The Feathered Serpent
Ugh, it’s another posting day. But I’m still recovering from my concussion (read: lazy) and don’t feel like writing. So that means you get something I’ve already written!
In other news, Derek wants us to play Neverwinter. It’s a new MMO based on the hit classic Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2. Which is a fancy way of saying it’s boring and it sucks. Anywho, here is another character sketch for my novel in a month entry. I’ll repeat the same warning as the last time I posted a character sketch:
This is a personal document that was never meant to see the light of day. Since no eyes but mine were expected to see it, it has neither been proof read for spelling errors or grammar mistakes nor has it actually been edited to make sure the content is interesting. I’m posting this mostly as a curiosity – a brief glimpse into the creative process that goes behind my creation of a story. So, if you’re expecting Pulwitzer Prize material here, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Now on to the show.
The Feathered Serpent
“What’s that you doin’ mister?”
The ball bounced off the trunk of the tree, landing with a thud into the bucket. Slowly, the big man turned. He was a massive specimen, thick muscles wrapped about a thick, golden frame barely contained within the worn, plain clothes. But what his dress lacked in description was made up for the odd adornments attached about his person. Around his wrists with thick roped bracers, a trio of deep purple feathers covering their length. The tendons of his hands were highlighted with bright ink running from his knuckles down his hand and beneath his sleeve.
A clatter of bright green rocks etched into the shape of round, stylistic faces jangled about his neck as he turned. Each head was deformed with massive tongues, large ears or great almond eyes dominating the piece. And his shirt was simple white cloth but a strange mantle rested atop, fashioned from brightly dyed clothes woven into intoxicating patterns and fringed with worn and bent coloured feathers.
“Baax ka waalik, little-one.”
He turned, bowing his head deeply to the little boy. The child just scratched his head.
Undaunted, the boy hurried over, stepping over the rifle lying upon the dry earth. He scrambled to the bucket, reaching inside and producing the big, black ball. It was round and hard, almost twice as big as two fist together. He turned it in his hands, looking it over from all angles. But to his young eyes it was nothing but a black sphere.
“Careful, little-one, that is no mere toy.”
The boy blinked, looking the ball over more closely.
“What is it?”
The big man moved to his side. He strode not as a mountain made to move but with the gentle grace of a passing breeze. He knelt beside the lad, clamping on great hand on the child’s shoulder as he wrapped his fingers around the ball and lifted it with his one hand. He held it before the boy, moving it slowly through the sky.
“The great Speakers say it is the sun. Its passing marks the passing of day to dusk then twilight to morn.”
The boy giggled.
“That’s silly. The sun isn’t black.”
“Is it not?”
The boy looked at him with a queer expression.
“No, the sun is yellow!”
“Is it? How do you know?”
“You can see it,” the boy said, pointing overhead. He turned his little face skyward, stretching his finger.
“You speak that but you look away.”
“Of course. Momma says you shouldn’t stare at the sun.”
“It is wise. But if you do not look, how can you know it?”
The boy scratched his head.
“Well… I have seen it. But you only see it shortly. It’s too bright!”
“But look at something in passing and do you see all that it is?”
The boy blinked.
“I don’t know.”
The giant gave a brief smile. He then lifted his hand over the necklace dangling from his neck.
“Tell me, what do I wear?”
The boy scrunched his eyes, trying to remember the object that dangled from that loose string. He could remember it was something green. Something vaguely familiar in shape but so strange that it was nothing like he’d seen before.
“Heads!” he proclaimed proudly.
The giant smiled. He peeled back his fingers, revealing the row of carved green stone. But it wasn’t three clatter heads looped together. Instead two gaping maws encompassed the strings, the carved stones appearing more like a serpent with no tail.
The boy’s mouth gaped in surprise.
“Look briefly and only see surface,” the man said, holding the ball aloft in hand. “Wise Speaker once said, look at the sun as it moves. From yellow to orange to red. But forever keep watch and all you see is night.”
“So the sun is black?”
“In time. But heed your mother, little-one, for it also bring light. Enjoy its gifts but respect its power. You have much time to enjoy its form when you are older.”
“So what are you doing with the sun?” the boy asked as the man clambered to his feet.
The large man looked down at the ball in his hands.
“I am remembering.”
He turned, tossing the object quickly from hand to hand.
“My people, we remember with these.”
“What do you remember?”
“People. Those that left. Like father and brother.”
“Where did they go?”
The giant smiled, but it was weaker now. It was the smile of a teacher, patiently weathering his pupil’s slowly march towards understanding. It was a smile that pushed what feelings were drawn, like a bucket pulled from the dark bearing precious water but dripping with painful pieces of its past.
“Very, very far.”
“Are you going to see them?”
The giant laughed.
“What will you do when you get there?”
“I will know the sun.”
The boy puzzled these words with a twist of his mouth. It was clear he didn’t understand, though how his childish mind did grapple with the words. The giant knelt once more, holding the ball up for the boy.
“Care help remember?”
His face lit up as he took the ball. He turned to the man.
“What do we do?”
He stood, surveying the land about them. He walked over, picking up the bucket and motioning for the boy to follow. They walked towards the stone wall of the sheriff’s jail. The man ran his hand over the stone, knocking lightly on the stone.
“This shall do.”
He placed the bucket at the middle of the wall then motioned for the boy to stand at the far end.
“First, hit ball off wall.”
The man motioned towards the stone and the boy squished his face in concentration. Lifting the large ball over his shoulder, he swung with all the strength his little arms could muster. The ball struck the stone, rebounded and bounced three times against the ground before rolling to a stop. The man walked forward, picking it up.
“Alobi, little-one. Perhaps you a born ball player.”
The boy blushed.
“Did I do good?”
“Good first throw. Now, watch.”
The man bounced the ball before him, scattering dirt in a soft cloud that rolled up to him. Twice he bounced the ball before him before twisting and striking the ball with his forearm. With a meaty smack, it launched from his hand, striking the wall soundly before bouncing towards the boy. It flew straight and true, hitting the ground twice before rolling to stop right at his feet.
“Now, to me. Try again.”
The boy nodded as he bent and scooped up the ball. He wrenched it back and threw it. It smacked against the stone, bouncing once before rolling to the man’s left. He nodded.
“Better. Important to watch angle. See where you want and follow back to know place to strike.”
The man walked over, patting one of the stones.
He bounced the ball twice, held it aloft and smacked it with his forearm. The ball struck the stone, rebounding and returning once more to the boy’s feet. The scooped up the ball, judging the distance and scooting forward for his throw. The ball hit, though with less force, and bounced four times to the other man’s feet. He nodded.
“What’s the bucket for?”
“It is goal,” the man replied. “The final journey from one body to the next. Like the sun passing the horizon, going through darkness and rising new on the other side.”
He bounced the ball at his feet before striking it at the wall. With precision, it bounced off the stones near him and the ball dropped perfectly in the wooden container. It gave off a haunting echo as it rolled along the bottom.
“How can it come out the other side? It’s a bucket.”
“Normally not a bucket,” the man nodded, walking over and picking up the ball. He then lifted the pail and held it sideways against the stone. “Normally it on wall and sun can pass through.”
He moved the ball back and forth before the bucket to demonstrate. Then he pointed at the dirt across from them.
“Normally another wall with another goal. Back and forth, sun rise and fall. Journey of gods. Journey of man.”
The boy blinked.
“I don’t get it.”
“One day, little-one.”
A shout caught their attention and a woman poked her head from the street. She turned, gasping slightly at the sight of the large man standing before the boy.
“Come here, Blasius,” she called, her voice twinged with worry. The boy look at the man, disappointment in his face.
“I have to go.”
“Xiitech utsil, little-one.”
The boy ran towards his mother. As he came near, she pulled him close, suspicious eyes watching the man as she turned her bonnet down at the youngster. She spoke just loud enough that he could hear here.
“Are you alright? Did he do anything to you?”
“We played. He showed me his game.”
Not trusting the words of her own child, the woman took her son’s small hand casting one last suspicious glance.
“Best you clear out of here, savage. We ain’t want your kind here. Don’t make me have to get the sheriff.”
She pulled her child away, even as he cried out as they went.
“But momma, he’s real nice!”
“Hush child, these savages ain’t got no place in our towns. Best they stay on their plains.”
The man walked over to his gear, collecting his things. He picked up one particularly large, colourful cloth and wrapped it about his waist until he formed a pouch. He then slipped the ball inside, insuring it was secure before slinging his rifle over his shoulder. Finally, he readjusted the jade beads upon his necklace until the three heads looked once more about him. Their unblinking eyes keeping eternal vigilance for their wearer.
He checked his canteen. What little remained sloshed about the bottom. He would have to stop at the town’s well before continuing on.
Not that he had intentions of staying. This land was not his and he had no intention of invading these people’s lives. They who were unable to tell the difference between the natives of the plains and those that had travelled far from the south. Their ignorance and fear spoke more than their inattentiveness. But it did not bother him.
Hatred was an emotion he was far too familiar with.
And if these people felt they could rid themselves of him then they would learn that the familiar weapon over his shoulder was not for show. If this were his home, he would have more heads upon his necklace for all these ‘sheriffs’ who were suppose to be these towns fearsome defenders. But he wasn’t home and he wished to avoid bloodshed when he could.
Unlike these primitive people who waged a futile war against the invading ghostmen, he and his people had learned generations ago their fearsome might. They brought horses and they brought firearms and beneath iron hooves and iron barrels they paved a new territory for themselves with the bodies of the old.
But so many of the natives of these northern plains clutched futile to their old ways, as if somehow their drums and their stones could hold back the invasion.
Pacal knew different. They were unstoppable. For even if every ghostman and woman was slain and their skulls collected for the great racks, they left behind their armor, their weapons and their ways. Nothing would be the same. Either one learned to use their tools or they gave themselves up to the darkened halls of Xibalba. May as well just lay before the jagged knives and pay the blood debt of the vicious Nahua Ajkin then to try and resist the change that came on the tempest’s winds.
Not that there was a home for Pacal to return to. So he wandered and he came to the lands of these strangers to see for himself that which had brought about the end of the world. What he found were a people so frightening in their strangeness and curious familiarity. He didn’t know what he expected, but it wasn’t the same petty, distrustful, ignorant individuals that he discovered.
He walked towards the well, canteen in hand. He adjusted the rifle on his shoulder. Let them come if they so chose. He was tired of remembering.