broken obsidian blade.
That won't do you much good, Creteus grumbled.
The old man opened one of his eyes, cloudy from cataracts.
Funny, the last time you were here I was about your age now. What brings you back here, Mr. Creteus?
I have a couple of things to pawn off.
Ah, just like last time. Those are some mighty nice spears.
Creteus drew a knife of bright blue agate, a highly prized commodity and valued only just less than a clear agate blade.
I hope to get a fair sum for this. It holds great value among my people.
I think you'll get more than a fair sum for this. After all, I rarely see Painted artifacts. You people are so dang elusive. Ah, what's that I see? Is that a war club?
Creteus tucked the little club away, intricately painted in the full spectrum of color.
You can not have it. It was given to me as a token of my marriage. Anyway, there is something else I need to ask you.
I don't know how much help I can be to you.
Do you have any idea where the water could lie? What? I have been told to find the place 'Where the water lies. Do these words have meaning in any other culture?
Vasco stood and walked into another crumbling room. He emerged, limping from rheumatism, with a shaft of petrified wood.
Do you know what this is? Vasco inquired. Creteus shook his head.
It's the grip of a Timoti bow. The Timoti were a tribe of savage amazons living in the Timotian rainforest. They were notorious for their brutality, and outsiders rarely left their domain with their heads intact. It was a group of people all-too familiar to Creteus.
Vasco turned the bow grip in his palm, revealing a carving: In remembrance of the place where the water lies.
Creteus uttered a heaving sigh. Of course the road would lead him to Timotia.
Ah, so you can read this. Creteus didn't realize it, but the carvings were carved in the petroglyphic language of his own people.
Petroglyphs? On a Timoti bow?
I thought it was curious, too. Do you have any insight on this? As an artifact collector and historian, I would be very interested to know!
Artifact collector? More like grave-robber.
Not a clue, but many thanks for the information. That is all I need.
Clean air greeted him as Creteus emerged into the sun, At'sato following loyally. He massaged his neck, feeling the roughness of the deep scars... a souvenir from the Timoti.
The sun beat down especially hard. At his age, Creteus was used to it; His skin was tough and leathery from the sun damage. Another village lay nearby, and he would have to stop for supplies. The desert seemed infinite from his location, with red sand stretching as far as he could see under the blinding light. Steam rose steadily from At'sato, her aqueous body evaporating. Creteus stayed close to her to catch some of the rising vapor.We don't accept that currency. the village merchant told him. He pawned his knife off for a small fortune and he couldn't even use it.
I need meat, Creteus pressed, If you won't sell any to me, can you please tell me where the Oryxes are herding in these parts?
You won't find any running free. The farmers here keep them as livestock. Don't think about taking any; thieves are hanged without trial in these parts.
I see. Thank you, sir.
After a night of rest, Creteus set his sights on the farm at the most distant section of the village, where he had the greatest chance of going unnoticed. Stealthily, he creeped behind a nearby rock and nocked a dart into his atlatl. The Oryxes bleated, but didn't notice the tribesman hiding downwind. Acquiring his prey would be easy here, since the Oryxes would have nowhere to run. Fwish! The dart hit its mark perfectly; the antelope uttered a muffled scream as its lungs were pierced. Any more noises would be too raspy to hear. The other members of the herd panicked, stamping and bleating in his direction. Creteus waited for a moment, looking for any sign of activity in the farmer's hut. Luckily, he was either away or asleep— the antelope trampled the fence down and made for the desert at great haste. Their hips and ribs jutted prominently from the skin; whoever this farmer was obviously cared little for his animals.Hey! yelled a voice from within the hut. A draconian man burst from the wooden door with a bow and arrow aimed. Creteus would have to be quick. He scampered on all fours to the pen, emulating the poise and soundlessness of a lizard, then grabbed the Oryx with an arcing movement. An arrow nearly got him, but struck At'sato. The bird gaped in surprise but was able to phase through the arrow since it was made of iron.
Creteus fled hastily out of range, grasping the limp Oryx. Though dead, he would have to stem the bleeding since it left a trail.
The farm lay in ruin. The antelope were well away from their pen, if it could even be called a pen anymore; Its wooden component were splintered and strewn all over the trampled ground. A smear of red from Creteus's prey only enhanced the effect of calamity.
As he looked over the damage, Creteus felt the onset of guilt. In a single moment, that farmer's livelihood was destroyed. But at the same time, he felt a grin of satisfaction coming on. Even as an older person, he was still a force to be reckoned with. Wait, what was he thinking? Creteus bowed his head in shame; his actions warranted little honor.
The watch of another bored into the back of his head as the farmer glared at him from the scene of his misfortune. The man stood confidently on two legs, bulky arms dangling gently from broad, spiked shoulders. Menacing black tattoos decorated his arms. With a shock, Creteus realized that he was not a dragon... but a Timotian.
Deep green eyes fixated on him, squinting, studying his face. Memories from decades prior flooded Creteus' vision, crippling him. It was a cold brush from At'sato that snapped him out of it, and the two vanished back into the desert.
Desert nights were frigid. For all the daytime heat, the nighttime cold compensated. It was one extreme or the other; no happy medium. Creteus lay sleeping on the solid ground, wrapped in a blanket lovingly woven by his wife. It was red like the earth, with dramatic black and white zigzag patterns. She wasn't the most talented seamstress, since the cold stuck him through some sloppy stitching, but it smelled like home and that warmed him enough.At'sato nestled his side under the blanket. Creteus welcomed the affection in his lonely thoughts.
Ach! He growled in surprise. The bird had poked him with her beak. What was that for?
What Creteus had interpreted as affection was a warning.
He had caught their smell too late.
From downwind burst four mottled figures, with the characteristic gangly, spike silhouette of Timotians.
A voice boomed in the common language, Toss aside your weapons!
Four arrowheads glinted in the moonlight. Creteus, in point-blank range, had no choice but to abide. Rope dug into his snout and hands as they bound and muzzled him. Through the corner of his eye, Creteus noticed the farmer glaring with delight before a blind slipped over his head. He hissed through the rope like an angry crocodile. At'sato was unable to be bound due to her aqueous body, but followed her companion willingly.
They walked for days.
Creteus felt the terrain shift under his feet. The hard, grainy desert faded into dirt and finally into loamy undergrowth. He figured they were taking him to Timotia. But why? Why walk all this way to their homeland?
A brisk hand ripped the blind from his head. Everything was white for a moment and his eyes burned from the light, but then the landscape faded in. Though this was not a new sight, Creteus couldn't help but be surprised at how green everything was. There were trees and foliage as far as the eyes could see. Even the plants were covered in plants. All sunlight penetrating the canopy was dappled from the leaves.
A Timotian, presumably the leader of the group judging by his posture and the extravagance of his facial tattoos, approached him with a black obsidian knife in hand. He slashed Creteus' muzzle and left him to bite his hand restraints off. Free, he started to mobilize, but the Timotians drew their bows.Don't try anything, a smooth voice warned, then introduced himself: I am Sivah.
Is this the Timotian forest? Creteus was fairly certain of the answer.
Yes, Sivah answered.
Why have you brought me here?
You are to be executed, after we get some use out of you.
For ruining this man's livelihood?
A regrettable offense, but not worth the walk.
I encountered your people many years ago, but they attacked to kill instead of taking me prisoner. Is that so?
Creteus looked around. This isn't your camp.
An eloquent observation; we're taking you now. Had to get you used to the sun again before dumping you in front of the chief. He hates it when prisoners gawk at the sky instead of getting to business. Bow drawn, one of the Timotian warriors stood behind Creteus and fixed his arrowhead at the base of the tribesman's neck.
Follow me, Sivah commanded.
In the heart of the forest lay the Timotian camp, surrounded at all sides by thick, ancient trees. The bark was carved up with beautiful, yet foreign and therefore threatening patterns and artwork. It reminded Creteus vaguely of the desert petroglyphs.
You are a lucky one. Most outsiders don't get to see this.
Huts of mud and straw lay everywhere, with Timotians eagerly darting in and out like busy insects. He didn't notice at first, but housing dangled from the canopy, supported by the thick, old tree branches. The camp evoked a strange sense of wonder in Creteus, though he was in mortal danger. In the center of the clearing, a richly dressed Timotian stared dully at the newcomer thrown at his feet. He sported a flowing cape of spotted fur decorated by a rainbow of feathers. Gold bangles hung loosely from his neck and covered the entirety of his long, gangly arms. What riches must the forest hold, pondered Creteus, who resisted the internal feelings of inferiority and fear evoked by the presence of the chieftain.I know him! An old Timotian rasped. He was prowling around here years ago. I was the one that gave him those scars!
Creteus rubbed the slashmark on his neck, which throbbed from the memory the man's voice recalled. He was young, running from a shower of arrows with a rabbit skewered on his spear. Back then, Creteus didn't have a limp. Out of nowhere, a shadow intercepted him and before he knew what was happening, the man brought him to his knees with obsidian to his throat.I am Creteus, he spouted to the chieftain.
It matters not what your name is. In a few days, you will be dead.
May I know why?
You are a Painted Man.
Why didn't your warriors just kill me in my sleep?
This requires a ceremony, an execution. You see, your people hold great significance in our history.
Confusion fogged Creteus' eyes.
You are unaware? It is your history, too. The chieftain sounded genuinely surprised.
It happened long ago. Our scribes place it at one-thousand years ago. Your people, the Painted Ones, lived here and coexisted with us. We shared food, water, language, even religion at one point. We were so close that the Timoti proposed we merge into one, glorious tribe. But the Painted Ones did not like the idea. You placed yourselves higher than the Timoti, for you believed our God at the time, the God of Water, favored you. So the war began, though perhaps it would be more proper to refer to it as an extermination. You pillaged, abused, and slaughtered our ancestors. Their corpses lay screaming under your feet.
But we would not go so easily. We are warriors. We set aside old friendships and gathered our spears, which got redder and redder each day. It appeared to be a stalemate... until a Painted woman of lowly birth came to your chief with a weapon she said would end the war. He did not believe this bold woman, and sent her off. Displeased with this treatment, the woman came to us and appeased our chieftain. The weapon she introduced was the bow, and she was right: it would turn the tides. With the bow, we conquered the forest and sent the frail ruins of the Painted Ones running to the inhospitable desert, where nothing grew. We thought your kind perished out there. We were unaware of the survival of your people until thirty years ago, when our warriors found you stealing prey on our land. Hemi inflicted mortal wounds on you and left you to bleed, that insolent fool. An idiot could tell the scar on your neck isn't deep enough. A mistake that will be righted soon.
What happened 1,000 years ago has nothing to do with me. I was not around, so I cannot take the blame. Creteus pointed out.
It is an ancient war, but a war nonetheless. A culture must be punished for its injustice. Now that we know you weren't just a stray, our people will find your homeland and eliminate you once and for all, and all of this will finally come to a proper end.
Creteus lowered his head.
We have been punished for our injustices. I am the only one left; my tribe died off long ago from a plague, he lied.
Then we will finish the disease's noble work.
The Painted Man smiled. We were right, you know. The Chieftain cocked his head.
The God of Water did favor us. We settled in the desert which you said has no life, and She blessed us with the water birds, pieces of her being, like the one traveling with me. We survived on her providence.
The Chieftain darkened. Snarls and growls erupted from the crowd.
You are but a slave now, and slaves do not talk to their masters like that. Take him to my hut. No, take him to the hut of the lowliest scum in the tribe; Yes, take him to Tautoru's... and hobble him. If we must keep him alive until the pyre is complete, then he shall live in the greatest agony possible.
The crowd cheered and jeered, throwing maggoty food and blunt weapons at him as two guards dragged him to a shabby, crumbling hut. An axe thrown at his chest proved to be sharper than the owner thought, and carved a deep gash in Creteus' pectoral muscles. He wanted to scream, but fought against it— he would not allow them the pleasure of hearing him scream.
But they did get the pleasure of seeing him pass out from blood loss. When Creteus awoke, he was aware of a rotten stench rising from the floor. He looked around; the sight of At'sato staring up at him with big, clear eyes comforted him.
Until he located the source of the smell.
His foot was wrapped in bandages, and the buzzing of flies filled the room. Two of his toes were missing, with only one remaining. This time, Creteus did scream. A dark figure awoke, resting in the corner of the room. Tautoru.
My original plan was to hobble you as soon as you awoke, but then I thought that perhaps the surprise might be more fun. What do you think? Walking isn't impossible, but escape certainly is. Perfect for a slave! Regrettably, I won't be able to keep you for long, but I'll get my fair share of work out of you before your pyre is complete.
Somebody knocked on the doorway.
Ah, yes! Come in, medicine woman. Yes, he's awake.
A hunched old Timotian entered, shoulder spikes cracked from age. Creteus detected a pungent, bittersweet stench emanate from a small basin in her arms.
Please rest your head back, she said. It's for the pain.
We have to get you to work as soon as possible! Tautoru chimed.
The medicine woman plugged Creteus' nose with her bony fingers and gently tipped the basin, sending a stream of milky liquid down his gullet. He writhed in discomfort; The liquid stung and numbed the lining of his throat, and left a thick aftertaste.What was that? Creteus tried to ask, but only rasps escaped his throat.
Try not to talk for a few hours, The medicine woman called before her silhouette faded into the light like an angel returning to heaven.
Whatever it was, the medicine was potent. Creteus felt his extremities tingle with restlessness as his strength returned immediately.
Stand up, Tautoru commanded.
The Painted man lifted himself from the bed and sat on the edge, testing the strength of his bandaged right foot. Though it was not entirely numb, Creteus could stand on it without buckling in pain.
Time for you to get to work, the man said. Creteus didn't have the words to protest, which would have been futile anyway.
Tautoru sent him to the tribe fields to pick melon; he tried to shoo At'sato away, but couldn't wrap his hands around her. Creteus limped to the aid of the other slaves, who were delicately curious about him but didn't press further.
There's no way I'm going to be able to prevent infection, Creteus thought as his stump soaked up the mud and fertilizer in the fields, turning the bandages a sickening brown color.
But then again, they aren't planning on keeping me for long.
Creteus toiled under the sun all day; Tautoru had only given him a stick to plow the field with. It was impractical, but Creteus had guessed at this point that the Timoti were more focused on making him suffer rather than the efficiency of his work. Thankfully, the pain serum dulled his mind, too. Thoughtless labor like picking melons was no problem for him, until early afternoon when its effects wore off and Creteus once again found himself in agonizing pain.There's been a disturbance in the old fountain, He overheard one of the other slaves say.
You mean the old Water temple? You don't say…
Yes, they say it finally started running again.
Using his plowing stick as a crutch, Creteus frantically hobbled over to the slaves: a younger Timotian that was probably born into enslavement, and an older man.
Where is this temple? He interrogated. It was his only accessible lead.
I... do not know for sure, they do not let me out, the younger one said, frightened by his intensity. The older of the two proved to be more helpful.
I saw it before they put me to work. It's directly west of the camp, a little ways into the forest. The older slave looked Creteus over.
Why, you've seen more years than I have! I wouldn't do anything reckless, pops. They will rip you apart.
Creteus smirked faintly. I guess the nickname is appropriate at this point in time. Still, I don't think you have much of a right to accuse me of senility, seeing as you are but five years behind me, at most.
The man cringed. Even worn-out slaves didn't like to be reminded of their age.
I can give you more detailed directions.
It was the day of the execution. A mound of dry timber lay in a pile in Timoti camp, marking the place where Creteus was to stand at sunset and roast, and he hadn't the luxury of being burned at the stake. In the center of the pyre lay a square sheet of slate. Since the stone was fireproof, the pyre would act as an oven, using the surrounding heat to cook the prize within. Creteus admired their creativity, but had other plans.
Through the night, he sharpened his plowing stick to a point with an unfinished knife one of the warriors had carelessly thrown to the ground. It was of poor craftsmanship, but served its purpose. At the crack of dawn, the slavemaster awoke to get business in order and noticed the absence of Tautoru's slave. He stormed to Tautoru's shack to straighten him out, but a gruesome scene awaited him. Naturally, Creteus the slave and his strange pet were gone.The slavemaster panicked. If the Chief found out, he would be the one at the slate. Quietly, the Timotian slinked to slave quarters. The slaves had just arisen to start their work, webs of thin muscles knotted over brittle skeletons.
Where is he! he cried, but he was met with only confused stares. Tautoru's slave killed him and escaped! I need to know where he is now!
A hidden smirk glinted in the older slave's eyes.
Tell me! The slavemaster commanded, though the slave detected a plead. The slavemaster's life was on the line.
I know nothing, The old slave rasped convincingly, but it was not enough. The slavemaster punched him in an uppercut, dislocating the old man's jaw. Still the man persisted.
Stop! the younger slave cried.
How DARE you talk to your master like that! he screamed, turning his back to the old man.
THWUNK! A stray chunk of granite hurled through the air and hit the slavemaster square on the base of his neck, knocking him out.
Either our master dies or the foreigner does. He'll be far from here before the rest of the tribe awakens, The old slave grunted, clicking his jaw back into place. If we're lucky, they'll put that pyre up there to good use.
Creteus brushed the ferns from his face. He wasn't used to the thick vegetation, and took care not to catch his bad leg on the undergrowth. Using his makeshift spear as a walking stick, he managed to make it a far distance from the camp. Sunlight poured through the trees, making the whole forest glow from backlit leaves. Vine-like flowers reached for the light with leafy fingers. Creteus sniffed the air and took in the sweet fragrance. How could a place of so much pain be so beautiful at the same time?
The Timotians would be waking up at this time; he wondered if he had covered enough distance to avoid the inevitable search party. At'sato brushed against Creteus' leg to get his attention. She looked ahead and ruffled her feathers excitedly. Something was up. He shifted balance from the spear, clenching his teeth in pain, and thrusted it forward in a defensive position. Creteus peeled away the vegetation and was immediately taken aback by a blinding light.
They had come to a clearing with a clear pool of water in its center. Surrounding the pool was were bands of colorful rock— red, yellow, even green bordering bright blue depths. Mineral deposits gave the illusion that a rainbow fell from the sky and touched the earth. Walls of white limestone surrounded the location, laced with darker minerals. The stone was covered by a multitude of intricate carvings, stylized figures with the swirling rhythm of the water's current, and many of the pictures were accompanied by strange hieroglyphics. They reminded Creteus of the petroglyphs of his homeland. Now that he thought about it, the figures on the walls were extremely familiar— Painted Men! He studied the carvings on the walls, depicting the Timoti and Painted Men hunting together and sharing food, like how the Chieftain described. Streams of water poured from holes at the base of the wall carvings.
Creteus fell to his knees and bowed to a statue in the center of the lake; at one point in time it might have had a clear form, but time and weather had done a number on it. All he knew was that this place had to be sacred. It must have been the Water temple the slaves talked about.
So this is why At'sato got so excited back there, Creteus thought. Could this be the place the Matriarch told him about? The place where the water lies? Meaning... where the Goddess lives? Hope bubbled in his striped chest, numbing the pain of his injuries for a brief moment.
Mother, hear me as your humble servant and forgive my lack of eloquence.
I was not always loyal to you or my culture, but I put that aside long ago to carry out your will. I will do anything to help my tribe now in their time of need. Please, take my mind, my body, my soul, anything. I ask only that you return the water to them. Your children, the birds, are dry and the land is dying. They need you; We need you. He clawed four slashes into his chest as a symbol of his dedication.
A cold touch jolted Creteus from prayer. At'sato stood in the center of the glyph and stared into his soul with cold, ancient passion. She inched closer to the rainbow lake, leaving three-toed tracks in the mud, then looked at him expectantly. Creteus followed her, and she led him into the shallows of the clear pool. It was cool, but still and comforting. The stumps of his toes shot pain up his foot, then numbed and tingled. In the water, Creteus felt no pain. The dirt washed from his skin in grains and dissolved as if in acid, purifying him. The place was magical.
At'sato perched on the top of the statue. He felt a pull toward the malformed rock, like a magnetic field. Moisture from the water created a glistening sheen on its lumpy face. A cloud drifted past the sun, shooting a ray of sunlight from the heavens that gave the bird and ethereal blue glow.Then, an unexplainable force dragged Creteus into the void by his heels.
Character Silhouette Event Judging
- Ethellric- Kizzy took advantage of every aspect of Ethellric's posture and prop to make this silhouette effective in portraying his character. His figure is relaxed, but the angle of his head and the backward rotation of his ears suggests that he is troubled in some way. As viewers, we don't know what Ethellric is contemplating, but we are definitely intrigued and interested by what the silhouette suggests. Really a wonderful entry!
- Enairokel- This silhouette makes me chuckle. Enairokel looks so jolly in his posture, with his arm raised like he's telling a joke or witty anecdote. I also detect a slyness in his posture; I couldn't pinpoint it until I reread his page. Enai's personality blurb states that he is slightly impudent, and I believe that impudence expertly and subtly shines through.
- Tixie- I love the delicateness of the pose; It almost reminds me of ballet-style dancing. I can perfectly picture her movements: light, airy, and elflike. The light effects on her antennae(?) are a nice touch, too. It's also intriguing how she's reaching up toward the lights, as if she's curious about them.
- Fondhu, Talisu, and Knops- As Kira said, these entries are purely story. They're not bad stories, but it defeats the purpose of silhouetting the character.
- Rykre- The pose used seems to be your generic frontward flying pose, which honestly isn't bad when used in a full picture. However, it's boring and ineffective when silhouetted.
- Kimri- I know what this silhouette is trying to convey, and I love the concept, but it could have been executed better.
- Flare Ion- I was torn between this and Tixie for #3. I didn't choose Flare Ion because though the pose is hunched and intimidating, I couldn't tell if some of the aspects like the sole squinty eye and the gnarled claws were entirely intentional, or side effects of the delightfully scritchy style.