Posted on December 4th, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia
Betazed – Past
Ten-year-old Emilaina stood up straight, her chest puffed out and her expression serious. She stared straight ahead into the jungle as her Kreshai, Marhein, took wet clay from the ceremonial silver bowl. The older Betazoid gestured widely with the mud before slicking the hair on the sides of the child’s head back, then carefully drawing a series of lines and misshapen dots down the right side of her face. It had two less dots, then.
Marhein wore a similar traditional dress to Emilaina, though hers was adorned with beads, tassels, coins, and swirling gold embroidery. Emilaina’s dress was plain by comparison, a basic green with leather belt, arm bands, and strapped sandals. Marhein, along with almost all of the women gathered, had their clay marking on the left side of their face. The men wore it on the right, as did Emily and her older sister.
Each person’s marking was different, except for her sister of course, because the symbols represented a family lineage with one’s own generation under the cheekbone. The sisters had a swirl shape to represent their human mother, but it otherwise resembled the top half of their father’s mark. Though they seldom wore them anymore except for ceremonies, it made it easy to tell at a glance how everyone was related. Averianna watched Emilaina closely, trying to suppress her worry for her sister because she knew that everyone around them could feel it too.
Every child that went through this had the benefit of having been in the jungle many times before, but Emilaina had always been a bit different. She’d been through a lot as a child, only starting to walk at six, speaking at eight, enduring countless medical procedures. However, in the two years preceding her trials, she had made a huge turnaround both physically and mentally. The elders might not have allowed the trials if she hadn’t been so insistent, but when the time came, they agreed that she was ready.
She could feel the way everyone looked at her. Worry… pity. Her jaw was set, eyes still fixed on the treeline as Marhein spoke to the gathering in their specific dialect of Betazese. Emilaina knew the prayer by heart, so she didn’t feel the need to listen. She was too focused on blocking out the feeling of the eyes on her back.
As soon as Marhein was done, Emilaina marched forwards past the treeline without ever looking back.
??? – Present
A violent rustle followed by a fearful squeal awoke the Doctor, who immediately rolled right off the branch she was on as she couldn’t feel her legs. She managed to catch another branch on the way down, at least slowing herself enough that she didn’t break anything when she hit the ground. She rolled onto her back to allow her momentum to dissipate, blinking rapidly until her head stopped spinning.
“Fuck,” she breathed out, brow furrowing as she saw the word tumble from her mouth in a cloud of vapor. She felt a tired, prickling fog poke menacingly at her consciousness and groaned, forcing herself to get up and move and flex her slightly greyed hands and feet. She peeled off the two leaves of her camouflage that weren’t dispatched in the fall and retrieved the spear before making quick work of the poor animal caught in her trap. She decided to leave the trap where it was for now and rushed back to the fire, finding Grey peacefully asleep and smiling to herself. She added more wood, curling as close to the fire as she could manage.
She hugged her knees to her chest, closing her eyes and soaking in the warmth.
Betazed – Past
Emilaina quickly filled the small leather pouch hung from her belt with alo nuts and drakberries, already knowing where all the best spots were from years of pie-making. She also knew to visit a nearby cave with a prominent vein of flint to grab a firestarter and of course to find the rock that would be her knife.
She settled near the mouth of the cave at the base of the upper cliffs, somewhere she’d camped with her family before. She picked through piles of chips of deep black volcanic glass, collecting about a dozen arrowhead sized chunks, and a few knife sized chunks. As she sat by her fire on the first night carefully carving a slit into the small stick she’d selected as a knife handle, she was stopped by the sudden sensation of a familiar presence.
“What are you doing here?” Emilaina sounded a bit more accusatory than she’d meant to. The shadow stopped at the tree line, hesitant.
“Still awake?” Averianna asked meekly.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Emilaina pressed, examining her.
“Until you fall asleep, yes,” Averianna admitted. A long silence followed before Emilaina gave in and waved her sister over to sit by the fire.
“Don’t help me,” Emilaina mumbled gravely, continuing work on her rudimentary tools.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” her sister smirked.
Emilaina offered her sister a handful of drakberries but the older girl shook her head, having collected some of her own on the way. Averianna wanted to make small talk, but she also knew she shouldn’t. She watched her sister shift and begin shaping the obsidian arrowheads by carefully chipping them with a harder stone, unable to help a small smile. Emilaina had come a long way–it was nice enough to see her walking, feeling the fire of her childish defiance and determination was really refreshing.
Emilaina wanted to talk just as much. She wondered how many arrows her sister had made, but that would be the last question she could to ask. The night drew on and Emilaina finished her knife, admiring it in the flickering firelight. When she finally dozed off, her elder sister left behind a few ceremonial trinkets before spiriting away in the night.
??? – Present
The Doctor finally stopped shivering, occasionally prodding the fire with a long stick to get the flames to lap in her general direction. She slowly uncurled herself, shifting to sit on her knees. She gathered up the pile of bones from the fish they’d had for lunch and found another, longer rock she could sharpen a bit by chipping it. Once it was sharp enough to work she sighed, setting the bones and the more freshly killed animal in front of herself.
The prayer normally began in the old tongue, “We who live of this land,” but that wasn’t quite right now, was it? This certainly wasn’t her summer home, but that did nothing to negate the need to hunt. She thought it over, amending the prayer and substituting Betazoid words for the ones she didn’t know in the tribal dialect.
“We who live, though pained as we are to take life, thank you for the sacrifice of your energy. We live on in your memory, to continue the role of life in this great universe,” she mumbled reverently to the backdrop of crackling fire.
She turned, scooting a couple feet to the base of one of the trees holding up her leaf-tarp (somewhat disappointing compared to one made of delkai leaves, but keeping the fire going nevertheless) and dug a shallow hole with her hand, sliding in the pile of fish bones before covering them back over with dirt. She drew a symbol in the dirt, a double swirl with a line through it somewhat like a treble clef.
The Doctor then turned the sharpened rock on the rabbit-like creature, cutting it first from chin to tail before sitting by the fire and taking her time removing the creature’s pelt. She carefully cut skin from muscle, finding herself uncomfortably reminiscing on doing something similar to her crewmates.
She held up what came off in one piece, about the size of a bandanna. She smiled, shaking her head and doing a bit of math–she’d probably have to kill at least ten to get something big enough to use as a blanket, and that would take some time. Time, of course, a part of her was hoping she didn’t have. She hung the pelt from a branch close enough to the fire to dry as she set about butchering the rest of the animal.
Meat she hung over the fire to cook, and the bones and inedible guts she buried.
Betazed – Past
Emilaina felt the strain as her fingers trembled, nearly losing their grip on the steep final incline of Malhari. She could feel her heart pounding with nerves and excitement, her breath ragged. It had taken almost a week to get here alone, but there had been no one to discourage her. No one to pity her. She’d only seen the Meeting Place in pictures, and they were little more than abstracted murals decorating the homes of her neighbors. Now, here it was… inches away.
With a groan and heave the girl pulled herself up onto the lip of the crater, her breath taken by what she saw. Totems of every colored gem the island could produce snaked up the golden steps to the Meeting Place, a tiered temple with a round, ancient wooden table seating seven at the center. It sat in the middle of the crater of the long-dormant volcano, just as it had for thousands of years. The gold was so plentiful and so old that the steps almost resembled greyed stone in places, though the swirling lines of marks and writing snaking all the way up had been more recently polished.
As the girl slid down and disappeared into the crater Marhein stepped out of the treeline, crossing her arms, smirking, and waiting. Emilaina landed at the bottom of the slope, panting with excitement. She ran up to the totem of the Mortani. gently running her hands along the side to find the seam. She pulled the pins, carefully opening the face of the crystal totem to remove the ceremonial bow held inside.
She knelt before the Akosai altar, running a hand over the writing and stones circling her feet. Some of it she could read, some was too obscured or too thick in the old dialect. The phrase, ‘craftsmen of glass and metal’ elicited a small smirk from her. She set down her bundle of arrows and the wad of miki wax she’d collected, carefully rolling the arrowheads in the wax to coat them. She took her flint to the brasier in front of her, sparking to light it.
Emilaina took a deep breath, nocking an arrow and slowly, deliberately letting it light in the flame of the brazier. She sharply angled upward, shooting at the canopy over the Meeting Place, aiming for the spot facing her. Of course, shooting a real flaming arrow for the first time is a great way to make yourself miss. The first one sailed clean over the canopy, landing on the far side of the altar to putter out. She yelped, shaking her hand where it had gotten too close to the flame.
On the fourth shot she hit the canopy, but it bounced right off. Then, as she loosed her fifth arrow, she felt a strange pang hit her. A light haze washed over the sky following her arrow as it embedded itself in the canopy. Emilaina looked right, and saw a hazy figure holding a bow stood at the altar to her right. To her left, another, then all the way around until all seven places were occupied. The altar flickered, each shadowy figure shooting off an arrow as well, each hitting the canopy in quick succession.
As soon as it had come the vision faded, interrupted by the fwoosh of fire snaking first up to light the beacon atop the canopy, then snaking back down to light up the tops of the crystal totems. There was a second brief flicker, and Emilaina could swear she saw people sitting at the Meeting Place, lit by the flames from around the altar.
This time she was brought out of her vision by a raucous cheer. She spun on her feet, looking up to see the women who had trained her, Marhein, Altorra.. then others of the tribe and, of course, her father and sister climbing up to stand on the peak of Malhari’s crater. They began sliding down to meet her one by one, pulling Emilaina into a huge group hug. Marhein had a handful of mud, and she added another dot to Emilaina’s face marking, then did the same to Averianna. Emilaina felt her heart glowing, ready to burst.
??? – Present
Emilaina awoke suddenly as a chill ran up her body, happy tears still in her eyes from her dream. Even so many years later, that memory was quite vivid. She looked around, took a deep breath, and reminded herself… it’s just the woods. She quickly glanced at Grey–yup, she was still there. Emilaina added more wood to the dwindling fire, hoping she could chalk up her reminiscing up to stress, but also finding some comfort in it.