Hard dirt crunched under thick calloused feet as Nam'id followed Chiko'tae further into the village. A few of their fellow tribesmen stopped and waved as they passed. In turn they returned the waves, but they did not slow.
Chiko'tae rounded the corner of a ramshackle hut. They had played in that building when they were younger. Or, at least, Chiko'tae and his group had. Nam'id had always longed to be part of that group. He would chase the other children and pine for their attention. However, he had never gotten it. As a deaf child he was always an outsider. And Chiko'tae's group was harder than most to infiltrate.
"You've been quite the talk since you returned, Nam'id," said the larger, leaner Sevir. He turned and walked backwards so that his lips could be read. "I always thought that people's fascination with you would die off after a few arcs. But it hasn't. Everyone seems enthralled with the story about the boy who found his Ose-bori at such a young age."
Nam'id knew of the fame that his journey had brought him. He had, in fact, found his Ose-bori younger than many others in the village. He didn't know how rare this was for all of Moseke's people. But the irregularity of it in his tribe had left him as a myth of sorts. He was not indifferent to this: with his slight fame came the respect that he had always sought when he was younger. Growing, his tribe had always seen him as a frail youth with a disability. Now, he was just Nam'id. It wasn't worldly fame, but it was enough.
"Nam'id the hero?" he asked, his brow furrowed. "Is that why you leave for trials and seasons at a time? To keep the myth and mystery fresh?" He turned back around and continued as his pace quickened. Nam'id felt as though the young warrior was still talking. He had no way of knowing for sure.
There is a darkness to this one. I don' think he is so happy with you.
Nam'id shrugged. They rounded another corner and stopped at the side of a building in greater shape than many others in the village. This was Chiko'tae's father's store. Neither of them needed to go inside to know that the store housed fine pelts, as well as meats, both cured and jerked. Great heads and horns from many animals adorned every available interior wall space. A testament to the man's mastery over the forest. The village considered Chiko'tae's father, Tel'nua, their greatest hunter. Tel'nua did as well. He, like his son, enjoyed his own fame within the tribe.
Against the building's outside wall sat a rough-hewn chest. Chiko'tae knelt in front of it and pulled its lid open. He retrieved a pair of wooden practice swords, spinning one in his hand. He stood and tossed the other to Nam'id.
Nam'id tried to receive the wooden weapon, but was clumsy with the catch. It fell to the ground.
Nam'id's heart sank. The adults of the village, including his father, had never trained him in swordplay. Another side-effect to the over-protectiveness he had endured when he was younger. Chiko'tae would notice his unfamiliarity with the weapon quickly.
He bent over and retrieved the sword. From the corner of his eye, he saw Chiko'tae rushing towards him, his practice sword raised and ready to deal a blow.
Nam'id fell to the ground and raised his own sword out in defense. His breath quickened as he prepared to deflect the strike. He squeezed his eyes shut in preparation, but the blow never came.
He opened his eyes and saw Chiko'tae laugh while saying something to a group of tribesman that had gathered to watch the spar. His face was turned away, his words indecipherable. The intent was clear, however, as Chiko'tae pointed his sword down at Nam'id and mouthed the word "hero". Nam'id didn't need to be able to hear to feel the disdain in the warrior's words.
Nam'id stood back up, facing off against the larger, more muscular Sevir. He raised his sword, and nodded, inviting Chiko'tae to try again.
I don' know. This isn't such a good idea…
Then don't watch, Mox,
Don' watch? I cannot look away…
Mox rounded the area and came to a stop at the side of the two men. He raised up on short legs, looking back and forth between the two. He may not be be nice, but look at 'im. We are okay, as far as these things go, but this one is magnificent!
Chiko'tae looked to over to the Nam'id, a slight curl appearing at his mouth. He nodded his head and then rushed forward.
Nam'id watched as the other man's sword arced sideways through the air. Nam'id knew the pain that would come from the blow. And were he lucky enough to deflect it, another would come regardless. There was no question about which of them was the more skillful warrior. Chiko'tae had trained in swordplay for arcs.
Nam'id dropped his weapon and turned at his waist. With a deft hand he grabbed Chiko'tae by the wrist and pulled the larger main over his left hip. Chiko'tae flipped head over heels and dropped to the ground. Dust billowed up around his prone body.
Chiko'tae looked up in obvious frustration. The audience appeared to be more enthusiastic about this turn of events, which appeared to anger him even further. He wrapped his legs around Nam'id's and turned, dropping him and leaving them on the ground, side by side. He struck Nam'id in the back with a hard elbow before pushing the man away and returning to his feet.
Nam'id shot up and spun in time to catch a fist to the jaw, sending him back to the ground again. He could see as Chiko'tae's smile returned. He stood over Nam'id with his arms crossed. Smug. Nam'id didn't like that either.
Nam'id grabbed a fist full of dirt, throwing it at the man's face and obscuring his sight. He sprung forward, hugging Chiko'tae around the waist and tackling him to the ground.
Fists flew from each of the men in a cloud of swirling dust and testosterone. Only once their breaths were short and their resolve had departed did the storm of fighting die down. They laid there for a quiet moment before sitting up. The crowd had dispersed. Mox remained, shaking is head in shame.
Mox turned around, dissipating into the air as he ran off.
Nam'id looked over at Chiko'tae, exhausted. The other man stared back, wiping his forearm across his bloody mouth. Nam'id refused to wipe the blood he felt dripping from a cut above his eye. It would blacken soon, he knew. It would also be hard to eat with what would be a fat lip the next trial.
"I won't help you fix your wagon, but I will teach you to fight better, yes?"
Nam'id nodded in agreement.