I like to write passages and POVs of different characters before writing my novels. Vintuli is my main character.
My fantasy novel is set in a mythical world I created called Tara Oban.
Today is the day. I can finally be called a man amongst my father and the elders. I stand proudly in front of our people besides my brothers in arms. My family stands to cheer in support. My sister young and bright beside my father cheering louder than the rest.
The dweller leader adorns us with the mark of the Satyr, a dusting of coal on our foreheads. It marks our readiness to take a mate and a chance to compete for the Inhbir (IN-BAR) Roitz (ROY-TZ) guard to the king of Tara (T-AIR-A) Oban.
I puff my chest out when it’s my turn and receive my mark. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my mother wipe a tear from her cheek. The Satyr ladies congregate to take us to our celebratory washing. I’d much rather skip it, but tradition dictates our cleanliness to impress the females and take our holy vows.
The dweller leader addresses the crowd, “In honor of the gentle Notgliou (NOT-GOL-Oi), our new generation of Satyr young men will take wives or join the guard. In two days’, time, the competitions will begin. We wish them well on their journey and celebrate with a song. Ladies, you will take them for proper cleansing.”
One by one, we’re led into the bubbling spring and washed, our fur clipped, and our beards trimmed and braided. Our horns are sharpened and our hooves shoed in metal. As the women wash, they sing the songs of the old. The flutes and harps are played by the young girls of the village.
I am led by my mother to have our last mother/son chat. “I am proud of you, Vintuli (VIN-TOOLIE). You’ve grown big and strong. In my wisdom as your mother, I can tell you nothing more than legend. You will take a wife and grow your own family. If you choose, you will join the guard and serve the king.”
“I’d rather die than serve him,” I snap.
“Shh!” Eyes wild, she darts her head left and right to ensure I wasn’t overheard. “You must quell that need to speak ill of the king. No matter your feelings, he is our ruler and you must respect him.”
“I can’t respect a king who treats us like slaves. A king who hides away on an island and lets his soldiers wreak havoc in his wake. I’ll not serve as one of his guards. I’ll marry Qintuala (KIN-TU-A-LA) as we’ve planned. I will be an elder as Da has. Ma, I’ll not serve him.”
Bowing her head, she rests her horns on mine, “It is your choice, my son. You’ll make a fine husband and father. Go with grace, my son. Go to Qintuala and ask her father for her hand.”
“I will honor you and Da. I swear it to the gentle Notgliou. I swear it to you.”
For the last time, my mother gathers me in her arms and kisses my cheeks. I am a man who needs no mother. I can care for myself and have my eyes set on my future wife.
I hear the flutes playing and the others cheering when I reach the celebrations. I am now a Satyr dweller. I sit to drink syntal, an ale and eat the foods of the elders. Just this morning my brothers and I killed the prize pig now hanging over the fire to cook. The crackling of the fire and the meat browning, the air was pregnant with its delicious odors.
Qintuala approaches me shyly with an amulet she carved, she dips her head in a bow, “For you, Vintuli. An amulet to celebrate your coming of age and to protect you from evil doers. My gift to my betrothed.”
I maneuver my head as she puts it around my neck and offer her my hand. With a shy smile, she kisses my dweller ring, a gesture of admiration and respect. “Thank you. I’ll cherish it always.”
Another lady, Martoi (MAR-TOE-IE), ushers her away to the young maiden’s circle with womanly giggles that make my lips curve in a smile. I return to my brothers and sit beside Yontel (YON-TELL). My brother who protects me and has his eyes on my sister. As her brother, I accept his betrothal to Ninta. They would make a fine pair.
While amid the dweller celebrations, I hear the hum of conversation die down. The crackling of the fire and deliberate steps of hooves echo in the silence.
Nobles from the Centaur guard circle us with breastplates made of leather and bows and arrows at their backs. Eyes scanning, I watch them take in the celebrations. Their leader, the nobleman Chinswala (CHIN-SUALA), steps forward. “In the name of King Centrus, we call upon the maidens passing the half moon.”
Elders stand, and the ladies grab the maidens in their arms. My father, Obanti, speaks, “You’ve taken our half moon maidens once this year already. Surely you need no more.”
My heart drums in my ears and my eyes scan for Qintuala who is wild with fear in her mother’s clutches. I fear they will take her like they did her sister and her cousin. The leader raises a hand at the protests. Silence befalls the Satyr elders.
“Silence. King Centrus evokes the Patronage clause, for the maidens have fallen ill and passed to the mother of wisdom.” Outrage ensues, shouts and cries are flung at the soldiers. The death of the maidens were by their hands and they lie in the open to our people. They rape and murder those who do not fall in line.
To my horror, Qintuala and Martoi are grabbed by two soldiers, “These maidens will do nicely, Lord Chinswala.”
The leader assesses them with curious eyes. I grit my teeth and raise my chest, “I object. I have offered my hand to her.” I point to Qintuala who is wild with fear. “You can’t take her.”
Chinswala turns to hover over me, “You speak out of turn young one.”
“As of today, I am a dweller, I have an equal right to speak. I call upon her hand and I intend to make her my wife.”
He turns to gaze upon my heart, her eyes wild her lips trembling. Her legs shaking and struggling to stay right. “Who speaks for this maiden?”
Qintuala’s father stands, “It is I, her father.”
“Do you offer your daughter’s hand to this dweller? Have you conducted the ceremony of twine?”
My heart twists in my chest, for I know it is of no use. I have failed to protect her.
“The ceremony is set in two days’ time. They will twine and be wed by the end of the half moon,” he says.
Chinswala’s lips curve upward, “As I suspected. The twining has not taken place. For that,” he turns to look me in the eye, “You lay no claim to her.”
I open my mouth to speak when I feel my father’s hand rest on my shoulder. He whispers, “My son, do not be foolish. Keep silent.”
“Take them. We will set sail by sundown.” Tears and sobs escape the maiden’s lips and I struggle to stay still.
Qintuala rips her arm out of the soldier’s and rushes to throw her arms around me. I gather her close, “Shh, be strong, my heart.”
“I’ll not go,” she weeps.
“You must.” My heart wrenches and I pull back looking up at the leader who is at a distance. I lean close and whisper so only she can hear, “I’ll find you, I promise.”
Nodding her head, she touches my amulet and turns to follow the soldiers. I stand for a long time until I cannot see their shadowed forms.
The celebrations have been interrupted, dwellers have gone to their homes. Ladies and other maidens have gone to the pond to bathe.
In my anger, I pick up an ax and whack at a tree. My hands come up and shove down over and over until only twigs and leaves lay in a scattered pile of despair. My blood is boiled and my muscles ache. Gathering my courage, I turn to gather supplies for a journey to see King Centrus. I’ll demand Qintuala’s hand or I’ll die trying.
My father is waiting for me when I arrive at our hut. I throw essentials in my bag and don’t stop.
“Vintuli, you mustn’t be foolish. The king isn’t to be trifled with. You’ll die if you try to claim her.”
I shout, “It’s not just to claim her! We are slaves, Da. Don’t you see that? We have no rights, we do what they say, go where we are told. How many times have we begged to travel to Qiurtizinga (QWERT-I-ZINGA)? To the abandoned land where we can make a home of our own? Instead, we do their work, we clean up after them, they take our women. Enough!”
My father’s voice gentles, “Yes, they control many things. If you do this, you’ll fight for nothing. You’ll change nothing. Is your life worth nothing?”
I stop and turn to look at him, “I’m a dweller and I’m standing up for my people. I want freedom and if you won’t help me, I’ll find others who will. I’ll travel to Rutzoula (RUT-ZULA) and recruit the mother of wisdom. I’ll ask the rebel mermaids and the Spriggan’s to join in my fight. I’ll do what I can to free us from the clutches of the king.”
I am angry and pent up and want to stop the hurt bubbling inside of me. Taking Qintuala away from me released energy I never knew I had. An anger I knew not could take hold of my heart.
“Vintuli, please. You must see reason.” My father was pleading with me in his gentle way. A man I respect and admire.
“Would you do what I intend for Ma? What if they’d taken her? Or Ninta? Would you not fight?”
A pained expression crosses my father’s face, “I would be hurt and angry, but no I wouldn’t foolishly pack up and declare war with the king. It’s foolish and shortsighted. What do you think you’ll accomplish?”
“I want an audience with the king and as a new dweller, he’ll have enough sense to accept. I must do this for Qintuala, for me.”
As I move about the hut gathering supplies and weapons, my father is silent. After minutes of preparation, I sit next to my father. “Da, I love you, but I must do this. I can’t sit by while he takes Qintuala. She’s my heart, Da.”
Nodding, he raises his head with filled eyes, “You’ve made me proud, Vintuli. You shine like the gentle Notgliou. You share his passion and his bravery. Take this.” My father stood and took the sword from the hooks off his wall, the Sword of Valor. The very sword forged from the tears of a hawk, “This will carry you through your journey and protect you in battle.”
Disbelieving, I shake my head, “I can’t, Da. The Sword of Valor belongs to you. You’re the soldier, not I.”
My father forced me to grip the hilt, “You are my blood. The sword is yours.” As he releases me, the sword begins to glow a dim green. I felt prickles like ants move up my arm as I lift the weight of the sword in the air. The green glow dims and disappears.
“What was that?” I am shocked to see magical power yielded in Inhbir Roitz. The magic has long been eradicated in this part of Tara Oban.
My father’s eyes are filled with delight, “The sword has chosen you, Vintuli. You will fight the king. It is legend! Forget what I’ve said about foolishness. You are the Satyr Prince. The beloved elder to free our people.”
Goosebumps cover my arms and fur, I feel a heaviness in my gut, “I’m not a prince, Da.”
Baffled, he stares at me, “Nonsense, you are the prince and you’ll stand tall and proud. Go, I’ll speak of this to your mother and sister. It’s best they don’t stop you. Be strong, be true, be well, my son.” My father hugs me fiercely and I gather my bow, my newly yielded sword, and my sack and quietly sneak out of the dweller camp.
I am silent in my journey careful not to attract the Centaur guards. In Inhbir Roitz, it is illegal to cross the border without a soldier’s escort. Silently, I travel down the Jintz mountain pass and into the river lands. It takes nearly two hours to reach the flowing river, the moon lighting my way. I stop to fill my ancient horn cask and take long gulps of the freshwater.
I don’t dare start a fire but rest by the river. My muscles are lax and aching, my breath is uneven. I know soon I’ll make it to the border. I need to gather my strength before I attempt it. In my sack, I pull bread and fruit and take slow bites. I rest my head on a nearby rock and close my eyes. I pray for Qintuala to be untouched and safe as I feel myself give in to darkness.
I jolt awake at the sound of hooves on the ground. I am discovered, I think. I train my ears to focus. I need to know where they are coming from. I gather my sack and weapons and hide in the brush. The soldiers are calling out orders and heading in my direction. They find my horn husk at the edge of the water. “Over here,” one calls.
I curse myself for being so careless. I take a deep breath and I start to move through the trees ensuring my hooves are soft and silent. For a time, I feel I’m successful, I allow myself to feel relief. Then, at the edge of the trees, I walk right into two soldiers hiding behind two large tree trunks. “We knew you’d make a mistake,” the larger one says.
I panic and start to make a run for it, the smaller one yells, “Halt, in the name of the king!” I keep going despite their attempts to stop me. I know that I’m close enough to the border, but if the soldiers have me surrounded, I am done for.
I dive into a cluster of bushes to catch my breath. I yell, “I evoke the dweller pledge. I request an audience with the king!”
To my relief, a soldier halts near me, “We accept your pledge”, he says reluctantly. “Come out and face me, Satyr, or you get the sword.”
I step out and keep my hands up, “I was running out of fear, I made no attempt to flee, I assure you.”
The soldier looks skeptical, “I see the fear and smell it, dweller. We’ll lead you to the king. You’ll gain your audience. Then, he will decide your fate.” Slowly, I watch as dozens of soldiers from a line in twos. I have no idea how many are in the vicinity. Only that I am severely outnumbered.
Silently, I am led with four centaur squads surrounding me to the east. I lose count of the hours and the phases of the bright moon. I focus on my request to get Qintuala back. I think of the mermaids, fairies, and Spriggan who I want to join to defeat the king. I let my mind wander as the hooves trudge on the ground agonizingly long hours of travel.
I look over my shoulder and wonder if I’ll ever see my family again. For I know, the centaur guard is not forgiving. They would kill me if the king orders it. My father’s words echo in my mind, “The sword has chosen you, Vintuli. You will fight the king. It is legend. You are the Satyr Prince. The beloved elder to free our people.”
Eyes forward, I watch the first change of color in the sky. I know the sun will fill the day and the rest of my life will be nothing as it has been before. My journey changed in an instant. I, Vintuli, dweller of Satyr, vow to kill King Centrus and free my people.”
©Ruth Anne Garcia 2019